August 29, 2023

The SMD menu

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Now that the Great One has moved on to work for a fashion mag and published her new cookbook on nothing but chicken, she has begun to work with restaurants in town on a series of special menus where she puts her touches to desserts and a fried chicken dish. I had missed out on an earlier round, so when an invitation came to join a tasting for the new collaboration, I didn't hesitate to show my unwavering support for my friend.

This time around, the team featured Menex Cheung (張嘉裕) of China Tang Hong Kong (香港唐人館) and DoBee Lam of SÉP, plus the Great One in her capacity as food columnist for Vogue Hong Kong. The dinner was held at China Tang, as part of the Landmark Tasting Mastery series.

The six-course menu was composed of dishes whose creations involved different combinations of the three chefs, so in that sense this was more interesting to me.

Appetizer: barbecued Iberico pork crispy banh xeo (始•筵 粵食[材]越食[法]: 越醬烤本地黑毛豬叉燒鍋巴), from Menex Cheung and DoBee Lam - the so-called "bánh xèo" was a taco-shaped shell made of crispy rice. This thick shell was designed to carry some shredded pickled cabbage, pickled beetroot, and julienne of pickled cornichons... on top of which was a piece of very tender char siu (叉燒). I have no idea whether the pork itself was ibérico (as stated in the English description) or "local" (as stated in the Chinese description), but I do know that the marinade was made with kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass, and meant to be lighter than the normal marinade so that the flavors of the herbs could show a little more. Having chiffonade of kaffir lime leaves on top also gave it a nice touch.

A pretty good start to our meal. It's pretty satisfying to bite into something deep-fried and crunchy, and have juicy pork fat squeezed out and get absorbed by the crispy rice.

Soup: coconut soup with caviar, lobster and crab meat (養•生 魚蝦蟹: 鱘魚子龍蝦煮花蟹伴椰皇荳花), from Menex Cheung - the fish soup was made with a mix of freshwater and saltwater fish, togeher with coconut milk. Honestly, though, I found the coconut milk a little overpowering at times. The temperature of the soup was adjusted down so that it would not impact the beancurd jelly The flavors of the lobster claw was very nice and fresh, and the crab meat was nice, too. To be honest, the caviar only served the purpose of making people think the dish was more "luxe" than it actually was, as there were only one or two eggs in each spoonful... certainly not enough to impact the flavors much. But at least there was a little gold foil...

Poultry, SMD chicken: Deep-fried chicken with cuttlefish, abalone, sea cucumber, fish maw and SÉP homemade smoked chili sauce (禽•戲: 會安煙燻醬炸雞佛跳牆), from Susan Jung, Menex Cheung, and DoBee Lam - so... this was the only dish where all three chefs collaborated, and it made perfect sense that it's a dish of fried chicken, given the Great One's latest cookbook Kung Pao and Beyond is all about fried chicken.

Within the very crunchy batter - and apparently the execution was uneven tonight, as the piece served to the Great One was not crunchy - are four layers: sea cucumber, chicken, abalone, and fish maw... which are the key luxurious ingredients of the classic dish Buddha Jumps over the Wall (佛跳牆). but it also reminds me a little of this creation from another chef. Pretty interesting, and certainly the most luxurious "fried chicken" I've ever had. And the Vietnamese dipping sauce with lemongrass was really tasty.

Seafood: smoked toothfish, Okinawa cane sugar, lemongrass, tamarind, pineapple (海•藝 湄江風光: 南越酸汁煮炭烤野生圓鱈), from DoBee Lam - Patagonian toothfish, a.k.a. Chilean seabass, is always tender. The marinade was pretty nice, and reminded me of the miso cod from Nobu... The sauce was incredibly tropical thanks to the use of pineapple, tamarind, and lemongrass.

Rice noodle: Huế lemongrass bouillon poached Wuchang rice, Gyeongju Hanwoo, matsutake, wagyu dripping (五•穀 越過粵橋: 順化牛肉湯過橋韓牛松茸五常大米), from Menex Cheung and DoBee Lam - the soup, which was meant to be beef bouillon typical of the Huế region, tasted more like Cantonese preserved sausage (臘腸) to me... The tiny deep-fried sardine fry (ちりめんじゃこ) used as garnish were a pretty nice touch.

Dessert trio (甜•沁 三味雜陳), from Susan Jung - the Great One, as a former pastry chef, naturally was handed responsibility for this part of the meal.

Peach sago cream (日本水蜜桃甘露) - the classic dessert now came with some diced Japanese peaches in addition to mango.

Homemade ginger ice-cream (脆炸薑汁牛奶雪糕)

Caramel salted egg tart (焦糖鹹蛋酥皮蛋撻) - love the salted egg yolk.

A pretty good meal overall without any fails. Happy to have been part of this occasion to support my friend, but I do wish the organizers hadn't invite some fuckwit along. Oh well... I'll just need to be more careful when accepting invitations in the future.

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