June 20, 2010

A fragrant finish

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I was dragged coerced invited to dim sum today at Man Wah (文華廳).  It's Father's Day and there were two fathers-to-be... one who is actually going to be a father soon, and the other being me as the godfather-to-be.  For some reason, someone keeps trying to prove to me that Man Wah is actually a good place for Cantonese food... and time and again I find something really wrong and unforgivable with the place.  I wouldn't presume to think of myself as an expert on Cantonese food, but the fact that this was only my fourth visit in the 15 years that I've been in Hong Kong says something...

As usual I let the hosts do the ordering and only requested one dish I found intriguing.  The end result was a barrage of dim sum items and I ended up stuffing myself into a dumpling...

We started with a plate of barbecued pork belly (脆皮燒腩仔).  This was very nicely presented, and tasted pretty decent.  The skin was very crispy but I wish it would have been thicker.  Interestingly, there was a dollop of sweet soybean paste (甜麵醬) on the plate next to each piece of pork, in addition to a little bit of yellow mustard.

Organic diced vegetable dumpling (有機上素粉果) - this was pretty nice, and the chervil inside really enhanced the taste.

Wild fungus, wolfberry dumpling (杞子珍菌餃) - less interesting than the previous dumpling, even though they were essentially the same thing.  I think the wolfberries (枸杞子) threw me off.

Tiger prawn, bamboo shoot dumpling (筍尖蝦餃皇) - interestingly mild in terms of taste, which I attribute to the kitchen putting less MSG into the dumplings.  A little bland, perhaps, but ultimately better for my body (and taste buds).

Barbecued pork bun (蠔皇叉燒包) - pretty nice.

Lobster, black bean sauce dumpling (豉汁龍蝦餃) - this was the dish that made me wanna scream "WTF?!!!!"  I was warned about it before taking my first bite, and was careful to only take in part of the lobster on top.  The taste of baking soda was so strong it was almost revolting... Why the #%@# would anyone do that to a piece of lobster that is supposed to be succulent and sweet? I know that restaurants sometimes use baking soda when making prawn dumpling/har gau (蝦餃), but this was obviously a real screw up.  I didn't bother to finish the remaining part of the lobster as I had no intention of swallowing or ingesting it.  The bottom half of the dumpling, though, was superb.  The chopped taro bits were pretty tasting after steaming.

Shanghainese soup dumpling, minced pork (南翔小籠包) - the XLBs were actually a little too large for the bamboo carriages, and as I tried to remove mine the skin stuck to the handles and cause the dumpling to break, spilling all the soup.  The weird thing is that the pork filling was mixed with a little bit of ginger.  Aren't we supposed to decide for ourselves whether we wanted some ginger with this?

Green peppers stuffed w seafood paste - long, green chili peppers were halved and stuffed with seafood paste where the seeds would have been.  Then these were pan-fried.  Not bad.

Pan fried turnip cake, preserved meat (香煎蘿蔔糕) - another dish that tasted a little more bland than usual, but again this could be due to a reduction of MSG.  Actually this was not bad.  I did like the topping of dried shreds of conpoy.

U.S. beef, crispy dough (鬼馬牛肉腸粉) - before I talk about the dish itself, allow me to rant about the stupid naming conventions on the menu.  If I didn't read Chinese and looked at the menu, what the hell am I supposed to think when it reads "US beef, crispy dough"??!!  This is not descriptive at all... and methinks they are trying to adapt some of ways fusion restaurants name their dishes, by just listing the ingredients and not being descriptive at all about how the dish is cooked and/or presented.  This annoys the hell out of me.  Anyway.  The dish was not what I expected.  It's essentially the traditional steamed rice-flour roll stuffed with minced beef, except they also stuffed some crispy fried dough inside to add some crunch.  Not a fan.

Wagyu beef puff (千絲和牛酥) - the puffs looked exactly like the deep-fried turnip pastries one would get elsewhere, except here they were stuffed with cubes of wagyu which had been stir-fried with black pepper and onions.  These were OK.

Stir-fried choy sum (清炒菜心) - I had a few stems as I was pretty much at my limit by now...

Fried rice noodles, beef, X.O. chilli sauce (X.O.醬干炒牛肉河粉) - Tigger was apparently still hungry, so we watched him pretty much single-handedly polish off the plate.  I had a little bit so I could try out the dish.  It was OK, but a far cry from the ones I'd normally get at Tasty Congee (正斗) or its sister outlet Ho Hung Kee (何洪記).

I couldn't fit in any more food and passed on dessert, but Tigger asked for - and got - osmanthus jelly (桂花糕) for all of us.  These were very, very good... only mildly sweet with a hint of savory notes from the osmanthus sauce, and topped with a couple of wolfberries.  I didn't hesitate to consume both pieces in front of me, and left the restaurant with that nice, floral and fragrant taste in my mouth...

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