Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Sichuan Omakase

Many of us were fans of Chef Kaitak Chan's innovative take on Sichuan dishes combining traditional and modern techniques, so with the pending (temporary) closure of his restaurant Yun Yan at its current Causeway Bay location, we decided to go one last time to say goodbye. And to make it more interesting, this time we asked Chef Chan to prepare a special menu for us, Sichuan omakase style.

We had a glance at the menu before we began, but by looking at the dish names written in poetic style, we didn't know what they were going to look or taste like. We started with their signature translucent crispy beef slices followed by a trio of cold appetizers as everyone arrived. I loved both the 33-spice charsiu and the rolled chicken - the charsiu was brined, coated with dark charcoal powder and roasted, giving the chunks a dark color and rich flavor, while the chicken was prepared like a roulade, slow-cooked and topped with chilies and "water-fermented" soybeans, made in a similar way as Japanese natto, for a punchy taste with a hint of Szechuan peppers.

The "Beacon Fire" casserole was prepared at table-side by Chef Chan by mixing layers of water spinach and sautéed prawns with chili sauce in a red-hot cast-iron pot. The smoke along with the aroma from the sauce being stir-fried in the pot filled the room immediately (hence the name of the dish), drawing the attention of quite a few in a crowded dining area. The prawn came in decent size with a bouncy texture, and the water spinach, cooked in the pot right before being served, took in all the tangy flavor from the spices used in the sauce with a good kick of chili taste.

The soup was said to be based on the traditional Miao Tribe recipes with the sharp acidity. At first we thought it's coming from the tomato chunks inside the soup, but Chef Chan later explained it's the fermented red chilies giving that punchy taste. Inside the soup there was also the big slice of giant grouper fin with the delicate meat and thick, soft skin layered with collagens underneath.

We moved from one rich dish to another - two actually. The roast goose was smoked and served with duck blood curd and potato starch noodles, with the sauce made of broth made with Sichuan fermented bean paste and goose bones. Soon another dish arrived - and this time it's the chunks of river eel stuffed inside pork intestine, deep-fried than sautéed with dried red chilies, in a way similar to the traditional Chongqing Chicken. I am usually not a fan of pork intestines for they could be quite pungent if not prepared properly, but this is the version I couldn't get my hands off.

Our final savory course happened to be my favorite, not just because it's one of the few non-spicy dishes we had. It's beautifully plated with the crispy rice ball (Wo Ba) served on a skewer with a thick slice of sea cucumber and a whole braised abalones underneath and served with the reduced braising sauce. Like a yaki-onigiri loaded with umami flavor with all the richness from the sauce.

Two small pieces of sweet snacks were served as dessert in contemporary styles, with mango dumpling wrapped in sticky rice dough like a Japanese daifuku, and the tofu pudding prepared in the style of crème brulee. I wouldn't have noticed this is the vegan version of crème brulee because it's just as rich as the traditional egg custard with the caramelized top.

We were still a bit sad that the restaurant is moving on but glad to have tried some awesome new dishes this time before it folds. We certainly hope the closure is going to be temporary (it'd better be!) and we are looking forward to more amazing creative dishes by Chef Chan soon in the new location, wherever it is going to be.

When? August 7 2017
Where? Yun Yan, Level 12, Times Square, 1 Matheson Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Wo Ba with Sea Cucumber and Abalone
Champagne Perrier Jouet Grand Brut NV
2015 La Spinetta Moscato d'Asti DOCG Bricco Quaglia
Web: www.miradining.com

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