September 15, 2011

Spicing up the seasons

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A bunch of guys are in town "on business" from Hong Kong, and we got a big group of old friends together for dinner.  I don't remember having ever been to Seasons Garden Restaurant (驥園川菜餐廳), but apparently it's an oldie that's been around for a long time.  I was told not to bring "complicated drinks" to dinner, and in the end even my relatively affordable drinking wines were rejected in favor of some beer and sorghum (高粱) liquor...

The dishes had been pre-ordered by the Chairman, so I just sat back and watched the procession of plates...  FYI the names of the dishes (yes, the English ones) were copied directly from the menu...

Shredded pig's ear with spring onion sauce sheets (蔥白耳絲) - a little too much raw spring onion... but the pig's ear was nice.  Guess I wasn't gonna kiss anyone tonight anyway...

Stir-fried shredded beef with coriander (香根牛肉絲) - this was not bad.  It was suggested that we could wrap this with the spring onion pancakes, which turned out OK.

String bean dry fried (乾煸四季豆) - this was actually very good.  There are less than a handful of places in town where they make this dish the way mom does, and this comes reasonably close.  It was actually dry enough after having been in the wok for a little time, allowing the flavors to go into the beans.

Spring onion pancakes (蔥餅) - these were nice and thin, with a sprinkle of spring onions in the middle.

Thick spring onion pancakes (厚餅) - not very good, despite the nice, crispy crust.  Nothing more than stuffing (or over-stuffing) a ton of raw spring onions, without any seasoning or flavor.

Stir-fried squid and octopus with drive ved peppers (宮保雙尤) - I'm sure it was squid and cuttlefish, not octopus... Anyway I thought the squid was a little dry and hard.

Egg-plant with hot garlic sauce (魚香茄子) - pretty decent, but surprising that they added so much basil.

Bean curd with spicy hot sauce (麻婆豆腐) - I'm not a connoisseur when it comes to Sichuan cuisine, but I was not a fan of this dish...  It's spicy, alright, but not tongue-numbing.  They didn't use the Sichuan peppercorns (花椒).

Ox tendon and inter-costal beef with brown sauce (紅燒筋腩) - the tendon was very tender, melting in my mouth with all that collagen.  The brisket was OK.

Sea slug with brown sauce (紅燒海參) - this was OK.

Spiced cod with crispy fried fermented black beans (豆酥雪魚) - this was OK.

The duck breast I had tasted OK, but I'm not sure which duck it was...

Chicken soup in claypot (砂鍋雞湯) - I think we had the basic version, without premium ingredients which ratchets up the price.  The soup was still boiling when it came to the table, and it was very, very delicious.  This is what the restaurant is famous for, and I must say the reputation was well-deserved.  The soup was so rich and full of collagen that it quickly developed a thin film on the surface as it cools.  This will happen time and again as you drink the soup slowly.  Once the first round has been served, it is customary to send the claypot back to the kitchen, add some Chinese cabbage and tofu, and bring to a boil again.  I was too full to try a second bowl...

Smashed date pan cake (棗泥鍋餅) - this was very delish... Crispy exterior with sweet and yummy date filling.

This was a pretty decent dinner, and I found out later that the parental units used to come here for a lot of business entertainment  My only regret is not having ordered the General Tso's chicken (左宗棠雞), since I've been missing this dish dearly.  Oh well... next time!

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