June 13, 2016

No wine, good vegetables

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After taking a short break from gluttony after my return from my fourth outing to Macau, I'm back to my old self again.  My friendly neighborhood prime broker has decided that I haven't been eating well enough, so they generously decided to treat me to lunch at Howard's Gourmet (好酒好蔡) to fatten me up.

I really enjoyed my first dinner a few months ago, and I knew that the menu is much simpler (and hopefully much less expensive) at lunch time, but it was still a real treat to have the luxury of dining here.  The restaurant didn't seem to be very busy at lunch time, but I suppose the demand kinda drops off once the price point goes past a certain level...

Specialty soup for stomach-warming (特色暖胃湯) - a mix of pumpkin, carrots, and potatoes.  Almost nice to prep one's stomach with something warm.

Seasonal duo of small bites (時令兩小碟) - interesting dish of diced fish balls with tomato.  The pickled mustard (榨菜) was OK.
Smoked country-style duck (煙燻家鄉鴨) - the ducks were raised on a diet of sugarcane bagasse, and in fact smoked with bagasse as well.  Nice sweetness in the duck and the pumpkin ginger vinegar on the side was totally unnecessary.

Crispy sea cucumber (脆皮婆參) - Howard Cai's signature dish, but my piece today didn't look as attractive as my last piece.  In spite of all that, the texture was still as good as I remembered - very, very gelatinous and tender, with some crispiness on the outside.

At my last meal, the waitress recited the script about the composition of the cooking method as well as the composition of the sauce.  Today our waiter informed us that the stock was frozen at -26°C (not sure of the importance of that precise temperature...), then both the fat at the top and the sediment at the bottom were removed, so that only the clarified stock in the middle was used in the dish.

Whatever the case, there was plenty of lip-smacking collagen here to be scooped up using a spoon.

Silkie chicken in broth (鮮湯烏雞片) - I gotta say I was impressed by this soup.  As the weather is pretty hot these days, drinking cucumber soup has a natural "cooling" effect on the body.  The cucumber strips themselves also still retained a certain degree of crunch.

The black silkie chicken had plenty of flavors - which coincided with our discussion during the meal about the lack of flavors in many of the Singaporean Hainanese chicken... and my basic requirement that "chicken tastes like chicken (雞有雞味)".  Here the chicken itself had pretty strong flavors that almost tasted like it was fermented or mixed in with offal like liver... and the kitchen certainly used plenty of pepper here.  This was in stark contrast to the very clean and pure flavors of the cucumber and the soup.

Crispy fish in premium soy sauce (頭抽浸海上鮮) - the smell of the house made premium soy sauce (頭抽) hits you as soon as the dish is laid down.  The giant grouper (龍躉) fillet was deep-fried until the exterior was very crispy, but still tender and juicy on the inside.  Pretty good.

Simmered leafy amaranth (香燉莧菜) - one thing I really like about this place is that the veggie dish is simply superb.  The leafy amaranth was very, very tender... and the broth had a lot of flavor - no doubt helped by the slices of deep-fried garlic that has been cooked with the veg.

Fried rice with aged pickled radish (陳年菜脯炒飯) - very nicely done and showcasing the knife skills of the chef.  Not only was the spring onion very fine, but the aged pickled radish (陳年菜脯) as well as the beef had been very finely diced.  One would have thought that simply using ground beef would suffice, but dicing the beef with a knife to such small bits delivered a completely different texture.

Pink guava sorbet (胭脂紅慕斯) - this was pretty much the same as the dessert I had on my first visit, except there was a layer of bird's nest covering the sorbet back then... Not bad.

Lunch was very leisurely and enjoyable.  So nice to have this midday break when the market feels so listless these days.  Many thanks to my friendly neighborhood prime broker for the treat!

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