July 18, 2014

The Pearl Kong Chen menu, part 1

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My annual birthday dinner with my group of wine friends is long overdue, and an earlier gathering had to be rescheduled due to a business trip.  But this delay turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it opened up the chance to try out a very special promotion.

At an earlier dinner organized by Susan the Great, I found out that One Harbour Road (港灣壹號) at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong was going to celebrate their 25th anniversary and present special menus based on recipes of Pearl Kong Chen (江獻珠), the famous cookbook author.  She is also the granddaughter of Jiang Kongyin (江孔殷), the scholar known as 江太史 and a famous gourmand. I found that the restaurant has put together a number of dishes, spread across two different set menus, so I quickly made two bookings so I could try out all the dishes.  Tonight would be the first pass.

We were really hungry while waiting for our last arrival, and as they don't exactly have bread baskets at Chinese restaurants, I ordered a small plate of honey roasted barbecued pork (蜜糖汁叉燒).  This was actually pretty nice - tender with just enough fat - but I guess one would expect that from a place of this caliber.

Once everyone was here, the real feast began:

Stir-fried minced quail and assorted vegetables in lettuce cups (炒鵪鶉鬆) - this is normally served with pigeon, but it's nice to have quail, too.

And they come served like so... Everything is very finely diced and showcases the chef's knife skills.  Very, very yummy, without any need for additional sauces.

Supreme Scholar's deep-fried custard (太史戈渣) - I have to say... the presentation today seemed a little... "whatever"?  There are very few places that offer gaozha nowdays, but they can still be found at Fook Lam Moon (福臨門) or Seventh Son (家全七福) in Hong Kong, Da Shan Wu Jia (大山無價) outside Taipei, or Lu Sang (呂桑) in Taipei.

This doesn't have any milk, but was actually made with Italian eggs.  I always love the deep-fried custard like this, and relish every opportunity that I get to have it.

Minced spinach soup with supreme stock (碧綠菜蓉羹) - we seemed to have skipped a dish, but oh well.  This was absolutely beautiful!  The spinach was not puréed but cut into shreds by hand, once again showcasing the knife skills of the kitchen.  It's almost as fine as the egg drops in the soup.  The ham flavors of the supreme stock were beautiful, and enhanced by a sprinkle of shredded ham on top.

Fan shape prawns in clear sauce (清湯蝦扇) - this was introduced to us as something that nobody does nowadays... and I gotta say that it's not hard to understand why...

So, they take the shells off of the prawn, butterfly it, then pound the shit out of it.  Then they cook it in superior broth.  The result?  The texture was completely rubbery, almost like a sheet made of prawn paste that has gone through a blender.  Since they cooked it in superior broth, all I could taste was ham, not prawn.  In fact, the only time I remotely tasted some prawn was when I bit into the last bit of the tail, as the flesh was still protected by the shell.  I think my friends pretty much all had the same reaction.  Not a fan.

Dried scallops braised with garlic cloves and sea moss (珧柱蒜脯) - so we finally get to have this, even though it's out of sequence.

A classic that is well-executed.  I just love it when they cook conpoy well.

Stir-fried garoupa fillet with night-fragrant buds, pine nuts and bell peppers (夜香花炒魚球) - this is when my friends caught me making that "WTF" expression on my face.  The server was trying to explain the dish, and when he came to the Tonkin jasmine (夜香花), he said something along the lines of "this is an edible ingredient (係一種食材)"...  No shit, Sherlock!  You've put it on a plate for me to eat, so of course it's edible...  It also happens to be a fragrant flower.

Anyway, this dish was OK.  I'm not sure what kind of garoupa fillet was used, but the texture was slightly chewy so I wondered if it could be giant grouper (龍躉).  There were plenty of pine nuts, which kinda dominated the flavors of the toppings.

Stir-fried chicken fillet, fresh basil, shallots and preserved black beans (古法豆豉雞) - this is fresh, local chicken that had been slaughtered today.  Apparently this was stir-fried without the conventional sauces, but the flavors come from the preserved black beans.  Very nice.

Stir-fried chanterelles with basil and sweet corn (黃菌炒玉米粒) - the chanterelles were very nice, and I loved the crunchy texture and sweetness of the corn.

Sweet pumpkin soup with purple glutinous rice (南瓜紫米露) - yum!  I thought the two main ingredients worked together perfectly.

Well, this was a birthday dinner, so I brought along a bunch of wines.  But unlike last year, the line up tonight was, shall we say... cheap?  I decided not to bring out a bunch of expensive big guns, but wines I thought would be interesting to drink.

Jacques Selosse Exquise, dégorgée le 15 Juin 2009 - very ripe and sweet on the palate, oaky.  Later on showing sugar cane and Chinese licorice.  Wonderful.

The next flight was a pair of Rieslings from the same vintage but different vineyards.  Interesting to do a comparison.

1988 von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser Abstberg Riesling Auslese aus halbe Flasche - very floral and elegant, a little sweet, some tropical fruit like lychees.  Acidity was higher than expected, and rounded on palate.

1988 von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser Herrenberg Riesling Auslese 153 aus halbe Flasche - more intense, with classic flinty, polyurethane notes.  Slightly more viscous and definitely sweeter on the palate.

The next trio was an interesting set, and they were served blind.  For the 2000 vintage, Jean-Luc Thunevin laid out plastic on parts of his vineyards to avoid possible rainfall.  The rains never came, but INAO ruled that the wine could not be designated either as from the 2000 or a Saint Emilion.  They were declassified to vin de table, and Thunevin put a couple of very cool labels on them.  I wanted to taste the Valandraud with its declassified counterpart, and also the declassified Clos Badon that I'd had in my collection since buying them en primeur in 2001.

2000 Valandraud - decanted about 1½ hours prior to serving.  Very smoky, a little ripe, closed up later and lost some of the sweetness.

L'Interdit de Badon - not as ripe, smoky, wet cardboard, green pepper.  Definitely a corked bottle.

L'Interdit de Valandraud en magnum - ripe and sweeter, very fragrant, smoky, with pencil lead and cedar notes.  More intense than Valandraud, and I think we all preferred this over the "real" Valandraud.
1970 Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial from magnum - a little ripe, minty, smoky, a little exotic, acidic on palate, aromatic, with stewed cherries and some exotic coconut.

This was a fun dinner for me.  The food was pretty good, with a few clear winners but also a disappointment or two.  The wines were also interesting and drank well.  Needless to say, I fell asleep at the table - again... and my friends took turns taking pictures of me while I slept.  Sigh...

Now very much looking forward to next week, when I revisit and taste through the second special menu...

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