December 17, 2010

Fried, not steamed

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I joined a special dinner tonight organized by my foodie friend Cha Xiu Bao.  It's been a little over a year since I went to the original Tim Ho Wan (添好運) just before it received the rubberman's macaron.  I haven't been back since, because it's apparently been a mad house since then... So when I was told we would be in the private room (!) of the new Sham Shui Po branch, and that we wouldn't have to line up for a table, I didn't hesitate.

The private room has a special menu with a bunch of premium items, and I was happy to be able to try a completely different menu compared to my last visit.

Steamed rice flour roll with lobster and black bean sauce (豉汁龍蝦腸粉) - not impressed.  The pieces I had were definitely over-steamed, which wasn't a surprise to me.  From my last visit I already knew that they suck at the steamed items.  Besides, this just wasn't tasty to me.  I could neither taste the black bean nor the lobster distinctly.

Steamed turnip cake with crab roe (蟹粉蒸蘿蔔糕) - the turnip cake was again a little over-steamed and mushy.  The crab tomalley added a nice touch, though.

Crab roe xiaolongbao (蟹粉小籠包) - the taste was not bad, although the dumplings themselves were kind of sorry-looking...

Deep-fried puff with foie gras (鵝肝醬炸粉果) - this was my first "wow" of the evening.  Very, very tasty and nice, with stuffing that was soft, smooth, and jelly-like.

Steamed open-top bun with chicken and bird's nest (燕液滑雞窩) - kinda interesting and tasted pretty OK.

Baked puff pastry with abalone (原隻焗鮑魚酥) - this was another item that tasted as good as it looked.  The abalone was pretty tender.

Pan-fried dumpling with pork and crab roe (蟹粉鮮肉煎餃子) - pretty decent, although the chunks of tomalley here were a little tough.

Crispy Chinese crullers with crab roe (蟹粉脆油條) - very, very tasty.  The crullers were very crispy and crunchy, and there was a ton of crab tomalley on top.

Baked char siu buns (酥皮焗叉燒包) - the char siu filling was pretty yummy, but the bun itself was too soft and not as crispy.  A little off on the execution for sure.

Deep-fried salt water puff (家鄉咸水角) - pretty nice and tasty.

Pan-fried turnip cake with preserved meats (煎臘味蘿蔔糕) - pretty decent and tasty, too.

Steamed dumplings with shrimp / har gao (晶瑩鮮蝦餃) - I wasn't gonna have one at first, having no faith in the quality of the skin.  I eventually gave in the peer pressure, and sure enough, the skin was too mushy from over-steaming.  How is it possible that the Michelin inspectors deem this place deserving of a star, when they can't even get one of the most basic dim sum items right?!

"Chick cookies" (懷舊雞仔餅) - OK, so I'm doing a literal translation just for laughs.  What we got were very tasty cookies made with sugar, bacon fat and spices which tasted like Cantonese preserved sausage (臘腸).  Very yummy.

Glutinous rice balls with black sesame filling (薑汁芝麻湯圓) - honestly, this was pretty ordinary, and the soup was a little light on the ginger flavors.

Deep-fried milk and snow frog (雪蛤鮮奶酥) - the puff pastry exterior looked like the savory versions stuffed with turnip and diced ham (蘿蔔絲餅), but what a surprise inside!  I didn't taste much of the frog fallopian tubes (雪蛤), though...

Steamed egg white and milk custard with bird's nest (燕窩蛋白燉鮮奶) - can you say OVER-STEAMED?  It was painfully obvious just looking at the thing...

That was a lot of food, and no surprise that all the items I liked were either deep-fried or pan-fried.  None of the steamed items made the grade, which really bothers me.  I was happy to have tried out the special items with the premium ingredients, but I'll be sticking to a small portion of the menu if I decide to come back in the future...

We had a few bottles of wine to go with this casual meal:

Azienda Monsordo Bernardina La Bernardina - this was classified as brut but still a bit sweet on the palate.

2006 Grosset Chardonnay Piccadilly - as expected, with a good amount of oak and minerals.

2008 Selaks Sauvignon Blanc Premium Selection - nose was very fruity and tropical, with green apples and passion fruit.  But palate was pretty thin.

2010 Argento Malbec - pretty one-dimensional, with forward fruit.  Did I really drink a bottle of wine that was released in its own vintage year?!

West Region 5 Year (西域烈焰) - a brandy distilled from Sauvignon Blanc in Xinjiang (新疆), I was amazed to find aspartame listed as one of three ingredients...  Typically alcoholic, and soooo not my cup of tea.

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