October 12, 2012

Lunch with Restauranteurs

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For the second time in a week, I found myself in the company of a well-known food journalist.  There was the last minute invitation to dine with Fuchsia Dunlop - whom I'd met months ago through my dear friend Susan.  Today I was introduced to Nick Lander, who was in town to talk about his new book, The Art of the Restauranteur.  Besides the insightful articles he writes for the Financial Times, he's an interesting person for me to meet because he is otherwise known as Jancis Robinson's husband.

We decided to take him to Manor Seafood Restaurant (富瑤海鮮酒家).  For some reason I've never been here for lunch, so I was pretty excited to come and try out their dim sum items.  We didn't think there were enough of us to order dishes like their roast suckling pig (which I'd still never had) or the flower crab, though…

Eggplant with salted egg yolk (咸蛋黃茄子粒) - I haven't had these before, and they were delicious!  The cubes of eggplant had soaked up just enough oil without being soggy, and the exterior coating of salty egg yolk was also just right without being too heavy.

Steamed buns with barbecued pork (叉燒包) - these were really good, and a single order of three certainly wasn't gonna be enough for us!

Steamed prawn dumplings (蝦餃) - I didn't get to have this, but I Love Lubutin counted 10 folds…

Pan-fried radish cake (香煎蘿蔔糕) - this was really, really delicious.    The cubes were pan-fried on all sides, giving off a nice fragrance in the mouth.  The toppings included dried shrimps, diced spring onions and chili peppers marinated in a little soy sauce - giving a surprising little kick.  Definitely something I'd come back for.

Gold coin chicken (古法金錢雞) - if there had to be only one reason to come here, this would be it.  It's been too long since I've had my cholesterol sandwich fix, and today was as good as any to get it.  My eyes lit up when the plate arrived, and my heart leapt as I held it between my finger tips.  It was as heavenly as I had remembered, and I took to licking the honey glaze off my fingers.  I'm glad Nick enjoyed it as much as the rest of us.

Deep-fried radish rolls (黃金蘿蔔卷) - I definitely should have eaten this soon after its arrival, because it did get a little soggy on the inside thanks to the filling.  Not bad, but I've had better.

Baked flaky pastries with ham and spring onion (黃橋燒餅) - pretty decent, and one of my favorite items to order whenever I see it on a menu.  My favorite version is still the one at Victoria City Seafood Restaurant (海都海鮮酒家).

Crispy roast pork belly (燒腩肉) - fatty pork is never a bad thing…

Lettuce with shrimp paste in claypot (砂鍋蝦醬生菜) - not surprisingly, we could smell this as soon as the lid was removed.  Very yummy.

Naturally our conversation covered a wide range of topics related to food and the hospitality industry.  I casually mentioned a point that was raised at last night's dinner by Piero Incisa della Rocchetta - that many chefs in the world, even ones like Thomas Keller, don't drink or give a damn about wine.  Apparently top chefs design their menus without giving any thought to wine and how the flavors could be enhanced - or at least not neutralized or destroyed - by the appropriate pairing with wines.

Obviously I'm not in the trade and haven't really analyzed how top restaurants are run, but this sure was a surprise to me.  Having dined at places like Michael Mina and Le Bernardin where wine was an integral part of the experience, I couldn't fathom the idea that chefs treat wine as an after thought.  Piero's point was that successful restaurants are created by restauranteurs who put together a great chef with a good sommelier, thereby resulting in a magical combination where food and wine lovers find their paradise.

At this point Nick jumped in and thanked me, because that is precisely the point of his new book.  He has chosen a select group of successful restaurants around the world, and looked at the stories behind them.  I have to admit that I hadn't gotten around to getting myself a copy of the book, but now I feel compelled to read what Nick has to say!  It's a shame I didn't bring along my own copy for Nick to autograph…

We left Nick as he headed in the direction of Hollywood Road on a mission.  I wonder what he ended up bringing home to Jancis...

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