November 18, 2022

Mom's HK Michelin tour day 7: back to the Russian department store

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For the last few days, the Parental Units have pretty much spent their time exclusively with us, without seeing anyone else. That all changed tonight, when a few of my friends graciously agreed to reschedule our dinner from last Friday, and also chose to accommodate the Parental Units for this meal. I thought it would be a good opportunity for mom to try Tin Heung Lau (天香樓), as this place is very old school and the flavors would also be pretty familiar. Meanwhile, I was a little apprehensive about going back to the Russian department store after all these years, especially after getting some feedback a few years ago.

What do I call this place the "Russian department store"? Check out this old post for an explanation...

Having been a regular here since perhaps childhood, Monsieur Jamin knows the staff well and took care of the menu for us. I was only too happy to have someone else take care of the ordering - especially one with connections and not just a nobody like me. We were asked to choose 4 starters from a list of 9, a set of 8 larger dishes, and pick a veg dish from a list of 3. I requested one starter and the veg dish.

Crab alcoholic (醉蟹) - mom gets to have raw drunken crab two days in a row, although tonight these were small Shanghainese hairy crabs (大閘蟹) instead of crucifix crab (花蟹). Not a lot of people wanted this so we ended up taking the leftovers home.

[Chopped Indian aster and tofu] (馬蘭頭) - more Indian aster for mom, but without caviar this time.

[Vegetarian goose] (素鵝)

[Drunken pigeon] (醉乳鴿) - pretty decent in size. Mom was happy to have more pigeon.

[Fried shrimp with Longjing tea] (龍井蝦仁) - I have never in my life been able to taste any flavors from Longjing (龍井) tea leaves which have been imparted onto the shrimp. As it turns out, neither has anyone else at the table...

Deep fried sliced eels (生炮鱔背) - the execution was off tonight, as they drenched the crispy eel in too much sauce and the pieces were no longer crunchy. I do like the diced garlic in the sauce...

[Fried frog] (炸田雞腿) - it's probably been years since mom had frog legs as big as these, but they were very under-seasoned and really needed either the accompanying pepper and salt or the deep-fried perilla leaves.

Smoke yellow fish (燻新鮮黃魚) - I was very, very happy with this, and I didn't mind the bitterness of the skin that mom objected to. Overall, though, the Parental Units liked this.

Fish lip with crab meat (蟹黃魚唇) - this was totally up dad's alley, but I was underwhelmed. Monsieur Jamin later told me that he felt this was about 20% below par.

[Fried salty meat with Shanghai green vegetable] (咸肉塔古菜) - I was so, so happy to have rosette bok choy (塌窩菜) again after so long, and I really do think the salted pork made the dish. Just absolutely love the pork coming in thick cut.

Minced meat ball (獅子頭) - this was a dish that was added when the Wine Buff declared that he wanted to try more dishes. I am very jaded and biased when it comes to these meat balls, as I grew up eating mom's version. These were too old school and boring, and definitely too firm for my taste.

Ham with honey sauce (蜜汁火腿) - I do love me a piece of old fashioned ham drenched in honey sauce, but FUCK ME! This ham was FUCKING RANCID! Normally I really love aged ham that deepens the flavors, but how long has this thing been sitting around past its use-by date?! BLEGH!

Fried crab meat with noodles (炒蟹粉拌麵) - can't come here and not order this. Very satisfying. However, I made the mistake of mixing in the standard black vinegar and diced ginger. What I should have done was to pour in some of the aged umeshu (梅酒) I brought to pair specifically with hairy crab. Monsieur Jamin did this at my suggestion, and gave us a "thumbs up".

[Glutinous rice balls in fruity fermented rice soup] (什果酒釀丸子) - I've really missed this dessert! We've got strawberries, orange, banana... Very fruity and sweet.

Eight treasure rice (八寶飯) - I was less impressed with this, as the mash in the middle seemed to be more red bean than jujube.

We definitely set a record tonight for the lowest alcohol consumption ever. The 6 of us drinking managed to get through about 3 bottles...

2003 Trimbach Riesling Clos Sainte Hune - ripe and mature now but still got the acidity. Pretty rounded on the palate upfront, but gets drier.

1996 André et Mireille Tissot Arbois Selection - nose was oxidized as expected, showing caramelized sugar, a little honey, and slightly savory notes.

2005 Marcel Deiss Schoenenbourg - flint and marmalade on the nose. Sweet-ish on the palate, showing at least vendage tardives and almost auslese level.

Kidoizumi Afs Old Reserve Plum Liqueur Aged 42 years (木戸泉 アフス オールドリザーブ plum)
- very, very big nose with savory notes, and plenty of soy sauce. So complex.

Very happy to have had the opportunity to take mom here for some old school dishes. Would have been nicer to have had the beggar's chicken in lieu of the rancid ham, but oh well... As I have discussed with others over the last few years, I'm not sure how long this place could keep operating and delivering these old school dishes when, eventually, old chefs retire and the skills aren't fully passed on to a new generation. What we had tonight certainly wasn't at the same level as what I tasted more than 10 years ago, so as Monsieur Jamin says, all we can do is just hang on to the memories for as long as possible...

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