March 31, 2010

Clueless and incompetent

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I met up with two friends for dinner on short notice.  Although both of them are good friends whom I've known for years, dinner with the two of them together can be quite an affair.  SOP calls for Korean, and ordering way too much food so that we leave the restaurant totally stuffed.

We went to ChumChumMi, which was supposed to be Korean with a fusion bent.  The menu was extensive, and while there were many traditional-looking dishes, there were also a few which raised an eyebrow or two.  There were also a selection of "Korean Royal Cuisine" but honestly I didn't see anything special about the dishes.

This sorry excuse for a restaurant failed so badly right from the start, and the hole just kept getting deeper.  The whole restaurant was empty - we were the only table.  The staff decided that the three of us only needed 2 menus, so we had to ask for another one for me.

We spent some time choosing the dishes we wanted to order, and called over a waitress.  After listening to us ordering three dishes, she turned to leave us as she assumed that we were done with our ordering.  We informed her that we were not finished, and asked whether she needed to write down the names of the dishes.  No need, apparently.  A manager came over, and he also confirmed that they would be able to remember all the dishes we were going to order.  We pointed to the names of the dishes on the menu while placing our order.  Nothing was written down despite our repeated requests.

Minutes later the manager returned and asked us to confirm a dish that we had ordered.  We informed him that we did not order that particular dish, and proceeded to reconfirm each dish once again.  He went away.

While waiting for our food, I decided to pick up a bread roll and spread some butter on part of it.  I almost spat it out.  The butter was stale and racid - it probably had been sitting out in room temperature for who knows how long.  I asked my friends to stay away from the butter.  I've never had a restaurant serve me stale butter like this.  Ever.

Food started to arrive and things started to calm down, sort of.  The chives mandu in small portion were OK, like Japanese gyoza. Samgeobsal kochoojang was pretty spicy, but I was a little disappointed in the three-layered pork - it was a little too shredded and there was not much fat.  Sea whelk in spicy sour sauce with noodles also came as a small portion, and was pretty decent.

So daechang gui was by far our favorite dish.  The ox intestine on the hotplate was just soooo yummy... I could have had the whole plate myself.  The fried spring onions worked well with the intestine. Mini kimchijuns were disappointing - doughy and flabby when they should be more dry and crispy.

Seafood ddeokbokgi was from the "Korean Royal Cuisine" section.  Now I'm no expert on Korean food, but my travels to Seoul tells me that ddeokbokgi is actually street food most popular on cold winter nights.  Calling street food "royal cuisine" is an oxymoron.  Instead of just rice cakes and simple fish cakes, the restaurant decided to make a "premium" version by using real seafood - like crab, mussels...etc. This was pretty spicy, too, as expected.

Pineapple bulgogi wasn't what I expected at all.  It was nothing more than simple slices of stir-fried beef (perhaps tenderized with pineapple juice) with a few chunks of pineapple on the side. I'm left scratching my head trying to figure out why this dish was created at all...

We were also brought a plate of spicy seafood noodles.  For some reason the restaurant thought we ordered this - yet another confusion thanks to their refusal to write down our orders.  We sent it back, but they decided to give it to us anyway on a complimentary basis.  After all, they had no other customers to give it to.  It was bland and uninteresting.

For dessert we chose the preserved persimmon stuffed with mixed nuts and dried fruits. This was pretty good - stuffed with walnuts, black sesame...etc and garnished with pine nuts and jujube.  The yuzu sauce was nice.

We were stuffed.  On average the food was OK, although there were only at most two dishes which we liked.  But what was up with the service?!  These people - and there were at least four of them - were just totally clueless!  If you don't know the names of the dishes, or can't remember the names beyond three dishes, use your pen and paper to write them down!  How can they not understand something so basic?!

And what's with the manager's uniform jacket?  The name of the restaurant was embroidered on the left sleeve of the guy's pin-stripe jacket, in the same spot where the mainland Chinese people used to show off the brand names of their jackets.  Dude, I don't care about how cool your uniform is...I care about how good your service can be...

Three months after opening, at 8pm on a Wednesday night, in a busy shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui, the restaurant served three customers out of a capacity of about 60.  The Japanese ramen shop next door is doing brisk business, so the restaurant is empty not for lack of traffic.  Frankly, there's absolutely no reason for me to go back - not with uninspiring food and clueless staff.  My friends and I give the place another three months...

March 30, 2010

Franco-Japanese pigeon

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Tonight I had my first business-related meal at Caprice.  Amazingly I did not choose the venue, but was delighted when I was told that I would be taken there - on condition that I provide the wines for the evening.  Of course I happily obliged...

The amuse bouche was a trio:
There was the salmon cannelloni with herring and mashed potato, which was a combination of interesting textures.  You'd expect a creamy center for a cannelloni, but mash has a slight degree of graininess about it.
The deep-fried cube of pork knuckle was good as usual.
watercress velouté with beetroot foam was awesome...a perfect combination of two distinctive and earthy vegetables.

I recommended the langoustine ravioli to my companions, but as I've had it earlier last month, I decided to try something different.  The wild watercress velouté, Ecaille d'Argent oyster and marine scent cappuccino looked interesting because it would be something relatively light - or so I thought.  I forgot that Caprice is more traditional in style, so their velouté wouldn't be as light as what I was expecting.  Maybe it was the cappuccino but the flavors of watercress here wasn't nearly the same degree was what we got for the amuse bouche.

2001 Ramonet Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Boudriotte - have I ever mentioned that I love Ramonet's whites?  I do.  Even though I've had better bottles of this wine before, I was still happy to drink this.  Nose of lemon, minerals, flint, toast, hint of sweet butter.  Initially acidity was medium to high on the palate, then turned a little more ripe and tart in the middle, only to really smooth out after more aeration.

Before we ordered, Jeremy had come over and recommended a few dishes for me.  One of them was the Racan pigeon en croûte, nori seaweed, foie gras, broad bean and artichoke fricassée.  This was also a recommendation from one of the elves who works in the kitchen, and since I had a bottle of red Burg I thought I'd give this a try.  I was not disappointed.  The unlikely combination of pigeon/foie and nori worked perfectly.  As Chef Vincent told me a little later in the evening, anybody can do pigeon and foie gras.  But he thought the combination with nori would be interesting, and his experiment paid off.  The savory taste of the ocean was a perfect complement to the sweet and creamy flavors of the foie, and the gamey flavor of the bird added to the mix.  The whole thing was then encased in puff pastry and became a beautiful thing to behold when cut open.  Then there was a leg of the pigeon, which was oddly straight with one "toe" sticking out... Can you say "rigor mortis"?  The artichokes were pretty decent, but I was already getting full for some reason.

2000 Dugat-Py Mazis-Chambertin - well...I was disappointed by 2000 Dugat-Py, again.  Yes, I know it's not a great vintage, but I honestly expected better from these guys.  Nose of mushrooms, red fruits, a little bit of forest, a little muddy, mint, smoke and grilled meats.
My last bottle of Dugat-Py was a little disappointing, too...and I bought the two bottles together.

We were kinda full, so we passed on dessert.  A shame, because I was ready to go for the wild strawberry combination again.  Maybe I'll come back for lunch and order that again.  Gotta get more of this stuff while they're in season!

March 27, 2010

Earth Hour 2010

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Tonight the world got together and took part in Earth Hour, where each time zone made an effort to conserve energy by turning out the lights for an hour, creating an interesting effect of a dark band moving across the earth.

A year ago I participated in Earth Hour for the first time.  I was invited to a friend's house for dinner, and I asked her if we could turn off the lights for an hour.  She was kind enough to agree, and we finished dinner by candlelight.  I felt pretty good about that.

This year I did my best to observe Earth Hour while in Taipei.  I stayed out of my hotel room to make sure it stayed dark.  I also chose not to dine in any restaurants, so we ended up going from stall to stall in the night market on the Tonghua and Linjiang Streets (通化街/臨江街).  While I didn't exactly dine by candlelight like last year, I did my best to minimize my usage of electricity.

I look forward to Earth Hour next year.  Until then, I'll consciously cut down my electricity consumption - as I have been trying to do.

March 24, 2010

The raw and the cooked

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After hearing about it for months, I finally had a chance to try out Sushi Shin (鮨辰).  A number of people have been raving about the quality of fish at this place, which got me very curious.  A few of us brought our bottles of wine for a long overdue gathering.

The two regulars of the restaurant decided to do the ordering for us, which covered both the usual sashimi/sushi as well as a bunch of cooked dishes. 

Pickled burdock (牛蒡) - I normally prefer deep-fried or stir-fried as a starter, since the pickled version often is served with a bowl of rice at the end of the meal or with the sashimi.

Sashimi platter - lots of goodies here, including the usual young yellowtail (魬), flounder (鮃), clams (蛤), egg (玉子), halfbeak (細魚), and some kind of snapper (鯛).  Of course there was fatty tuna (トロ), but since I stopped eating bluefin tuna for environmental reasons, I left these for my friends.

Tuna rolls (鉄火巻き) and scallions and fatty tuna rolls (ネギトロまき) - don't eat bluefin, so once again my portion was taken up by friends.

Grilled scallops - these were actually pretty nice.  I'm normally not a fan of Japanese-style grilled scallops, but these were not dry at all.  The seaweed (のり) pouch was a nice touch. Gone in two bites. and a half, actually...

Grilled neck of yellowtail (鰤) - it's been a while since I had something like this.  Taste was OK but obviously the "fishy" smell was pretty strong thanks to the fatty oils.  Eventually I had the leftovers taken away because it was interferring with my tasting ability.

Grilled beef - pretty decent, with a good amount of yummy fat.

Grilled cod "chips" - these wafer-thin chips are made from cod, and nicely grilled to release full flavors.  Very yummy, and reminds me of the shredded cod (鱈魚絲) I used to snack on as a kid in Taiwan.

Deep-fried pork cutlet (とんかつ) - how can I say no to pork, especially when it's breaded and deep-fried?  Slurp...

Grilled sakura shrimp (桜海老) - I've always loved these tiny shrimps, and grilling just brings out so much of that wonderful flavor.  Gotta go and buy a big bag of these on my trip to Taiwan this weekend.

Sea eel tempura (穴子天麩羅) - even though I'm more used to having sea eel tempura as one whole piece, it's just as nice when it's fried in smaller pieces. Texture was silky smooth... That broccolini wasn't bad, either. be honest, the gathering tonight wasn't about the food at all...the purpose was to crack open a few bottles.  I don't think I've ever had an evening with this group where we averaged less than one bottle per person... so here's what we had:

1998 Pommery Cuvée Louise - yeasty nose with notes of honey, lemon and toasty oak.  Medium acidity.

2006 Leroy Bourgogne Aligoté - lots of heavy toast in the nose, almost like popcorn.  Actually there was a little bit of stinky armpit...also nose of minerals and flint.  On the second pour the toast actually got heavier, very much like the grilled yellowtail we just had with the fish oil.  Some lemon citrus at the end.  Very ripe on the palate, with a long and slightly acidic finish.  The consistency was smooth and round on the tongue.

2003 Chapoutier L'Orée - initially very tight, with obviously signs of oxidation.  Nose of cotton candy, toast, grass, a little bit of burnt rubber along with some popcorn.  Sweet and ripe on the palate with a long finish.  Improved significantly with additiona aeration.  A little bit disappointing, but this was the first bottle from a case I bought at auction, so let's see how the other bottles will turn out.

1990 Leroy Bourgogne Rouge - farmy nose with grilled meats and some sweet fruits.  Nose was pretty nice.

1998 Guillot Clauzel - a tiny production from an estate next to the famed Le Pin, the wine is made by Dominique Thienpont.  Nose was pretty open, with smoke, grilled meats and fruit in the nose.  Not bad at all...

2005 Lou Dumont Savigny-lès-Beaune - a surprisingly beautiful wine.  Lots of toasty oak, minerals, ripe fruits and a little bit of sweetness.  Honestly, it delivers only a little less than the Leroy Aligoté but at a fraction of the price.  Gotta get me some of this...

Surprisingly, I didn't stagger out from the restaurant...  It was definitely an enjoyable evening, though...

March 23, 2010

Aussie surprise

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I met up with an old friend for dinner tonight, and we decided to drink a couple of bottles of Aussie wines since he's an Aussie.  I decided to go back to my cafeteria from the old days - Brasserie on the Eighth - as they have always been nice to me.

I asked the waiter to decant my bottle of wine.  The young guy obviously has had very little training, since he practically poured the whole bottle into the decanter in one swift motion...including all the sediment at the bottom.  My eyes opened wide, and I was stunned for a moment.  I chastised the waiter, and asked him to be more careful and gave him a second bottle to decant.  He finally took the trouble of lighting a candle to help check for sediment while pouring.

They are doing a "lamb promotion", and I decided to pick 2 of those dishes since I love lamb.

Spring lamb tartar with shiitake mushrooms French beans salad and Pommery mustard sauce - I was thinking about ordering steak tartar before I even arrived at the restaurant, so this worked out perfectly.  I liked the combination of the mustard with the lamb, letting the acidity work on the meat.  The result was that the "lammy" taste wasn't very heavy...oh well.  I liked the raw quail egg on top, too.

Seared lamb fillet on spinach with lemon saffron sauce - this really didn't work for me.  I asked for "medium rare" and that was not what I got.  While the lamb was still juicy inside, it certainly wasn't anywhere near pink. I thought about sending this back, but couldn't be bothered...

Coffee lovers: Amedei chocolate mousse with Nespresso granita & Illy capuccino espuma - pretty interesting combination, espressing three different flavors each through a different texture.

1999 Noon Reserve Shiraz - lots of fruit and a bit alcoholic, with smoke and eucalyptus.  Still pretty concentrated.  A little disappointing, as I had expected something much more open.

2001 Torbreck Les Amis - initially notes of plastic, then sweet fruit that's a little bit stewed, orange and exotic Asian spices.  Caramel nose emerged much later.  This was a very sweet and exotic wine...reminding me of how opulent Grenache can Rayas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I'll have some more of this wine any day!

We had a pretty good time with the wines, although the food could have been slightly better.  I hope we can have an opportunity to get together soon.

March 21, 2010

Yummy fatty pork

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For all the years I've lived in Hong Kong, somehow I never got around to having dim sum at Fu Sing (富聲).  I've traditionally gone to the same few places for my dim sum, but after meeting up with a few fellow Chowhounds who seem to hit this place each time they're in town, I figured it was time for me to check it out for myself.

Country style salty fried dumplings (家鄉咸水角) - these were OK.  Could have used a little more filling...

Steamed dumplings with scallops and asparagus (帶子蘆筍餃) - not very impressed.  The ingredients were mushy, and would have been better if the asparagus had a bit more crunch.

Crystal prawn dumplings (晶瑩鮮蝦餃) - while the skin was thin and hadn't been overdone in terms of steaming, it did stick to my plate and became hard to remove.  The use of MSG was very obvious.

Steamed pork and prawn siu mai (燒賣) - these were OK.

Crispy pork buns (酥皮叉燒包) - probably the most famous item on the dim sum menu here...These were very, very good...on par with the ones found at Che's Cantonese Restaurant (車氏粵菜軒) or Tim Ho Wan (添好運).  Crispy, flaky exterior containing delicious runny filling...

Wonton and vegetable in fish soup (魚湯雲吞時蔬) - the soup was pretty nice, but the wontons were a little flat and flimsy...not the typical Cantonese wontons.

Deep-fried mud carp balls (酥炸鯪魚球) - these were OK.

We ordered a combo plate of the Fu Sing char siu (富聲叉燒) and the roast pork with crackling (燒肉).  These were definitely the highlights of the meal!  That char siu was almost perfectly balanced between the lean and fat portions, and dripping in the honey glaze.  The reputation as one of the best char siu in town is well-deserved.  I could barely stop myself from picking up piece after piece with my chopsticks.  But...I was distracted by the other half of the plate.  The crackling on the roast pork was so perfectly crispy.  The layer of fat between the crackling and the meat was, needless to say, heavenly.  I just couldn't stop myself from putting these into my mouth and squeezing the fat between my teeth.  Is there anything better than fatty pork?  I think not.

We also had some stir-fried kale (炒芥蘭) to take in some greens.

So I finally did try out the dim sum at Fu Sing.  But honestly, I came away a little disappointed after all the hype.  It was a pretty good meal, but not meaningfully better than what I could have had at other places I frequent, and certainly a level or two below a handful of top restaurants in town.  But that plate of fatty pork was certainly worth going back for...

March 20, 2010

The dessert of Can Roca

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A bunch of foodies gathered at the Mandarin Grill tonight for a dinner featuring the cuisine of El Celler de Can Roca, the Michelin three-star restaurant in Girona, Spain.  Jordi Roca was here and presided over a very special menu, and I also took the wine pairing.

We were fortunate to have extra special service tonight, thanks to Antoine and Pierre.  This would probably be the last time I see Pierre at the Mandarin, and I'm a little sad.  But then again, hopefully I'll end up seeing him a little more now that he's no longer tied to a job as the sommelier...

Ostra al cava (cava sólid agusti torelló i mata) - this is an interesting interpretation of cava... it's oysters with oyster leaf (which tastes just like an oyster), candied citrus rind with the taste of preserved orange rind (陳皮), cava caviar (molecular), and a bit of a particular cava that was made in conjunction with Can Roca that is especially viscous - thanks to the addition of gelatin.  Very nice.

2004 Augusti Torelló Cava Kripta Gran Reserva - very refreshing, with notes of pear.  Became more acidic and the toasty oak more prominent with the oysters.  A little ripe on the palate.

Parmentier de calamar - with squid caparccio, potato mash with paprika made from pimentón de la vera, and foam from the broth that the squid was cooked in.  Very nice.  The baby squids were a little bland, and was much better with a pinch of sea salt.

2007 Pazo de Señoráns Albariño - I really like Albariño from Rias's always so exotic!  The first whiff produced nose of ripe cheese like Manchego, giving way to minerals, ripe and oxidized pear, sugar cane and tropical fruits.  Acidic and alcoholic on the palate.

Lenguado Mediterráneo - this was pretty special... filet of sole with 5 different sauces, representing 5 different shades of the Mediterranean sun.  Dill: not bad; Bergamot: a little tart unless you chew on the flower; Orange: my favorite of the 5, with sweet caramel; Pine nut: nice and toasty, with the full flavors of the nutty oil; Olive: very much the green olive flavor.  At the end we also mixed the 5 sauces together, which was not bad.

2008 Torres Fransola - made from old Sauvignon Blanc vines, this was my favorite white of the evening.  Nose was really tropical fruit, with telltale muscat, minerals as well as floral notes.  You can definitely smell the toasty oak barrels.

Cochinillo ibérico - Spanish piglets which weigh only around 4kg... slow cooked for more than 12 hours.  Nice layer of full-flavored fat underneath a layer of skin that was paper-thin.  The meat wasn't as flavorful, but I thought the skin and the fat kinda made up for it. The shallots were soooo nice...

2003 Alion - wow!  I was so surprised by this second wine from Vega Sicilia... Nose was really open and beautiful, with lots of sweet fruit and a bit of forest.  It's from a very hot and ripe vintage, but it was so well-balanced that I didn't really feel the alcohol.

Adaptación del perfume; Terre de Hermes - this was a chocolate dessert made with patchouli ice cream.  But in reality I did not detect any trace of the mossy, musky fragrance of the plant.  Instead I picked up the clear orange flavor (like Grand Marnier) which is another component of the perfume.  The crumbs around the dessert was meant to represent flavors of the earth, of which there was a little bit...  But I think the chocolate was just a little overpowering.

1969 Mas Amiel Maury - nice to be able to drink a sweet wine from this vintage.  It is clearly an oxidized wine, with nose of caramel, raisins, roasted coffee beans in addition to the sharp alcohol.

Postre láctico : leche de oveja ripollesa - Wow!  This dessert got everybody excited.  Jordi created this dessert after being inspired by his baby nephew, who always smelled of milk.  It consists of 4 different forms of sheep's milk: caramelized milk, mousse, ice cream and yogurt.  The whole thing was covered in cotton candy, and paired with guava sauce.  The first bite produced clear flavors of sheep's milk, but it wasn't overpowering.  Everyone's favorite dessert of the evening.

Emilio Lustau Moscatel Reserve - very nice... Notes of forest, pine needle, mint, walnuts and a little bit of smoke.  I kept refilling my glass at the end of the meal...

This was certainly a very good meal.  I am really happy that the Mandarin managed to get Jordi here, and I definitely want to go visit these guys in Girona on my next trip to Spain!

March 19, 2010

HK Chowmeet 2010 part 2: lunch at someone else's canteen

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A small group of Chowhounds gathered for lunch today at a venue where, some months ago, I had declared that I would never visit.  The last time I walked through the doors of Fan Tang (飯堂) I found the manager's attitude off-putting.  This time I decided to ignore my preconceptions to see whether the food measures up to the place's reputation.

I brought a bottle of white to share, and the manager suggested that they bring us a couple of dishes to accompany the wine.  We gladly accepted, and waited...and waited...and waited.  Well, as we ended up ordering a few items of dim sum, somehow these dishes got pushed to the back end instead of coming first... Kinda defeats the purpose.

2003 Kongsgaard Viognier/Roussanne - as I had feared the wine is now over the hill.  There was none of the floral notes from the Viognier...and the wine actually smelled like a Chardonnay!  Nose of minerals, toasty oak, lemon, orange rind and a little bit of sweet corn at the end.  Very ripe on the palate but with a very tart and short finish.  I realized later that I had brought another vintage of this wine to our Chowmeet last year...

Xiaolongbao with chicken broth (雞汁小籠包) - not bad.  Skin was pretty soft and thin and didn't break as I picked it up.  But if I had to be picky, I'd say that the skin is still a long way from the quality of the XLB specialists.

Crystal prawn dumplings (晶瑩鮮蝦餃) - the skin was perfect.  The prawns were crunchy to the bite, and exploding with flavor with a sweet aftertaste (or was it umami?) - leading one of us to question the use of MSG.  My tongue's usually sensitive to MSG but didn't send me any messages today.  However, I did pick up a hint of baking soda.

Lemon char siu puff pastry (檸檬叉燒酥) - I really liked this.  The execution on the puff pastry was perfect, and the lemon flavor of the filling was refreshing.  I didn't mind that the filling was more runny and not full of chunks of char siu.

Country style salty fried dumplings (家鄉咸水角) - pretty nicely done, too...especially the skin.

Pig trotters with salted plum sauce (話梅豬手) - wow!  I loved this dish...and I've had my share of pig trotters around the world.  The skin was coated with that yummy, fragrant sauce, and glistened under the light.  The acidity of the plum helped cut down the fat, and the result was that...well...I felt I could have had the entire claypot by myself...  The execution was also perfect, with the skin and tendons in that sweet spot where they are neither too soft nor too hard.

Deep-fried pork ribs with lemongrass (香茅炸排骨) - finally the first of the two "appetizers" arrived.  Full of flavor, and this time even I started to wonder whether MSG was used...although my tongue still remained silent.  The lemongrass was fragrant and a very nice touch.

Deep-fried baby yellow croaker (椒鹽小黃魚) - very nice, and in a style different from that of the ones at the Chairman (大班樓).  These were bigger in size, and not fried quite to the golden brown state, so the flesh inside was still moist and juicy.  Yummy.

Country style stir-fried rice vermicelli (家鄉炒米粉) - another great dish.  The rice vermicelli is from Hsinchu (新竹), and was pretty awesome.  Lots of yummy ingredients here, including some sweet preserved vegetables.  Lots of wok hei (鑊氣) showing the high heat used, and not oily at all.  I'd say this is even better than the version at Fu Sing (富聲).

Steamed bun with golden runny filling (金黃流沙包) - yuuuummy!  Breaking these open revealed the sweet and salty filling made with egg yolks.  I could have had a few more of these...

Pan-fried crêpe - forgot the Chinese name of this thing. The crêpe was so nicely fried... dry, crispy with just the right consistency.  The twin fillings of red bean paste and diced peanuts were nice, too.

It was a very nice and relaxing lunch for a Friday.  Food was excellent - no way I could find any major faults here.  But once again I go back to the service...which was OK but a little slow at times. The manager clearly paid a lot more attention and fawned over the regulars, and at times I wondered whether the kitchen was prioritizing the dishes in favor of the regulars.

In any case, the four of us really enjoyed our gathering.  Looking forward to next year...

March 16, 2010

HK Chowmeet 2010 part 1: the Chairman revisited

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Tonight saw a few foodies reconvene our Chowmeet in Hong Kong after a year.  We had come across each other on Chowhound, and met up around this time last year for 2 memorable meals in Hong Kong.  As I had raved about my dinner at the Chairman (大班樓) back in January, it was decided that we should meet up here.

We went with the same tasting menu I had on my last visit, but added a couple of dishes.  We had heard about a few new dishes from our friends, and tried to order them.  Unfortunately Tony the waiter kept recommending some other dishes, and insisted that the dishes which my friends told us about - which they had less than a week ago - do not exist.  Tony suggested that my friends must have remembered wrong...and that those were dishes from another restaurant.  WTF?!  What kind of attitude is that?  Unfortunately the friendly manager who greeted us last time was nowhere to be found, so we ended up with this bozo...

We started with variable yellowcress soup (野葛菜湯).  Pretty interesting, with cooling effects on the body.  Nice to see this on the menu instead of the more common watercress (西洋菜).

Then the rest of the appetizers kinda all came in quick succession.  I understand that it can be traditional for some Chinese restaurants to serve all the starters all at once.  It's OK when the plates are small, one is sitting at a big table and the dishes are cold to begin with.  But we soon ran out of room on the table and were forced to quickly polish off the food in order to make space.  That's always annoying.

Japanese golden oysters pan-fried with Port wine (砵酒煎日本金蠔) - one of the new dishes that we wanted to try.  Pretty nice as semi-dried oysters always pack in the flavors.

Pan-fried pork patties with salted fish (馬友咸魚煎肉餅) - still like this one.  Minced pork and salted fish... homey yet slightly upgraded.

Marinated pork chin with honeycomb tofu (鹵水豬下巴蜂巢豆腐) - even nicer than I remembered from last time.  The tofu was crispy on the outside, while the holey interior remained soft.  The fatty pork was very tender...yummy...

Deep-fried small yellow croakers with balsamic vinegar (酥炸獅頭魚配陳醋) - this was sooo nice and crispy. I ate the whole thing - other than the vertebrae.

Longjing tea and chrysanthemum-smoked pigeon (龍井菊花燻乳鴿) - just as last time, this was really nicely smoked.  I would have gladly had a whole pigeon by myself.

Spicy beef tongue marinated with preserved orange rind (陳皮麻辣牛舌) - just as spicy as I remembered.  This was the last starter I tasted, as I knew my taste buds would be overloaded.

After a pause, the waiter placed the flower crab steamed in chicken fat and Huadiao wine (雞油花雕蒸花蟹) on the table.  As we were oohing and aahing over the dish, and just before digging in, the waiter came back to take it away from us.  Apparently this particular crab belonged to another table, and was replaced minutes later with a slightly smaller crab.  You can imagine my disappointment.  Anyway...I took a merus (arm) and cracked the tough shell with the tools.  Nice and sweet meat inside.  The best part, of course, was the sauce.  I made sure to mix it real well with the riceflour rolls (陳村粉).  I think we all could have just drunk the sauce down...

After the crab, when we asked them serve the following dishes, they came in quick succession once again.  I think the kitchen wanted to knock off early, and in general they wanted us to finish and be gone.  This is one of my pet peeves, as I just don't like the feeling of being pressured for time when I'm enjoying a meal.

Claypot prawns with garlic and scallions in sate sauce (蔥蒜沙茶大蝦煲) - very nice.  The prawns were big, and chopped into two sections.  Tons of sauce here, which honestly tasted more like sweetened balacan.  Lemongrass, garlic and ginger complete the taste.

"The Chairman" (十八味豉油雞) - just as nice as I remembered from last time.  We again asked the kitchen to put a little extra flavor in the chicken.  One of the best soy sauce chickens in town.

Shiitake and morel mushrooms with tofu skin (冬菇羊肚菌炆腐皮) - very nice.  Love the morels.

Stir-fried kale (清炒芥蘭) - not bad.

Preserved plum and cinnamon-flavored sweet and sour pork spare ribs (話梅肉桂糖醋排骨) - the favorite dish from last time, it was still very popular.  We were a little too full, though, to order a second portion.  That plum sauce was very, very nice.  I did notice that the flavor of the pork was a little stronger than usual.

I picked the wolfberry ice cream (杞子雪糕), but it was only OK.  The small cup of almond cream with egg white (蛋白杏仁露) was a total failure.  It was just too thick, like curdled milk, and reminded me of what I had at Manor.  I guess desserts are just not their forte...

I brought 3 bottles of wine to share with the group.  Speaking of wine, I must say that the wine service was in complete contrast to the food service.  The other waiters were very nice and helpful, and made sure to change the wine glasses when we switched reds.  The one blemish was when Tony came over for the wine service.  He was either trying to show off his skill or just careless, but he ended up dripping wine all over the table.  Sigh... Waiters like him are the reason why I usually insist on pouring the wine myself.

1994 Figeac - drinking very nicely now.  Classic nose of smoke, red fruits, slight hint of green peppers as well as black pepper, with a little mint.

2007 Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett - lots of plastic in the nose, with minerals over the underlying floral notes.  Reasonably sweet for a kabinett.  I preferred this bottle over the one I drank with Katharina Prüm a few weeks ago.

2001 Kistler Pinot Noir Kistler Vineyard - a couple of hours after opening, the nose was still a little sharp, with clear minerals/metallic notes over the sweet candy, pruny nose...along with some eucalyptus.  Pretty full-bodied for a Pinot.

For a second time, I walked away from this restaurant with my appetite and taste buds satiated.  I would like to return again, but I'd want to make sure the menu is different for variety's sake.  And seriously, someone needs an attitude adjustment...or this will turn out to be another Da Domenico!


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