November 13, 2021

The bird with the golden wing

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Thanks to a friend who miscalculated regarding her quarantine stay, the Great One was offered a coveted table at Wing (永), the Chinese restaurant run by Vicky Cheng (鄭永麒) of VEA. This has been one of the hottest new places in town, and seats have been impossible to come by since the very beginning. I am never in a hurry to visit new restaurants, especially when they're so busy it would take some effort just to get a table. So it worked out pretty perfectly when the Great One asked us to join her tonight... with the added bonus of being able to seeing Sweetheart.

Knowing Vicky's penchant to ply us with tons of food, the Great One apparently did ask that he try not to kill us. Of course, we got a ton of food, anyway...

Abalone • Yunnan chili • bull kelp (南非鮑魚配雲南皺皮椒及海茸) - the abalone was slow-cooked for 5 hours, and indeed turned out to be very tender. The chili peppers from Yunnan added a little kick.

There was a dish with fish cum, but of course I didn't touch it with the proverbial 10-foot pole.

Smoked eggplant • house made sour sauce (煙燻酸汁茄子) - the eggplant was smoked with apple wood, and the strips are then braided together for this beautiful presentation. The diced shallots and chili, together with an acidic sauce, made for an interesting "salsa".

Chilled local chicken (永明雞脾) - the Wing Ming Chicken (永明雞) is a cross-breed between French (dunno which bread) and Shiqi Chicken (石岐雞). Apparently raised without hormones, this delivered the flavors that Sankala feels is missing from most chickens she sees today. She was a real happy camper, and now wants to buy them for cooking at home.

Stinky tofu tiger prawn toast (臭豆腐虎蝦多士) - so this was the second Chinese meal in a row with the Great One where I was served stinky tofu.

This was kinda interesting in that instead of just having a layer of prawn paste on top of the toast, we've got this thick piece of stinky tofu and the whole thing was coated in batter. Not too stinky when one actually put the thing in one's mouth.

Yellow croaker fish maw soup • snow vegetable (雪菜花膠黃魚湯) - Vicky loves serving up fish maw, and he's done a pretty good job rehydrating and cooking this ingredient. Here we've got a delicious, milky soup made with yellow croaker, along with some fine julienne of bamboo shoots and diced preserved mustard greens (雪裡蕻). Very comforting and totally warms the stomach.

Crispy tilefish • leek • soy sauce (煎蒸脆鱗馬頭) - now THIS was impressive! TWO whole tilefish that has been steamed and pan-fried... with the scales left on and turned crispy by ladling hot oil on the fish over and over.

This tasted every bit as good as I was expecting. I wish there was more for me...

Crab shell stuff with hairy crab roe and Alaskan king crab meat (手拆大閘蟹粉配皇帝蟹肉釀蟹蓋) - we were told that these Shanghainese hairy crabs (大閘蟹) weighed in at 7 taels each, but a few of us felt they looked kinda small. The nice thing was that the legs and the claws - which were salt-baked with beef fat and perilla - were all prepped for us so that we didn't have to do the hard work of getting at the meat.

Stuffed crab shell is one of the classic dishes in Cantonese cuisine, and here the shell came not only with hairy crab meat but also Alaskan king crab. Breaded and baked. Yum.

We were served some delicious marinated longan (龍眼) to accompany the crab.

Baby pigeon • cane sugar (煙燻蔗汁乳鴿) - I had heard many people rave about this pigeon, so I was naturally happy to see it on the menu. The smoke filled the air as soon as the top of the steamer was lifted. But wait! Why did I have to urge to suddenly hum 'One of these things is not like the others...'?

Well, it turns out Vicky had a special treat for me. Continuing a joke that is now a few years old, he decided to wrap my half of the pigeon in gold foil. I was requested to pose with my special bird by just about half the table, and I did have to explain to someone that the reason I get gold on my food is I absolutely love to shit glitter...

As we all know, gold foil has no flavor, so thankfully this had no impact on the taste of the pigeon itself. It was a tasty little bird, but I cannot bring myself to agree with the Great One that this version is the best in town. I'll be going back for my favorite version in a couple of weeks.

Oh, and not long after Sankala posted a picture of this bird during dinner, someone on social media wondered whether this was the elusive and mythical 金翅仆街鳥...

Fragrant chili lamb stew • rice cake (家常香辣年糕羊腩煲) - the lamb from Ningxia (寧夏) was very, very fatty and tasty. We've also got  pig intestines, bamboo shoots, and rice cakes here.

Chinese mustard hearts (芥菜膽) - seeing that this meal was very protein-heavy, Vicky decided to send us a little bite of veggies.

Preserved chicken tail and matsutake stewed rice (臘雞尾松茸鍋飯) - now THIS was just pandering to the hostess. Anyone who knows the Great One knows that she loves chasing (chicken) ass, and we've got 9 of them for the 8 of us!

I gotta say, though, that the chicken ass did taste pretty damn good after going through the preservation process and dry-aged for 30 days. The matsutake (松茸) were still decent in terms of fragrance.

Bird's nest • Japanese pear • mandarin peel (陳皮燕窩燉南水梨) - the ring of poached Nansui Pear (南水梨) came with bird's nest and a soup made with aged mandarin peel (陳皮). Garnished with little bits of 20-year-old aged mandarin peel and foxnuts (雞頭米).

OK, so this is where we knew the front-of-house paid attention, and the kitchen reacted to do something special. Sankala had told the staff that they could skip her portion of dessert as she doesn't eat sweets. So while the rest of us were slurping on our bird's nest, she got a deep-fried spinyhead croaker (獅頭魚) - butterflied and the bones removed. As it turned out, this is a cherished childhood memory for Sankala, and there was no way the staff could have known how much this little fish meant to her.

The fruit selection tonight included some winter jujube (冬棗), Thai pomelo, and Japanese musk melon. There was also a big bunch of Japanese black grapes but I didn't ask the specific cultivar.

Well, sweet fruit is something else that Sankala doesn't enjoy. Somewhere along the line, the front-of-house staff overheard her saying that Taiwanese guava is one of the few fruits she would eat, so they got someone to run out to a fruit stall and bought one just for her.

If I didn't know better, I would think that they were really trying to suck up to her... That's some major, personalized, VIP service... for someone who isn't a VIP!

Donuts with jujube cream (紅棗冬甩) - I told Vicky that I didn't taste any jujube inside the donut. I guess it was there, but too little to wake up my taste buds...

Black sesame mochi (黑芝麻麻糬) - these were pretty good.

We were surprisingly light in terms of alcohol consumption - at least not until the very end.

Pierre Baillette Le Village Premier Cru, dégorgée en novembre 2020 - very moussy, toasty, and a little caramelized. Compliments of the chef.

2002 Egly-Ouriet, dégorgée en mai 2013 - toasty, caramelized with a little sugar cane on the nose. Good acidity and lovely on the palate.

2014 William Fevre Chablis Les Clos, en magnum - definitely on the lean side as expected, and worked well with the dishes.

2017 J. Cacheux Vosne-Romanée Les Genaivrières - lovely and floral nose with leather, animal notes. Beautiful with plenty of toast, and some eucalyptus. I was surprised that such a young wine was drinking so well. Compliments of the chef.

2001 Kracher Scheurebe Trockenbeerenauslese No. 9 Zwischen den Seen, from half-bottle - classic honey, raisins, marmalade, and medjool dates. Rich and unctuous.

Sankala and I had a really good time tonight. We were both very happy with the dishes we tasted tonight, and of course the service was extra attentive. Many, many thanks to Vicky for entertaining us, especially staying late to help us reenact parts of As Tears Go By (旺角卡門)...

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