Friday, December 15, 2017

The Evening with Snakes

A bad flu I caught over the weekend didn’t stop me from joining some friends to the Pottinger private kitchen for dinner. I was there late last year for what I thought was the last time at this venue (since the building is poised for re-development), but turned out it’s been delayed for another year, so maybe this time it is the last.

With half the table being the first time visitor of the place, we ended up having many of the tried and true dishes which were the crème de la crème by Chef Tak. We started with the Barbecued Pork – Chef Tak corrected us from saying this as char siu since pork belly cut was used instead of loin or shoulder so technically it’s not traditional char siu per se. Whatever it’s called, this is definitely one of the best version I have had here, cooked the traditional way with the Kagoshima Kurobuta pork marinated in rose rice wine and red fermented soy then roast with maltose glaze. It has perfect flavor, more savory than sweet (unlike others nowadays) with balanced texture and a good charred crust – a textbook example of how this is to be done the traditional way.

I don’t recall having the steamed crab claw with winter gourd here before and the dish was excellent, starting with the crab claw which was huge and had firm and succulent meat (from Vietnamese mud crab) and the tender winter gourd taking in all the flavor from the crab and broth. The stir-fry Soft-shell turtle skirt (or calipash) was the only new dish I had this evening with the soft tissues taken from the side of soft-shell turtle cut into thin strips and sautéed with vegetables and bean sprouts, with toasted Indian almond added for the extra crunchiness and smoky flavor.

The bird’s nest meringue “cake” was as good as we had the previous times, and so was the snake soup, finely prepared by Chef Tak and served with the usual condiments. With the temperature taking a sudden dip over the weekend it's the perfect time for my first snake soup of the season and I could never grow tired of this. In fact I think I had three large bowls by myself this time. Here no minor details were overlooked, starting from the snake meat cut into hair thin, fish maw adding to the thickness of the soup base made with snake bones and pork, plus the condiments of herbs and crisps all added to the overall taste of the bowl. I thought the steamed wild soles were not as big as the ones we had before, and the meat was not as firm. Not the best we had here but I guess we just got a bit too picky, but I love the roast chicken which was served next, with the perfectly crispy skin and meat cooked just to the right done-ness, nothing more, nothing less.

My dining companions probably disagreed but I thought there’s slightly too much liver sausage in the sautéed pea shoot dish, tilting that to slightly too salty to my liking. But the fried sticky rice itself was outstanding with perfect seasoning and texture. Dessert is sweet almond soup with lotus seeds – the lotus seeds were of good size, sweet and delicious.  

It’s a pity my senses were hindered by my flu and way off tonight, so just don’t ask me about the wines we drank in the evening, but both wines from California, the Kistler Chardonnay and Joseph Phelps’ Insignia (off magnum), had big enough a body to get through my partially blocked nose and palate, so that's the only two I could genuinely taste something of. And overall the dinner here really never disappoints – wish I could come more often, and good to have met up some new friends and old over a good meal like this. 

When? November 20 2017
Menu Highlights? Traditional "Tai Shi" Snake Soup
2004 Kistler Vineyards McCrea Chardonnay
2004 Champagne Henri Giraud "Argonne" Ay Grand Cru Brut
2002 Dom Ruinart Champagne Rose Brut
2012 Domaine Jean-François Ganevat  Côtes du Jura "Grusses en Billat"
1998 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogue Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses Premier Cru
1989 Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste, Pauillac
1997 Joseph Phelps Vineyards Insignia, Napa Valley

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