November 13, 2008

Chinese food in a Western restaurant

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I met up with an old friend today for lunch and decided to go to Harlan's. It's been a long time since I paid my last visit, and certainly not since the namesake chef's departure.

I chose the set lunch, and started with the "salad" as the waiter called it. In reality this was a mix of shellfish paired with some salsa. It was a simple enough dish with scallops, calamari, prawns and mussles. Though I think that salsa works well with seafood, thoughts about the freshness of the seafood - and whether the salsa serves to mask certain faults - crossed my mind. Thanks, Tony Bourdain...

My main course was the braised U.S. pork belly. Perhaps because I was in a hurry to order and was busy talking with my friend, but I wasn't expecting the dish that was laid out in front of me. This is Chinese! In fact it is like the Chiuchow braised pork belly (鹵水豬肉), with cubes of soft, braised tofu and raddish. The pork was very fatty (and very good), the flavors were fine, and I enjoyed the dish with some rice. But for some reason I was expecting a more "Western" dish rather than something that I usually get from my neighborhood Chiuchow restaurant (for $50 or so)...

The Harlan's dessert surprise was OK... a light, green tea-flavored creation.
Not that the food wasn't nice, but maybe I should have gone with my original choice of spaghetti carbonara - which they chose to call spaghetti with bacon, onions, egg yolk and cheese (or something like that)... I guess I just wasn't expecting to be thrown a curveball...or maybe it was actually a fastball but I had my eyes closed...

The other problem is that the service was really rushed. The dishes arrived so quickly, and you definitely felt that they want to rush you out the door within one hour, which is a pretty unpleasant feeling. We took our time with the coffee and left when e felt like it.

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