August 26, 2016

Farewell, Legolas (Jr)

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So, years after Lady Elf left us and headed east, Worm Supplier Legolas Jr has decided to leave us, too.  He will be eating west to accompany his beloved to jamónland, and a farewell dinner was planned in their honor.  After our original plans were hijacked, we got the Man in White T-shirt to help us organize a special menu at Kin's Kitchen (留家廚房).  I haven't been back here in a few years, so it was a good opportunity for a refresher.

We started with some appetizers, which arrived in quick succession and kinda pissed me off a little... since it got a little hectic trying to take pictures of each dish quickly before it got cold and the Canadian Bear got pissed off...

Deep-fried custard with porcini (牛肝菌戈渣) - the flavors here were definitely much richer than the usual versions of gaozha (戈渣).  The flavors of the porcini definitely came through, as well as the fragrance of having these deep-fried in oil.

The texture, however, remains unchanged.  Still kinda jelly-like as it is, after all, deep-fried custard made with chicken stock.

Deep-fried Puning bean curd with Chiu Chow bean sauce (酥炒普寧豆腐) - this was very nice... The texture was just perfect - crunchy exterior, airy interior.

With the traditional fermented bean sauce on top, this became way, way salty...

Crisp fried Osbeck's grenadier anchovies (酥炸鳳尾魚) - it's so rare to find these little fishies nowadays... I remember always having to eat them out of a tin from China, since they weren't available in my native Taiwan.  They were my maternal grandpa's favorite,  and we used to smuggle tins of it back into Taiwan from Singapore.  Anyway, these were certainly fresh and not preserved, and sooooo delicious.  I really gotta make it a point to order these whenever I can.

Stir-fried corn in premium soy sauce (頭抽炒粟米) - the corn kernels were crunchy, very starchy and consequently sweet to the taste.  Love the kaffir lime leaf chiffonade on top.

Crispy deep-fried pork belly roll (香酥扣肉卷) - these were incredibly crunchy.  There wasn't much filling inside, and what was there turned out to be a little sticky and sweet - which I would never have guessed were bits of pork belly.  But the deep-fried dough rolled around it?  Oh, man... These were so light and airy, and simply crumbled at the slightest pressure from one's teeth.  Very, very fat die, but sooooo nice.

Double-boiled roast duck soup with preserved mandarin peel (陳皮老鴨湯) - this was always gonna be a beautiful soup.  I didn't end up eating any of the "dregs" and only drank the soup, but I bet the duck (the good restaurants tend to use older hens) would have had a lot of flavor even after being boiled in soup.  The soup itself took on a lot of the heavier, smoky flavors of the hen, as well as the distinctive fragrance of aged mandarin peel.

I only allowed myself one bowl of soup, since I knew there was a lot of food tonight.

Stir-fried duo of squid with celery and snow peas (香芹荷蘭豆炒鴛鴦魷) - this was really nice, too...  The kitchen used both fresh as well as slightly preserved squid, and the textures as well as flavors were totally different.  Not surprisingly, the fresh squid had a much more springy texture, while the preserved version were somewhat chewy.  The preserved squid also had a much heavier flavor profile.  These contrasted greatly with the crunchy textures of both the celery and the snow peas, and the sweetness of the peas helped to temper the salty squid.  Not exactly a fancy dish, but special nonetheless because it's not something one is able to find everywhere.

Salt-baked chicken with ganbajun mushrooms (乾巴菌鹽焗雞) - this wasn't just any salt-baked chicken, this was done with mushroom from Yunnan Province (雲南省) called ganbajun (乾巴菌).  I couldn't find the common name in English, because even the Latin binomial name is thelephora ganbajun...  Very yum, and I wish I had more room for it.

Steamed virgin crab (清蒸奄仔) - a few friends were at the restaurant last night for another gathering, and I saw pictures posted of these steamed virgin crabs.  And here we have them.  Yes, April, there are such things as virgin crabs... and no, you don't ask them if they're virgins.  There are way to tell.

And one such way to tell is by looking at the roe.  The roe of the female crab turns a darker color after mating, and also becomes denser and harder.  Looking at the soft and yellow roe in the crab, it's pretty obvious that this one hasn't been around the block.

Stir-fried spinyhead croaker with Chinese lettuce hearts (生菜膽炒獅頭魚) - this was also something special.  These little croakers are from local waters and are of the cheap and cheerful variety, which is why they they've completely disappeared from the menus of most Cantonese restaurants in town.  Nowadays one mostly finds coral fish like garoupas or groupers at seafood restaurants or fine dining establishments, as they are bigger ticket items that rack up the bill.  It's a real treat to find these "pedestrian" fish.

These were filleted and stir-fried with dried mandarin peel, along with plenty of spring onions, hearts of Chinese lettuce, and yellowed chives.  Soft and fluffy texture of the fish provided a contrast to the crunchier greens.

Braised winter melon with bird's eye chili (野山椒炆冬瓜) - a really nice dish, but that chili really delivered some kick!

Honey-glazed ham (蜜汁火方) - what a sight to behold!  A nice, delicious-looking block of fatty pork.  It almost looks majestic as it rises above a bed of lotus seeds.

Unfortunately, I found the lean pork to be a little dense and tough, and the pork fat and skin didn't quite make up for it.  But those lotus seeds were completely cooked through, and kinda just pulverized in the mouth.  Soooooo delicious.

Bamboo noodles with spring onions and soy sauce (蔥油拌竹昇麵) - this, we were told by owner Lau Kin Wai (劉健威), was a slight twist on the Shanghainese classic.  Rather than using the normal round Shanghainese noodles with the softer texture, they have decided to substitute with old school Cantonese bamboo noodles (竹昇麵) from the famous Kwan Kee (坤記).  These are thinner and flatter, but also have much more bite.  One could easily taste the wok hei (鑊氣) coming from stir-frying at high heat.  Absolutely delicious.  Too bad we each only got about half a small bowl's worth...

Purple glutinous rice with pumpkin purée (紫米南瓜露) - this was OK.  It was supposedly a recipe from the late Pearl Kong Chen (江獻珠), but... I dunno.  Whatever.

Coconut milk jelly (椰汁糕) - I've always liked these things, but unfortunately I didn't get one shaped like a cat's anus...


Sesame roll (芝麻卷) - known colloquially as "film (菲林)" for their resemblance to old school rolls of camera film, they are always fun to eat (and play with)...

We brought a bunch of wines and Sherries, and it was a little tough trying to do food and wine matching, but hey, whatever...


Aubry Brut - toasty and yeasty on the nose, with a nice balance between ripeness and acidity.

Barbadillo Obispo Gascon Palo Cortado - front palate was a little short but the finish was reasonably long.  Nutty, dry on the palate.  Nice.

2007 Leeuwin's Chardonnay Art Series - toasty, mineral, a little caramelized and ripe.

2008 Westrey Pinot Noir Justice Vineyard - eucalyptus, a little smoke, some cherries.

Valdespino Solera 1842 Oloroso VOS - much more nutty, more honey and sweetness, more concentrated.

Lustau Almacenista Amontillado Pata de Gallina 1/38 Juan Garcia Jarana - much more savory on the palate, with a drier finish.  Clearly a more refined and sophisticated wine.

2007 Domaine de la Mordorée Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée de la Reine de Bois - opened more than an hour before serving.  Ripe and sweet on the nose, minty, pretty concentrated.

2005 Monbousquet - popped and poured.  Earthy and a little smoky.

This was a fun dinner, with plenty of old school dishes that were specially arranged for us.  Many thanks to the Man in White T-Shirt for hooking us up, and I look forward to seeing my Worm Supplier habla español!

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