Thursday, March 23, 2017

Reunion Dinner at The Chairman

It was a long overdue reunion for the H gang so we managed a quick dinner meet-up at The Chairman one Tuesday evening. The place just slipped out of our mind for a while for whatever reasons so I am curious how their food fare since our last visit.

The restaurant was pretty packed with a good mix of locals and visitors - which was hardly unexpected since they have been rated one of the Asia's Best and now known as the place to go for old-school Cantonese cuisine. In fact I was a bit surprised that I managed to get a booking with only a few days' notice.

They ran a compact menu in Cantonese restaurant standard, with "just" a dozen or so choices in each of the appetizer, seafood, poultry, meat and vegetable sections, completed with rice/noodles and desserts to finish the meal with. We picked a few from each of the section and made it our 10-course feast.

The steamed flower crab has long been the signature dish here and deservedly so. We ordered a small one to share which came at slightly less than a catty (or 600g). I love the contrast of the clean, delicate flavor of the crab meat and the rich sauce with the crab broth, fragrant chicken oil and aged shaoxing rice wine (which gave the sauce a brownish color). And the best part was the flat rice noodles underneath the crab which soaked in all the flavor of the sauce.

We asked for recommendations from the waiter and he pointed us to a couple dishes not yet on the menu. The palm-sized lion's head croaker was fish species commonly seen in local market at this time of year. They were of the perfect size with delicate meat, deep-fried with a light batter and we each had one whole fish to ourselves. The braised beef ribs was done Dong Po style, slow-cooked in a mixture of rice wine, dark soy sauce and sugar in a pot. More commonly seen to be cooked using pork belly, this beef version (using Australian beef) was a tad bit less fatty and served with the sauce which was less thick and sweet than the traditional one. The meat was cooked to the right texture – tender but not soft and mushy with balanced fat, plus the tender cut on the side which has more of a bite. I could personally live with more spices in the braising liquid but overall this was tasty.

Most Cantonese restaurants will not hesitate to showcase more of the delicacy (and pricey) dishes like shark’s fin, sea cucumber or abalone, but here it’s the home-style dishes that shine, something we appreciate even more as those required even more skills and heart to make and hard to come by these days. The deep-fried taro cake is a common dimsum item, but here’s they were stuffed with smoked duck meat instead of pork for a different flavor. I am usually not a fan of taro but I loved this dish as one of our appetizers. The rest of the dishes were enjoyable too - the minced pork was mixed with salted fish, shaped into a medallion, steamed than pan-fried; the chicken was slow-cooked then deep-fried for the crispy skin, then chopped up and served with a mixture of diced green onions and deep-fried shallots; the fried rice as our last savory course was prepared with a trio of shrimps – fresh, dried and shrimp paste – giving the bowl great umami taste with the rice perfectly cooked.

Went light on wine today, but the bottle we had was gorgeous – came to age quickly after a brief moment in the glass, in dark ruby color, medium to full-bodied, with concentrated black fruits on the palate and soft tannin.

While the savory dishes were of traditional style, the desserts were a mixture of old-school and contemporary. I thought the scoop of osmanthus and wolfberry icecream was a bit too mild in terms of flavor with a less-than-generous portion but it’s interesting to try. The steamed layered red date pudding – another special dish not listed on the menu – was served warm with nostalgic rich taste and spongy texture.

When? March 14 2017
Where? The Chairman, 18 Kau U Fong, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Steamed Flower Crab wit Aged Shaoxing wine, fragrant chicken oil and flat rice noodles
Drink? 1995 Chateau Cos d'Estournel

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