May 2, 2019

Why I don't go to brand new restaurants, episode 2

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Mikacina is in town for a few days, and we figured we'd take her out for some Cantonese food.  The Great One had two new places she needed to review, and suggested that we tag along with her.  Apparently one of the hotels wasn't picking up the phone when she tried to call, so we ended up getting at table at Rùn (潤) in the brand new St. Regis Hong Kong.

Since I knew absolutely nothing about the restaurant, I did a quick search on the chef. Apparently Chef Hung Chi-Kwong (洪志光) was last at Man Wah (文華廳) in the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, and Cuisine Cuisine (國金軒) at the Mira before that.  Although neither are among my handful of favorites, both are quality establishments I've enjoyed dining in.  So I was very curious about the offerings.

Hello Kitty and I arrived a little after Mikacina and The Great One.  They had a welcome drink sitting in front of them, but I guess the staff just didn't remember to bring ours.  Or maybe you only get it when you're on time for your reservation.

The four of us tried to flip through the menu, but honestly at first glance it didn't look very inspiring.  As with a first visit to any decent Cantonese restaurant, we wanted to try out their char siu (叉燒).  We were told they had run out.  This was before 8 p.m. on a week night, and that's just not acceptable.  I had flashbacks of this meal from a few years ago...

We started with a couple of amuse bouche:

Green beans with sesame sauce

Deep-fried shrimp cake with spicy sauce - we were told that this was drenched in "Singaporean sauce (星洲汁)", but what the hell is that???

Two of the ladies ordered gin and tonic, but each preferred a different type of gin.  We caught the waiter sniffing the glasses to try to figure out which gin was in each glass before the drinks were brought to our table.  Not cool.

Roasted crispy pork belly (脆皮燒腩仔) - this was OK.  The crackling on top was fine, if slightly more charred than expected.  But where was the layer of fat between the crackling and the lean meat?

Marinated shredded fish maw, Sichuan style (麻辣花膠) - came with shredded carrots, cucumbers, wood ear fungus, and seasoned with Sichuan peppercorns.  Kinda interesting I guess.

Deep-fried ice fish, garlic, seaweed (海苔酥炸銀魚) - there was way too much batter here, which soaked up a lot of grease.  Also much too salty.

Pan-fried bean curd, shrimp mousse, morel mushroom, bamboo fungus (羊肚菌竹笙琵琶豆腐) - this was by far the best dish we ordered.  Loved the morels on top.  Nice and smoky flavors.

Roasted whole crispy baby pigeon (自家製古法乳鴿) - sadly this was far from what we had hoped for.  Very dry, not much seasoning, and no flavor in the meat itself.

Baked pork spare rib, brown sauce (醬燒焗豬肋排) - again, this was very dry.  There was also far too little meat on the bones... and basically like just some crust on the bones with a little spice on it.

Fried vermicelli, crab meat, shredded pork, egg (肉絲桂花蟹肉炒米粉) - I love fried vermicelli so I was really looking forward to it.  Unfortunately the seasoning was very heavy-handed, and there was also way, way too much grease.

We decided to cut our losses and not order dessert, so the waiter brought us the petits fours.

Pine nut cookies (松子酥) - these were soooo good!   So fragrant!

Osmanthus and wolfberry jelly (杞子桂花糕) - nice and refreshing.

So this is the problem with going to a restaurant when it's still new. Many people who don't know me well enough - but who know I enjoy eating - often ask me when they see me what new restaurants I've checked out lately.  Friends who actually know me well, however, all know that I hardly visit new restaurants within 3 to 6 months after opening.  Most restaurants actually aren't ready during this period, and either the food or the service will prove disappointing - or both.  And if I'm paying with my hard-earned money for meals, why would I go to a place where the risk of failure is high?

As tonight's experience showed - when the petits fours that we got for free tasted than most of the dishes we ordered and paid for - it may not be a happy ending.  Just ask my friends who went with me to this new restaurant which, a year and a half later - has shuttered.

P.S. The official review from The Great One is here.

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