November 5, 2022

Guess who's coming to dinner?

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One of the things I most look forward to each year is the arrival of fall, because it means the start of snake season. I would try to book tables at my favorite private dining facility during this time, sometimes up to three visits during the season that lasts around 3 months or less. I was pretty lucky this time around as I booked more than 2 months ahead for this dinner, and they just started serving snake soup literally a couple of days ago.

I had been taking my time rounding up people for this dinner, but when I found out 3 weeks ago that Gaggan Anand was coming to town, I invited him to join me along with his partner Rydo Anton. I really wanted to introduce them to one of my favorite places to have high-end classic and old school Cantonese cuisine. I kept it quiet and didn't tell most of the others that he was coming, as I wanted it to be a surprise.

Being a lover of reptiles, Gaggan did tell me in advance that he would not partake in snake soup. Which leaves more for the rest of us! Yay! And since it was Gaggan's first time, I decided to order up some of the classic dishes here to showcase what the chef can do.

Crystal king prawn (玻璃大蝦球) - this is a dish that always impresses, if only from how the giant prawn is scored to shape it. While this is plated with a dab of oyster sauce as well as shrimp paste on the side, in reality no added condiments are needed. The superior broth (上湯) that was fed to the prawn during the cooking process already adds enough flavors. And the texture was finely balanced between tenderness while maintaining a nice amount of crunch.

Bamboo piths stuffed with bird's nest (官燕釀竹笙) - this is one of my favorite dishes here, so I made a special request for it since I just don't get it enough. It's just so, so simple... stuff the bird's nest into tubes of bamboo piths (竹笙), then plate with some greens and superior broth. The simple purity of flavors.

Steamed crab claw with winter melon (冬瓜蒸蟹鉗) - crab claws are de rigeur here, and my favorite preparation has to be this one.

Again, just simply served on blocks of winter melon braised with superior stock. The flavors of the crab claw were front and center, and the whole affair was simply elegant.

Stir-fried tripe with mixed vegetables (七彩炒肚尖) - my favorite version of this old school dish is served here.

Love this mix of finely-diced pork stomach tip, celery, red bell peppers, water chestnuts, yellowed chives, sweet pickles, coriander and Chinese black olive kernels (欖仁). This was Rydo's first time tasting the olive kernels, and they tasted extra toasty after having been fried in a wok. Wonderful mélange of textures and flavors.

Imperial scholar's five-snake soup (太史五蛇羹) - BABY, THIS IS WHAT YOU CAME FOR! My first snake soup of the year! I couldn't begin to tell you how much I missed this. Thanks to not booking early and cancelled bookings due to government restrictions on dining in earlier this year, I had exactly zero bowls of this snake soup during the last season.

It was just as I had remembered. The incredible knife work on all the shredded ingredients, including the kaffir lime leaf chiffonade on the side. As I have said many times, this bowl is full of flavor - in part thanks to the snake bones used to make the stock - without feeling the chef being heavy-handed with the salt. The aged tangerine peel made its presence known, bringing to the table a citrus fragrance along with a little bit of smoke. I happily slurped up two bowls.

The ever generous DaRC, who couldn't join us tonight, sent word that we had permission to add some of his prized Rémy Martin Louis XIII to our snake soup. Unfortunately none of us were smart enough to know how to remove the stopper from a crystal bottle from an old bottle that looks to be from the 1980s or perhaps earlier. We figured it was OK to just have the snake soup on its own.

Steamed sole (清蒸海方利) - the standard fish course here. Since we have a full house, the chef served up two wild-caught soles. Very, very tender as always.

Tea-smoked chicken (茶皇烟燻雞) - my favorite chicken here, smoked with Puer (普洱). Looooove the depth of flavors. And of course you-know-who went straight for the chicken ass...

Stir-fried pea shoots with liver sausage (膶腸炒豆苗) - only available as the weather cools, both for the tender pea shoots as well as for the Cantonese preserved liver sausage. Very heavy and hearty... and not exactly "vegetarian".

Fried glutinous rice with preserved meats (生炒糯米飯) - despite the rice being consistently a little on the soft side and not having enough chew for my liking, this is still my favorite version of the dish. I just love the flavors and overall package. Love the diced preserved sausage scattered throughout.

Double-boiled ginkgo nuts and lotus seeds (銀杏燉湘蓮) - a sweet way to keep warm and finish the meal.

We had plenty of alcohol tonight, and thankfully they were mostly bubblies or whites.

2010 Nicolas Feuillatte Blanc de Noirs - pretty nice with some age on it, and nice, toasty brioche notes.

Henri Giraud MV Rosé, dégorgée le 2 mai 2021 - more mineral and savory on the nose. Definitely more dry on the palate. Always lovely.

2015 Domaine Ganevat Les Grands Teppes Vieilles Vignes, en magnum - drinking beautifully, with toasty and flinty notes.

1996 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese Fuder 10, No. 42 of 130 magnums - very big nose of petrol, polyurethane,and white flowers. Sweetish on the palate but not too sweet. Certainly very ripe and rounded on the palate. Drinking very well.

2018 Yann Durieux Les 1er Ponts - savory soy sauce with a little bit of smoke on the nose.

2018 Yann Durieux BT - much more ripe compared to Les 1er Ponts, with lots of black cherries.

As expected, most of us had a pretty good time - except for Four Sheets who had a little accident with her glass of red and wasn't so happy. Lively and interesting discussions around the table, but then that's what happens when Gaggan's in the house. Very happy that he can Rydo could join us.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Is the name of the restaurant secret?


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