December 16, 2008

Last (Chinese) Supper

Pin It

Tonight I met up wth a couple of friends for a long-overdue dinner. One of the friends is leaving for the holidays, and we decided that we would go to Lei Garden (利苑) for her last Chinese meal of the year. I have never been to this particular restaurant at IFC, and in fact I haven't been to a Lei Garden in quite a few years. Now that the place has been given a Michelin star, it's time for me to take another look.

We started with the simple soup of the day (例湯), which was sweet with a slightly bitter after taste - perhaps from some American ginseng (花旗蔘).  A good way to start any Cantonese meal.

We were then served a plate of crispy roast pork (脆皮燒肉), which the waitress said was an "appetizer" portion. She wasn't kidding. The plate was tiny and only had about 9 or so small cubes of the pork. The layer of crispy skin was pretty thin, and the way the meat was cut made this dish seem delicate and refined. Initially I complained that the pork was too lean - I like these fatty - but soon found the layers of fat on other pieces. This was pretty good, but I prefer my roast pork chunky, fatty and with a thick layer of crunchy skin...

There was the usual serving of blanched pea shoots (清湯豆苗), and this was pretty delicious given that the veggy is in season.

The pièce de résistance arrives - a half serving of roast Peking duck (北京烤鴨). We asked the waiter to make thin slices of the crispy skin. The pancakes and condiments are laid out on the table, and we started to make our own pockets. What surprised me were the pancakes, as they were the thinnest I have ever seen for Peking duck. Another sign of how refined the restaurant is trying to be. But after giving it some thought, I realized that these were too thin for handling. I was too afraid that these would tear, and had to handle them very carefully while eating.

The second part of the dish was stir-fried diced duck wrapped in lettuce (炒鴨菘), which was pretty yummy. In addition to using the lettuce, I used up the leftover pancakes, being very careful not to tear the paper-thin skin.

For dessert we shared an order of deep-fried glutinous rice ball with seasame (芝麻擂臺) and deep-fried egg cuillers (蛋散). The cuillers were very nice, but still can't beat the ones from Kimberly Restaurant.

I did bring along a bottle of 1996 Dominus - the Californian product of Chateau Petrus owner Christian Moueix. It's still a pretty young wine, and I definitely felt the tannins on my tongue. Initially the wine was slightly acidic on the palate - a bit Bordeaux-like - but eventually showed its true colors as a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. A good wine that needs a bit more cellaring time.

So does the restaurant deserve its coveted Michelin star? While we weren't able to sample many dishes, the ones were did have were certainly delicious. And I can see that the delicate and refined touches - like the roast pork and the pancakes for the duck - would make an impression on the Michelin reviewers. But is it worthy? Perhaps, but I'll need to sample a few more dishes to be sure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like Lei Garden, but one star?? I think a touch over-rated.

I enjoy it as they tend to be consistent and have good tasting food with decent service.

I hope the rating doesn't go to their head and they raise prices even more...maybe will be time to find another locale...


Related Posts with Thumbnails

TripAdvisor Travel Map