July 24, 2010

Muddy waters

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I joined a group of chefs and foodies for dinner tonight at Ming Court (明閣), the Michelin 2-star restaurant.  I had never been here due to its location, but figured I'd check it out after its promotion from 1 to 2 stars.  The menu was preset ahead of time, including a few special requests.

Chilled bean curd sheet with shredded duck meat in chili sauce (井岡山腐皮火鴨絲) - definitely pretty yummy.  The shredded duck was very tasty with just the right amount of spiciness, and a very nice bite.  What a great way to start the meal.

Chilled drunken pigeon (太白醉香鴿) - the meat was pretty tender, and the taste of the Chinese wine was fairly prominent.

Stir-fried fresh shrimp with egg white (海生蝦炒蛋白) - very much like the Shanghainese imitation crab (賽螃蟹), prawns were de-shelled and stir-fried, then topped with a layer of soft egg white that wobbled.  Vinegar added some additional flavors to the otherwise bland egg white, as one would do with the Shanghainese original.  The deep-fried Indian mustard (雪菜) was good...

Braised shredded winter melon and mashed carrot accompanied with broccoli top with egg white (珊瑚素心燕) - this was actually very interesting, and pretty good.  The yellow topping was not real crab roe, but made of carrots and egg white to achieve the same look.  The winter melon was tasty.

We reached the turning point of the meal, where things went very wrong.  We were on a schedule as some of us needed to leave by a certain hour, so we instructed the staff to pace the dishes at intervals of around 15 minutes each.  For some reason the kitchen stopped sending dishes our way for about half an hour after the last dish, and we got pretty upset after a while when we were still staring at an empty tabletop after repeated reminders.  The manager came to apologize, and said that the kitchen was extremely busy and overworked.  That may be, but everyone else around us was getting dish after dish - except for us!  This is certainly not the way a Michelin-starred restaurant should run its kitchen, and there were 4 chefs present at the table who know how kitchens are run at Michelin star restaurants... they've worked in them!  Does he think we're stupid and blind?!

The next dish that showed up was the stir-fried sliced garoupa with assorted mushrooms and dried shrimp roe (蝦籽鮮菌麒麟斑).  My first couple of bites were wonderful - the mushrooms were very tasty, as was the Chinese cabbage.  The garoupa, however, was a total disaster.  The taste was very muddy, as least to me and a few others.  I debated about whether or not to swallow what I had put into my mouth, and eventually regretted not spitting it out.  I'm pretty sensitive to muddy fish and I found it mildly nauseating, and I was surprised that a Michelin 2-star restaurant would be serving poor quality fish like this.  We complained to the manager and ask him to taste the fish.  The restaurant subsequently decided not to charge us for the fish.

Stir-fried pigeon eggs with crab meat, scallop, egg white and yellow oily crab roe (芺蓉蟹粉白鴿蛋) - this was much better, and actually pretty delicious.  Definitely liked the very young pea shoots, and of course the combination of crab meat, scallop, egg white and crab roe was right up my alley.  I've never had pigeon eggs before, and the translucent egg white was pretty interesting.

Crispy fried chicken (朗豪炸子雞) - special request was made to "age" this live chicken for 3 days after killing it.  The result was very tender and juicy meat, and I had a large piece of the breast!  Very well done.

Stir-fried giant garoupa stuffed with shrimp paste in soya sauce (龍皇披金甲) - a pretty interesting creation, where garoupa fillet was inset into a layer of shrimp paste.  It would have been nice, except that once again, there was a hint of muddiness in the garoupa.  By this time I've pretty much had it with this place.

Osmanthus jelly and mango pudding (桂花糕/芒果布甸) - this was comped by the restaurant for the poor service, and arrived with the dry ice presentation.  Taste-wise the jelly was a little too tough and chewy, and probably the worst version I've had in a while.  We had two gweilos at our table sitting on both sides of me - including our Resident Froggie who was completely ignored by the chauvinistic manager as he insisted on only talking to the big guy with the beard...  Then he told us that they sent us this dessert because gweilos all like mango pudding... So, stereotyping AND chauvinistic AND condescending...

Steamed custard buns with egg yolk (明閣流沙包) - the signature dessert certainly did not disappoint.  The salty egg yolk filling was very runny, and incredibly delicious.  At least the dinner ended on a very good note.

I was very, very stuffed, and still a little uneasy thanks to the muddy taste of the fish, so I decided to take a stroll around the neighborhood to digest my meal...  While the meal turned out to be fairly cheap - thanks to the fish being comped and some additional discount privilege we were able to use - I think it will be some time before I would have the desire to go out of my way for a revisit...


johannes said...

That's a whole lotta eggs!
TOo bad they screwed up the garoupa & the timing...
i heard Sher dropped the F-bomb !

Peech said...

Didn't catch the f-bomb so not sure whether it was actually dropped or not...


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