February 1, 2013

Pre-Lunar New Year feast

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Lunar new year is almost upon us, and ILL decided to organize a big feast in advance of the seasonal festivities.  I haven't been to a big gathering like this in a while, and it was interesting to watch the dynamics around the table between different groups among the 14 of us…  The venue?  Tim's Kitchen (桃花源), one of my favorite places in town.

I arrived a little late, and immediately plonked down my bottles of wine on the table.  A big feast is the perfect opportunity to get rid of inventory, and I'm in need of freeing up some space in my cellar.  Tonight was also apparently the big opportunity to exchange food gifts after Christmas, and jars of jam, preserves and other goodies made their way around (and across) the table.

The menu was pre-ordered, and I'm glad that I pretty much didn't have a hand in it, as I would very much prefer to see what others would order here.  In the end, though, a number of my favorite dishes did show up anyway… which made me happy.

A round of appetizers were presented at the start of dinner:

Marinated goose meat roll (冰鎮鵝肉卷) - pretty good combination with finely diced carrots, mushrooms, goose and tofu skin wrapper.

Eggplant with Sesame and Peanut Sauce (胡麻醬茄子) - this was OK, but they removed the skin… and I really like eggplant skin!

Marinated beef shank in home-made sauce (五香牛腱) - not bad at all.

Chiu Chow tofu (醬油滷豆腐) - nice and soft (and slippery!)

Double-boiled pig lung soup with almond (杏汁豬肺湯) - very thick and creamy thanks to the almond as well as the snow fungus (銀耳). Yummy.

With the whole gang of us, naturally the portion was impressive.  Just look at this big plate of dregs (湯渣), with chunks of pig lungs as well as snow fungus that has been boiled to the point where the outer edges have started to liquefy…

…and all the steam rising up...

Deep-fried king prawn roll with liver sausage and spring onion (網油蝦卷) -  I'd never had this before, and really liked it.  Normally I'd find these prawns a little too big and tough, but this was not the case tonight.  The surprising addition of liver sausage (膶腸), spring onion and the fact that this was wrapped in caul fat (網油) and deep-fried… made this a clear winner.  Much better than the famous Taiwanese versions, I think.

Sautéed pig tripe with pickled vegetables and bamboo shoots (七彩炒豬肚尖) - this has always been on my list of favorite dishes here.  A lovely medley of colors, textures and flavors thanks to the combination of bouncy and chewy tripe, crunchy celery, bamboo shoots, Indian almonds, sweet pickles and red bell peppers...

De-boned “eight treasure” duck (八寶鴨) - I've only had this once before, as it requires pre-ordering and a large group to share.  Pretty good.

Fried glutinous rice with preserved pork sausage and liver sausage (生炒糯米飯) - hmmm…. this wasn't very good tonight.  Rice was overcooked and soggy, and ended up in clumps.  Taste-wise this was still OK.

Braised pomelo skin with shrimp roes (蝦籽炆柚皮) - the restaurant kinda forgot about this dish at first, but we couldn't just walk out without tasting this.  Yummy, and there seemed to be a real abundance of the shrimp roe sauce.  Therefore we immediately came up with an idea to take care of this…

…and the solution was to order up pan-fried noodles with shredded chicken in creamy garlic sauce (蒜蓉雞絲煎生麵).  We asked for the chicken in sauce to be served on the side, and took the deliciously golden crispy noodles on its own, and drizzled some of the shrimp roe sauce on top.  Not the best solution, but it was the best the restaurant could offer at the time.  As for the sauce?  No, it wasn't meant to be like "chicken à la King", but actually pretty yummy on its own.  I ate a couple of spoonfuls…

There was apparently a birthday, and J decided to bake us a pandan sponge cake.  I couldn't help taking down an extra half piece, and unashamedly announced to J that she had "failed the test" and that we needed her to "do over"…  I believe SPAM was suggested to be the flavor for the next one…

Let's not forget the wines…  Being the snob that I am, I didn't try the rosé that was on the table when I arrived.  I did want to have a taste of the oloroso, but somehow didn't get around to it.  Instead I just focused on the bottles that I brought…

2009 Doisy-Daëne Sec - lots of pipi de chat now, with minerals and flint coming from the limestone vineyard, along with green apple, muscat grapes and pear.  I've loved this wine ever since first tasting it 3 years ago.

2007 Jos. Joh. Prüm Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese - classic petrol.  Pretty sweet on the palate and a little fizzy actually…

2008 Denis Mortet Bourgogne Blanc - toasty, a little ripe and sweet on the nose.  Acidity on the finish.

1995 Vieux Château Certan en magnum - minty, a bit sweet, a little smoky and still a little sharp on the nose.  Smooth on the palate.  Opened about an hour before dinner but not decanted.

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