June 17, 2023

Tiny sprinkles of rainbows

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Gastronaut is back in town to hang out with his best buddy, and has very kindly allowed the rest of us riff-raff to occupy a few of his remaining eating slots. While he had asked about "new restaurants worth checking out", apparently he also really wanted to dine again at Yong Fu (甬府)... which is understandable, as the cuisine could be outstanding sometimes.

I wasn't scheduled to see him today, but a couple of days ago DaRC asked me whether I wanted to join them for lunch. Given that it's lunch and not dinner, where I wasn't planning on drinking (much) wine and therefore wouldn't get pissed off at their poor service, I decided to join them to see what new, seasonal dishes are in store.

I wasn't surprised to see manager Ms. Yu in our private room, but today chef Liu Zhen (劉震) also spent a lot of time with us. VIP service, then, for the visiting VIP.

Bayberries (楊梅) - as always, we started with some fruit. Not sure these were the same water chestnut bayberries (馬蹄楊梅) I had on my very first visit, but these were delicious nonetheless.

Hand-shredded young bamboo shoots (手撕羊尾筍) - as good as I remembered from my first visit. Very fine shreds, refreshingly chilled but with a certain amount of fragrant fattiness from the sesame oil fragrance.

These seedless lychees (荔枝) are from Yunnan, and apparently the supplier only picks conjoined twins for their package. Life is good when you've got a pair in the hand.

Stir-fried baby broccoli balls (熗炒芥蘭球) - this is apparently a new dish, which is really impressive. Local kailan (芥蘭) is peeled and only the tender center of the stems are used. It's then fermented in brine for half a day until the brine starts to bubble. This also imparts some acidity to the vegetable.

Then it's cut in a way to both break up the fibers for a more tender texture while retaining some crunch, and making it visually appealing at the same time. This was indeed very, very tender, with wonderful textures and flavors.

Braised intestines with peppercorn smoked salt (大紅袍熏鹽滷大腸)
- the pig intestines were, naturally, very, very tender with wonderful textures and flavors. The fragrance of Sichuan Dahongpao (大紅袍) peppercorns did not come from the marinade, but rather from the combination of the Himalayan salt which was heated and smoked with the peppercorns.

Half-crenated ark in soy marinade (燒汁瓦楞貝) - also known as maohan (毛蚶), these cousins of the ark shell (赤貝) and blood cockle (血蚶) were, unfortunately, the least interesting to us today...

Yellow croaker fish in sour broth (酸湯黃魚羹) - it's always a good day when yellow croaker is on the menu. Delicious acidity to help whet the appetite. No surprise that the croaker was so, so soft and tender...

Ningbo-style spring rolls with freshwater eel (寧式鱔糊春卷) - can't say I've ever had spring rolls with this particular ingredient before...

The filling was just like a plate of stir-fried freshwater eel (炒鱔糊), with bean sprouts as well as green and yellowed chives.

Stir-fried rainbow clams with spring onions and ginger (薑蔥海瓜子) - this was... a truly beautiful sight to behold. A small mountain of rainbow clams (彩虹明櫻蛤) is enough to make any of us salivate.

These clams from Ningbo may be tiny, but they were plump and juicy. So, so tasty just by stir-frying with some soy sauce and a handful of ginger and spring onions. It takes some real effort to go through the whole mountain, but it was sure worth the time!

Sauteed shrimps with lily bulb and lotus seeds (九年百合鮮蓮子炒蝦仁) - I LOVE this dish. Before I ordered it for the first time last year, my focus was on the 9-year-old lily bulbs from Lanzhou (蘭州), which have an amazing sugar content as well as a nice, crunchy texture where one could eat it raw. After my first mouthful, my eyes lit up as I reacted to the amazing crunch coming from the fresh lotus seeds. The shrimps, of course, were lovely... as were the sugar snap peas, diced preserved mustard stem (榨菜), and the handful of fresh wolfberries (枸杞).

Braised filefish with chili and bean sauce (土醬沙鯭) - this was an off-menu extra. The filefish (沙鯭) from local waters was rubbed with coarse salt for 5 minutes before being braised with a paste called 土酱 - a type of doubanjiang (豆瓣酱) from Ningbo. The flavors were very, very familiar and lovely. Two different types of chilis were used, with the wrinkled chilis being dried erjingtiao (二荊條) and delivering smoky flavors not unlike Mexican chipotle. What a treat!

Stir-fried lychee mushrooms with pork (荔枝菌小炒) - in addition to the rare delicacy known as lychee mushrooms (荔枝菌), which apparently are termite mushrooms (雞樅菌) which sprout under lychee trees, we've got fresh daylily flowers (金針花), shredded pork, and 糟肉.

Choy sum (家燒菜蕻) - very tender, with delicious chicken broth.

Handmade buns (主廚手工包子) - always delicious and filling. A good consolation prize when the amazing jiaozi (餃子) with shepherd's purse isn't available.

Soup noodles with yellow croaker (黃魚麵) - our second extra course, and what a treat this was! Ms. Yu and Chef Liu arranged this on account of DaRC and mine's birthday this month. The noodles were made with flour from Xinjiang. The soup was milky and exactly the way I would want it, and the diced preserved mustard stem along with spring onions added just to right touch. The yellow croaker fillets were so, soooo tender. MUAH!

Hawthorn and pear drink (山楂雪梨飲) -

These seedless watermelons are grown on salty soil by the sea. really, really sweet.

Mung bean purée with lychee and osmanthus honey (鮮荔枝桂花蜜綠豆泥) - chilled to be refreshing, with the lovely fragrance of osmanthus and lychees.

Two of our friends very kindly brought along a little bit of wine to share. Both bottles drank beautifully.

2018 Bernard-Bonin Bourgogne Initiales B.B. - nice with a bit of toast, flinty, with some nice lemon citrus.

2001 Denis Mortet Gevrey-Chambertin - beautiful with lots of sweet fruit, lovely notes of toasty popcorn, and also pretty floral.

A truly beautiful meal, with many, many hits going out of the park. The restaurant has always prided themselves on the amazing quality of their ingredients, and I'm still amazed at the lengths they go to for sourcing them. Maybe there will be chicken on the menu for our next visit...

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