December 12, 2018

Snake and other winter warmers

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I've been waiting for this dinner for a long, long time.  My favorite private kitchen relocated a few months ago, and somehow I haven't managed to return for more than half a year.  As the weather has turned cold and the snakes have fattened up for the winter, it was high time that I came back.  So I rounded up the usual suspects for a feast.  It's been so long since I was last here that I didn't even bother changing anything on the menu that the chef proposed...

Crystal king prawn (玻璃大蝦球) - it's been a while, but I'm always happy to have these giant prawns.

The texture was good, with that nice balance between crunchiness and tenderness.

Stir-fried tripe with mixed vegetables (七彩炒肚尖) - another one of my favorite dishes here, but tonight this was a little wet.  Still love the springiness of the stomach tip.

Traditional Buddha jumps over the wall (古法佛跳牆) - another one of our favorite dishes, full of the classic luxe ingredients in Cantonese cuisine - minus shark's fin, of course!

I love all the gelatin on the plate coming from fish maw, pig's tendon, and spiny sea cucumber.  While the dish was still very delicious - and we needed some steamed rice to soak up all the thick, gelatinous sauce - I found my piece of spiny sea cucumber to be undercooked... meaning it wasn't as soft and melt-in-your-mouth as usual.

Imperial scholar's five-snake soup (太史五蛇羹) - and THIS, of course, is why we came.  This is the favorite snake soup among all the versions I have tasted - including the version from Chef Lee Yuk-lam (李煜霖).  The knifework is so fine, and the flavors here pack a punch without being too salty or heavy.  I told myself before dinner that I was only going to have one bowl... but that didn't happen.

Steamed wild sole (清蒸海方利) - one always gets a piece from the back as well as a piece from the wing.  The execution was on point tonight.

Traditional salt-baked chicken (古法鹽焗雞) - the chicken here is always good, regardless of which preparation one chooses.  The added benefit of having salt-baked chicken is that the giblets come along for a ride... and I love giblets.

Stir-fried pea shoots with liver sausage (膶腸炒豆苗) - it was love at first sight for me... when I had this dish for the first time 2 years ago.  Pea shoots are absolutely beautiful when they are in season, and smothering them in a gravy made of Cantonese liver sausage is nothing short of sinful.

Fried glutinous rice with preserved meats (生炒糯米飯) - winter is my favorite season to come here, in part because of this dish.  Every year I long for the cold season when chefs around town start to serve up their preserved meats and sausages, and this glorious fried rice starts to show up on menus.  I did keep to just a small bowl tonight...

Almond cream with lotus seeds and egg white (蓮子蛋白杏仁茶)

Naturally, we brought a few bottles to dinner, but ended up being pretty civilized in terms of consumption.

2015 Kongsgaard Chardonnay - very ripe, very sweet, almost vanilla and candy.

2004 Perrot-Minot Mazoyeres Chambertin Vieilles Vignes - this was OK, but not particularly memorable for me.  Still a little tannic.

2000 Bahans-Haut-Brion, en magnum - decanted for 30 minutes prior to serving.  Still tight, with a bit of smoke.  Oaky with good concentration.

1982 Cos d'Estournel - decanted for one hour prior to serving.  Very nice and fragrant, with open nose showing smoky notes.

Very, very happy to be back here tonight after a long absence. I really do need to come back more often!

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