March 29, 2018

They knew who we were

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A dinner was arranged for a couple of friends who were in town, and since we could always use an extra mouth at a Chinese meal, I happily agreed to join them at Xin Rong Ji (新榮記).  The restaurant had been open for about 3 months, apparently, and this would be my first opportunity to get a feel for this import serving cuisine from Taizhou (台州), Zhejiang Province (浙江省).

Upon arrival, it was immediately apparent to me that the restaurant knew exactly who we were.  I spotted 2 bottles of DRC as soon as the staff opened the door to our private room, compliments of the restaurant owner.  Hmmm.... now what exactly did we do to deserve this treat?

Strawberries - these were pretty good, and a great way to start us off... especially with the bottles of Champagne we popped.

Broad beans with spring onions (蔥香川豆) - pretty good.

Jellyfish head in Sichuan pepper sauce (花椒汁海蟄頭) - the jellyfish heads had very crunchy textures, and the cucumbers were very fresh.  Very good. 

Homemade sausage with cuttlefish sausage (墨魚香腸拼自製香腸) - the iberico pork sausage was a little too salty for me.  The other sausage was stuffed with diced cuttlefish and octopus ink.

Golden brown cutlass fish (黃金脆帶魚) - the line-caught cutlass fish from the East China Sea was very crispy and very good.

Whelk with marinated garlic (生蒜螺頭) - the whelk was crunchy as expected, but those slices of raw solo garlic (獨子蒜) marinated in vinegar were damn strong and spicy!

Sweet potatoes (蜜汁紅薯) - these were huge! And their golden color - plus the fact that they were glistening under the light just got my saliva flowing... I loooove sweet potatoes, and I wish I had a bottomless stomach and could devour all of them.  As it was, I had to settle for just one slice in the middle - which turned out to be very soft and intensely sweet.

Yellow croaker porridge with shepherd's purse (薺菜黃魚羹) - yellow croakers were my favorite type of fish growing up, and it always reminds me of mom's cooking. They cooked this with black wood ear fungus, bamboo shoots, bamboo piths, and fish maw.

This was very good.  Thick and starchy, and benefited from some collagen from the fish maw.  The fragrance of the diced shepherd's purse (薺菜) was something I missed.  To me, this is just comfort food that makes me happy.

Roast Peking duck (北京烤鴨) - kinda surprised to find this on the menu here...

So what we got was the "first serving" of skin with some meat.

The pancakes were pretty thin, and we each got our own set of condiments.

Home-style pomfret (家燒鯧魚) - the slices came with thick cuts of chewy rice cakes, and the cloudy sauce flavored with soy sauce tasted very much like how mom used to make it.

Sweet potato noodles with sea anemones (沙蒜燒豆麵) - the thick and round glass noodles were made from sweet potatoes, and came with a rich sauce packed with flavors - which almost tasted like zhajiangmian (炸醬麵).

There were also bamboo shoots as well as chunks of sea anemones inside, the latter of which I didn't much care for.

Razor clams with chili (辣燒長街蟶) - these mini-razor clams from the town of Changjie (長街鎮) in Ningbo (寧波) are considered a delicacy, and came buried in a layer of dried chilis.

Home-style stir-fried vegetable stems (家燒菜蕻) - with some Chinese bacon.

Braised spring bamboo shoots with toothed bur clover (草頭紅炆春筍) - the bamboo shoots were, to my surprise, not too tough and fibrous.  I had seen how humongous they were as I walked in, but they must have cut away a ton of it and just kept the tender parts in the middle. 

Spicy braised softshell turtle (湘味甲魚) - also with bamboo shoots.  Not a fan.

Tofu with salted pork (刀板香鹹肉鹽滷豆腐) - the baishuiyang tofu (白水洋豆腐) comes from the city of Linhai (臨海市) within Taizhou, while the daobanxiang (刀板香) salted pork is a specialty of Anhui Province (安徽省).

The tofu has similarly intense and smoky flavors like the ones I've had at Jiang Su (江蘇薈). These completely puts the tofu that we consume regularly to shame.  Came with more bamboo shoots as well as some pretty big dried shrimps.

Wontons with longjaw grenadier anchovies (刀魚餛飩) - the way the wontons (餛飩) were served was just like how my grandma did it... with dried seaweed, preserved leafy mustard stems (榨菜), dried shrimp, and soy sauce in the broth.  The difference here is that the broth was apparently made with mineral water, and the wonton filling was made with longjaw grenadier anchovies (刀魚) from the Yangtze River - which is an expensive delicacy.

Steamed green dumplings (青餅) - the glutinous wrappers were made with father-and-son plant (父子草), and stuffed with red bean paste.

Double-boiled foxnut with peach resin and osmanthus (桂花桃膠燉雞頭米) - not really a fan of foxnut (雞頭米), but peach resin (桃膠) was basically in jelly form, and was pretty refreshing served chilled.

I didn't know the full list of attendees before I showed up, and assumed that Chef DaRC and I would be the main contributors in terms of wine.  I was wrong, and we ended up with a ton of alcohol...

Henri Guiraud Fût de Chêne MV10, dégorgée le 18 Novembre 2016 - yeasty, ripe, somewhat floral.  Nice.

Jacques Selosse Rosé, dégorgée le 11 Mai 2010 - very ripe and more oxidized as expected, yeasty.  Good depth on the palate and long finish.

2014 Josmeyer Fleur de Lotus - very floral and tropical nose with sweet lychee, elegant on the nose.  But a little hot on the palate, and also overripe with a slight bitter finish.

2010 Hospices de Beaune Corton-Vergennes Cuvée Paul Chanson elevé et mis en bouteille par Lucien Le Moine pour El Bulli - tons of toasty oak with mineral notes.  Drinking beautifully.

1990 von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser Abstberg Riesling Spätlese - unfortunately the first bottle I brought was very slightly corked, but tasted OK on the palate if too oxidized.  Thankfully the second bottle was very fresh and youthful, especially considering that it had been aerated for 2 hours prior to serving.  Showed lemon and polyurethane notes.  Beautiful and smooth.

1994 DRC Echezeaux - two bottles courtesy of the restaurant owner.  Aerated more than 1 hour prior to serving.  Still some sweet fruit in the nose, with a whiff of floral notes.  Pretty dry and somewhat grippy.  OK considering the vintage.

2005 Marchesi di Barolo Barolo Cannubi - exotic herbs and sharp alcohol in the nose.  A little rich, and very tannic.

2005 Paolo Scavino Barolo Cannubi - aromatic and much more elegant compared to the Marchesi di Barolo.  Also softer and less tannic.

2000 La Chapelle de la Mission Haut-Brion, en magnum - aerated for more than 2½ hours prior to serving.  Very nice with smoky notes.  Smooth on the palate.  Classic claret.

2014 Gut Oggau Joshuari - the Joshuari came courtesy of, funnily enough, someone named Josh... Minty, peppery, pimenton, pine needle notes.  Showing cool fruit.  Reminds of Loire reds like Chinon but also a little of Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage.

This was a lot of food... and a lot of wine. The dishes were somewhat familiar to me, yet many were eye-opening.  Good to see that the restaurant cared about ingredient sourcing, which was educational for me.

When it came time to settle the bill, we were informed that in addition to treating us to two bottles of wine, that the meal itself would also be on the house.  This seemed a little excessive (and certainly a little uncomfortable for me), and eventually we agreed to leave a tip for the staff.  Many thanks to the restaurant owner for the kind treat - for which I was most certainly undeserving.

1 comment:

Gaia said...

The homemade sausage looks good.


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