March 16, 2024

B's detour day 3: the awakening

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One of the regrets this week is that I was unable to bring my friend to dine at Sichuan Moon (川江月), the restaurant which featured Sichuanese cuisine as imagined by chef André Chiang (江政承). It was decided last year that the restaurant would close, and the space was taken over by Chef Tam Kwok Fung (譚國鋒) for the creation of Chef Tam's Seasons (譚卉) - a Cantonese restaurant where the dishes are based on the 24 seasons (二十四節氣) in the Chinese lunar calendar. The restaurant just earned its first Michelin star two days ago, so coming here gave me a perfect opportunity to congratulate Chef Tam in person.

We happen to be in the middle of jingzhe (驚蟄), the season when hibernating insects are awakened by the sound of thunder. While the restaurant has put together a set menu specific to this season, Chef Tam was always gonna brings us something special...

Steamed free-range chicken with scallion oil (蔥油葵園雞) - Chef Tam hits it out of the park on his first at bat. This is Foursheets' current favorite chicken, and I can't tell you how happy she was when this arrived. Wonderful stuff.

Crispy bean curd with bird's nest (燕窩琵琶豆腐) - this was beautiful. The very, very fluffy tofu came stuffed with some birds nest and very finely-diced water chestnuts to add a small amount of crunch.

Chilled turnip in pomegranate juice (石榴汁蘿蔔) - the vinegar helps to whet our appetites, not that I wasn't hungry...

Squid in soy sauce (豉油鮮魷) - the first of our extra dishes saw Chef Tam cook live squid fresh from the market in the soy sauce that's used to marinade soy sauce chicken. So fresh and delicious.

Chef Tam came across this Chinese white herring (鰽白) at the market and decided to use it for our next dish.

Boiled Chinese herring soup with tomatoes, potatoes and fish maw (蕃茄薯仔滾曹白花膠湯) - but this blew my mind... or had me scratching my head. I've never understood the tomato and potato soup (蕃茄薯仔湯) - usually made with pork - that Hong Kong people make at home. Here's it's been upgraded by using fish broth, then there's that big piece of fish maw in the bowl.

The soup was pretty fishy, so I wondered how my Swiss friend would take it...

Our second extra dish was stir-fried prawns and mantis shrimps (炒雙蝦). The flavors and the textures clearly show that these came fresh from the market, and I thought the finely-shredded fried taro and the jicama gave us a nice crunch. The toasted Chinese black olive kernels (欖仁) were very tasty, too.

Steamed threadfin in fig leaf (無花果葉蒸馬友) - now THIS was interesting... steaming fish with fragrant fig leaf.

Besides the unique and interesting fragrance of the leaf, we've got thick slices of fresh golden ear (黃耳) fungus, which have an interesting texture that's kinda somewhere in between fish maw and glutinous rice cake, chewy without stickying to the teeth. We've also got chunks of eggplant here.

Next came the 21-day-old pigeons for our next dish.

Baked baby pigeon with sand ginger and salt (沙薑鹽焗太子鴿) - I love pigeon, but to be honest, these were a little too small to deliver proper satisfaction. As a testament to the quality of the ingredients Chef Tam uses, the flavors of the aromatic ginger (沙薑) powder and velouté were pretty strong. I would have preferred to go without it.

Braised abalone and suckling pork knuckle (鍋燒鮑脯豬仔腳) - this dish may be Foursheets' nightmare but absolutely heavenly to me. Besides the nice abalone we also have a little trotter from a suckling pig, a shiitake, and sea cucumber (婆參) from Australia. They were baked in their individual serving bowls.

I know that sea cucumbers from Australia can be pretty big, and I'm used to the ones that mom braises every year for the lunar new year holidays, but this was pretty damn big, too! And definitely jiggly.

Stir-fried Chinese lettuce (清炒唐生菜) - we were meant to take the lettuce to refresh our palates a little, after the heavy flavors of the last dish.

We were next presented with rice cooked in a cast iron pot. The rice crispies on the bottom were particularly tasty since lard was used...

We then had raw eggs mixed in with the rice, along with some kailan (芥蘭) and finally, shavings of black truffle.

Steamed rice with braised pork and preserved vegetable served in iron pot (梅菜扣肉鐵鍋飯) - the rice was then served with the classic dish of braised pork belly with preserved mustard greens (梅菜扣肉).

Just in case we were still starving, Chef Tam gave us an extra serving of char siu (叉燒), which were really, really tasty thanks to being made with pork belly, and roasted with lychee wood for that special fragrance. It was also done in a more traditional way, with a soy sauce marinade rather than being drenched in honey glaze.

A little sorbet to cleanse our palates...

Double-boiled barley with lemon (檸檬薏米水)

Hawthorn tea (山楂茶)

Deep-fried almond cream custard (杏汁戈渣) - they've done a very good job with the execution of the custard, as the texture inside was on point. I do love the fragrance.

Deep-fried walnut custard (核桃戈渣) - likewise, the walnut flavors were very good.

Salted egg yolk layered cake (蛋黃千層糕) - made the old school way, with layers of cured pork fat (冰肉) in addition to salted egg yolk. Slurp!

The staff heard us talk about my friend's birthday, so they arranged some birthday buns (壽包) for her.

At the end of our very long meal, the trolley was pushed to our table and mignardises were served... but we were just too full.

I don't remember much about Wynn Palace's wine list but I figured we could pick out something reasonable, so I only brought one little bottle to dinner...

2012 Roses de Jeanne La Haute Lemblé, dégorgée en Avril 2016 - by now this was pretty nice on the palate. Still got the acidity thanks to the chardonnay, but already a little rounded. Showing some marmalade on the nose.

2018 Latour-Martillac Blanc - a bit of lemon on the nose, but also some sharp acetone... and not in a way that I enjoyed. With time the wine opened up and got better in the glass, showing more depth on the palate, but I never liked this.

2007 Lodovico - started serving around 1 hour and 15 minutes after decanting. The nose was beautiful, showing tobacco smoke, lots of cedar, really woodsy and nice, minty nose. Also showing a good amount of sweet fruit and exotic spices. There's a nice degree of richness here, not quite so much that I would describe it as jammy. It was actually very elegant yet still had the power and concentration, reaching a fairly beautiful balance at this point in time.

I'm ever so grateful to Chef Tam for treating us so well, and sharing with us some of his beloved recipes and seasonal produce. I'm sad that I don't come back enough to see him, but I hope to make amends in the future!

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