December 29, 2021

Late seating

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Ever since the Compatriot moved to Rosbif Land with the family a few years ago, the restaurant they missed the most has been The Chairman (大班樓).  While he's in town for a short couple of months, and I'd been pretty diligent in booking restaurants for him to taste what he's been missing, the one place he lamented about not getting to was the one at the top of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants in 2021.

Knowing there were only a few weeks left to my friend's stay in town, I resorted to something I never did for myself but would on rare occasion do for friends - I asked Danny for a table for my friend. Danny knows I don't ask him for this favor unless I really need to, and I'm grateful for him accommodating me on those rare occasions. So here we were.

It's been more than 2 years since I last came for lunch, and first time in a while where I could choose what to eat, so my friend and I each picked half the dishes for the meal.

Pickled mid-summer ginger root (大班樓子薑) - I actually didn't have time to dig into this before the next dish arrived. But always happy to have this with our meal.

Fermented tofu with chili and bean sauce (大班樓臭豆腐) - it's been a while since I last got to taste this, and I'm glad my friend chose it. I had never willingly eaten more than 2 bites of stinky tofu before trying this version a few years ago, but I find this tolerable - although I wouldn't go so far as to call it delicious.

Roasted pork tail with 5 spices plum sauce (五香烏梅醬烤豬尾) - this, however, has always been very delicious. The skin is just paper-thin and so crispy, and there is a lot of collagen that one can suck out.

BBQ lamb char siu (羊叉燒) - when we saw the word "char siu (叉燒)", we were thinking of thicker slices or even chunks. Instead we got thin slices that have been nicely charred with pretty smoky flavors - almost like charred gyudon (牛丼). A bit of cumin perked things up a little.

Steamed fresh flowery crab with aged Shao Xing wine and flat rice noodles (雞油花雕蒸大花蟹配陳村粉) - no surprise that my friend asked to have this, and it's pretty nice to have a crab between just the two of us. I probably shouldn't have eaten all of the flat rice noodles on my plate...

Pork belly slow cooked in preserved Chinese vegetables with Chinese bun (梅乾菜陳皮扣肉配夾包) - I wanted to have a bite of this as it's been some time since I last had it here. And of course, it's a familiar taste of home for both of us.

Pan-fried whole crispy chicken stuffed with shrimp paste (香煎百花雞件配魚露) - this is something that you don't see everywhere, and I love that restaurants still do this sort of thing. The skin side was, of course, crispy... but I'm glad the shrimp paste side was also pan-fried till brown and crispy. We had no hope of finishing a whole chicken, so my friend took most of it home.

Layered beancurd and seasonal vegetables cooked in homemade fish broth (魚湯腐皮浸時蔬) - believe it or not, this is always one of the highlights here. Veg in fish broth. So simple, so comforting.

Smoked threadfin with rice (煙熏馬友魚飯) - I was pleasantly surprised that with just the two of us, we still got a ceramic pot full of rice. And just look at how beautiful that is!

Beautiful smoky flavors on the four-finger threadfin (馬友). Slurp! Of course, we packed most of this home, too.

The usual trio of desserts:

Almond cream (杏仁茶)

Hawthorn berries pudding (山楂糕)

Mung bean cake (綠豆糕) - both the Compatriot and I were very happy to have this. More flavors from home.

As we started pretty late, the pace of service was different and we were outta there in a little over an hour. Very, very stuffed but happy to see the smile of satisfaction on my friend's face. Extremely grateful to Danny for so kindly accommodating us, and the staff for staying late to take care of us. We will be back, hopefully sooner rather than later.

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