January 6, 2014

Backdoor cousins

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It's now January and I've gone off the reservation for the last 3 weeks.  I'm happy to see that I haven't gained back all that much weight, but it's time to get back to my diet.  I'm loosening the screws a little this time around, but I'm still gonna try to keep to no more than 2 cheat meals a week.

Tonight's dinner, however, was unplanned.  I've already got my two cheat meals later on this week, so I wasn't very eager to join my friend Susan for one of her restaurant reviews.  It was gonna be somewhere Chinese, so I threw out a trio of high-end Chinese restaurants which had opened within the last 6 months.  The one place that Susan hadn't reviewed?  The new branch of Sun Tung Lok Chinese Cuisine (新同樂魚翅酒家) in Central - just a couple of minutes from my office.  Ask and ye shall receive, so there was no way for me to back out of going to dinner...

Sun Tung Lok, of course, is historically famous for being the place where countless wealthy diners splurged on expensive ingredients such as shark's fin, abalone and bird's nest.  These days the restaurant still retains the word for shark's fin in its name, although it doesn't say so in English.  Our gang had a little chuckle about this.  A year ago, two of us joined Susan for a review of a new branch of another restaurant whose English name did contain the words "shark's fin".  When the South China Morning Post published a link to that review on this day EXACTLY a year ago on one of its Facebook pages, it unleashed a wave of fury from self-righteous, moronic readers who were mostly expats.

These people bitched, screamed and complained about the SCMP "promoting" shark's fin.  But they were complete MORONS.  Why?  Because I'm 200% sure that NONE OF THEM bothered to read the actual review.  All they saw were the words "shark fin" in name of the restaurant, and they exploded and hurled insults.  If they had bothered to click on the link and actually spent 2 minutes to read the review, they would have realized that at no point in the review was shark's fin mentioned.  Guess what?  We didn't order any!  I refuse to eat shark's fin, and I'm pretty damn sure the SCMP wouldn't have paid for it anyway!  It's amazing how many people in this world don't actually use their fucking brains...

Anyway.  I was the first to arrive after my little wine tasting, and almost immediately started to get a whiff of the overpowering air freshener being pumped through the dining room.  Why the fuck would a fine dining restaurant do this?!  The dining experience isn't just about what goes onto the tastebuds... the Chinese talk about the complete package of color, fragrance and flavor (色, 香, 味俱全).  So what's the rationale for filling my lungs with that much air freshener?!

It took the Worm Supplier and Kung Fu Panda some 10 minutes to go through the menu and figure out what dishes to order, as they tried to avoid repeating dishes they'd already had during their review for the other branch, while trying to order some of the same dishes they'd had at The Boss (波士廳) - the restaurant where, despite being situated just one floor below this one, the entrance is on the opposing side of the building.  The connection?  Part of the kitchen team at The Boss came from Sun Tung Lok.

Ox tongue in XO chilli sauce (XO醬鹵牛脷) - just as tender as I remembered.  Pretty yummy, but still more chili sauce than XO sauce.

Deep-fried stuffed crab claw with minced shrimp paste (百花炸釀鮮蟹鉗) - not bad... Hey, it's battered and deep-fried.  'Nuff said.

Braised pomelo skin with dried shrimp roe in abalone sauce (鮑汁蝦籽柚皮) - the texture was very soft, fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth.  There was no bitter after-taste.  However, as the pomelo skin wasn't braised in the sauce, it was a little bland on its own.  The abalone sauce was ladled on, and the surprising part was that the shrimp roe didn't come with the sauce, but was sprinkled on as the very last step before serving.

Aromatic crab in casserole (奇香將軍蟹煲) - the crab was pretty good, but this dish has always been about the vermicelli.  Unfortunately the Taiwanese vermicelli here was a liiiitle too soggy.  The wonderful fragrance came from a combination of Thai basil, peppercorns, garlic, shallots, scallions.  I had seconds... and thirds...  I think we all preferred the cheaper, drier version next door.

Braised ox tail with skin and shitake mushrooms in casserole (草本炆鮮牛尾) - it's been a long time since I've had oxtail with the skin still attached, and I was really happy to have the chance again.  This was delicious... and a little exotic since it was made with shrimp paste.  Lots of very soft and yummy gluten, plus shiitake mushrooms.

I loved taking a little piece of the very end of the tail...

We ordered a bowl of egg noodles so that we could put it into the casserole and just use up the delicious sauce.  Yum!

Wok-fried sliced chicken with assorted mushrooms and deep-fried chicken bone (農場雞二食: 鮮菌炒雞脯, 蝦醬脆炸骨, 翠蔬) - the gang was so impressed with the deep-fried chicken with shrimp paste next door that this just had to be ordered for comparison.  The deep-fried half of the chicken here was battered first, which was a little different.  The shrimp paste-flavored batter was certainly tasty.  The other half of the chicken was less impressive.

I was too full to have dessert, so I called it a night.  Food-wise this was a pretty good meal - no big complaints about the food.  Just wish they'd tone down the air freshener...

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