January 31, 2018

Chairman in da House

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I got a ping from The Great One a couple of weeks ago, asking if I wanted to join her at a special dinner at The Chairman (大班樓).  Apparently owner Danny Yip has invited a guest chef from "an amazing private kitchen" in Foshan (佛山), and very kindly invited The Great One to go for dinner.  Since I was kinda showing The Dining Austrian around this week, I figured he should come join us for the special event while I ride the coattails of my friend...

House 102 (壹零貳小館) is run by two young chefs who have spent lots of time researching old recipes.  Danny was obviously very impressed by them, and decided to work with them on a collaboration - bringing lots of special ingredients over for the occasion.

Before dinner started, we were given an introduction to the team behind House 102 - Chef Xu Jingye (徐泾业) and Manager Yao Min (姚敏) - who showed us the ingredients they would be serving us and the stories behind them.

First taste clear soup (頭啖清湯) - this was very delicate, but one could clearly taste the fish, and the scent of water chestnuts was easy to spot.  Apparently the soup was created not by boiling over the stove, but "brewed" by soaking the bones and the meat in hot water separately over 3 hours.  A lovely (and stomach-warming) start to our meal.

Abalone with qiang wei petals and lotus roots (鮑魚薔薇藕片) - the abalone slices were tender but no longer had the bounce when one bites into them.  Deep flavors here with pronounced smokiness, but similar to what I had here a few months ago.

The more interesting part was the lotus roots, which were crunchy as expected, but had been marinated with baby rose (薔薇) petals preserved in jars of sugar for seven years.  The rose flavors and fragrance was lovely and elegant.

Rainbow pig's stomach with golden coin chicken (五彩豬肚配金錢雞) - now THIS was a sight to behold.  The chef came across a set of 9 books on Chinese cuisine called 中国名菜集錦, published in Japan back in 1982.  There was a picture along with descriptions of a stuffed pig's stomach. Although various ingredients were listed, the description did not include exact proportions nor cooking steps.  So the chefs decided to reverse engineer the dish...

Stuffed inside the pig's stomach were salted egg yolks, century eggs, honey-glazed ham, and pig trotter tendons.  We were served thin slices.  Besides the interesting combination of textures - the tendons were chewy and crunchy - was inclusion of Sichuan peppercorns, which delivered a delicate fragrance as well as gradually numbing the taste buds.

I would come to call this "pâté en vessie chinois", while Hello Kitty and The Great One were dreaming about making bánh mi with this.  We were secretly plotting to ask Danny for any leftovers, and he probably overheard us... because he came over in the middle of dinner and handed each of us a chunk of this!


The other half of this dish was equally exciting.  "Gold coin chicken" is a literal translation of the Chinese name of the dish.  It is so named because the ingredients are cut into round discs and squeezed together on skewers before being barbecued - resulting in a resemblance to old Chinese coins with square openings in the middle.

A few of us have long coined the term "cholesterol sandwich" to more accurately describe the dish, because it is made with layers chicken liver, barbecued pork, and pork fat (like lardo).  It is among my absolute favorite things to eat, and what we had tonight was very, very good.  Serving it on a sliced half of deep-fried bun allowed the fat and the sauce to be absorbed.  VERY yum.

Pacific geoduck with shrimp roes in wild frog porridge (野生田雞粥浸蝦籽象拔蚌) - eating porridge at the Chairman is always an experience, because they cook it until it thickens and the viscosity approaches old-fashioned glue... then strains it to remove any last grains of rice.  Into the rice smoothie goes tender and delicious frog, along with very, very sweet and tasty slices of geoduck - accented with a sprinkle of shrimp roe.

Giant grouper head with chopped peppers (剁椒龍躉頭) - THIS was certainly the pièce de résistance... half of the head from a 30-catty giant grouper, buried under a layer of chopped chili peppers and spring onions.  And just look at those lips!!!

Danny came over to cut it up for us - removing the lips, the collagen, the eye, and some of the meat, while reminding us to let the cheek rest and cook a little more.

Normally I would run in the other direction when I see a dish like this - covered in chilies and soaking in red and spicy chili oil.  Not tonight.  The chefs got it just right tonight... in the sweetspot where there's enough spiciness to make the dish interesting and highlight the flavors of the fish, but without going overboard and taking a flamethrower to my taste buds.  I kept going back for more.  As did everyone else... especially The Dining Austrian.  After devouring the eyeball, he didn't stop until there was nothing left but bony, inedible bits.  It's great to see how giddy he was...


Partridge with wild mushroom soup (粵北香菇燉鷓鴣) - very clean and pure flavors.

The wild mushrooms from northern Guangdong - hence the name 北菇.

Slipper lobster stir-fried with pengqi crab eggs (蟛蜞膏炒琵琶蝦) - it's been a while since I last had 禮云子, and the eggs from these local crabs sure were tasty.  And it wasn't a surprise to see Danny serve us flathead lobsters - which he prefers due to their sweeter flavors.  This was very, very good.

One-bite sweet and sour pork (一口咕嚕肉) - yup.  Just the one bite.  And what a surprising bite it was!  The whole thing crumbled under pressure.  POOF!  But wait... WHERE'S THE MEAT?!  This was supposed to be sweet and sour pork.  So what happened to the pork?!  Why did it seem like I just ate deep-fried batter with a hollow center?

As it turns out, what we had was deep-fried lard.  Yes, like what we would find in very old school restaurants, sprinkled over bowl of noodles or other dishes.  There was barely any meat... which would explain how the whole thing just disappeared as it melted in our mouths.  Oh the flavors were just how they should be.. with good amount of acidity to cut through the lard.

Three-year-old lion head goose in Chinese marinade (鹵水三年養特大獅頭鵝飯) - this was DAMN GOOD...  No surprise that the slice of goose liver left me salivating after it was all gone... and the thick goose neck was pretty tasty, too!

These were "lion head geese (獅頭鵝)", which I'm guessing are a type of swan goose - with large and protruding basal knob.  These have been bred for 3 years and weighed up to 30 catties... DANG!

Pea sprouts with snow fungus (銀耳豆苗) - we were told that the snow fungus tonight had an especially crunchy texture, and Danny wasn't kidding!  These were so nice!
The dried snow fungus.

We ended with a trio of desserts:

Blackbean puff pastry

Sago dumpling with custard (奶黃西米滋)

Almond cream (杏仁茶)

I brought along 2 bottles of wine, and continued the two themes I have been running with while The Dining Austrian was here: German rieslings and 1997 Italians...


1983 von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser Abstberg Riesling Spätlese - very fragrant, with nose of wax, polyurethane, honey, citrus, and white flowers.  A little sweetness on the palate but the acidity was pretty high on the back end.

1997 Solaia - served 45 minutes after opening.  Nice and fragrant nose.  A little minty, pencil lead, a little earthy, and some elegant fruit.

This was a really, really good collaboration dinner.  The ingredients were very interesting, and the flavors were pure and well-balanced.  With this being the fifth and final Cantonese meal during his detour, The Dining Austrian seemed very, very happy with his decision to leave Japan for a few days.  I was ever so grateful to Danny for the kind treat (we actually paid for the dinner, only to have Danny rip up our credit card receipts and refund us...) and to The Great One for the invitation to join her. 

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