March 13, 2021

3-star classics

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Hong Kong dining scene has experienced a strong rebound ever since the government once again allowed dining in during dinner service, and four people can sit at the same time and have a decent conversation.  In the last couple of weeks, we've been unable to book some restaurants on even two weeks' notice, and this required us to come up with back-up plans often at the last minute.  

We were hoping to have lunch at a French restaurant with two stars, but alas, they could not accommodate us.  So instead, I ended up at an old school Cantonese restaurant with three Michelin stars - one I haven't been to in more than 10 years.

I honestly don't know much about the cuisine at Forum Restaurant (富臨飯店), as I've only been to the old location once.  Of course, Chef Yeung Koon Yat (楊貫一) is a household name in Hong Kong, although I have never had the privilege of tasting his cooking.  I was curious to see what three stars was all about.

Steamed wild mushroom and sarcodon aspratus dumpling (黑虎掌野菌餃) - with lots of Chinese celery along with them shrooms.  Fragrant and tasty.

Steamed rice roll with hand-shredded chicken (手撕咸雞腸) - pretty interesting.  It does taste like a classic dish of hand-shredded chicken...

Steamed pork dumpling with pork liver (金沙豬潤燒賣) - very old school.  The meatball at the bottom was pretty springy, with diced chunks of shiitake.  Those big slabs of pig's liver were very fresh, and springy, too.

Traditional steamed pork and conpoy dumpling (懷舊瑤柱干蒸湯餃) - DaRC was going gaga over this very old school item that hardly anyone ever makes anymore.  While most of the "soup dumplings (灌湯餃)" nowadays are soupy dumplings dunked in a bowl of soup, this one came with soup inside while staying "dry" in a steamer.

Problem is... while everyone was gasping over how the soup leaked into their spoons and bowls, I didn't seem to get much of any liquid in my dumpling.  The wrapper was very thin and delicate, and I loved the flavors from the conpoy.  But I kinda felt that I was "cheated" from having the full experience... especially given the price of this dumpling at HKD 200 a pop.

This was when the restaurant very graciously offered me a second one.  This dumpling did look a little more plump, and I did see some of the soup leak into my bowl.  The amazing thing was how quickly it congealed into a jelly... in less than a minute, almost.  

Two of these babies sure can fill you up!

Pan-fried Huangqiao sesame cake (黃橋燒餅) - one of my favorite dim sum items in the world, and I was happy that they did it well.  Instead of little chunks of ham, it seemed the meat stuffing was fluffy like pork floss, mixed in with little bits of chewy fat.  I could have happily eaten a few more of these.

Deep-fried minced pork and black pepper dumpling (黑椒豚肉咸水餃) - very tasty, especially with that black pepper sauce.

Deep-fried pork with dried mandarin peel in sweet and sour sauce (陳皮咕嚕肉) - this was seriously good.  The batter was crunchy and delicious, and the fragrance from dried mandarin peel was lovely.  It's been a while since I last had sweet and sour pork so good.

Baked chicken in rock salt (阿一鹽焗雞) - pretty good and tender, and of course the giblets were good, too.

Ah Yat fried rice noodle (阿一炒米粉) - honestly, I was a little disappointed.  It wasn't as dry as I had hoped, and didn't have the wok hei (鑊氣) I was expecting.  

A trio of traditional desserts came to finish up our meal: 

Osmanthus and dried longan jelly (圓肉桂花糕) - the dried longans were a nice surprise.

Red bean and coconut milk jelly (椰汁紅豆糕) - with some dried mandarin peel together with the red beans.

Hawthorn roll (山楂卷) - with some plum powder on top.

Mung bean soup (綠豆沙) - very nice.  After more than two decades in Hong Kong, I'm still puzzled why Cantonese people choose to add kelp - a savory ingredient - and rue (臭草) to a dessert soup.  

We took it easy and just made do with two little bottles for lunch:

2012 Paul Déthune Cuvée l'Ancienne, dégorgée le novembre 2017 - yeasty mousse with honey notes.  Really nice and very easy to drink.

2015 Y d'Yqum - flinty, a little floral, with a hint of acetone and also polyurethane.

Honestly, I don't know why it took me so long to come back here. Sure, there's plenty of the traditional premium items like shark's fin, abalone, and stuff on the menu... but there's ao much more to this place. I really need to plan more meals here and get a load of the old school dishes that they're trying very hard to preserve.

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