June 1, 2022

7 princesses and the dwarf

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One of the biggest impacts that the pandemic has had on my dining habits is the drastic reduction in the number of meals I've had at formal Chinese restaurants. Outright bans on dinner service aside, the fact that we have been subjected to, at various times, restrictions of no more than 4 or even 2 persons dining together makes it tough to do a proper meal.

Now that we are once again able to dine together in groups of up to 8, and sit in a restaurant until 11:59 p.m., I have been increasing my visits to Chinese restaurants. We can now order more dishes thanks to larger groups. And I finally got to go back to Wing (永), thanks to a dinner originally rescheduled for January.

Drunken South African abalone (醉南非鮑魚) - very, very tender. The sauce was sweet with some spices, but no real heat.

Firefly squid • Yunnan chili • bull kelp (螢光魷魚配雲南皺皮椒及海茸) - just loooove firefly squid, and a little kick from the chili makes it interesting.

Chili Iwate oyster • century egg (香辣岩手蠔伴溏心皮蛋) - the oysters were very fatty, and worked very well with the spicy sauce delivering heat. The century egg was also a good match.

Smoked eggplant • house made sour sauce (煙燻酸汁茄子) - smoked with apple wood. Very tast thanks to the sauce.

Stinky tofu tiger prawn toast (臭豆腐虎蝦多士) - so this again... the not-so-stinky tofu.

In my restaurants I wouldn't touch this with the proverbial 10-foot-pole, but this was actually OK. I liked the combination of stinky tofu and prawn toast into one, and the texture in the middle was pretty fluffy while keeping the bottom crispy.

Chinese almond soup • egg white • Japanese yam (杏汁蛋白淮山湯) - soooo... SOMEONE told Vicky that I was coming... and everyone else at the table who had a hand in organizing this dinner denied it. So how was it that I got my piece of Japanese yam (淮山) covered in gold foil?! The chicken-based soup was reasonably viscous and rich with the flavors of apricot kernels, and we've got a layer of steamed egg white at the bottom of the bowl. Not sure I tasted the gold foil, though...

Steamed Japanese pomfret • preserved vegetable (梅菜蒸日本燕子鯧) - the gray pomfret was definitely looking impressive. The texture was just so, sooo smooth and tender.

Served with a pile of diced Japanese scallions as well as very delicious preserved mustard greens (梅菜). Very, very nice.

Fragrant Alaskan king crab with cheung fun (香辣阿拉斯加皇帝蟹配煎腸粉) - with The Great One at the table, there is bound to be an abundance of crab. This looked pretty damn good.

The sauce gives that familiar mix of sweet, sour, and spicy that appeals to many non-Chinese. For some reason I was given a claw, and I took my time digging out every last morsel from inside the shell. The crispy cheung fun (腸粉) worked pretty well.

Baby pigeon • cane sugar (煙燻蔗汁乳鴿) - since I already got my gold on something else, Vicky chose not to wrap my half of the pigeon tonight... which would have saved him a pretty penny. And thanks to not having my pigeon wrapped in gold, I actually got to taste the skin of the pigeon and noted that the flavors were pretty sweet - the result of brushing with sugar cane juice before smoking. Very juicy and tender, and certainly one of the better pigeons in town.

The pear - dusted with plum powder - was served up as a palate-cleanser.

Chinese white cabbage • ginger (上湯薑汁鶴藪菜) - let's be honest... this dish was made specifically for Instagram, which fits Vicky's MO.

I realize that the bok choy (白菜仔) grown around Hok Tau (鶴藪) near Fanling (粉嶺) is a delicacy, and truth be told these were very, very delicious as the superior broth (上湯) really brought out the sweetness. But I remain conflicted about the presentation. It's Vicky's answer to the Robuchon caviar and king crab dish, except this was more labor-intensive. Was it really necessary for the kitchen to peel away the outside (the leftovers are eaten by the staff) so that we could have just around 200 - yes, I counted them - bok choy hearts lined up like this on our plates? I don't know. I know a lot of work went into the presentation of the bok choy dish at this dinner, but even that pales in comparison with this plate.

I guess even leaving another 1 or 2 layers on would mean a drastic increase in size and we may only be able to fit less than 100 of these on the plate. And there would be more steam and the flavor wouldn't be as sweet, or the texture as tender as only eating the hearts. I'm betting that diners would still be pretty happy with that version.

I'm pondering all this as a result of recent discussions online regarding the labor issues behind many fine dining restaurants, whether impeccably tweezered dishes is really necessary... and nothing says "tweezered" more than this dish.

Signature crispy chicken (招牌脆皮雞) - this was aged for 5-7 days.

And crispy skin, indeed! Vicky came to cut it up in front of us so that we could hear the crackle. Delicious flavors both in the skin and the meat itself. And this wasn't over-seasoned on the underside like the famous chicken at Lung King Heen (龍景軒).

Chicken giblets with young ginger - we were supposed to have a second crab dish, but the kitchen chose not to serve it to us after being disappointed in the quality of the product. So we got this clay pot with young ginger, spring onions, and various bits like chicken liver, gizzard, intestines... etc.

Fish maw • morel mushroom • abalone sauce • rice (鮑汁羊肚菌花膠飯) - made with fish maw weighing in "2½ head" and Japanese rice, this was very, very delicious. A ton of collagen coated our lips, and I especially enjoyed the little diced bits of preserved turnips (菜圃) in the rice.

Snow gum • coconut sorbet • osmanthus (桂花雪膠椰子雪芭) - to be honest, I'm probably happier eating snow gum instead of birds nest, and the sorbet made from coconut milk was pretty intense. A very refreshing and enjoyable dish.

Finally we have the mignardises:

Thai red ruby pomelo, Thai mangosteen, and musk melon from Shizuoka Prefecture.

Donuts with jujube cream (紅棗冬甩) - I'm 0 for 2 in terms of tasting the jujube cream in the middle...

Black sesame mochi (黑芝麻麻糬) - this, on the other hand, was deliciously savory on the inside.

I was told - incorrectly, I might add - that this was "not a drinking crowd" tonight. I was clearly misinformed. I'm very grateful to Vicky for sending us a Champagne I happen to like very much.

Egly-Ouriet Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru, dégorgée en juillet 2020 - nice and ripe on the palate. Sooo smooth. So delicious.

2013 Au Pied du Mont Chauve Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos Saint Jean - fruity, almost like passion fruit, with nice flinty notes.

1989 Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Émile Vendages Tardives - huge nose of petrol and white flowers. Definitely sweetish on the palate.

2005 Kongsgaard Chardonnay The Judge - drank more than 2½ hours after opening. Very caramelized as expected, with lots of vanilla and cotton candy. Not a wine everyone will enjoy.

A very fun evening out, and I'm grateful that the ladies managed to put up with me. I guess it will be months before my next visit, and let's see what Vicky manages to throw at us then.

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