December 5, 2015

Yet another WTF Michelin star

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It's been over a year since I last met up with a few of my friends, and we finally got our act together to meet up for lunch.  No surprise that the task of picking a restaurant fell on my shoulders... and after a couple of rounds of back-and-forth - during which we established that *I* was not the picky eater - we ended up at Yè Shanghai (夜上海) in the Marco Polo Hongkong Hotel.

The bunch of us used to frequent the Yè Shanghai in Pacific Place all those years ago.  We stopped going after they starting putting on entertainment at night, having some woman come on after 9pm to sing nostalgic, old-school Chinese songs.  Well... we didn't appreciate that and would always try to leave the restaurant before 9pm... Eventually we simply stopped going.

So today was my first return to Yé Shanghai in more than half a decade.  In fact, I had never been to this particular branch of the restaurant - which, curiously, has been awarded a Michelin star for the last few years.  I had never had to urge to come, but the location kinda fit our selection criteria today... so here we are.

As soon as we sat down, the staff brought over a little stool for Hello Kitty to rest her handbag.  It was actually a miniature of the chairs we were sitting on, and just looked incredibly cute.  Brownies points right from the start.

We decided to order a bunch of Shanghainese dian xin (點心) items, plus a few extra dishes that we liked.  Rikachu was initially worried that we had ordered too much food, but as it turned out, it was just about right...

Tea leaf smoked egg (燻蛋) - the smoky flavors were there, but the egg white was a little overcooked.

Minced bean curd with Shanghainese wild vegetables (拌馬蘭頭) - this was not bad.  I've always been partial to Indian aster (馬蘭頭) for its particular fragrance... something I picked up from mom.

Pork dumpling in chili sauce (紅油抄手) - there were only 5 of these, so I guess I was the one getting short-changed... and didn't get to have one.

Noodles with spring onions and soy (蔥油開洋拌麵) - when this arrived, I started at it in utter amazement and said "WHAT THE FUCK..."  First of all, this came in a regular-sized rice bowl... which is waaaay too small of a vessel to serve noodles in.  Then they decided to only fill up HALF of this small bowl with noodles.  And they have the gall to charge HKD 50 for this.  To add insult to injury, they didn't even bother to turn the spring onions into chiffonade, and also didn't bother to wilt and char them... when I could go to any branch of Crystal Jade La Mian Xiaolongbao (翡翠拉麵小籠包) and gotten a more delicious bowl that is at least 3 times the size for HKD 45...   I think calling it "highway robbery" would be an understatement!

When we started digging into this bowl of noodles, we were jokingly rationing it strand by strand, for fear that some of us wouldn't be able to get any...

Sautéed minced chicken with pine nuts served with sesame pastry pockets (崧子雞米配叉子燒餅) - an old favorite of the gang.  Not as delicious as it used to be, but still pretty decent.  I tried not to overstuff the pockets...

Crispy turnip cake (蘿蔔絲酥餅) - well... not exactly a "cake" but more like a puff.  The strands of turnip weren't as tasty as they could be.

"Xiao long bao" steamed pork dumpling (鮮肉小籠包) - these were pretty decent.  The wrappers were thin enough, but strong enough not to tear when we pick them up.  The pork stuffing was pretty decent and juicy.

Spring onion pancake (蔥油餅) - while I prefer the flat version of these pancakes, these were just OK.  The problem here is that they've been made into small and dainty lumps, which means the ratio of dough to spring onion was wrong... and there wasn't enough spring onion stuffed inside.

Baked "huang qiao" cake (黃橋燒餅) - 蟹殼黃 has been a childhood favorite of mine, so I'll always order this when I see it.  I probably shouldn't have today.  When the dish came, I once again involuntarily blurted out the words "WTF"... While I appreciate that these are handmade and variations are the norm, I had a hard time accepting the fact that one of these is at least 20% smaller than the others.  Not something that should happen at a place with Michelin stars. (Have they not heard about the quality control at Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐)?!)  In any case the filling wasn't all that tasty.

Camphor tea leaf smoked duck (樟茶鴨) - we took half a duck for Rikachu.  This was pretty decent, although I was expecting the flavors to be a little stronger.

Sautéed pea sprouts with fresh water crabmeat (蟹份豆苗) - it's hairy crab (大閘蟹) season, so I felt obliged to order something with crab roe.  The pea sprouts are in season so they're pretty tasty, and the topping of crab roe with crab meat was pretty good, too.

BTW this cost HKD 300, and I'll take a plate of this over 6 bowls of that ridiculous noodle any day...

Fried meringue filled with banana and red bean paste (香蕉高力豆沙) - these were OK.

Honestly, this was a pretty average meal.  Maybe we didn't order some of the restaurants signature or high-end dishes, but I felt what we ordered were pretty classic and should have been well-executed.  There were no "wow"s today, and more often than not a dish fell a little short.  Michelin star my ass...

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