September 26, 2023

The double-booked Chairman

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Something very very rare happened today: I double-booked myself for dinner. A few months ago, I managed to book a table for dinner tonight at The Chairman (大班樓). I didn't tell Foursheets about it, and when it was time for booking seats at Hidden (秀殿), she went a little out of control and decided to book seats there for tonight. Thankfully both are popular places, and it's fairly easy to either find people to join a table or just simply give away the booking to a friend. I managed to shift some people around, and here we are...

It seems that the Fergies hadn't been here a while and a few of the dishes are new to her, so I was happy to let them pick those options to satisfy their curiosity. One thing we could all agree on? Not getting the signature flower crab.

To no one's surprise, the kitchen sent out dishes in the order that they're cooked, not in the order that was written on the menu.

Pickled mid-summer ginger root (大班樓子薑) - grateful for this compliementary amuse bouche that whets the appetite.

Fried yellow croakers in black beans oil (豆豉花椒油浸小獅頭魚) - always really happy to have spinyhead croakers (獅頭魚), especially when they're deep-fried to a crisp. The addition of some black beans with Sichuan peppercorn-infused oil provided a new flavor profile and complexity.

Crispy taro cake with smoked duck (茘甫鴨盒) - always, always happy to see this. I love it when taro mash is deep-fried at high heat to create these layers.

Love the smoky flavors of the duck inside. And happy to report that, once again, I didn't taste any baking soda in the fried mash.

Crispy pig tails with plum sauce (山楂梅子脆皮豬尾) - I love these pig tails, and the plum sauce was really fruity and lively.

Cleansing soup (一口湯) - with carrots, green radish, and probably corn as well as dried squid.

Grilled skewered fatty lamb belly slices (羊腩片叉燒) - this was surprisingly juicy today, with some cumin in the sweet sauce. This was undoubtedly the best ever version I've tasted here.

Stir fried slipper lobsters with sweet peas and fresh river crab roe (蟛蜞膏豆仁炒琵琶蝦) - I'm always a fan of this, which combines a few ingredients I love: sweet peas, roe from tiny fresh river crabs (蟛蜞), and a shellfish.

The richness of the roe and the umami (旨味) from shrimp oil works so well together with the sweet peas.

Beef quartet in chilli sour broth with sweet garlic (大班樓酸辣甜蒜牛四味) - a request from someone who's never had it. Absolutely NOT a Cantonese dish, but I figured everyone should try it at least once.

The "quartet (四味)" refers to 4 different cuts of beef: fatty beef, beef short ribs, beef tendon, and honeycomb tripe... but some people read the Chinese description and may think that beef has been cooked with 4 different preparations or seasonings. This also comes with strips of rice cake as well as tofu. Anyway, this was pretty well-received as there was plenty of heat to keep the fire dancing on one's tongue for a while.

Camphor wood smoked black foot goose (樟木煙燻黑腳鵝) - a perennial favorite, and I'm kinda glad Foursheets isn't here to pooh-pooh this goose... because I do like the heavy, smoky flavors.

As usual, the breast of the bird isn't plated but packed into a doggy bag. I made sure that the drumsticks and the wings were enjoyed at the table and not packed home. Tonight the meat of the goose was unusually moist, and fatty as usual. The skin wasn't the most crispy of all the ones I've had here, but certainly decent. This goose was above average so I was reasonably happy.

Stir fried seasonal vegetables with XO sauce (XO醬炒時菜) - can't go wrong when you've got X.O. sauce on your veg... and they always have very good kailan (芥蘭) here.

Liver sausages, crispy aged eel and salted pork belly claypot rice (瑤柱咸肉燒鱔潤腸煲仔飯) - a new dish Danny recommended instead of taking the fermented eel as a starter. Looked very impressive when the lid of the clay pot was lifted up!

The rice was made with shredded conpoy (瑤柱), thin slices of salted pork belly, mashed up preserved liver sausage (潤腸).

The eel was seasoned with a fermented bean paste, whose flavors were strong enough to cover up any muddy flavors of the fish. I love this. I also love how thick the eel is, and how it was scored and grilled.

The rice crispies from the bottom of the clay pot is always nice. I love how it is at once crispy and chewy.

As usual, we were pretty full by now but there was still the second service, where the rice was brought back to the kitchen and cooked a little more with soup.

I do love me some soupy rice, especially when the rice had originally been crisp and now has been softened... along with some clams, spring onions, and coriander.

Desserts trio (甜品三味):

Almond cream (杏仁茶)

Adzuki bean cake (豆沙糕)

Chiuchow mooncake (潮州朥餅) - this Chiuchow-style mooncake come with flaky pastry and a combination filling with adzuki bean paste as well as crunchy pieces of candied winter melon (冬瓜糖).

This was an extremely weak evening... Six of us only took down one magnum of Champagne.

2012 Cazals La Chapelle de Clos, en magnum - good acidity here without being too sharp.

This was the last booking I made for myself this year, and I was happy to have shared it with good friends.

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