Monday, September 12, 2016

Family Dinner Up High

Tin Lung Heen is the first place that came to mind when we went for a weeknight family dinner. It was more than one year since I was last here, for one of their special tasting menus at the private room, and I always wanted to come back to check out their a la carte menu. Plus it's conveniently located midway between our homes, so logistics-wise it worked out just fine for everyone.

The weather was certainly not cooperating for us to take full advantage of being in a restaurant with a killer view of the city, up high from Level 102 of one of the tallest buildings in the world at The Ritz-Carlton. We hardly saw anything outside as it was raining hard on the night of our visit, but nonetheless, I love the interior of the restaurant, tastefully designed with a mix of modern and traditional elements with high ceiling, lacquer and leather furniture and spacious dining area in a luxury yet comfortable setting.

We went for a number of dishes to share, nothing overly fancy like their crabs or seafood or other traditional Chinese delicacies that featured prominently on their menu, but something more based on traditional home-style cooking. We started with a small plate of amuse-bouche, with firm tofu smoked with pu'er tea with carrots and pearl onion, slow-cooked to the perfect soft texture with a hint of sweetness. I loved our appetizer of river eel, cut in bite-sized chunks, rolled, deep-fried and finished with a soy glaze. It has great earthy flavor, well-balanced and not overly laden with syrup sweetness.

To be honest I was a bit disappointed at the char siu, given we were told this is the signature dish at the restaurant. True, the meat was tender, juicy and had rich flavor just like as one expected from the good-quality Iberian pork used for the dish, but it lacked the crust and "bark", or the charred tips, which define this classic Cantonese roast dish. Either it's not roasted at the right temperature, or just didn't spend enough time in it.

But our other pork dish certainly made up for the sub-par char siu. The braised pork belly, based on the traditional Hangzhou Dong Po Pork, was served in a refined presentation. Said to be of individual portion but more appropriate to share with two or more people per dish, the cubic-cut slab of pork belly has the right fattiness with clear layers of skin, fat and meat combined for the perfect texture. And the black vinegar reduction sauce worked just well to cut down the greasiness of the meat, and great on its own too - to the extent we ordered an extra portion of rice to wipe the bowl clean and finish all the sauce. Wish the winter melon, carved in the shape of leaves and served on the side of the pork belly, did more than just to add to the presentation - it was a bit under-cooked hence didn't have a lot of flavor even when combined with the sauce.

The braised chicken made the grade with this classic combination of chicken and abalone served with a thick, rich gravy-like sauce infused with Chinese Hua Diao rice wine. The sole vegetarian dish we ordered, bamboo pith stuffed with spinach and topped with slices of black truffles, was beautiful with subtle but delightful aroma from the black truffles - if only I wish the truffles were more thinly-sliced for less of the crunchiness and more of the fragrance.

We finished with an excellent bowl of fried rice with seafood, egg whites and pine nuts filled with various flavors and textures. Our dessert of crunchy egg pastry is a variation of the Cantonese street snack of "Daan Saan" (蛋散), which literally meant flaky eggs, with coconut floss and drizzle of condensed milk on top, then we finished with petit-fours of osmanthus jelly and raspberry cookies - both were delicious.

To me this is one of those places I would save for special occasions or to entertain out-of-town visitors. Not our everyday meal, but I thought everything (well, almost everything) was done right the night we were there and worth splurging on, well, every now and then.

More pictures in my Flickr album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/g4gary/albums/72157672410862371

When? September 5 2016
Where? Tin Lung Heen, Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, Level 102 International Commerce Centre, West Kowloon, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Braised pork belly with supreme black vinegar (龍軒東坡肉)


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