September 7, 2012

The bling-bling dragon

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I finally had the opportunity to take the Tiggers out to dinner tonight, and it didn't take me long to settle on the venue.  Tin Lung Heen (天龍軒) has been an itch I wanted to scratch a box I wanted to check off for some time, because it had generated so much buzz since the time of its opening.  Of course its location within the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong - on the 102th floor of ICC - gives diners a spectacular view.  I've heard mostly negative reviews regarding the food, and have held off trying it for myself until I felt the timing was right.  Finally, the Rubberman decided to give it a macaron in the current edition of his dining guide, just months after opening.

Tigger and I pulled up at the hotel entrance and stepped out of Mrs. Tigger's brand-spanking-new Mercedez AMG C63 Black Series.  As we attempted to walked through the glass doors, Tigger was stopped and questioned by hotel staff as to where we were going.  Not having made the reservation himself, he didn't know the name of the restaurant and I had to come to his rescue.  So… are we now not allowed into the hotel unless we have a clear purpose or a reason to be here?  I don't remember this being the case when I last visited the hotel.  The only hotel I remember visiting that has a stricter door policy is the Burj Al Arab in Dubai.

Once seated at our table by the window, the night time view was certainly pretty - despite the fact that we were looking directly at Stonecutter's Island and the military barracks.  The Tsing Ma Bridge is in the distance and we were watching planes take-off and land at the airport.  My view of the restaurant interior showcased a collection of wine bottles along the wall, interspersed with decorative elements designed to reflect as much light as possible.  Despite the relative soft level of ambient lighting and the use of dark wood elements, the environment was in fact very bling.  Perhaps there is some element of truth in another friend's remark from earlier in the day - that the hotel was designed to cater to visitors from the Strong Country.

I was given the task of ordering, and quickly went about my business.  Unwittingly this turned into a meat lover's dinner - especially if you love fatty pork…

The amuse bouche arrived, and it was essentially tofu with some sauce decorated with bits of dried berries, a spear of green asparagus and deep-fried strands of spaghetti.  Not surprisingly the tofu was bland, and the sauce wasn't very interesting, either.

Crispy roasted pork belly (脆皮燒三層肉) - this item is often on the menu when the Tiggers get together for a meal, and I wanted to check out the version here.  There was a very thin layer of "lean" meat, and the crackling was deliciously crunchy.  Yum.

Char-grilled barbecued Iberian pork (蜜燒西班牙黑豚肉叉燒) - this is the signature dish that was the talk of the town when the restaurant first opened.  It was very, very tender and juicy.  Not quite melt-in-your-mouth, but getting awfully close as far as it's possible for a piece of meat.  Taste was on the sweet side, which I don't have a problem with.  The only downside is that the exterior was a little soft and mushy… I would have preferred a little more charring and for it to be slightly crispy.  Overall, though, this lived up to my expectations.

Steamed crab claw with egg white in Hua Diao wine (花雕蛋白蒸蟹拑) - the fragrance of the Huadiao was lovely.  The crab meat was fresh, succulent and very delish.  The egg white's consistency seemed a little more solid than I was expecting.  Naturally I would compare this with what I'm used to having at Tim's Kitchen (桃花源), where you would get more of the claw and the claw itself is also a little bigger.

Braised pork belly with supreme black vinegar (龍軒東坡肉) - yes, more fatty pork!  I foolishly ordered two portions of this, without realizing that only two of us will be having the dish…  Not bad.  Pretty decoration with the winter melon.

Leaf amaranth in superior broth (上湯浸莧菜) - this was pretty good.

Chinese-style stir-fried beef fillet (中式牛柳) - I would always order this for Tigger, and the restaurant was very accommodating because this is off-menu.  The beef was decent and didn't taste of baking soda.  I found it very interesting that the chef used the whites of scallions (京蔥) instead of onions as is usually done.  The flavors are more subtle this way, and I found it to be more "Chinese".

Fried rice with scallops, garoupa and garlic (蒜香斑粒帶子炒飯) - the smell of fried garlic drifted across the table as the waiter was scooping the rice into our bowls.  Unfortunately this was a little under-seasoned.  There was definitely a lot of oil and wok hei (鑊氣) that I could taste, but the chef probably didn't add much salt, if any.  It was also a little more wet and soggy (thanks to the way seafood was done) than I would prefer.  I think this one didn't make the grade…

For dessert I had the deep-fried egg pastry with lemon and honey (西檸蜂蜜黃金卷).  When the dish arrived, Mrs. Tigger immediately blurted out "white-haired witch (白髮魔女)!" in reference to the strands of sugar on top - which were dragon's beard candy (龍鬚糖).  The deep-fried pastry was drenched in honey and pretty good, although the ones at Kimberley Restaurant (君怡閣) are still my favorite.

Overall this was a pretty satisfying meal.  I'm glad I finally had a chance to come try it for myself.  Would I return for the food?  Probably.  Does it deserve the macaron?  Off the top of my head, possibly.  In terms of the food, there are certainly cheaper places around town offering dishes of similar quality.  But then again, most people aren't really here for the food, are they?!

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