December 5, 2016

BYOB(irds) dinner

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After a few months' absence, I was back at my favorite private dining facility.  The crew tonight was largely the same as this dinner last month, and most of us are already regulars here.  What we were all excited about, though, was the fact that it is now winter... and a couple of game specialties are now in season and available.

There was 16 of us tonight - the biggest group I'd ever been part of.  So all the dishes got supersized, and some of us who brought wines brought two bottles of the same wine.  This was gonna be fun...

Pan-fried medallions with birds' nest (琵琶燕窩餅) - one of my favorite dishes here, and always great to start with this.

The medallions are made with egg white, birds' nest, and crab meat.  Nicely browned on the exterior from frying at high heat, with a very fluffy interior.  Very delicate dish.

Crystal king prawn (玻璃大蝦球) - this dish always impresses when it's presented... Just look at all those giant prawns on the same plate!

The prawns have been "skinned" and scored before cooking, and the flavors here were just so delicate.  I love the fact that the chef uses neither baking soda nor corn starch.

Stir-fried shark's fin (桂花炒魚翅) - Hello Kitty and I don't eat shark's fin, so we left my portion to the others.

Pan-fried rice birds (香煎禾花雀) - now this was a real treat!  The Man in White T-Shirt had talked about bringing these birds over for the chef to prepare, and I couldn't believe that he actually did it!

The birdies were stuffed with Cantonese liver sausage, and the fragrance of the Mei Kuei Lu (玫瑰露) was so lovely.  Biting down crunches the tiny bones in the bird's body, and more pressure squeezes the soft, paste-like sausage out of the cavity.  So happy we got to eat this!

But... given that these little guys have been classified as "endangered" on the IUCN Red List since 2013, I think this will be the last time I eat them.  I can't really justify eating them - however occasional - when I have refused to eat shark's fin for almost the past 2 decades.

Braised mountain turtle (紅燒大山瑞) - I didn't ask the chef about the size of the turtle, but it ain't small!  Look at all that skirt on top!

Braised with pork belly that has been deep-fried first, and served with shiitake mushrooms and shredded Chinese lettuce.  Yum.  The sauce was so good (with lots of collagen) that we asked for bowls of steamed rice so we could soak it all up.

Imperial scholar's five-snake soup (太史五蛇羹) - the other highlight of the evening.  I've waxed lyrical about this very special snake soup many, many times... And since I first had a taste of this a little more than 2 years ago, I haven't been able to find another version in Hong Kong or Macau that can do better.

Served with the usual condiments of white chrysanthemum petals, coriander, the finest chiffonade of kaffir lime leaves, and deep-fried wonton skins.

The soup itself was as good as ever.  Incredible knife work in terms of slicing all the ingredients, and beautiful flavors coming from making the stock out of snake bones.  I didn't hesitate to take my second bowl.

Steamed sole (清蒸海方利) - with 16 of us, it was necessary to have two of these.  Nicely executed tonight.

Traditional salt-baked chicken (古法鹽焗雞) - now, this ain't your ordinary salt-baked chicken.  One look at the feet and you know that the Man in White T-Shirt had brought over a poulet de Bresse from Miéral so that the chef can apply his skills on this wonderful bird.  It really doesn't get better than this!

While everyone took their turns picking at the chicken - and I had jokingly allocated just two pieces to our Chicken Fiend - I very wisely chose to gnaw on one of the famous blue feet.  Definitely made the right choice.  The other parts of the chicken could wait, but there are only two of these for every chicken...

The only downside to using poulet de Bresse for this dish is that one does not get to have the giblets...

Stir-fried pea shoots with liver sausage (膶腸炒豆苗) - this was AWESOME.  And very old school.  I loooove liver sausage, and of course the pea shoots are very, very tender while they're in season.  Combining the two was just heavenly.

Sautéed rice rolls with minced beef, bean sprouts in satay sauce (沙爹牛肉炒腸粉) - a perennial crowd favorite, and Hello Kitty gave her portion to me.  Absolutely love that kick from the "satay sauce".

Double-boiled ginkgo nuts and lotus seeds (銀杏燉湘蓮) - a great way to finish up our meal, with jujube, longan, lotus seeds, ginkgo nuts, and apricot kernels.

One of our fellow diners brought along a bag of fruits from Xinjiang (新疆).  These apples and pears were indeed pretty sweet.

In addition to bringing our own birds, of course we also brought our own bottles to dinner.  The bottle count was fairy civil and turned out to be just 10 for the 16 of us, although there was a bottle of Crown Royal that others enjoyed in which I chose not to partake...

2002 Bollinger R.D., dégorgée le 24 juin 2014 - dry on the palate.  After a little while, the nose opened up a little more and showed oxidized and caramelized notes.

Katsuyama Den (勝山 伝), 28BY - a junmai daiginjo (純米大吟醸) with seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 35%.  Huge, sweet nose of ripe banana and tropical fruits. Kinda rich and round on the palate.  A little sweet but slightly dry on the finish.

2008 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet - so ripe and caramel, with notes of straw.  Kinda dry on the finish.

2007 Peter Michael Chardonnay Mon Plaisir - buttery on the nose.  Slightly sweet on the attack.  Nose became sweeter and more buttery later.

2000 Etude Pinot Noir Heirloom - pretty sweet and fruity, but the palate was a little flat.

2002 Camus Chambertin - smoky and savory nose, with black olive notes.

2004 Armand Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze - showing beautiful floral and violet notes.

Another awesome dinner here, even though once again... we were not able to say hello to our old friend Nicky Tse. I'm looking forward to closing out this crappy year with one final dinner here at the end of the month.

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