January 3, 2022

Small circle dinner

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It's the first working day of the year, and I thought it would be a good idea to get the team out for a dinner at a local neighborhood joint. I've been talking up this place for a while so it was time for me to show the team. The funny thing is that each of the team members seem to have a different dish that they really looked forward to trying.

Ren Ren Heping Restaurant (人人和平小飯店) had just finished renovating, and they now have new tables and booths. Looking pretty nice now.

Deep-fried Bombay duck (椒鹽九肚魚) - this was OK. Not as light and fluffy as some of the best versions, but decent. A little bland for my taste.

Nostalgic "money chicken" (和平金錢雞) - WHAT DA FUCK?! These used to come on top of chunks of rice crispies (窩巴), which really elevated the dish. They have now chosen to use plain pieces of toast instead. After removing the offending slice of pickled ginger, I bit into this... Yes, the pork lard (冰肉), the chicken liver, and the char siu are still very tasty... but it's not the same anymore. It's no longer my favorite "gold coin chicken" in town. Pretty disappointing.

Lychee wood chargrilled goose in Xinhui Gujing style (荔枝柴燒新會古井燒鵝) - we took a whole roast goose and everyone was pretty happy with it. Crispy skin and nice, smoky flavors. I asked the team to save a piece or two of goose for later.

Pan-fried omelette with minced pork and preserved turnip (菜脯肉鬆煎蛋角) - this was kinda interesting, as it's more Hokkien in terms of ingredients and flavor. A little taste of home.

Giant eel with pork belly, garlic, and radish in clay pot (蒜子火腩蘿蔔炆大鱔煲) - not sure how big the eel was, but from the looks of it I wouldn't exactly call it "giant" or "big". The chunks of pork belly, though, were definitely tasty... as were the pieces of braised radish.

Stir-fried pea shoots with garlic (蒜蓉炒豆苗)

Sautéed pork spareribs in Taiwanese pineapple bowl (招牌鮮菠蘿船 - 台灣金鑽鳳梨咕嚕肉) - sweet and sour pork is always good, and they do it pretty well. The batter was still nice and crunchy. Loved that it came in a hollowed-out pineapple as the serving vessel.

Traditional braised lamb belly in clay pot with chrysanthemum greens (古法扣炆羊腩煲跟茼蒿) - the main event, and I specifically asked for the big portion to appease one particular team member. Compared to what I had on my first visit here, this looked even better. And it was fantastic! Needless to say the skin and the fat were delicious, but even the lean meat was really, really tender. Plenty of tofu skin (腐竹) to make us happy, and we've got shiitake, some bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts. We dunked some of the chrysanthemum greens into the pot, but we were simply too full.

When I pre-ordrered the big pot, I wasn't expecting that we would order so many other dishes. In the end we managed to finish about half the pot and took the rest home.

Casserole of fried rice in goose sauce (砂窩鵝汁炒飯) - as stuffed as we were, I had to introduce the team to this amazing fried rice. Thanks to goose fat and the jus from the goose, this was just incredibly tasty. The pieces of goose we had saved up now came in handy.

We brought a few bottles of wine with us to go with the meat dishes. Happy to see that they had some decent wine glasses, and the manager seemed to know his wines.

2009 Clos Floridene Rouge - double-decanted an hour before drinking. A little dry, kinda flat. Drinking OK but lacking some allure.

2003 Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux - double-decanted an hour before drinking. More woodsy and fragrant on the nose, definitely more tannic and grippy on the palate. Two hours after opening this was still more concentrated.

2013 Lignier-Michelot Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Cuvée Jules - higher acidity, much bigger nose with woodsy notes. Much more alluring.

We had a lot of fun, and the food was very, very good. Happy to have kicked off the year like this!

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