August 13, 2021

Dinner under the stars, HK edition

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I was pleasantly surprised by the dishes I enjoyed at Mian (紅棉) a couple of months ago, and I thought I would find an opportunity to take Sankala here as the mix of spicy Sichuan dishes with regular Cantonese fare would interest her. We had also heard about the outdoor seating available at the restaurant, where diners could bring their dogs along. That appealed to us very much, and we made plans to bring our CC so she could meet up with Piper and Winnie the Chew. We knew that our booking was highly dependent on the weather and that the table would be cancelled in case it rained. It didn't matter. It was dinner with the doggies or bust.

The weather had been a little unstable over the last couple of days, and even during the day I received messages from the restaurant showing me that some of the outdoor furniture was still wet from the rain. Thankfully it stayed dry from the afternoon till evening, and we were enjoy to enjoy having dinner under the stars. Thanks to the weather which led to the recent spate of rain, the evening turned out to be pretty breezy. We sat outdoors in mid-August with no fan or aircon, and didn't even break a single drop of sweat.

I had gone through the menu and chosen a few dishes I thought we should try, which did not include anything requiring pre-orders.

Boneless silky fowl and chicken fillets ∙ spring onion ∙ dan dan sauce (擔擔鴛鴦雞) - I thought this was pretty decent the last time I came, and I thought the presentation was certainly interesting. Sankala wasn't impressed, and thought it was just designed for Instagram. Of course, she doesn't like most chicken dishes in Hong Kong...

Jade lettuce ∙ wasabi (日本鮮山葵玉玲瓏) - while Sankala and I really love celtuce (萵筍), this was really, really bland and disappointing.

Braised crispy sea cucumber ∙ shallots ∙ shrimp roe (蝦籽蔥燒脆遼參) - I wanted to see how they handle crispy sea cucumber, so I picked this one for myself.

I thought the execution was pretty good, as the sea cucumber was nice and crispy. Came with two chunks of giant leeks on the side. Unfortunately the serving temperature was off, and it was just lukewarm.

Sichuan style boiled ∙ tiger grouper ∙ assorted chili (沸騰老虎斑) - I really liked this the last time I was here, and I figured Sankala and the Zhongmeister would like it, too. I wasn't wrong. The great thing about this dish is that you get the spicy kick and numbing flavors, but it's not over the top and wouldn't blow your head off. You can actually drink the soup, unlike the traditional Sichuanese fish in chili oil (水煮肉). I still like the udon and loofah.

The problem with this dish, though, is that it comes with brown-marbled grouper (老虎斑), which is listed as "Avoid" in the World Wildlife Fund's Seafood Guide. The alternative of leopard coral trout (東星斑) isn't any better. Sigh.

Ox tongue and tendon ∙ chili pepper broth (椒香清湯牛筋厚切牛脷) - I wanted an encore of this, too. The beef and tendon were certainly very tender, and there is just enough erjintiao (二荊條) chili to deliver that wonderful fragrance and kick, again without setting the tongue on fire. My only complaint is that the portion was slightly on the small side.

Baked Japan Kagoshima pork chop rice ∙ organic tomato ∙ egg (有機蕃茄焗日本黑豚豬扒飯配雞蛋) - I thought Sankala should try this, even though I was half-expecting her to pick out the faults thanks to her high standards for this. After all, she did spend some time researching the best way to make this herself, and did a couple of runs at home with premium pork chop and nice, organic eggs.

So... yeah, she wasn't blown away. She didn't think the pork itself was that special - which is fair, since we also used high quality ingredient. Her main objection seemed to be that the rice itself was too wet, as her preference was for the rice grains to be more dry to deliver more bite. For those of us who aren't as picky, this was a pretty good version.

Seasonal vegetables ∙ fish soup ∙ bean curd sheets (魚湯本地鮮腐竹浸時令蔬菜) - we were in need of veggies, and this came with 9-year-old lily bulbs, mustard stems, and choy sum (菜心) in addition to the tofu sheets and goji (枸杞) berries. Portion was a little on the small side, and we probably should have asked for more. But then again, we were pretty full by now.

Crispy fresh milk custard ∙ sweet rose jam (玫瑰鍋炸) - this was pretty good, especially with the very fragrant rose jam on top.

Baileys egg tart (百利酒蛋撻) - I was very, very happy with these. The flavors of Baileys Irish Cream was pretty prominent. I'd definitely order these again.

Naturally, we brought along a few bottles of wine. I don't have a problem paying corkage, even when it's HKD 500 a bottle. But when you charge me this much for corkage, I expect the restaurant to have staff who knows something about wine, and knows how to handle bottles beyond extracting the cork. This is certainly not the case at this establishment.

I brought a bottle of red that was more than 20 years old, and asked to have it decanted to get rid of the sediment. Before the manager-looking-dude started to pour the wine, I had told him that there was likely to be a lot of sediment in the bottle. Well, he clearly didn't understand that wine can have sediment, because he poured just about the entire bottle into the decanter... and I was too late to stop him. Needless to say, I was a little upset... but not enough to make a scene.

2015 Penfolds Yattarna - toasty, coffee, beautiful nose with flinty notes. Good depth on the palate.

2013 Roche de Bellene Meursault Vieilles Vignes - acidity was pretty high and definitely astringent on the palate.

1998 du Pegau Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Da Capo - decanted for 1½ hours prior to serving. Very ripe and a little jammy. Still tannic thanks to the sediment.

We had a really enjoyable evening. The food was pretty good, it was nice to sit comfortably outdoors to enjoy the breeze, and CC got to hang out with us during dinner at a proper restaurant. We even ran into Lord and Lady Rayas, who were staying at the hotel with their dog. It was a shame that the Zhongmeister didn't bring Piper along, as that would have been perfect. Oh well, maybe next time!

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