July 11, 2015

The problem with (almost) every Chinese restaurant

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Dinner tonight was with Hello Kitty and My Birdbrain Cousin, and I planned it very poorly... or rather, didn't really plan at all.  I had to call 4 restaurants before finding one with seats at a reasonable hour, and in the end had to settle for Sun Tung Lok (新同樂魚翅海鮮酒家) in Tsim Sha Tsui.

From its inception back in the glorious days, this place has always been known for its over-the-top emphasis on shark's fin, abalone, bird's nest...etc.  So it was no surprise that we sat next to a Strong Country couple as I overheard the woman ask the man whether they were having shark's fin or abalone tonight.  Alas, I am too much of a cheapskate to order ingredients like that... especially since I never order shark's fin for environmental reasons.

Braised Spanish pork belly in homemade kimchi gravy with toast (京韓烤西班牙黑毛豬腩) - we had no idea how big this was... and it was pretty monstrous!  Oh yeah, this pork belly was sooooo good...  Just look at the grill marks on the skin...

...and the layers of fat.  Very, very tender.  I didn't quite get the "kimchi gravy"... but we needed it on top of those incredibly delicious, double-deep-fried toast sticks... But honestly, the pile of canned corn was a little WTF...

Pan-fried minced pork with spicy salt and Malaysian's Nyonya gravy (馬來娘惹五香煎手啄肉餅) - this was also a lot bigger than expected.  These minced pork patties were made with diced water chestnuts, corn, and some chopped chilis.  Pretty good stuff.

Not sure why they think the gravy is "Nonya", but I tasted a little shacha sauce (沙茶醬).

This was the point when I started to get a little upset.  We had barely begun to touch the first dish of pork belly, and the pork patties were also on the table, when they decided to bring us the third dish.  There are two things wrong with this kind of service...

First, why would the kitchen serve us three dishes in quick succession when we haven't even made a dent in the first dish?  There were only 3 of us, so how did the kitchen expect us to go through the first two dishes so quickly?  To be honest, this is the common problem with probably 90% of Chinese restaurants out there - they all try to serve all the dishes you've ordered in the space of 10 minutes... and who gives a shit whether you can go through your food before they all get cold?!

The other problem - and one that I find particularly unforgivable for a top-end restaurant with 2 Michelin stars accustomed to serving supposedly discerning clients - is the fact that the veg course was served in the middle and not at the end just before the carbs.  Anyone who knows anything about the serving order of dishes for Chinese food will not make this mistake.  So why the hell did they just throw the veg dish on our table at this point in time?!

Daylily in superior broth (上湯金針菜) - very seasonal dish, with very clean flavors.  Love it.

I told the waitstaff that I wanted the kitchen to hold off on serving the other dishes, since we have barely touched the three dishes we've already got.

After a few minutes, things got even worse.  They decided to bring us our fourth dish, even though I gave specific instructions to hold off.  I almost blew up, and the staff saw that I was visibly angry.  This was simply inexcusable.  Is this the kind of service one should expect from an illustrious restaurant, with the famed Chef Chan (陳勇) helming the kitchen?  Why is there absolutely no coordination between the kitchen and the front of house?

The staff took our next dish back to the kitchen, with instructions to make a new batch.

Sweet and sour Kyushu king prawn with pine nuts (松子咕嚕原隻九州蝦皇) - when the staff figured that we had polished off enough of the first three dishes, they brought this out for the second time.

Truth be told, I ordered this because My Birdbrain Cousin asked we can have good sweet and sour pork... and I couldn't find it on the menu.  The waitstaff overheard our disappointment, and informed us that, of course, the kitchen can whip up a proper sweet and sour pork if we so wished.  But in the end I figured we should try something different.

And this was a little different.  It is basically a different version of sweet and sour fish (松子魚)... and they made sure there were pine nuts.  Not bad at all, and they served it with a thin piece of deep-fried toast underneath...

Seafood fried rice with preserved shrimp paste (大澳蝦醬海鮮炒飯) - pretty good, with just enough of that shrimp paste from Tai O (大澳) to enhance the flavors, but not too much to be overpowering.  With diced prawn and scallop.

1999 Guigal Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde - should have chilled it as it is too warm.  Lots of sweet fruit in the nose, like prunes.  Very fragrant nose with woody notes.  Acidity was evident in the nose, and also on the palate.  Still plenty of tannins here.

The restaurant offered us free dessert, but we declined.  We were simply too full, and we had something else in mind for dessert, just a few floors down at street level...

There's a seasonal flavor at Lab Made that I've been wanting to try... and tonight was the perfect occasion.

HK crispy - meant to simulate the tastes and textures of the classic Hong Kong breakfast of peanut butter and condensed milk on toast.  This was actually really good, with lots of peanut butter flavors... especially the savory side.  They sprinkled chunks of what seemed to be melba toast, as well as the same toast ground into powder.  Very, very happy.

Many thanks to My Birdbrain Cousin for treating me to a late birthday dinner.

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