Friday, August 16, 2013

Crossover: Sake x Luk Yu Tea House

It may be arguable to say Luk Yu Tea House is the best Chinese restaurant in town, but given its long history, no doubt they are the standard bearer in the local dining scene, especially as far as traditional Cantonese cuisine was concerned. It's not uncommon to hear people compared food elsewhere to the food served at Luk Yu. 

Believe it or not we have never been to the restaurant - probably we were put off by comments from others about the discrepancy of services and food quality between a regular customer and a non-regular one. But when we heard of a special sake dinner event co-hosted by the restaurant and a local food distributor, we decided to check it out.

Not often do we see a wine matching dinner involving Japanese sake and Chinese cuisine, but I always reckon sake - with its clean, mellow flavors - works much better with Cantonese food than even the finest French wines.

The menu ran along the theme of celebrating the restaurant's 80th anniversary with a number their signature dishes. Cantonese cuisine may be famous for the use of delicate (and expensive) ingredients, but this evening the focus was more on the cooking techniques. Take almond and pork lung soup as an example - the ingredients were straight forward and unassuming, but it's such a time consuming process to prepare that nowhere else did this as close as Luk Yu's version, with incomparable creamy and rich flavors, with subtle aroma from that of the dried tangerine peels coming out.

"Golden Coin Chicken" (金錢雞) - a piece of fatty pork, chicken liver, and lean charsiu wrapped in a coin-sized bun. Not the healthiest food of all but well worth the risk of a heart attack with great combination of textures and flavors. Why tasty food is often bad for health?

Sauteed fish rolls with deep-fried yunnan ham (燒雲腿桂魚卷) - a classic dish from the town of Shunde at the mouth of the river delta. The fish - I believe it's perch - has a silky, delegate texture but without much taste, and that's where the yunnan ham came in to provide a salty, savory touch.

Stuffed dried fish maw with crab roes (珊瑚百花魚肚) - fatty pork was stuffed inside dried fish maw and steamed, so the piece was soaked in meat juice, then finished with a light gravy and plenty of crab roes. It's delicious and the crab roes greatly enhanced the overall flavors.

Baked eggs and fish intestine (雞蛋焗魚腸) - served on a clay ceramic casserole. It's a tricky dish to make as there's a fine line between being deliciously flavorful and being fishy and bitter. Here the balance of flavors from that of the eggs and fish intestine was done perfectly. Given this is my favorite dish but I haven't had it for a long time, I ended up finishing most of our table's portion.

Sweet and sour pork (子薑咕嚕肉) - I finally understand why many have said this is the best in the world. The pork has just the right fat ratio, marinated with hawthorn juice which also acted a natural enzyme to tenderize the meat, and unlike many restaurants which use pineapples as garnish, they chose to use young ginger, which was in-season during summer time. The batter was with the right thinkness and the sauce has just the right sharpness and tartness which wasn't overpowering. It's such a simple dish but they did it so well.

Braised Duck wrapped with Deep-fried Taro (荔芋香酥鴨) - originally in the menu it's the Braised Duck stuffed with Eight Treasures but got switched at the last minute. Well I wasn't a huge fan of taro but it's crispy and worked well with the flavorful braised duck. There's no need for any sauce to be added on as the duck itself was really moist and tasty. 

Salt baked chicken (古法鹽焗雞) - probably the only dish I found a bit ordinary the entire evening. Can't fault the techniques as it's prepared the traditional way of cooking the whole chicken in a bed of salt on a hot stove, and it's of the right doneness, but I think the chicken meat was a bit dry and rough. I prefer the chicken to have a little more fat.

Lotus Leaf Rice (什錦荷葉飯) - an easily overlooked dish but this is good. can actually taste the infused fragrance from that of the lotus leaf in the rice. and it's cooked just right - not too dry and not too soaky, and with just the right amount of ingredients.

Red Date Puff (棗泥雪酥餃) - An interesting dish. It's not over sweet unlike some might have done so I could actually taste the date more than the sugar. Even the puff looks big, it wasn't overstuffing at all. It's common to see people leaving dessert on the table after a long meal, but we finished the whole plate in no time.

White Lard Bun (奶皮豬油包) - a classic Cantonese dim sum dish that no one made any more (or even heard of it) these days. The bun was soft thanks to lard being kneaded in to the dough, and the filling - with mashed winter melon and fatty pork - gave you an interesting combo of savory sweet flavor. It's not exactly dessert but a good way to end a meal with.

Over the evening we have tried about 10 different Japanese sake from all over Japan (and one umechu towards the end). There were also other selections from brewery from Saga, Gero, Niigata, Ehime and Ishikawa prefectures across the different regions. A few of them stood out - my favorite of the night was the Yamahai Junmai from Jokigen brewery (常きげん 魂の酒 山廢純米) with deep color,  uniquely rich, rounded rice flavor and good acidity - typical of Yamahai style.

The brewmaster of the Fukuchiyo Shuzo (maker of Nabeshima sake) was in presence at the dinner and he brought us a few of his production from Saga, Kyushu. I also liked his limited edition Daiginjo using the top grade Hyogo Yamada Nishiki rice that was served before dinner (鍋島 大吟醸) - lucky we went there early as the bottles were soon emptied.

It sure was an interesting experience with good food and wine. What a marvelous meal.

More photos on my flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/g4gary/sets/72157635005900492

When? August 9 2013
Where? Luk Yu Tea House, 24 Stanley Street, Central

1 comment :

feipeng wu said...

Thanks for sharing..
They must be so delicious.
I want to have some drink with them.

White and Yellow

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