April 2, 2018

Eating with chefs: breakfast with Pia

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Last night I got a ping from Ricardo asking for recommendations for dim sum breakfast.  Virgilio Martinez and Pía Léon were in town checking on the progress of their upcoming restaurant - which would be located across the street from my office - and they wanted to go somewhere traditional for an "authentic" experience.  In addition to Luk Yu Tea House (陸羽茶室) that Ricardo was considering, I also thought that Lin Heung Tea House (蓮香樓) could be an interesting alternative.  After all, Alain Ducasse did tag along when I took the Foodalist there for lunch with the owners.

Ricardo thought that things might be better if they had a local with them, so Hello Kitty and I dragged our asses out of bed this morning and met the visitors in the lobby of their hotel.  After presenting them with the two options - each with its pros and cons - it was decided that we would enjoy the tranquility of Luk Yu a little more...

It was around 9 a.m. and already a line of chauffeur-driven cars were parked outside the restaurant.  Being nobodies, we were immediately stopped by the doorman - who motioned for us to take the side entrance to go upstairs.

One orders by ticking off a list, and I jokingly handed it to Ricardo...  The dim sum here is pretty old school, with many items not seen on other menus around town - with the exception of Lin Heung down the street.

Deep fried spring rolls with shredded beef (牛柳絲春卷)

Crispy fried wontons (五柳脆雲吞) - came with a sweet-and-sour dipping sauce that our visitors liked so much... that they ended up dipping lots of items in it.

Steamed fried rice with shrimp wrapped in lotus leaf (鮮蝦荷葉飯)

Steamed spare ribs in Chinese bean sauce (柱侯蒸排骨) - interesting to see this come with chu hou paste (柱侯醬) instead of the usual black bean sauce.

Steamed shrimp dumpling (笋尖鮮蝦餃) - the wrappers were surprisingly thin and delicate.

Steamed pork "shumai" topped with pork liver slice (釀豬膶燒賣) - an iconic dim sum item this place is known for.  In the old days only rich people could afford to have dim sum which came with large slices of pig's liver.  Even today, this decadent treat seems a little out of place...

Steamed shrimp "shumai" (脯魚蝦燒賣)

Steamed "fun guo" with shrimps and bamboo shoots (家鄉蒸粉菓) - pretty nice.

Steamed beef "shumai" with hand chopped beef (鮮牛肉燒賣)

Shrimp and BBQ pork pie (蝦仁鴛鴦酥) - never seen this before.

Puff pastry with BBQ pork and fish (叉燒石斑夾) - never seen this anywhere else, either...

Steamed mushroom stuffed with shrimp paste (百花釀鮮菇) - very nice.

Deep fried sesame cookies with lotus seed filling (香麻笑口棗) - very crunchy on the outside.

Cantonese egg tart (崧化雞蛋撻) - old school with puff pastry crust.  Just the way I like 'em.

Steamed water chestnut and osmanthus cake (桂花生蹄糕) - our visitors seemed to like this.

Steamed bun with mashed lotus and egg yolk filling (香滑蓮蓉包) - Pia seemed to like this.

While it is Pia's first trip to Hong Kong, it seems that they do enjoy eating dim sum in Lima - so they're not entirely unfamiliar.  I liked watching them try out each dish, and also enjoyed watching the interaction between them.

We were done but Ricardo had his heart set on introducing Pia to some steamed brown sugar sponge cake (馬拉糕), which they didn't have today.  So I suggested that we stroll down to Lin Heung, which also allows our visitors to get a glimpse of what they passed up today.

By the time we arrived - which was now past 10 a.m. - there were of course no available seats... never mind an entire table.  I ventured solo into the crowd, trying to run down a push cart bearing the sponge cake so I could buy one for takeout.  No luck.  And I had no idea when the right cart would be coming out of the kitchen... so we gave up and left.

After taking our visitors to Chan Yee Jai (陳意齋) so that they could bring some traditional local snacks back home, we said our goodbyes and wished them a safe trip home.  Hopefully we'll see them in June when ICHU opens around the same time that Central opens at their new location...

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