October 3, 2023

Geruhage HK tour day 5: nothin' but the pig

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When my friend Geruhage decided to come to Hong Kong for the first time in 4 years, I knew that one of the places I wanted to take him to was Sun Tung Lok Chinese Cuisine (新同樂). Ever since I got to taste the iconic stuffed roast suckling pig for the first time in many years, I knew I had to go back and have it again. And having introduce my friend to Chef Tam Kwok Fung (譚國鋒)'s "sucking pig maki" version a few years ago, I feel obliged to give him a chance to taste the OG.

I was trying to get a large enough group to take down the pig, and DaRC offered to help. When he ended up roping in Dashijie (大師姐) and her husband, I knew I couldn't just take the meal lightly and order à la carte on the day of. I had come up with a list of dishes myself, composed in a way to make sure we met the minimum required for the private dining room. I had asked DaRC for his thoughts, and then sent it along with Chef Joe Chan (陳勇) to see what he could do. I did mention that Dashijie was coming, and that we had flexibility on the cost - meaning we could pay more if we needed.

The menu came back a little different from what I had planned, but one does not question the chef.

We started with the chef's appetizer (風味拼盤薈萃):

Ox tongue in XO chilli sauce (XO 醬鹵牛脷) - I've always liked this as the flavors from the spices are pretty nice, not just the chili kick but also five spice (五香). The tongue is tender but still got a certain degree of firmness and springy texture.

Barbecued pork (蜜餞叉燒) - tender, but got some chewy sinews here.

Shrimp toast (蝦多士) - I love a good shrimp toast, but this was not a good one. Perhaps this had been sitting out a little too long before I got to it, but it was a little too greasy. I know they added the fish eggs to make things look a little more luxe, but there was also a usesless piece of very chewy ham on top.

Jelly fish (海蜇頭)

Braised prickly sea cucumber, fish maw, and pomelon skin with shrimp roe and vegetables (嫩刺參花膠筒配鮮蔬伴蝦籽柚皮) - when this showed up my heart sank to the bottom of Victoria Harbour. WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?! This dish looked PATHETIC. Nevermind my well-travelled friend, but serving this to Dashijie and others at the table was downright embarrassing! I wanted to dig a hole and crawl inside.

I had originally asked for a dish with both prickly sea cucumber from Kanto (關東) and fish maw, whose pricing would up taken up half the minimum charge required tonight. I dare say we all would have been OK with it, knowing that we weren't here to splurge on the highest grade of these ingredients. But this... this was totally unacceptable. At the time Chef Joe came back with the revised menu, he mentioned this had been changed to something with "slightly cheaper" but I should rest assured that the "quality is pretty good". Well, I wholeheartedly disagree.

At least the rehydrated pomelo skin wasn't bitter, but could have used a lot more shrimp roe sauce.

Aromatic Kyushu king prawn with shallot, pork belly, and vermicelli (奇香粉絲原隻九州蝦皇) - this is a simple dish that I love, as all the flavors of the sauce gets absorbed by the glass vermicelli. The others were taking pictures of the dish in the original clay pots, arranging the prawns so that they formed hearts in the pot.

Deep-fried chicken marinated with shrimp paste (蝦醬碎炸雞) - another simple dish I enjoy, as I love the shrimp paste coating the crispy batter. I had originally asked for one standard serving for the whole table so that everyone could have a piece or two, and I had thought the chicken pieces would be smaller... Three big pieces of fried chicken was definitely the wrong serving size.

At this point we were getting full pretty fast, so I asked the kitchen to change the serving order and get the main event here ASAP.

Roast whole suckling pig with glutinous rice (原隻金陵乳豬烤香苖) - THIS was why we are here tonight. This pig. The one that Chef Joe started serving at the Kimberley Chinese Restaurant (君怡閣) all those years ago. Everyone was real excited and got up to take pictures and videos, and we even had chef hold the pig up for a picture with us. It's a good thing he didn't drop the pig...

The crackling was as beautiful as ever. Soooo crunchy, with that ring of fat just underneath. But the glutinous rice stuffing was a little off tonight... a little too mushy. And thanks to all the picture- and video-taking, the pig was no longer at optimum serving temperature. Still, I think everyone was pretty happy overall.

Braised prime rib of beef with house gravy (燒汁乾煏牛肋骨) - I know we had a lot of food, but I felt my friend needed to taste this dish. They do a very, very good job with it.

OK... so maybe half a serving was still too much, and I have no regrets. Very, very tender and flavorful.

Consommé with braised radish and matsutake (清湯松茸燉白玉) - we have the biggest supplier of matsutake (松茸) at our table, and of course this was not fresh but frozen. OK la...

Fried Chinese lettuce heart with soya bean paste in casserole (砂鍋麵醬唐生菜) - we always eat a lot of veg at a proper Chinese meal, so this was definitely in order. I would normally have asked for it with shrimp paste but that had already made an appearance earlier tonight.

Melon purée with Hokkaido adzuki beans (北海道紅豆配生磨蜜瓜露) - this was surprisingly nice. I loved how refreshing the chilled melon purée was.

Sun Tung Lok deluxe desserts (同樂手工美點)

Given that we had a large table, I decided to bring only magnums tonight, supplemented by a few bottles from others:

Bollinger PN VZ16, dégorgée en Janvier 2021 - for some reason the private dining room smelled strongly of patchouli, and I ended up not smelling anything else from my glass...

2009 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, dégorgée en Avril 2018 - a little more toasty on the nose.

1996 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Auselese Fuder 10, 44/130 from magnum - lovely nose of white flowers, petrol. Sweet on the palate as expected but still got the acidity for balance.

1982 Ducru-Beaucaillou, en magnum - double-decanted and stoppered for about 1½ hours, then served after an additional hour of aeration. Smoky nose with graphite, also some patchouli... So smooth on the palate now. So, sooo beautiful and elegant after more than 3 hours.

2005 Shafer Hillside Select, from magnum - double-decanted and stoppered for about 1½ hours, then served after an additional 2 hours of aeration. Showing beautifully with tons of mint, smoke, ripe fruits. Fragrant and woodsy on the nose. Tannins were still here but had already softened to become pretty sexy.

Well, this was not the finale I had wanted to finish off my tour with Geruhage, but I think my friends enjoyed their conversations with new friends, and at least the pig didn't fail us. I'm leaving my friends in the hands of others for their last day in town, and my diet starts tomorrow.

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