March 28, 2018

The Asia's 50 Best chef's table

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With the festivities around Asia's 50 Best Restaurants over, it was time to pack up and go home.  But for some of us, we still had one last, highly-anticipated dinner to take in before boarding the ferry back to Hong Kong.

Sing Gor Private Kitchen (勝哥私房菜) is a place I had heard about from The Man in White T-shirt as "next level Cantonese cuisine"... whatever that means.  This was of course confirmed by Chef Tam at Jade Dragon when I visited him in January, as he was the person who introduced the place to Mr. White Tee.  So a couple of us had planned to tag along to a group dining here tonight.

The list of attendees grew quickly, and Chef DaRC, The Great One, and I were asked to splinter off to a second table and fill it with our own friends.  We gradually contacted friends who we knew were gonna be in Macau for the festivities, and soon we had our "kiddie table" filled with people who had never been here.

The place is actually housed upstairs in an apartment building, so the bunch of us who arrived with our luggage in tow were kinda holding up the elevator traffic for residents who live in the building.  But I'm sure they knew what was going on when a bunch of foreigners suddenly show up...

And this would be turn out to be a star-studded evening.  With us tonight were 6 chefs from 5 different restaurants on this year's Asia's 50 Best Restaurants, a former Asia's Best Female Chef, as well as two regional chairs from The World's 50 Best Restaurants Academy.  Plus a straggler like myself.  Two real "chef's tables".

I was already in Macau and had drunk the Champagne I brought last night, so I had to rely on the kindness of friends for some alcohol... Gee... I wonder where the magnum of Delamotte Blanc de Blancs came from??

When one comes to a place like this, one encounters dishes that are so old school and uncommon nowadays that if there was no one around to explain the story behind each dish, most of us would have no idea of the kind of skill required for the execution.  Thankfully those of us at the kiddie table got a lesson from Spam Bro, with the occasional annotation from The Man in White T-shirt.

Crispy chicken (炸子雞) - this is normally served much later during the meal, but for some reason the kitchen decided to split one chicken between the two tables and used it to whet our appetites... Yes, this chicken was damn good.  And the skin was paper-thin and crispy.

Pan-fried prawn toast (蝦多士) - the chef obviously used tiger prawns for these giant prawn toasts.

While I happily bit into it and enjoyed the golden-brown toast, Chef DaRC was somewhat critical of the fact that the prawns and the pieces of toasts underneath had curled up - which he jokingly referred to as "spastic" - as he felt that the solution to achieve a better presentation was simple enough.

Stir-fried spinyhead croaker rolls (炒獅頭魚捲) - as explained to us by Spam Bro and The Man in White T-shirt, the difficulties in executing this properly are as follows: 1) getting one's hands on spinyhead croakers (獅頭魚) of this size; 2) filleting the fish properly, given the tenderness of the flesh; 3) rolling and stuffing them properly such that they don't fall apart during cooking; 4) stir-frying the rolls at high heat to properly seal the exterior and to impart wok hei (鑊氣); 5) making sure that the Chinese lettuce didn't overcook and begin sweating.

I gotta say that this was pretty damn good.  The croaker was very tender, while bits of Cantonese duck liver sausage (膶腸) delivered the richness of foie as well as a little fragrance from the Mei Kuei Lu (玫瑰露).  There was also the fragrance and crunch from toasted Indian almonds (欖仁) stuffed inside.  There was also a generous sprinkling of dried flounder powder (大地魚粉) over the whole dish.

Deep-fried crispy crab cake (金錢蟹盒) - now THIS has got to be my favorite dish of the evening, and likely many others felt the same way.  Just one look at these "ravioli" is enough to get me drooling...

The raviolo is made not with flour but 2 layers of back fat (豬膘油), stuffed with crab meat, crab roe, shiitake mushroom, water chestnuts, yellowed chives, and coriander.  Every mouthful tasted heavenly.  Then again, why wouldn't it be when every mouthful contained deep-fried pork fat?!

Speaking of fat... this was what it looked like.

The menu included braised shark's fin, but as I don't eat it, I left my bowl on the Lazy Susan.  It was agreed that whoever finishes his/her bowl first would be entitled to my bowl.  I wasn't the least bit surprised when Chaxiubao inhaled the contents of his bowl in about 1 minute and 59 seconds, as he was the one who made the suggestion...

Stir-fried frog's legs with kailan (玉簪田雞) - this was another dish I hadn't seen before, and also involved some serious skillz...

The meat from frog's legs were removed from the bones, then tied around steps of kailan (芥蘭) as if one were tying ribbons around a twig.  Once again, the execution needed to be on point to ensure optimal doneness on both the frog's legs and the kailan.  The result?  Crunchy kailan with very tender, almost silky smooth frog's legs.  Stir-fried with dried flounder powder (大地魚粉) and lard... which was how it came to glisten so beautifully under the lights.

2014 Recrue Des Sens Love and Pif - a little cloudy, almost a little fizzy with some pungency.  Not my kind of shit.

Braised winter melon with ham and crab meat (蟹肉科甲瓜) - thin slices of Chinese ham were sandwiched between thick layers of winter melon in order to get the flavors into the melon.  Topped with giant mud crab meat, and certainly some corn starch in the sauce.  Not exactly a delicate dish in terms of flavor...

Crispy chicken (炸子雞) - and now each table gets its own chicken.  And what a beautiful chicken it was!  Just look at the beautiful, paper-thin skin that was perfectly crispy.

Our resident ass queen demanded once again that we save the chicken ass for her...

Braised snapping turtle (紅燒水魚) - this was, quite frankly, too much for us.  The adults from the other table were surprised how much of the pot we had left after a while, but the truth was that the seasoning was simply too heavy.  There wasn't enough shiitake mushrooms nor roast pork - just a lot of braised garlic.

Sweet and sour pork with young ginger (子薑咕嚕肉) - we asked for extra young ginger, and they were delicious.  Ribeye (肉眼筋) was used here, and the texture underneath the crispy batter was very tender and springy, with a little fat.

Rice with steamed pork patty and salted fish (鹹魚肉餅飯) - it's great to finish with something as simple as steamed minced pork patty, and of course here the pork was hand-chopped and tenderized with the back of a cleaver (likely double-handed action with two cleavers) instead of being minced by machine.  As usual, finely diced shiitake mushrooms and water chestnuts were mixed in to the patty.

And it goes perfectly with some salted fish that had also been steamed.

Stir-fried leafy mustard with garlic (蒜蓉炒水芥)

Chilled mung bean soup with kelp (凍海帶綠豆沙) - after being in Hong Kong for more than two decades, I have finally gotten accustomed to having mung bean soup - which is taken sweet - with savory kelp and rue (臭草).  This was pretty good.

Birthday buns (壽包) - Chef Tam from Jade Dragon (譽瓏軒) joined us in the middle of dinner - having come straight from his kitchen - and brought us these wonderful treats.  Loved the combination of egg yolk and lotus seed paste.  Not sure whose birthday it was, though...

This was a very, very good dinner, and I was happy to have gotten another lesson on this branch of Cantonese cuisine from knowledgeable friends.  I couldn't say whether it was truly "next level" or not, but I'd come back in a heartbeat.

Time passes quickly when you're having fun!  While The Great One and I thought that the 5 hours we had budgeted from the start of the dinner to the departure of our ferry back to Hong Kong would surely be enough, in reality we barely made it thanks to the difficulty in finding a taxi. 

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