August 21, 2011

Diplomatic pampering

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Family gathering time, and it's been a while since I last saw Diplomatic Uncle as he's been posted to the Holy Land.  Turns out tonight was his 65th birthday!  Thankfully I vetoed dad's plans to dine at Dragon Restaurant (龍都酒樓)... and asked my Very Very Single Friend to hook me up with Chiou Hwa (九華廳), the Cantonese restaurant inside the Gloria Prince Hotel.

I decided against going for a preset menu, as I wanted to pick and choose the dishes I wanted to sample.  Dad had made the executive decision of reserving a roast Peking duck, because it's supposedly one of the restaurant's specialties.  Now why is it that all these Cantonese restaurants - in Taipei, no less - are claiming Peking duck as their signature dish?!

We were comped a couple of appetizers by the manager.  I didn't get around to taste the marinated cabbage, but the string beans (四季豆) were OK.

Dad objected to the restaurant serving marinated kelp and pressed tofu (海帶豆干), as he feels that this is street food and unworthy of upscale restaurants.  I, on the other hand, am happy to have it...although I found the kelp a tad dry and tough.

The roasted Peking duck (華泰片皮鴨) arrived, and the chef proceeded to slice up the crispy skin while the waitress wrapped them up in pancakes.  I must say that the duck was a little disappointing.  The skin was only so-so, and the addition of pickled radish as one of the condiments distracted from the flavors.

Barbecued pork with honey (蜜汁叉燒肉) - this was so-so.  I guess I shouldn't have high expectations for char siu in Taipei...

Stir fried turnip cake with X.O sauce (XO醬蘿蔔糕) - this was OK, but I would have preferred a little more flavor...

Stir fried tumbleweed with silver fish (小魚炆莧菜) - umm... I have an issue with the English translation.  While leaf amaranth can become tumbleweed if they are in an excessively dry climate, what we're eating is still amaranth.

Shrimps (沙蝦) - when I did the ordering, the waitress suggested that we take a minimum of 30 catties taels.  Now I've never ordered shrimp in that kind of quantity before, and usually not even half that amount.  I asked her how much each person would get, and was told that everyone would end up getting maybe 3 shrimps.  With that kind of answer, I agreed to the proposed weight.  I was stunned when the plate arrived.  It was huge - I haven't seen that much shrimp in a long, long time.  And sure enough, we struggled to finish half of it.  Yes, it's nice that the manager gave us 3 extra catties taels, but did he really think we needed it?!  Oh and the shrimps were a little too big, and definitely overcooked.

Cantonese meat patty (pork, dried squid and water chestnut 吊片馬蹄蒸肉餅) - this was OK, and best eaten with a little rice.

The second course of the duck arrived, and stir-fried diced duck was served on trimmed iceberg lettuce leaves.  This was not bad.

Braised goose feet with mushrooms casserole (北菇鵝掌煲) - the goose webs were OK, but I prefer them to be braised a little more until they were more soft and mushy.

Pomfret fried with chili and garlic (避風塘鯧魚) - this was very, very good.  We loved the deep-fried cubes with the crispy exterior but soft interior, and the finely diced garlic made things even better.  At the end mom ripped the deep-fried bones with her hands, and we each took a little piece and chewed on it.

Stir fried noodles with soy sauce (豉油皇炒麵) - this was OK, although not as dry with wok hei as what I'd find in Hong Kong.

Sautéed sliced beef with rice noodles (乾炒牛河) - FAIL.  The rice noodles aren't ho fun (河粉), but almost like thick kuay teow.  The big roll of flat noodles were obviously folded over several times and then cut into strands with a knife.  Unfortunately the kitchen never bothered to unfold the noodles or cut them into shorter lengths, so the noodles stuck together and never got enough soy sauce and flavors.  Haven't had it this bad in a while, but then I must remember that I'm in Taipei...

We were pretty full, and the manager decided to comp us free fruit as well as a delicious cold soup of lotus seeds, longan and white fungus (蓮子龍眼木耳湯).

Dad went and got a cheesecake for Diplomatic Uncle, and the evening ended on a sweet note.

We didn't drink any wine tonight, because the bottles of Domaine du Castel which Diplomatic Uncle brought back were from the 2008 vintage and waaay too young.  I guess I'll pop the cork in 10 years' time and see how they are.


Anonymous said...

30 catties? as in 40 lbs or 18 kg. How much does each shrimp weigh?

Peech said...

Oops! Late-night blogging means not thinking straight... It was taels, not catties. Thanks for pointing that out!


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