December 5, 2014

My new favorite snake soup

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Ever since my last dinner at the private entertainment next door, I have been wanting to introduce this place to the Tiggers - and in particular Babu.  They are lovers of snake soup, and having tasted a few different versions from top restaurants in my recent quest for the best snake soup around, I am convinced that there is no better version (for me, anyway) than this private kitchen.

I had originally made the booking for tomorrow night, but a few days ago I was contacted by the chef, and a request was made for me to move the dinner to a day earlier or a day later.  Well, it wasn't exactly a "request", but given that this is someone's private playground that he has graciously allowed others to use when he's not here, I certainly know my place and when to dutifully toe the line.  I checked with the Tiggers and moved the dinner tonight - depriving a couple of people of the chance to try this place, but making a hangry woman very, very happy as a result.

Baked stuffed crab shell (焗釀鮮蟹蓋) - one of the few dishes tonight that I haven't tried before.  Shredded crab meat is piled on top of a crab shell, and baked with a layer of what looked like Japanese panko (パン粉) - bread crumbs - on top.

As I started to dig into the pile of crabmeat, I realized that there wasn't much of anything else here.  I like the version at Fook Lam Moon (福臨門) with the shredded onions providing a little sweetness, but it appears I'm in the minority.  There was also no trace of any annoying curry powder or even a thick layer of cheese and cream - just the purity of the sweet crab meat.  With the very first course, the chef has already won Babu over.

Crystal king prawn (玻璃蝦球) - this impressed me on my very first visit, and it did so once again tonight.

The texture was just the right balance between tenderness and being firm and slightly crunchy.  Again, no trace of baking soda that I could taste - just the natural flavors of the prawn.

Imperial scholar's five-snake soup (太史五蛇羹) - the main event.  Oh this was reaaaaaal good... The ingredients were so fine and delicate... thanks to the chef's knife skills.  The soup base isn't superior broth (上湯) - which is made with ham - but actually made with snake bones.  You've got very full yet balanced flavors, and the fragrance of the aged mandarin peel (陳皮) really shines through.  There was also enough fish maw here that you can feel the collagen adding to the viscosity... and I could certainly feel my lips getting a little sticky from it.  Babu was very happy, and we both had seconds.

Yes, this is now my favorite snake soup.  The version at Cuisine Cuisine (國金軒) was also delicious, but the flavors were slightly on the light side, and the hand-shredded snake meat meant some strands were a little thicker than others.  The version at The Eight in Macau just had too much unnecessary ginger, which was too spicy and threw it out of balance.

Stir-fried tripe with mixed vegetables (七彩炒肚尖) - this was served out of sequence to accommodate the hangry woman, who arrived a little late.  Hands down the best I've had in Hong Kong, and I've now had it three times here.  The crunchy pig's stomach, the sweet and crunchy water chestnuts, the slightly sour pickles, and the beautiful Indian almonds which had been pan-roasted before being added into the mix... and yes, the incredible wok hei which left a wonderful fragrance in my mouth.  It was difficult to stop myself from spooning more of this onto my plate.

Steamed sole (清蒸海方利) - it seems that the chef worried that we might not have enough... so he gave us two?!  The big one was pretty damn big!

As expected, the wing was very, very soft and delish.  Unfortunately, it's easy to overcook the rest of the fish, and tonight the chef did it again.

Traditional salt-baked chicken (古法鹽焗雞) - we had just been discussing the case involving an editor of a local food magazine who couldn't tell a pigeon from a chicken or a duck by sight... and our chicken arrived without its head.  Ohmigosh, is this a chicken??!!  How do I know??

Anyway, this was definitely one of the best salt-baked chickens in town.  The flesh was moist and tender, and thankfully the skin wasn't salty at all.  The best part is that they served us the liver and the gizzard - which Cuisine Cuisine did not do.  Very yum, but we were all too full to make a meaningful dent.

Pea shoots stir-fried in chicken fat (雞油炒豆苗) - I was surprised to see pea shoots at a high-end place in Hong Kong which weren't the young tips. These were a little more "mature", but I like them nonetheless.  Instead of being blanched in superior stock like at other places, these were stir-fried in chicken fat.  No wonder they were so greasy and delicious!

Fried glutinous rice with preserved meats (生炒糯米飯) - the hangry woman I Love Lubutin tried to dissuade me from eating my share... but to no avail.  Tonight the execution was a little off, as we found clumps of rice that had stuck together, instead of having it all loose.  However, this was still very, very delicious.

As usual, we had a nice cup of puer tea (普洱茶) as palate cleanser before dessert was served.

Almond cream with lotus seeds and egg white (蓮子蛋白杏仁茶) - very good as usual, especially the lotus seeds which had been cooked through.

I also brought my own desserts... as I'd done some shopping earlier in the day at Pierre Hermé.  Églantine, figue et foie gras is a combination I love, and I'm glad they have introduced it in Hong Kong this season.  I love the crunchy fig seeds, and someone commented that it's like eating Fig Newtons... Truffe blanche et noisette was pretty, good, but again I find this to be less fragrant than I remembered from previous seasons.

This wasn't a real drinking crowd, so I randomly pulled a couple of bottles from what I had in the office...

2006 Selbach-Oster Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Auslese* - a little plastic, honey, orange blossom water.  Very sweet, and probably more suited as a dessert wine.

2009 Quinta do Noval Douro - ripe and sweet on the nose, jammy black fruits, with pine forest, and a little smokiness underneath the sweet fruit.

This was a really good dinner... and all the more interesting because of the amount of dishes that overlapped with Mondays' dinner - and this place came out on top on every single one.  I'm ever so grateful that I was introduced to this place... and for the fact that it's so easy to get to for me.  Now I gotta come back a few more times before snake season ends...


mumbojumbo said...

Wow, so many overlapping dishes with the dinner at Cuisine Cuisine.

Big fan of yours and I Love Lubutin.

So are you said sweet sweet bf?

Peech said...

Hell, no!


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