December 1, 2010

Dinner in Java

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A rather busy evening with 3 stops.  First I attended the launch party for the 6th edition of the WOM Guide, held at Republik.  It's interesting to see what they've done with the space after M1NT closed down.

There were lots of familiar faces at the party... I congratulated Samanta and Fergus on another great year, and said hello to a few people whom I knew wrote for the project.  A few chefs stopped by the party: Umberto Bombana; David from On Lot 10 - who gave us a preview of what he's got for us on Friday; and Jeremy from Mirror - whose restaurant is on my "To Go" list.  Of course, there was my usual gang of foodies who came to lend moral support.

Some of us split off for some dinner.  I had assumed that we would go to a famous place nearby for claypot rice, but we hopped into a cab and headed for the cooked food center in the Java Road Municipal Services Building (渣華道街市熟食中心).  Much to my delight, our destination was Sun Tsui Wah (新翠華小廚).  Earlier this year, I was devastated to find that my favorite claypot rice joint had closed down, as the building they were housed in had been torn down for urban renewal.  I had thought about looking online to see where they had moved to, but never got around to it.  Somehow I never knew about this branch that has apparently existed for a little while...

We sat down and waited for a couple of others to arrive, while Legolas Jr went off to get us a snack.  I noticed an expression of horror on Froggie's face (as if to say "quelle horreur!") as her eyes - which are already nice and big by Asian standards - grew bigger.  She had spotted a rat running around a pile of stuff across the hall, and as I turned around we saw a second rat running across a ceiling pipe before ducking into a hole.  Kinda sets the scene for the whole evening...

Legolas Jr returned with some stuffed intestines - basically a Chinese version of andouillette - from Yat Woon Min (壹碗麵).  As we waited for the claypots to cook, the hunger pangs finally became too much to bear, and I opened up the packaging to dig into the intestines.  Very yummy.  I wish we had more...

The claypots arrived in batches, and after letting the thick sauce work their magic and the extra raw egg steam for about 2 minutes, we set about mixing up the ingredients inside the claypot before digging in.

I didn't have the claypot rice with frog's legs and chicken (田雞滑雞煲仔飯), because I knew there were others at the table who really wanted to try the frog's legs, so I started with some claypot rice with taro mash and minced meat (荔蓉肉碎煲仔飯).  I'm pretty sure the waitresss got our order wrong, but anyway... Unfortunately there wasn't much meat left by the time I got to it, but the egg, taro, sauce and rice was still pretty good.

My favorite of the evening would have to be the claypot rice with mutton (疆土羊肉煲仔飯).  I was hit with the fragrance of the mutton - as well as the spices - the minute we lifted the lid.  The meat was pretty tender, and of course having the Cantonese sausage (臘腸) didn't hurt either.  I happily gobbled this up, along with a good chunk of the charred rice crispies (飯焦/鍋巴) flavored with the sauce.  Carbon never tasted so good.

My usual favorite would have been the claypot rice with seasonal preserved meats (合時辣味煲仔飯).  We would have loved to have added some preserved duck (臘鴨), but they didn't have any.  I picked up some preserved pork belly (臘肉) and liver sausage (潤腸)... heavenly!

Finally, the claypot rice with cuttlefish and minced pork patty (土魷肉餅煲仔飯) was pretty good, too.  This was always a classic combination, and the cuttlefish always manages to enhance the flavors of the pork.

I was pretty happy to call it a night, but the rest of the gang was still hungry.  We decided to move down the hall to Tung Po (東寳小舘).  This place achieved international fame when it was featured on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, and proprietor Robbie's hairstyle is instantly recognizable.  Robbie's quite a character, and he sashayed from table to table entertaining his guests.  I was also admiring his penmanship, since it seemed completely illegible and indistinguishable to anyone but himself...

Our amuse bouche was eggplant steamed with preserved mustard greens (梅菜蒸茄子).  This was pretty nice as a cold appetizer.

Stir-fried prawns with salty egg yolk (黃金蝦) - the prawns were fresh, and there was just enough yolk to impart the right amount of flavor without overpowering (and overloading on cholesterol...)

Deep-fried fish fillet with garlic, black pepper and chili (黑椒炸魚柳) - this was alright.  I think there might have been a slight hint of muddiness in the fish, but there was plenty of heavyweight spices to cover it up.

Soya chicken (豉油雞) - pretty tasty... sweet soy sauce was good, and the meat was slightly chewy.  Can't remember why we didn't get the house specialty pan-fried crispy chicken (風沙雞)...

There was music playing all night, but suddenly I heard the familiar notes of Billie Jean, and MJ decided to make a brief appearance...  You ain't gonna be bored here, and guests will either love it or hate it.

I skipped out in the middle as I had some unfinished work, knowing I was missing out on the homemade cheese cake that was to come...

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