November 1, 2016

A very belated Tasting

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I had heard the Great One raved about Tasting Court (天一閣) some time ago.  Then I heard about it from the Man in White T-Shirt, who also mentioned the background of the owners.  A few chances have come up for me to try the cuisine here, both before and after its closure - which turned out to be a relocation.  But for one reason or another, I have never managed to make it here.

So when I was asked by a friend to fill in on a feast that has been organized, I hesitated for a while but grudgingly agreed to join them.  The reason I say "grudgingly" has no reflection on the company nor the cuisine.  My feeding schedule had simply been too full lately and I badly needed a break.  And that was before I even found out about the last-minute staycation at the Peninsula Hong Kong - where I stuffed myself with 7 meals over 2 days...

I rolled in to the room with my suitcase - having just checked out of the hotel this morning - and found myself a seat next to the organizer who put the menu together.  He would proceed to tell the story of the dishes throughout the evening for our benefit.

When I agreed to join the party, I was somewhat alarmed by the length of the menu - which featured 15 courses.  But it would seem that I was dining with a bunch of greedy piggies, and nobody thought it would be too much food.  I figured I'll just restrain myself and nibble...

Pickled ginger with century egg (子薑皮蛋) - very young pickled ginger.

Crispy enoki mushroom (酥炸金針菇) - how can one go wrong with deep-fried shrooms?

Deep-fried pork fat stuffed with prawn (金錢蝦餅) - these prawn cakes are wrapped in caul fat (網油), and were definitely very tasty. Much softer than expected, and kinda sticky on the teeth. Very old school.  Nice fragrance from the kaffir lime leaves inside.

Chinese grilled pork chop with soybean (西班牙黑毛豬叉燒) - the Iberico pork wasn't prepared the way it's commonly done nowadays.  Instead a combination including Chinese black olives (欖角), black beans (豆豉), and aged mandarin peel (陳皮) were used to marinate the pork.  Pretty interesting.

Slow-cooked chicken wrapped pigeon with Shaoxing wine (狀元紅燉鳳吞雞) - the soup was made with some 42(?) different herbs, along with Huadiao (花雕) wine.  A very delicious bowl of soup with lots of flavors, and the herbs weren't overpowering at all.

This being chicken soup and all, naturally the chicken was fished out from the pot and plated separately...

Look, Ma!  There's a pigeon inside the chicken!  And some lil' eggs, too!

Slow-cooked meat ball in chicken soup (葵花斬肉) - the meatball is apparently made from meat around the ribs mixed with some brisket, then chopped until all the fibers are broken down.

This, together with an appropriate ratio of fat, made the meatball very, very tender.  Almost melt-in-your-mouth tender.  Of course, as a version of the traditional lion's head (獅子頭), it's cooked together with napa cabbage.  Perfect match.

Steamed fresh flowery crab with aged Shaoxing wine served with rice noodle (香醉紅蟳) - this was a dish everyone was waiting for.  A perennial favorite at The Chairman (大班樓), this was cooked with 25-year Huadiao wine.  There were 3 crabs in all for the table.

There weren't any of the usual rice noodles (陳村粉) tonight, so we made do with steamed rice and used it to soak up that yummy, Huadiao-flavored sauce.  There was also a plate of Cantonese egg noodles made without the use of alkali.  These were pretty awesome.

Deep-fried crab ball (百花釀蟹鉗) - well, these were actually NOT crab claws as the Chinese description indicated... What you see sticking out of the balls are actually the tips of crab legs.

Instead, it's crab meat mixed inside shrimp mousse.  The texture was very bouncy, and once again the use of kaffir lime leaves left a nice fragrance in my mouth.

Traditional slow-cooked boneless short ribs (古法慢燉澳洲牛肋骨) - very tender, cooked with onions and herbs.

Baked tiger prawn with peppercorn (胡椒焗大虎蝦) - these were some pretty darn big prawns with their shells on, and the heads have been butterflied.  Cooked with a pile of three different types of peppercorns, including 貢椒 from Hanyuan (漢源) in Sichuan (四川) Province as well as timur (藤椒).  Pretty awesome kick from those peppercorns!

Baked chicken pickled with sea salt  (海鹽焗雞) - the salt-baked chicken wasn't cooked the old school way under a pile of rock salt, but inside a salt-laced meringue.

Cutting away the top of the puff revealed the chicken underneath.

After further "processing", the chicken was finally served to us, with a generous topping of marinated spring onions.  There was also an excellent sauce made with ginger and spring onions on the side.

Baby pigeon smoked with osmanthus and Longjing tea (茶燻雛鴿) - these were awesome.  Lots of smoky flavors, and the baby pigeon was nice and tender.

Stir-fried cellophane noodle with crab meat and egg (炒桂花祥遠) - a very, very awesome dish, cooked the old school way using a pair of chopsticks to break up the egg.  Lots of wok hei (鑊氣) thanks to the high heat used.  Planty of flavors from the crab meat and the egg, and a nice variety of textures.

Slow cooked huge black mushroom with ducks essence (鴨汁扣巨花菰) - these look HUGE.  Or should I say YUGE?  Just three mushrooms for the whole table, because of their size.

This kinda gives an idea of how thick the shrooms were.  Soooo tender and tasty, thanks to the duck sauce.

This was the size of the dried shrooms.  Imagine soaking it in water for a day or two.

Prawn roe stirred noodle with prawn and shallot essence oil (蝦子蝦油蔥油撈麵) - another noodle dish, I wasn't gonna complain.  Using the same alkali-free noodles, the flavors were provided by prawn oil, prawn roe, spring onion oil, and spring onions.  Soooooo good.

Blended jujube coconut juice pudding (椰汁棗茸糕) - the layer of coconut in between the jujube was a nice surprise.  I could have used another one or two of these, despite my near-exploding stomach.

We also had this jujube drink to finish, with a jujube floating on top.

We brought a few bottles with us, as we weren't being charged corkage tonight...

2006 Agrapart Minéral - ripe on the palate but acidity was on the high side thanks to the low dosage.  Nice depth of flavor here.

2008 DuMOL Chardonnay Chloe - very ripe on the nose, very sweet with vanilla oak.  Really ripe on the palate, too.

Huadiao, more than 20 years old - lots of salty plum (話梅), very smooth.  Dry on the attack with a sweet finish.

2006 Albino Rocca Barbaresco Vigneto Brich Ronchi - nose of exotic spices, forest pine, leather, and grilled meats.  Starting to be a little like mulled wine.

2005 Feather Cabernet Sauvignon - very smoky, ripe and fruity.  Still kinda tannic.

2000 Barnett Cabernet Sauvignon Rattlesnake Hill - ripe fruit, minty, and cedar notes.  Still tannins here, but acidity was higher than expected.

1970 Dujac Marc de Bourgogne - for the birthday boy.

A very, very good dinner tonight. No fails, and more than a few outstanding dishes. I'm glad I finally made it here, and look forward to coming back soon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This annoys me purely because it makes my taste buds scream that I'm in the wrong job and the wrong country!


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