December 25, 2021

Chinese for Christmas

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Another year of not traveling during Christmas means I am, once again, able to accept Pineapple's kind invitation to his birthday dinner.  MNSC hasn't had a gathering for a few months now, so it was a good opportunity to meet up and taste some good wines together.  As a break from tradition, dinner was at the brand spanking new Woo Cheong Tea House (和昌飯店) instead of the I-Hate-the-Handover-Club.

Pineapple tells us that this is one of the few places in town where no MSG or chicken powder (which usually contains MSG) are used in the kitchen. Apparently they asked Chef Edmond Ip and the team to create the stocks without those key ingredients found in most Chinese kitchens, and factored the extra effort and cost into the pricing.

We started with a trio of appetizers:

Marinated clam, soy sauce (醬油花甲)

Homemade daikon puff (手作蘿蔔絲酥餅) - stuffing was made with Japanese radish. Kinda mushy.

Woo Cheong premium barbecued pork (和昌炭燒叉燒) - they used pork collar (脢頭) so naturally this was marbled and very tender. Pretty smoky. Very delicious.

Braised shark's fin soup, fish maw, shredded chicken (紅燒花膠雞絲翅) - OK, so I was too busy chatting before dinner to remind the host that I don't eat shark's fin, and while our gracious host had offered to swap it for something else from the kitchen, I figured that since it was already served in front of me, I might as well eat it. Sadly I think this was my third shark's fin experience in 2021.

Pan-fried red tilefish (脆鱗煎馬頭魚) - HMMMMM... this looks kinda familiar... where have I seen this recently?

Yes, the scales were indeed crispy after having hot oil poured on the fish repeatedly. And tilefish is a tasty fish with nice texture, so this was pretty delish.

Sweet and sour pork, pineapple (火石咕嚕肉) - ya know, the pork was pretty tender and tasty "as is". What I didn't get was why the chef chose to add pop rocks on the side so as to be seen as more "creative". I thought the "revival trend" of pop rocks in dining died out by 2013 or so, but I guess I was wrong.

Braised abalone, fish maw, oyster sauce (蠔皇扣花膠吉品鮑魚) - very, very delicious.

If memory serves, this was Pineapple's private stock which the kitchen used for this dinner. No wonder I loved it so much. Perfect texture.

Stir-fried kale, crab roe (蟹黃蘭度) - always a nice color combination.

Deep-fried crispy baby pigeon, tea cured pigeon egg (雙囍富貴鴿) - I'm glad Pineapple was feeling generous and decided to give each of us a whole pigeon, instead of just half. This was pretty nice, and I was happily ripping the wings and legs off the body so that I could munch on them.

The egg was nice and smoky, thanks to the fragrance from three different types of tea leaves.

Braised e-fu noodles, crabmeat (蟹肉長壽伊麵) - well, it is a birthday dinner, after all... so noodles are de rigueur.

Longevity bun (祝壽蟠桃) - and so are these.

Tonight's dessert soup was made with apples, longans (龍眼), and peach resin (桃膠). Nice way to wrap up our meal.

But this WAS an MNSC dinner, after all, so the boys were all pre-occupied with the wines.

1986 Ponsot Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru Monts-Luisants Vieilles Vignes - so toasty, with a little coffee, beautiful and buttery nose. Palate was still dry and acidic.

First flight: served some 2½ hours after opening without decanting.

1976 Robert Chevillon Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Les Saint-Georges - a bit smoky, acidity was pretty high. 91 points.

1976 Robert Arnoux Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Suchots - a hint of smoke at first. Around 3 hours after opening this started to open up and showed toasty, cedar, and woodsy notes. 95 points.

1976 Bouchard Musigny - much riper, acidity was very high. Almost showing a little coconut butter. 94 points.

Second flight: served 4 hours after opening without decanting.

1976 Ausone - classic claret with a bit of smoke on the nose. 93 points.

1976 Lafite-Rothschild - some exotic spices, sweeter and more ripe. 94 points.

Third flight: served 4½ hours after opening without decanting.

1976 Henri Jayer Richebourg - this was off and the nose was maderized, with savory notes and clear oxidation. What a shame!

1976 Henri Bonneau Réserve des Célestins - pretty open, toasty and very minty. 93 points.

A fun evening with delicious food and wine. Grateful for the generosity of our host, and look forward to our next gathering.

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