May 26, 2014

Engrish on the menu

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Senpai is in town for a whirlwind visit, and a bunch of us gathered around for dinner to celebrate our long-standing friendship.  I first met Senpai about 30 years ago when we were both in high school in Tokyo, but I ran into him again when I worked alongside him as I moved to Hong Kong almost 20 years ago.  Friendships with the rest of tonight's crew extended as far back as our Wankers days when I first arrived...

It's good to take a break from our routines at Fook Lam Moon, so we convened at Liu Yuan Pavillion (留園雅敘) for some Shanghainese.  Someone asked me whether I thought one of the standard set menus from the restaurant would be good enough, but c'mon...  No self-respecting Shanghainese (OK, so I'm only a quarter...) would cop out and do that!  Must order à la carte one!

Wheat gluten with bamboo shoots (四喜烤夫)

Cold three shredded in sauce (涼拌三絲) - interesting combination of enoki mushrooms (金針菇), beets and the pods of sugar snap peas (甜豆).  The beets seemed to have been marinated in vinegar, and the whole thing was tossed in sesame seed oil.  Very crunchy.  Nice Engrish.

Smoked egg (茶香燻蛋) - can't pass up the opportunity to have these wonderfully smoky eggs with the runny yolk.  Inhaled with one bite, of course!

Fire small sugar snap peas (火丁甜豆) - I was surprised that most people at the table have never had this... and many didn't even know what sugar snaps are.  This is very classic Shanghainese... and in fact mom makes this at home!  The sugar snaps tasted pretty sweet, but I was a little disappointed in their quality.  These were a little too old - more like what my mom would buy - and I've been spoiled by restaurants in Taipei and Shanghai that use really young and tender peas.  Engrish strikes again.

Sauteed prawns in chili bean sauce (乾燒蝦球) - a very gweilo-friendly dish, but pretty tasty nonetheless.

Chicken consomme with won ton in casserole (砂鍋雲吞雞) -  couldn't pass up this classic.  Surprised at the small size of the wontons...

Braised pig's knuckle in brown sauce (紅燒元蹄) - how could we come here without ordering this?!  Absolutely awesome and, yes, fattening!  I don't care!  Gimme the collagen and fat!!!  It's been so long since I last had this... and I found myself going back for more when most others have stopped...

Steamed pork dumplings with black truffle (黑松露小籠包) - not as good as the ones from Din Tai Feng (鼎泰豐), but I didn't care.

Pan-fried pork buns (生煎包) - not bad at all.

Steamed pork dumplings (小籠包) - apparently I didn't order enough food, so the gang wanted more xiaolongbao.

I brought over two magnums as we had enough people tonight.  Judging by the fact that the rest of the gang went for another round after dinner, apparently I was being stingy...

2000 Les Plantiers du Haut-Brion en magnum - toasty, a little buttery corn, with lemon notes.  Round and soft on the palate.  A little surprised by the softness and elegance.

2001 Alvaro Palacios Les Terrasses - totally disappointing.  Probably served too warm and needed chilling, as the alcohol was too sharp and prominent.  Nose seemed disjointed with paint-thinner, fruit...etc.  Improved with more aeration, but a far cry from the other magnum opened a few months earlier.

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