July 2, 2011

A Regal surprise

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I'm not in the habit of visiting Tsim Sha Tsui East, but I was on a mission tonight.  I don't think I've ever eaten inside the Regal Kowloon Hotel in all of my 16 years in Hong Kong, but I guess it was finally time I checked out Regal Court (富豪軒).

We sat down and ordered a pitcher of Chinese herbs with sweetened winter melon tea (紫草茸糖冬瓜茶).  Normally winter melon tea is pretty sweet, at least the way it's made in Taiwan.  This version was a lot more balanced, with strong flavors of herbs.  The "Chinese herbs" referred to is actually lac (紫草茸), which is a type of resin secreted by insects after feeding on certain plants.  It's meant to "detoxify" the body and has hepatoprotective properties.  Pretty nice.

Deep-fried crispy beef brisket (脆皮牛坑腩) - this was surprisingly good.  The whole piece of brisket was breaded and deep-fried, then cut into thin slices.  The brisket was nice and a little chewy, with a little bit of fat keeping it from being too dry.  The curry-flavored dipping sauce made things a little more interesting, too.

Braised bean curd with bamboo piths, bamboo shoot and black mushrooms (竹笙雙冬燒豆腐) - pretty disappointed that this dish came right after the first dish, as Chinese meals are traditionally meant to end with the veg and the carb.  Taste-wise this was OK and I had nothing to complain about.

Sautéed prawns with roasted pork wrapped with chicken liver in honey sauce (金錢雞明蝦球) - supposed to be one of the signatures of the restaurant, but they failed miserably on the "cholesterol sandwich".  The char siu was way too dry, and so was the layer of chicken, and also the chicken liver.  There was no bacon fat (冰肉) to act as the lubricant, and any honey sauce they used to baste the thing had long dried up.  Wrapping the thing in a steamed bun only made things worse.  It's a pity, though, because the prawns and the sugar snaps were perfectly fine.

Smoked crispy chicken with Chinese tea leaves (茶皇燻雞) - this tasted as good as it looked.  The skin was crispy without being too dry.  The smoky flavors were intense but not overpowering.  The meat was moist and tender.  I got everything I expected from this dish.

Fried rice with egg white and conpoy (金銀貝蛋白炒飯) - the execution here was surprisingly good.  Individual rice grains, moist enough without being soggy - giving a little bit of bite.  Flavors were all there, including a little bit of the wok hey (鑊氣) that comes from stir-frying with high heat.  Delicious.

Sweetened almond cream with egg white (蛋白杏仁露) - this was OK.

The wine list was extremely limited, which was understandable given the target clientele.  They were doing a promotion on Californian wines, where each wine had been paired with a particular dish from the menu.

2003 Eberle Syrah Steinbeck Vineyard - stewed prunes, preserved mustard green (梅菜), with a little smoke.

I must admit that with the exception of the "cholesterol sandwich", food here was surprisingly good.  My biggest problem with this place - and the same issue exists for many Chinese restaurants in town - is that the kitchen just mindlessly sent out multiple dishes simultaneously.  The two of us got the first 4 dishes within the space of 10 minutes.   While that may work for a bigger table with more diners, it's not how a meal for two should be served.  Some of the food is bound to get cold before we could get to it.

The waitstaff, too, came to check on the list of dishes placed on our table... as if to see what else was missing so they could chase the kitchen.  There's absolutely no need to do that when two people are trying to do their damndest to clean up the 4 plates which are already in front of them...

For a more concise version with scoring published on AsiaTatler Dining, please visit here.

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