September 12, 2022

A "casual" 3-star meal

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I'm doing my part taking the Compatriot to eat around town, and we are hitting another Cantonese restaurant... only tonight, dinner was at Forum Restaurant (富臨飯店), an establishment with 3 Michelin stars where they do (almost) everything right. There will be some old-school dishes that my friend will have been missing for a while, and we were joined by DaRC as he knows the menu much better than I do.

I had pre-ordered 2 items and also asked the restaurant to set aside 3 decanters for us. Once seated, I was reminded that corkage would be charged, which was fine. I am always happy to pay corkage for the privilege of bringing my own wines. But when I told sommelier Jacky Luk that we were bringing 5 bottles with us, he told me that the restaurant would only provide us with 3 glasses. This was... unexpected.

The only time a restaurant actively limited mu glassware was at this now-defunct bistro a number of years ago. We're not dining in a bistro tonight. This is a restaurant with 3 Michelin stars. They have a sommelier (the very same one telling me he's not giving me enough glasses) I once was very impressed by. This is not the way to impress me.

We left the ordering up to DaRC, who was instantly recognized by the restaurant's senior management. Suggestions on dishes were made, and I really looked forward to a casual dinner with some good wines.

Deep-fried cuttlefish with spicy salt (椒鹽鮮魷) - a recommendation from the manager. Can't go wrong with battered and deep-fried seafood when the ingredient is fresh.

Chef Adam homemade roasted barbecued pork (滔哥靚叉燒) - roast meats at top Canto restaurants are just de rigueur. It's been more than half a year since the Compatriot had any decent char siu, and I think he had 3 pieces, if not 4...

And it's easy to understand why. This was excellent. Tender with wonderful marbling while springy, and nice and complex flavors from the marinade accented by smokiness from charring. All I need is a plate of this along with a bowl of steamed rice.

Deep-fried fish ball (蜆芥鯪魚球) - after more than 20 years in Hong Kong, I'm still not a fan of mud carp and would never order these deep-fried fish balls myself. Thankfully these don't have bits of broken bone, but I still don't like the taste.

Roasted chicken wing stuffed with birds nest (官燕燒釀雞翼) - Sankala never fails to bring up Stephen Chow (周星馳)'s movie Flirting Scholar (唐伯虎點秋香) whenever chicken wings are on the table. Stuffed chicken wings are a specialty here, and we pre-ordered the not-so-fatty option since DaRC didn't want foie gras...

Bird's nest has no flavors itself, so the finely-shredded crab meat that was interspersed among strands of the bird saliva managed to pack the stuffing with an incredible amount of flavor. WOW!

Double-boiled winter melon soup (原燉冬瓜盅) - the other big item we pre-ordered, as Sankala has been missing decent winter melon soup.

Love that they always put tonkin jasmine (夜香花) in this soup along with crab meat, chicken, lotus seeds, and mushrooms. Too bad I only had space for one bowl.

Deep-fried pork with dried mandarin peel in sweet and sour sauce (陳皮咕嚕肉) - another dish they do really, really well here. The crunchy batter and the beautiful fragrance of aged mandarin peel (陳皮) lingering in the mouth. No, this isn't a dish that only laowai (老外) like. We love it, too!

Braised mushroom and goose web (天白菰扣鵝掌) - the braised goose web was, naturally done perfectly and very flavorful. The surprise was the mushroom, which was pretty damn big and tasty.

Braised rice with fish maw and conpoy in abalone sauce (富臨鮑汁花膠瑤柱燴飯) - a request from the Compatriot, and I honestly don't remember the last time I had braised rice like this. I love that egg fried rice was used as a base, and that sauce! I ended up having 2 bowls, and I think my friend had more portions. Just fantastic comfort food.

So... after my last visit I panned a certain popsicle that was routed by a horde of PRs and influencers. It was so bad that I complained about how all these people helped to perpetuate the impression that it was something one must order. Well... it's a new season, and the restaurant has once again teamed up with the same supplier to create an ice cream modelled on a different classic Chinese dessert.

Chinese almond tea ice-cream with egg white and rock sugar (冰花蛋白杏仁茶雪糕) - OK, so I will say upfront that I liked this. This...definitely was not bland and tasteless, or a waste of calories. I definitely tasted the strong flavors from apricot kernels, and while it's not the same as a hot bowl of "almond tea with egg white", they got the flavors right.

We had a good mix of wines tonight, and after one of the staff poured the second white wine into one of the Compatriot's glass destined for red wines, he asked for another glass for the first red. As a result we all got a fourth glass... which I suppose was an improvement over the original limit of 3 glasses.

2018 Emidio Pepe Trebbiano d'Abruzzo - pretty fragrant nose, a little acetone with a little flint, and kinda on the lean side.

2018 Gantenbein Chardonnay - served 2 hours after opening. Already showing beautifully with toasty oak that definitely reminded one of Meursault, but more elegant. Four hours after opening this was still showing flint and toast. Drinking so, so well.

2010 Joseph Roty Charmes-Chambertin Cuvée de Très Vieilles Vignes - decanted 15 minutes after opening and served 1 hour after opening. Nose was definitely oxidized, showing a little stewed fruit, and more savory notes on the nose. Improved a little 1½ hours after opening, but still off.

2002 Claude Dugat Charmes-Chambertin - served 2 hours after decanting. Very nice and elegant, with a good mix of fruit and leather notes.

1992 Bryant Family - served 2 hours and 15 minutes after decanting. Nose was soooo fragrant, with mint, tobacco, pencil lead. Soft and rounded on the palate, with a touch of sweetness. Opened up to show a huge nose with leather and a hint of green pepper. Absolutely fantastic.

I think we all had a pretty good time tonight. Food was great without being overly fancy, and the wines drank pretty well in general. For me, what's most important is actually the company, and one has the best time when sharing space with like-minded friends.

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