January 1, 2018

First star of 2018

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Since we were going all the way out to Hong Kong UNESCO Geopark, which is part of Sai Kung East Country Park, I figured it made sense for us to have dinner in Sai Kung.  One of the places I have never been to - and became an itch I've been wanting to scratch - was Loaf On (六福菜館).  This place has earned itself a macaron from the Rubberman ever since the second edition of the Red Guide, and that makes it a whopping 9 years in a row.  I was always curious how an establishment in a part of town famous for catering to tourists - local and foreign alike - was good enough for the Rubberman.  Today was the day to find out for myself.

We arrived in Sai Kung a little more than an hour before the time of our reservation, so we walked around the Sai Kung Promenade to have a look and to kill time.  But try as we might, we couldn't figure out how to kill almost an hour and a half... so we decided to show up about 30 minutes early.

The menu was, not surprisingly, tourist-friendly - with pictures and descriptions in Chinese, English, and Japanese.  Also not surprisingly, most of the seafood dishes have "seasonal price" - what the Cantonese call "seafood price (海鮮價)"...  Thankfully there's a little price list displayed on a plastic stand on the table, reminding you of the current pricing for seafood items.  This way one would have a pretty good idea of how much one would be spending as the ordering is being done.

While the menu carries the stereotypical dishes offered by virtually every seafood restaurant in town, the first thing that hit me on the menu was the slow cooked scallops with rice soup.  Scallops cooked sous vide?  And served in a porridge-like rice soup?  Now THIS was gonna be interesting...

Unfortunately for us, we were advised that the quality of the scallops today weren't up to par, so the kitchen would not be serving any.  While I was disappointed at not being able to taste the dish I had ordered, this was a good sign that the restaurant cares about maintaining its standards.

Baked abalone with chili and garlic (椒鹽焗鮑魚) - one of the signature dishes here, and I have certainly seen pictures of this many, many times.  I would be remiss if I did not have a bite and try it for myself...

And we were certainly not disappointed.  Very, very tender on the inside, while delivering a nice crispy exterior.  Pretty tasty with the deep-fried garlic and chopped chilis.

Hakka salted vegetables and tree mushrooms with pork (客家鹹菜木耳炆腩仔) - I wanted some meat, and this sounded interesting.  One can never go wrong with braised pork belly, and here we've got it bathed in a thick, red sauce and accompanied by wood ear fungus, Chinese celery, and salted mustard greens.  Not something that one often sees at your average Cantonese restaurant.

Saute razor clam with bell pepper and black bean (豉椒炒蟶子皇) - this, however, is in every seafood restaurant in town.  Actually we had ordered another preparation with scallions and ginger, but the kitchen got it mixed up.  We didn't realize the mix-up until after we started digging into the dish, so we just let it go.  The razor clams were certainly big and fresh, with a nice and crunchy texture.

Venus clam cooked in spicy wine (辣酒煮花甲) - Hello Kitty wanted this, and she ended up eating most of it.  I normally don't do spicy dishes like this, but I did have a handful of the clams.  While the spice levels were dialed up way high, one could taste (and smell) the fragrance of the wine. 

Traditional steamed rice with seafood (西貢艇仔蒸飯) - another dish I haven't seen before.  The rice came with lots of dried shrimp (蝦乾), diced squid, and preserved sausage (臘腸) - along with coriander and strands of ginger.  A good combination of umami from the sea as well as flavors coming from preserved pork.

Fresh vegetables cooked in rice water (米水浸時蔬) - a very simple preparation which brought out the flavors of the choy sum (菜心)... and I loved the purity and slight sweetness of rice water.

Steamed Sai Kung sea fish with salt (鹽蒸西貢海魚仔) - this was basically the "daily catch".  I tried asking the waiters what kind of fish they had available today, and they couldn't give me an answer.  Surely they could ask the kitchen and find out?  They kept saying that it depends on what the fishermen brought in today, and that it changes daily.  I felt a little frustrated, but figured we should order this anyway... as I didn't feel like getting us an expensive, farmed garoupa.

We our plate of 6 featured one which looked like Japanese horse mackerel.  Our waiter couldn't tell us which types of fish were on the plate, and told us that the table next to us got completely different types of fish from the kitchen.

Whatever they were, the fish were absolutely fresh and delicious - steamed with just some salt and spring onions to bring out the natural flavors of the fish.  We were very, very happy.  Now this was the best way to eat fish!

I was pretty full, as was everyone else.  I'm glad I finally made it here, and both Hello Kitty and I were pretty happy with our dinner tonight.  I would love to come back another day and try out some of the other dishes that we missed tonight.

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