February 24, 2010

Go stuff yourself...

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It was supposed to be a quiet and uneventful evening - a welcome respite in a week packed with dinners and drinking sessions - but it was not to be.  I'm stuffed.  Again.  So how did I get here?

A couple of days ago I received an email from someone at WOM Guide (Fergus and Samanta are really nice people), informing me that I had won the weekly competition for submitting reviews.  I think I posted a few of them in a row.  Anyway, the prize was a free meal worth up to $500 - compliments of WOM - and the requirement was to dine somewhere within a week and post a review.  So...I promptly decided to go somewhere and stuff myself...at someone else's expense.

So after pondering about how I would spend WOM's money on a solo dining experience, I decided to pay Union J a visit.  This place has been around for a while, and a couple of my friends are friends with the chefs.  But somehow I have never found myself stepping into the space, until now.

I was gonna make a simple meal out of it, not wanting to eat too much, but ultimately I got suckered into getting the 3-course set dinner.  That would already be more than enough for me, except that I really wanted to try one of the side dishes...so yes, I ended up having 3 and a half courses.

I started with crispy boneless chicken wings: ginger caramel, shrimp stuffing, citrus slaw.  The smell of ginger, caramelized sugar and Asian spices like lemongrass hit me as soon as the plate arrived.  It was obviously gonna be a fusion dish...with that pink sauce at the bottom reminding me of a very, very weak Thai red curry.  The portion was pretty big, actually.  But I thought the ginger caramel was just too sweet, almost like having molasses on top.

Red wine beef cheek: cooked overnight, celery root purée is one of the chef's recomended dishes, according to the menu.  It came looking like a well-charred hamburger patty, which yielded to the knife as if it were butter.  It was that soft.  There was enough fat (oops!) collagen, but the texture of the meat itself - plus the slow-cooking process - produced something that just about melted in my mouth.  There's a little bit of cracked black pepper on the outside, which was nice.  The celery purée was pretty nice, and there were some cooked celery stalks topped with a "salsa" of carrot, onion and pancetta.  Slurp...  I can see why they keep recommending this dish.

I couldn't resist ordering some duck fat fries, even though I knew I could never finish them.  These were good, even though I normally don't like fat fries.  The steak sauce that came with it was also interesting, tasting of sour plum and Asian spices like star anise.

Finally there was the cheese cake: blueberry snow, candied grapefruit.  The nice manager who recommended it to me didn't know what I meant by New York cheesecake, which I guess is tough for people who haven't spent much (or any) time in the States.  All she could say was that it was creamy.  Well, that it was.  The flavor was what I wanted out of my cheesecake.  But the consistency was like parfait - it melted under the temperature of my mouth.  I prefer my cheesecake to be solid and packed - a chunk of which I can toss around inside my mouth with my tongue, needing some pressure to work it over before it finally gives way and starts thinning.  But nevermind...as long as it's rich enough.  And the blueberry "snow" was interesting.

I do have to mention the excellent service I got, which was a pleasant surprise.  I stumbled in as a solo diner without a reservation, and I was led to a table by the window, away from the rest of the crowd in the dining room that was half full.  As I waited for my food to arrive, the manager brought me two magazines so I had something to do other than twiddling my thumbs.  And my waiter seemed to understand that I wanted to pace myself a little, not wanting to just stuff myself with food and leave in a hurry.  For once in a Hong Kong restaurant, the waiter did not feel the need to swoop in and clear the dishes mere seconds after I put down my cutlery.  Kudos to the management.

Unfortunately for me, there was simply too much food for one person...and my usual double espresso remedy didn't do much good tonight.  That's it!  I'm rejoining a gym and hitting it hard...

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