September 6, 2022

Closing time

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DaRC pinged me this afternoon. Would I be interested in joining him for dinner at The Chairman (大班樓) tonight? In a scenario we have grown familiar with these days, someone he was meant to dine with tested positive for Covid-19 and they now had a seat to fill. Although I had just dined at the restaurant a few weeks ago, I figured I could spend more time catching up with him, so I accepted his kind invitation.

What I did not know was that it would be the penultimate dinner service at the current location. The restaurant is closing and moving to a new location nearby, and resuming service at the start of next month. Unfortunately for fans of the restaurant, reservations for the rest of the year were completely taken up less than 3 minutes after the booking system opened on August 22nd...

The menu tonight did not include any dishes that are new to me, but I am always happy to have some of these over and over...

Razor clam steamed with aged lemon and garlic (廿年鹹檸檬金銀蒜蒸蟶子) - this is always delicious, although nowadays we just get a smidgen of the aged lemon, which still lends its lovely fragrance.

Crispy taro cake with smoked duck (蜂巢芋泥煙鴨盒) - always one of my favorites here. The filling tonight seemed a little more smoky than remembered, and we've got crunchy chunks of water chestnuts as well as minced duck that was pretty chewy.

Smoked baby pigeon with Longjing tea and chrysanthemum (龍井菊花煙燻乳鴿) - nice and smoky.

The Chairman fatty pork char siu (炭火叉燒) - good charring on the outside. Just look at that marbling!

Geoduck in fish and rice broth (魚米湯煮象拔蚌) - although geoduck is not my preferred ingredient for this dish, I do think they did a wonderful job with it. That rice broth, which has been strained to give it that amazingly silky smooth texture, is just unrivaled.

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) - the rice noodles tonight seemed a little on the dry side, but it's nothing that a little more sauce couldn't remedy.

Steamed grouper head steamed with fermented chili and lard with dumplings (剁椒龍躉頭配水餃) - happy to be able to taste this again as it's been a little while, and someone was happily picking out the pieces with lots of collagen. I still think the kitchen was being stingy but only giving us one dumpling per person. If we didn't have the clay pot rice coming later, I'd ask for a bowl of steamed rice so I could soak up all that amazing sauce!

Kai lan with pickled Chinese vegetables in clay pot (梅菜芥蘭煲) - beautiful stuff.

Smoked threadfin with rice (煙熏馬友魚飯) - smoky fourfinger threadfin (馬友) mixed into the rice makes for a delicious bowl of goodness.

Wolfberry ice cream (杞子雪糕) - this was one of the desserts on my very first visit to the restaurant back in 2010, and I was happy to taste it again on this particular evening.

Almond cream (杏仁茶)

We kinda took it easy on wine tonight, bringing some casual bottles:

Frederic Savart Bulle de Rosé, dégorgée en juin 2021 - rounded on the palate but still got that acidity I was expecting, and kinda bitter. Plenty of red fruits here.

1985 Maximin Grünhaüser Abstberg Riesling Auslese - nice and rounded on the palate, with good acidity from mid-palate to finish. Nose of lemon and straw, but a little strange at first. The acidity was still there after more than 3 hours, not quite sharp but pretty powerful.

2009 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Williams Selyem Estate Vineyard - lots of sweet fruit on the nose, with bubblegum and some potpourri notes. Later on this got more floral.

I was grateful to have had the chance to come back again just before they shutter this venue. I've been lucky to have had a number of good meals here over the last 13 years, and I do look forward to visiting the new digs... just not sure when the opportunity will arise!

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