Category: Travels

Walt’s Café: Hong Kong Disneyland. A Much-Needed Breakfast!

 

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All smiles from me!

Check out my review on Walt’s Café – Hong Kong Disneyland.

Click here: Yelp | Google Maps

If you are traveling to Hong Kong Disneyland, check out my Dim Sum experience at the Crystal Lotus Restaurant

Hong Kong DisneyLand: Dim Sum Culinary Experience – Crystal Lotus Restaurant

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Welcome To Hong Kong Disneyland

Visiting a Walt Disney theme park is one of the most enjoyable destinations in the world for families and friends to spend time with one another. If you want to bring back memories from when you were a child and pass them onto your kids then this is definitely the place to visit. For me, I just wanted to feel like a kid again.

When my wife and I had the opportunity to visit Hong Kong Disneyland on our flight in to see my in-laws, we just couldn’t pass it up. We wanted to find out if a Walt Disney theme park outside of the USA could be a completely different experience.

I had heard about the differences between HK Disneyland and Orlando Disney World such as some Disney characters talked a little differently only because of some translation issues with a slight Chinese accent. Some are the same like the fireworks and electric parade still light up the evening skies. But what I was looking forward to was the food experience. This is Hong Kong, China so I knew that our foodie trek would be quite different.

After looking over Disney’s website, we found the Crystal Lotus restaurant inside the resort we were about to stay in. We discovered that we had to make reservations in advance to dine at the restaurant. So just to be safe, we made our booking three months prior.

Crystal Lotus

We arrived a little early for our 12pm reservation so we had to wait in the front lobby for only 10 minutes until they opened their doors. We didn’t mind waiting at all so we took our time taking some pictures.

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Hallway Entrance

Front Lobby
Front Lobby

I remember telling my wife that I wanted to walk slowly into the dining area. I wanted to take as many pictures as possible so I could just take everything in. I mean the whole space was so grand that you just wanted to stand in one place and turn around 360 degrees and stare at how much effort was put into decorating the restaurant.

Dining area

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Beautiful Light Fixture Equally Spaced Out Throughout The Entire Dining Area.

When we had made our reservations a few months before, there were a few choices. They offered a la carte Chinese cuisine and other gourmet food but since my wife and I are such big fans of dim sum, we chose their “Special Dim Sum” lunch menu as our Disney dining experience because we were curious to see how they would present the food. When we had called them to inquire about their portions, they explained that the set menu was good for 1 person. After looking at some online photos, we saw there were a few pieces in each dim sum box so we decided to order 3 sets to accommodate our party of 6.

After a few moments of sitting at our round table our dishes started to come out. Three dishes of Scallops Salad with Pomelo arrived at our table.

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Scallops Salad With Pomelo

After a few bites of this dish we were finished. The portion was small but it had great flavour since it was sprinkled with a light taste of a vinaigrette dressing.

Then the soup arrived and what I really liked about this soup was that it was simple. It fused both seafood and tofu together really nicely. Nothing better than chewing into pieces of crab with every bite!

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Braised Crab Meat, Bean Curd And Crab Roe Soup.

What’s really cute and unique about eating at a Disney restaurant is that they shape as many pieces of food to a Disney theme as close as possible such as the next dish below. It’s absolutely crazy how the carrots are shaped like “Mickey’s head” and the zucchinis are “Mickey’s hands”.

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Wok-fried Shrimps And Disney Root Vegetables.

Our next dish was the sesame chicken with lemon juice. Lightly breaded chicken with a tangy lemon syrup is probably close to a “Sweet and Sour Chicken”. This is a common dish with Chinese food and it felt close to home having this as part of my meal.

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Crispy Sesame Chicken Served With Lemon Juice.

The waiter brought out a few dishes of a rice topping of abalone with a small garnish on the side. Rice perfectly shaped in a cylinder topped with a well-cooked piece of abalone. This was only my second time having abalone and luckily both were cooked very well. It’s slightly chewy but the sauce that it is cooked in brings out the seafood flavour. It might be an oversized snail but it was really good!

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Abalone Fried Rice

Then the Signature Dim Sum came out. Let me tell you how impressed I was with the amount of detail and work put into each dish. As soon as each dim sum was placed in front of us, we all couldn’t help ourselves taking photos with our smartphones.

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Little Pig Pork Barbeque Bun

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Little Green Men Pork And Vegetable Bun

Seafood Pancake
Mickey’s Seafood Glutinous Pancake

Each dim sum dish had its own unique flavour. They were all cooked just right inside and out. None of them were undercooked/overcooked. But what I want you to see is the time and effort put into each dumpling and pancake. The choice of colours to create each character. The small shape of the pig’s nose and ears. The little antennae on top of the little green men’s heads. This sort of detail made our eyes lit up because it was so well made with such intimate detailing that it really brought out the Disney kids within us.

When Duffy the Disney Bear dim sum arrived, we were still impressed. Some of you remember the preview I showed a couple days ago. Well one serving actually came out on a single steamer tray with two small pieces of pudding. Look how absolutely cute and adorable Duffy is! Look closer at one of the puddings: One of them is shaped like Mickey’s hand!

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Combo of “Duffy” Steamed Red Bean Puree Bun, Chilled Dual Mickey’s Puddings

The final dim sum tray we had to order when they offered it to us at the table. It was an additional fee on top of our set menu but we didn’t care because we wanted to see for ourselves what it was.

Baymax

In one serving of a steamer basket came two dim sum pieces of Baymax. Something so simple as two hand rolled balls of white glutinous dim sum pieces looked so unique! Baymax may not have been one of the most well marketed Disney characters but to be honest with you, I absolutely love him!

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So Cute!
I can’t tell you how much fun I had at the Crystal Lotus restaurant. From beginning to end, I couldn’t stop smiling. If you are reading this and you are considering eating at this restaurant, there are a couple of things you need to know:

  1. Decide on whether you want the Disney Special Dim Sum Lunch Menu or the other special menus that are available.
  2. Reservations are required and I suggest you book well in advance. Although there weren’t too many people there when we first arrived but when we were near to finished eating, the entire restaurant was completely filled.
  3. For the Disney Special Dim Sum Lunch Menu, one order of the set menu is for only one person. My pictures, and other pictures on the internet, you might see a few dim sum pieces combined in one steam basket but really it is only one dim sum piece per order/basket. We made the mistake of ordering 3 sets for 6 people because of the online photos but I suggest that if you are going with a party of 6 adults, then order 6 sets.
  4. The Dim Sum Lunch Menu is not cheap (I think it was about $40USD per order at the time we went). So if you are really hungry, be prepared to still buy some food after you finish your meal as the portions are rather small. This was more of a Disney-themed experience for us rather than a buffet.
  5. The staff did their best to accommodate for our needs considering their English was very limited. But if you find one person who speaks English better than anyone else, get their attention as much as possible.
  6. Even though it is not common to leave a tip in Hong Kong, or Disneyland for that matter, we still gave a tip. The staff worked hard for our smiles and we enjoyed the entire experience.

Hope you enjoy your Hong Kong Disneyland dim sum experience like we did!

 

A Filipino Outdoor Market Experience: Food And So Much More.

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3-day Local Market, Iloilo City, Philippines

This weekend was a bit of a treat.

Inside the MegaWorld complex of Mandurriao, Iloilo City, Philippines held a local market named “Produkto Lokal Festival”. Usually these are run by organizers that attract local vendors to sell their goods and services in an open market setup. Ironically it was situated right in front of the restaurant I last reviewed.

Although it was a little bit out of our way, we were lucky to drop in on the evening of one of the 3 days it was running. From one tent to another, my family and I checked out what was available for sale. People from around the province were selling handmade weave accessories and freshly grown fruits and vegetables most commonly sold at a local farmers market. The choices were amazing. Take your pick from any large selection of mangoes piled on a table. How about choosing from a huge bunch of bananas and plantains?

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 We picked up a large bag of lettuce for only 50 pesos ($1 USD!)

Some vendors have made their own brand and made a whole line of products such as jarred pickled items and packaged dried food.

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So impressed with the thought and effort put into each vendor’s stall.

I looked for some ready-to-eat snacks to eat. There was always something to find.

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Some really delicious treats such as “puto” made out of ube (yam) and cheese and some crunchy snacks too!

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to enjoy the rest of the evening without a cup of fair trade coffee, grown and roasted in the Philippines. This local vendor brews their coffee the “cowboy” method. Much stronger in flavour with the right amount of strength to the taste. They also sold their other specialty, Matcha green tea, but my mind was already made up.

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Even though the temperature remained hot and humid, I still enjoyed my special brewed cup of coffee, served to me with a smile and a “thank you”.

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If you have any type of outdoor market in your area, get out and support the local vendors. It is a fun experience!

Remembering Spain: The Simple Lunch

Recently I had this craving for a sandwich. But not any ordinary sandwich like a BLT or a Subway. I wanted something that would please my cravings but I couldn’t put my finger on what I really had the appetite for.

So I ran out to the grocery store and walked around the deli aisle. Batches of ham, roast beef and turkey all lined up in the showcase staring at me. Then I had a flash memory of the trip I took with my wife to Spain.

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A View Of Toledo, Spain

Two hours before our tour bus drove into Toledo, we stopped in a small town that had a deli with all these cured meats hanging from the ceiling. As appetizing as it looked, we wanted to sit down and enjoy our meal rather than taking it away.

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Cured Meats Hanging From A Local Deli

Then we stopped at this small cafe where I decided to order a sandwich combo with 2 bottles of 7up. Just 10 minutes later, out came our soft drinks along with a small dish of olives, a tapas plate of “Pa amb tomaquet” which is a bread with tomato, and a few chicken croquettes otherwise known to us as deep fried mashed potatoes stuffed with chicken and cheese.

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Chicken Croquettes

Soon after a large, crusty bread glazed with olive oil, filled with a few slices of prosciutto landed right in front of me. My eyes lit up! I remember how the sound of crunchy bread was music to my ears; the salty taste of prosciutto melting in my mouth. It was the best sandwich I had ever eaten.

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Prosciutto Sandwich With Olives And “Pa Amb Tomaquet”

So guess what I made at home? I modified that sandwich a little to the ingredients sold here in Canada. Fresh crusty toasted bread lined with margarine, filled with two pieces of dry prosciutto and a slice of swiss melted cheese. Yes, I must have the cheese! My wife reminded me that we paid 25 euros for that meal which was about $40.00 at that time. This sandwich just cost me $1.50. 

Anyways this is how it looks. My lunch made me smile not only because it tasted great but also that it came with such a great memory. I hope one day my wife and I will have a chance to go back again.

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The Final Result – Simple Yet Satisfying

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Try it for yourself and tell me what you think!