November 24, 2021

Out of quarantine

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The Compatriot is back in town after more than a year, and I was so looking forward to seeing him that I took him out to dinner on his first day out after the 21-day hotel quarantine.  I figured he would be missing some good Chinese food, so Howard's Gourmet (好酒好蔡) was my choice for that all-important first dinner.

I asked the restaurant not to serve us any shark's fin, but otherwise the menu was set by the chef based on seasonal ingredients. I was curious to see what we would be getting tonight.

Chaozhou snacks (時令兩小菜) included preserved radish with diced pork (菜脯肉丁) - which was fatty, crunchy, and chewy - as well as bamboo shoots marinated with chili.

Chef's espresso (特色暖胃湯) is a staple here, and tonight this was made with pumpkin, carrots, and potatoes. Certainly does the job of warming one's stomach in advance of the dishes coming our way.

Deep-fried crispy crab cake, seaweed (一口香) - this was something I tasted earlier this year. The deep-fried crab cake was very crispy and tasty, especially the savory crab meat. The laver on top was also very, very nice... and is a signature of Chiuchow cuisine.

Chaozhou pan-fried silvery pomfret (潮州煎鷹鯧) - this was pretty good, but I was rather hoping for a little more.

We were presented with a selection of white truffle, and told that the shaving will be done outside the dining room.

"Alba" white truffle, fish maw, scramble organic egg (白松露啫喱蛋) - this was pretty interesting. Scrambled eggs and white truffle is a classic pairing, and of course they have to make it into something Chinese by adding fish maw.

I gotta say that this was pretty nice. The strips of braised fish maw were nice and soft, and added a nice texture to the mix.

Double-boiled sea whelk, green olive (青欖燉海螺) - I'm generally not a fan of olives, but I thought that having this in the soup was kinda interesting.

Fresh crabmeat, stewed winter melon, abalone sauce (鮮拆蟹肉鮑汁焗冬瓜) - this was delicious. The block of winter melon was very tasty, thanks to the abalone sauce. The lovely flavors of the crab claw on top really came through.

Charcoal roasted chicken, herbs (香草烤雞配香茅薑蓉醬) - I really didn't expect this to be one of the best dishes tonight, but the chicken drumstick was really, really tasty. The crispy skin, the tender meat, and the fragrance of the herbs...

Wok-fried Chaozhou pak choi, preserved salty meat (四川腊肉炒奶白菜) - now, this was interesting... I know that the dish is meant to showcase the quality of the bok choy (白菜), but I thought the kitchen went too far with under-seasoning the vegetable. Yes, the nice and smoky preserved pork (腊肉) would provide the salt for the dish, but I wish there would have been a little more salt to really bring out the sweetness of the bok choy.

HG signature hot and sour noodles (酸辣手工麵) - I loved these noodles from my last visit, and still enjoyed them very much tonight. I particularly loved the shredded Chiuchow-style pork sausage (潮汕豬肉餅) on top, and the heat of the soup was just within my tolerance.

Guava mousse, birds nest (胭脂紅官燕) - I do love that tasty pink guava.

A very civilized evening in terms of wine, but also rather disappointing.

1997 Sine Qua Non Twisted and Bent - 60% roussanne and 40% chardonnay. Decanted and served immediately. Wonderfully fragrant nose, initially lots of sugar cane, very floral with lots of orange blossom. Unfortunately this wine was much too oxidized, and the color was already orange. Finish was very short with metallic notes. The metallic flavors got more prominent with the pomfret. With more aeration the nose became toasty, and showed lots of coffee and mocha. Loved the wine for its nose all the way till the end, more than 3 hours later.

1988 Bernard Dugat Charmes-Chambertin - served undecanted 1½ hours after opening. Big and very savory nose, with soy sauce and tapenade notes. Also stewed prunes.

I was so happy to see my friend tonight, and have the chance to catch up in person after all this time. We would have the opportunity to dine together a few times over the next couple of months, and I look forward to sharing more experiences with him.

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