September 5, 2012

Slaughtering fat sheep in Kowloon

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I'm back in Hong Kong again on business, and spent a full day being locked up in a conference room going through meeting after meeting.  At the end of the long day, my friendly neighborhood investment bankers took me out to dinner.  I was asked to suggest the venue, and chose Kowloon Tang (九龍廳) since we were already in the area and I'm a big fan of sister restaurant Island Tang (港島廳).

The manager came over and proffered a "suggested menu".  First item I noticed was the steamed Napoleon wrasse (清蒸蘇眉).  Besides being in the "Avoid" category on the World Wildlife Fund's seafood list, there really wasn't a good reason for us to have such an expensive fish.  I immediately downgraded this item.  The manager also suggested double-boiled soup with fish maw, black mushroom and heart of green (花膠北菇燉菜膽).  Dishes involving fish maw veer towards the expensive side, and again I downgraded to something a little more reasonably priced.

At this point I am starting to feel like a fat sheep again… Yes, we look like a bunch of bankers in suits entertaining a guest from the Strong Country, but hey… even investment bankers' entertainment budgets are under a little pressure during these hard times, and there's no need to shove all the expensive stuff down our throats!  I hate it when restaurant staff come with dollar signs in their eyes…

Stewed pork belly with preserved vegetable wrapped in crispy rice paper (橋頭梅菜脆皮扣) - this sounded interesting, and one can never go wrong with pork belly!  The Cantonese-style preserved leafy mustard (梅菜) is on the sweet side, and works very well with the fatty pork.  Crispy shell with soft stuffing was a good marriage of textures.  Given a little pressure, the fat from the pork belly oozed out and was quickly absorbed by the rice paper, transforming it from a crispy to something slightly softer.  Pretty good start.

I just had to put in an order of honey glazed barbecued pork (叉燒).  This is one of my favorite charsiu in Hong Kong, since it's made with tender pork shoulder (脢頭肉) that has fat marbling instead of big strips of fat.  I could see that this was also popular with the other guests at the table, since it disappeared pretty quickly.  Tonight, though, I was a little surprised by the relatively strong and slightly pungent flavors of the pork.  Some people don't eat pork because they find the flavors a little strong and off-putting, and the pork tonight would be an example of that.  I didn't mind too much, though…

Fried tofu cubes (炸豆腐) - these were OK and part of the starters recommended by the manager.

Jelly Fish tossed with Chinese vinaigrette (雲耳海蟄頭) - two distinct levels of crunchy textures between the jellyfish head and black fungus.

Bean curd sheet rolls filled with assorted mushrooms (潤澤上素鵝) - interesting how they stacked up thin squares of tofu skin.

Double-boiled meat broth with vintage sun-dried tangerine peels (三十年陳皮燉肉汁) - with chunks of pork and solidified "essence" of pork.  Have the tangerine peels really been preserved for 30 years?! Price-wise this is about 40% of the one that the manager originally suggested for us...

Sauteed crystal king prawns with Sichuan sauce (川汁大蝦球) - for some reason this slipped through my warning system, since the manager didn't write down "crystal king prawns (玻璃蝦)" in Chinese… These were pretty big, and didn't taste like they've gone through baking soda.  The "Sichuan sauce" was a little WTF, though… It's basically the Chinese equivalent of the prawn cocktail sauce… Now why would you use it on something as precious and expensive as these giant prawns?!

Steamed leopard coral trout (蒸東星斑) - one of my favorites, and certainly much cheaper than the Napoleon wrasse!

Kowloon Tang signature crispy chicken (九龍當紅炸子雞) - pretty good.

Stir-fried e-fu noodles with mushrooms (雜菌乾燒伊麵) - pretty yummy.

We ordered some longevity buns (壽飽) as the guest of honor will be celebrating a birthday next week, and there were other items like osmanthus jelly (桂花凍).  Good way to wrap up the meal.  It would have been a pretty nice dining experience, except for the way I was made to feel at the start of the meal.  Sigh...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Without disrespect, this ain't your typical neighborhood restaurant. The rent at Elements is sky high and they will want to "maximize" each customer. Your description of your group outfit does fit the dishes the manager suggested. I call this "Suitcase Gods" style of service. Just Ignore them and order what you like, you'll be fine.

Love your blog, keep up the good work!


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