September 19, 2021

Save the worst for last

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Ever since I saw someone post a picture of a certain popsicle, I have been wanting to come back to Forum Restaurant (富臨飯店) just so I could get a taste of it. For one reason or another, things just haven't worked out with scheduling, and I was beginning to worry that I wouldn't be able to come before this seasonal summer item is taken off the menu. Thankfully, though, I was able to grab a couple of friends to join us for dim sum today.

From my visits earlier in the year, I have always been suitably impressed by the service level here, which I felt was appropriate for a restaurant carrying 3 Michelin stars. It would prove no different today, as the service staff asked us whether the kitchen should arrange to serve dishes in portions of 4 where there would originally be only 3.

Braised goose web with mushroom (北菰炆鵝掌) - pretty good, and I had some collagen sticking to my lips. There was so much sauce leftover that The Great One insisted we save them so that we can use them for other dishes.

Deep-fried taro dumpling with foie gras (鵝肝芋角酥) - these looked really beautiful, and the taro mash had obviously been deep-fried at very high heat to make the layers of the shell so fluffy. The filling included rich and creamy foie gras and mushrooms. This was really, really beautiful and delicious, and just about perfect...  Until that very last bite, when I tasted baking soda. This is really my pet peeve when it comes to this dish. That foul and disgusting taste just ruined the whole experience for me. What a shame!

Deep-fried radish cake stuffed with preserved meat (蘿蔔絲酥餅) - this was really, really good. Of course the flaky pastry - with its many layers - was outstanding, but it's nothing I haven't seen before. The real star was the filling, which included bits of Chinese celery that delivered a nice fragrance permeating in the mouth and served to balance out the greasy taste. There were also tiny bits of ham and dried shrimp that also brought their fragrance to the mix.

Steamed pork dumpling with Hokkaido scallop (北海道帶子燒賣皇) - I would normally scoff at the sight of caviar on dim sum items, but in this case I must admit that the fish eggs did work well with the scallops, lending their salty flavor profile to the sweet shellfish.

Ah Yat steamed premium shrimp dumpling (阿一蝦餃皇) - I finally decided to make use of the leftover sauce by drizzling it on the dumpling. The dumplings were impeccably done. Yum.

Pan-fried glutinous rice with conpoy, scallop and chicken (鳳凰煎米雞) - my jaw kinda dropped when these arrived. They looked like a couple of bricks of gold that I could throw at someone, and I could imagine that they would sit in our stomachs like a ton of bricks... since they were covered with salted egg yolk on the outside.

Very crispy on the outside, and inside we've got tons of conpoy (瑶柱), dried shrimps, squid, what seemed to be duck, and of course chicken. So, sooo delicious. But the portion was just so big!

Crispy rice roll stuffed with scallop (南澳帶子脆米腸) - this was very nice, too. I always love it when there's a crispy layer inside steamed rice flour rolls, and here the scallops stuffed inside had a nice and springy texture, too.

Pan-fried turnip cake with iberico ham (西班牙火腿蘿蔔糕) - this was very savory, and the bits of jamón ibérico were very fragrant and tasty.

Pan-fried Huangqiao sesame cake (黃橋燒餅) - I would always order this whenever it's on the menu, and today there were so many sesame seeds on the outside that they formed a very crunchy, fragrant shell. Absolutely awesome.

I do have to say, though, that when we ordered this item - and we tend to order in multiple rounds so that dishes don't come all at the same time - the server who took our order neglected to check if we wanted to make it into a plate of 4. A small service fail for a 3-star.

Deep-fried baby squid stuffed with minced shrimp and leek (韮皇百花釀鮮魷) - I was pleasantly surprised by this. The slices of squid came with minced shrimp paste, and both the flavors as well as the textures were great. Tender, springy, with the right amount of bite. The yellowed chives added a nice amount of fragrance in the mouth.

There was only one dessert I would pick today, and that would be the mandarin peel red bean soup ice pop (陳皮紅豆沙雪條), which was made together with N*ICE POPS. After the first sighting on social media, I started to see different so-called KOLs take turns posting about this. Some even started to dip this into a bowl of warm mandarin peel red bean soup, making it into a "chaud-froid" experience. Alas, by the time we got around to ordering, we were told that the restaurant no longer had any red bean soup for us.

With the first bite of this popsicle, it was still pretty frozen and hard, and eating this would take some effort for some. In addition to just the red bean mash, there was a reasonable number of red beans frozen into this thing. They were pretty hard. And tasteless. Which was the real surprise of the day. THE WHOLE THING WAS JUST FUCKING BLAND!

OK, with the first few bites, we were all amazed at the fragrance of aged mandarin peel, but this went away pretty quickly... so by the time we were a third of the way through, our taste buds had been sufficiently numbed by the cold temperature and this was getting increasingly boring. The one thing I had looked forward to the most for his meal - and in fact the primary reason of why I am here - had turned out to be a total disappointment. Was this a cruel joke?!

I soon realized why people have been dipping these into bowls of hot red bean soup. It wasn't because they wanted the chaud-froid sensation. It was because only the soup had sufficient flavor and enough sweetness. Aside for not having enough red bean flavor, the popsicle wasn't even sweet.

So here's the lesson of the day, which I have clearly forgotten: Don't always believe what you see on social media. All the KOLs posting and ooohing and aaaaahing over something can turn out to be absolutely bullshit. Just because they posted about it doesn't mean they liked it. Maybe they couldn't bring themselves to publicly voice their displeasure, as there aren't too many people who are as honest as yours truly. I did, afterwards, ask some trusted friends who have tried it. In private, away from all the social media bullshit, they told me straight out that they found it tasteless, too. They didn't like it as there was no flavor, and wouldn't order it again - especially not at the price we were charged. When chefs tell you in private that they would prefer something found in convenience stores all around town at less than 1/10 of the price... it is truly a massive FAIL.

I decided to take it easy on the alcohol today. Only one bottle for the four of us.

2012 Michel Niellon Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Chenevottes - ripe but still has good acidity on the palate. Very buttery on the nose. Drinking well now.

Up until dessert, we really had a very happy and enjoyable lunch. The restaurant is certainly worthy of its three macarons, and I'd be happy to return more regularly. Just won't be ordering that damn popsicle ever again.

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