March 18, 2021

Plus ça change

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I am unable to celebrate mom's birthday for a second year in a row, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.  I know mom misses hugging me, but there isn't much to be done.  So this year, at Sankala's excellent suggestion, I decided to order up a few dishes that would remind me of home.  I figured that there was no better place to do that than Liu Yuan Pavilion (留園雅聚), where they don't disappoint.

It's been 7 years since my last visit, and I can see that not much has changed.  While the restaurant has upgraded the physical menu books to something a little nicer than what I remembered, the contents seem to be pretty much the same - down to the Engrish translations.

Something else has also remained the same - the speed at which dishes come out from the kitchen.  This has, apparently, not improved with the award of a Michelin star.  Four of the five dishes I ordered arrived within 5 minutes of each other, and hot vegetable dishes arrived before cold appetizers.  Old school restaurants like this just don't give a flying fuck.

Stewed vegetables with dried bean curd (馬蘭頭) - something that mom can't really get in Taiwan, so we always order it whenever she's in Hong Kong.  Sankala also loves the distinct, fragrant flavors of Indian aster.  Thanks to the amount of work that is required to get all the ingredients down to this size, Sankala doesn't feel the need to make this at home.

Fired shrimps with sweet sauce (油爆蝦) - hmmm... what was the reason that these shrimps got "fired", and who did the firing?  Well, regardless of reason, this was something I absolutely love since I was a kid.  Give me tiny river shrimps over giant tiger prawns any day, and I love the sweet sauce, too.  Ate most of these with the heads and shells on.

Braised Shanghai cabbage with bean curd skin (百頁唐菜) - this was fine, but just came way, waaaay too early.

Drunken pigeon (花雕醉乳鴿) - another dish Sankala loves to order up, and they do a pretty good job here.  Very tender.

Braised meat balls with vegetables in casserole (砂鍋獅子頭) - I was bummed that the lighter Yangzhou meat balls (楊州獅子頭) had to be pre-ordered, as that's closer in style to mom's giant meat balls.  These were fine, but the liberal use of soy sauce was a little too much for my liking.

I brought a simple bottle from mom's vintage, but as it was a dessert wine, we didn't drink too much of it over this very quick dinner.

1943 Sisqueille Rivesaltes, mis en bouteille 2012 - very nutty, lots of medjool dates, and marmalade.

With the current rollout of vaccines, I'm hoping I won't miss another one of mom's birthdays.

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