February 19, 2021

Disappointing Russian department store

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I haven't been so disappointed in a restaurant in a long, long time. 

After the start of the Year of the Ox, we finally stopped working from home and working life went back to "normal".  I decided to take the team - the ones who are in Hong Kong, anyway - to lunch to kick off the new year.  While I originally thought about going somewhere just across the street from our office, I decided to venture a few blocks further and booked ourselves into Restaurant de Chine (中華匯館).  It's been 3 years since my last visit, but these guys have always delivered.  

What a mistake that was.

While I wanted to treat the team to a nice lunch, I was still a little conscious of budget since I'm not the boss, so I avoided any dish which charged per serving.  At a place like this, though, I still expected to come out happy without ordering anything really premium.

The trouble started when I began ordering.  A couple of dishes I wanted weren't available.  Then a couple more.  I got frustrated and asked our server point-blank which dishes I was able to order.  She didn't know.  After thinking that I was done ordering, she came back to the table to tell me that two more dishes were unavailable.

At this point I turned to specific menu pages and asked her to recommend substitutes for the dishes that weren't available.  On a particular page, only 2 or 3 options were available out of 10.  It was the same with another page.  She recommended dishes which were either charging by the serving (read: expensive) or completely uninteresting to me.  The restaurant manager, who undoubtedly was in a better position to help me order, was too chicken shit to come face the wrath that was building in me.  I was having déjà vu of this dinner from many years ago...

Barbecued Kagoshima Chami pork (鹿兒島茶美豚叉燒) - the best dish today.  At least they never disappoint with this one... The marbling just make it so tender and tasty.

Steamed Shanghai dumpling "xiao long bao" (灌湯小籠包) - this was OK.

Steamed shrimp dumpling with bamboo shoot (筍尖鮮蝦餃) - this was OK.

Crispy beef dumpling with spring onion (薑蔥牛肉角) - if you wrapped wonton skin around a beef meatball and then deep-fried it, why would you then douse some sauce all over the dumpling so that the wrapper becomes soggy?  Just doesn't make any sense.

Deep-fried Bombay duck with spicy salt (脆炸九肚魚) - Bombay duck is always very, very tender.  Too bad I didn't remember from my last experience that they use too much batter here, and that the batter soaks up too much oil from the frying.

Crispy pork fillet with pineapple in sweet and sour sauce (菠蘿咕嚕肉) - FAIL.  The pork used here was of poor quality.  Not only was the batter not crispy, it also tasted off.  And the canned pineapple they used was pretty crap.

Sautéed prawn with spicy sauce (乾燒明蝦球) - I usually don't bother to order this dish, but the lack of other options gave me little choice.  This was just so-so.

Fried glutinous rice with assorted preserved meat (生炒臘味糯米飯) - the flavors of the various preserved sausages were fine, but the consistency of the rice was just a little too wet for my liking.

Wok-fried string bean with termite mushroom (油雞樅法邊豆) - the string beans were under-seasoned while the termite mushrooms were over-seasoned.

A really disappointing meal, and I was rather embarrassed to have taken the kids to such a mediocre meal. I know the manager tried to make up for the lack of dish choices by not charging us service charge, but I just don't think there is any reason to come back here.

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