January 3, 2023

First star of 2023

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Here we go again. When bookings for the first quarter began for tables at The Chairman (大班樓), I thought it would be a good idea to get myself a table there on the first working day of the year. About a month ago, I figured that it would be nice to do what I did last year - which is to organize a team dinner on the first working day... so I offered the table to the team. I know that most of the team have never dined here, and it is unlikely they would be able to get a booking on their own, so this would be a good opportunity for them to try out the cuisine at one of the most popular tables in town.

The thing about going to The Chairman is that I generally end up going with the same people... and consequently end up having the same dishes. This is partly a function of the fact that I often go with people who are trying it for the first time, so the organizers tend to order a few "must haves" for the newbies. I was determined not to do that this time around, so I insisted that the team collective choose the dishes they wanted to try, and collated the choices to come up with the final menu. I did have to intervene on two dishes to cast the tie-breaking vote...

This was the first time I'm visiting the new location, just about 3 months after they moved. The environment is certainly more elegant, and more homey. My only complaint was that the 7 of us were squeezed into a round table which wasn't very big, but I suppose it was easier to carry on conversations that way.

Cured pork fat with silky tofu and 2-year-aged osmanthus flowers (二年陳桂花冰肉豆腐花) - so some of the silky tofu liquefied back to soy milk, which was pretty nice. Sadly I only got two small slices of cured pork fat (冰肉), which was not nearly satisfying enough. The aged osmanthus came with plenty of sugar, which the newbies didn't know before signing up for the dish. Also got a candied ginkgo nut here.

Pickled mid-summer ginger root served with century egg (大班樓子薑皮蛋) - I do like the pickled young ginger here. Always very good.

Deep fried crab meat and mushroom dumplings (金錢蟹盒) - very crunchy but I suspect mine spent a little too long in the hot oil... The fillings were very delish, though... especially the chives.

Cleansing soup (一口湯) - our soup tonight was lean pork with carrots and radish (青紅蘿蔔瘦肉湯). Very clean and very sweet.

Steamed fresh flowery crab with aged ShaoXing wine, fragrant chicken oil and flat rice noodles (雞油花雕蒸花蟹配陳村粉) - I was flabbergasted when this, the most iconic of all dishes here, did not receive enough votes from the team. So I cast my tiebreaker so that they wouldn't have walked away from here without having tasted this.

Whole fish 2 flavors: stir fried fillets with pepper (一斑二食:胡椒炒球) - not I dish I would have ordered myself. I did find the first preparation interesting, with black pepper grounds providing a kick. Pretty nice wok hei (鑊氣).

Whole fish 2 flavors: steamed with salted lard and dried mandarin peel (一斑二食:三豉蒸頭腩) - not everybody's cup of tea, as this was mostly fish head and fins. I still really liked it, though... especially because of the dried mandarin peel.

Beef quartet in chilli sour broth with sweet garlic (大班樓酸辣甜蒜牛四味)
- the one dish that EVERY SINGLE PERSON voted for, other than yours truly. And turns out quite a few people were disappointed by the dish. Not that this didn't taste good... but the others were expecting literally "four different flavors (四味)" instead of four different cuts of beef with the same taste!

I was pleasantly surprised by the hot and sour sauce base... and I found the combination of fatty beef, beef short ribs, beef tendon, and honeycomb tripe pretty nice. Not the classic Cantonese flavor profile, though.

Double boiled vegetables with fried pork skin and dried cherry blossom shrimps (豬皮櫻花蝦燉遲菜芯) - I really, really liked having the pork skin, which had been deep-fried before being boiled. The sakura shrimp (桜海老) was very, very tasty.

Braised spare ribs with preserved plums in caramelized black ginger vinegar (話梅老薑陳醋排骨)
- this was an extra dish we tacked on during the meal. It seemed obvious that the gang felt they were missing out on some of the classic dishes and wanted something more, and this was one of the two available options. For me, it's difficult to go wrong with this dish that has been on the menu since day one. Love the tangy flavors from the vinegar.

Beef short ribs Chinese cured liver sausages claypot rice (薑絲肥牛膶腸窩蛋煲仔飯) - the other dish where I had to break a tie. These days one cannot come here without trying one of the claypot rice options. It just looks impressive.

Of course, I do love the flavors of the liver sausage, on top of the egg and the beef. We had a small amount of the rice crispies (飯焦) mixed in and also on the side.

But I do love their second serving, which takes the rice crispies and cooks them up in a soup with clams and coriander. Very, very tasty.

Desserts trio: almond milk (甜品三味:杏仁茶)

Osmanthus jelly (桂花糕) - with goji (枸杞) berries.

Sesame balls (煎堆)

We had a few bottles to help pass the time...

2011 Joh.Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spätlese, from magnum - lots of petrol and polyurethane on the nose, and palate was definitely on the sweet side.

2005 Blankiet Paradise Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon - served 1½ hours after decanting. Nice and sweet fruit, smoky. Tannins were still there.

Daishichi Myouka Rangyoku Junmai Daiginjo Shizuku Genshu (大七 妙花蘭曲 生酛 純米大吟醸 雫原酒), 2018 - seimaibuai (精米歩合) of 50%. Plenty of banana and fermented rice on the nose. A little savory, fermented notes. Pretty light on the palate. Very enjoyable.

It was good to get the team together to kick off 2023. Now it's only 2 days until our next team dinner...

1 comment:

Markus Schmidt said...

Merci. This gives me and/or us plenty to salivate and look forward to for spring. Glad to see that the snow crab with aged wine is still there. Are the razor clams still available?


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