Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Double Celebration at Spring Moon

For cheapskate like me, a freebie coupon sometimes works wonders. I have been offered free champagne and cake for dining at The Peninsula as part of the "birthday presents" offered by one of the credit cards I carry, so we went back to Spring Moon for dinner at the end of November, conveniently forgetting the horrible experience we had last year at another restaurant of theirs. At first it seemed a bit silly to celebrate a birthday more than a month late - after all, I did celebrate with not one, not two, but three gorgeous meals already - and then I realized the date we set for the dinner was actually closer instead to both my parents' and our wedding anniversaries (both in early December), so I figure we may as well use that as an excuse for a double early celebration instead of a belated, meaningless one.

I walked in to the hotel delighted to see the holiday celebration was already in full swing. The tall Christmas tree in the lobby and the dazzling decorations inside and outside of this legendary hotel are always my favorite scene in Hong Kong as we stepped into the holiday season - they may not change at all from year to year, but it's simply a timeless beauty. Same for the decor at Spring Moon, their Chinese restaurant located upstairs, with the interiors resembling an old Shanghainese tea house that never seems to have changed since its opening, and I loved the red Christmas wreathes accenting the dark wooden pillars across the 2-level dining area.

We were seated in the middle of the dining room, which was packed on a Friday evening but surprisingly not noisy at all. It's been a long while since my last visit (5 years to be exact) so I did spend a bit of time getting oriented with their menu. We weren't planning to go all fussy about an overly elaborate meal so I just ordered a few simple dishes from the a la carte menu.

We started with an appetizer of fried shrimp dumplings with sweet and sour pepper sauce (錦鹵雲吞). It's more common as a dim sum item for lunch but I was in the mood for hot dishes tonight and this was one of the handful warm appetizers on the menu. It was somewhat a disappointment. While I like the sauce which has a balanced flavor with mellow acidity and not overly sweet, the dumpling, with pork sandwiched between wonton skins then deep-fried in oil, was not crunchy at all. Problem could be they prepared this during lunch serving hours so the dumplings got all soggy at all by the time it was deep-fried - that's unacceptable for a restaurant of this caliber.

Luckily that was the only letdown for the rest of the evening and the rest of our dishes more than compensated for the forgettable wontons. Next was the Spare ribs and pear seasoned with dark vinegar, which was listed as one of their signature dishes. The meat was done just right with the balance between firm and tender and the diced meat (with bones on) held up well to the rich black vinegar reduction. The pear - poached in light sweet vinegar giving it a lovely pink hue - was both diced and style as a "nest". Not only did it add to the fancy presentation, the sweetness of the pear toned down the sharp acidity from that of the vinegar.

Next to arrive was the tea-smoked chicken (茶薰脆皮燒雞). At first the portion looked a bit small for half a bird - it hardly filled half a normal sized plate - and I was a bit turned off by the excess oil drenching down the meat all over the plate, but turned out the dish was quite decent. Skin was deep-fried crisp, meat moist and flavorful, carrying that smokiness with a hint of sweetness. Elsewhere this dish typically came with some sauce, but the meat was tasty enough here that won't be necessary.

There's a long pause after the chicken, then suddenly 2 dishes showed up almost simultaneously. Braised imperial fungus in tofu skin (法海佛蒲團) was one of the vegetarian dishes available, with an assortment of mushrooms, wood ears, bamboo piths, black moss, gingkos wrapped inside a thin tofu skin completed with a thick gravy and vegetables on the side. It's rich and appetizing. The Garlic, Crab and Scallops Fried Rice (蒜香蟹肉帶子炒飯) was alright, except I couldn't quite taste the crab inside, but the fried rice was excellent - not clumpy or oily at all and just the right texture I like.

In all aspects our last dish of Tofu with Hairy Crab Meat and Roes (蟹粉豆腐), which arrived as we barely started on our previous 2 dishes, was exceptional. The silky tofu was cut and sliced into a fancy "deep dish" and in the middle was sumptuous amount of lava-like crab meat and roes. It looked amazing and tasted so too. This is a dish available only in autumn during the prime hairy crab season - because of our travel we didn't had too many crabs this season so this is certainly welcomed. It went without saying that's hands down our favorite of the evening.

We didn't go for their normal desserts since we have arranged the cake from their pastry shop. It's a chocolate mousse cake and it's creamy but not overly rich. Mom liked it so much that she took half of the cake home (we only cut half of the cake to eat at the restaurant) Many commented on the tea here saying it's one of the best, but I simply didn't get it - to me, it's just normal one you would expect from a high-end restaurant. Maybe if you ordered something from their premium tea menu the experience would be different. We had a bottle of their house champagne, a special cuvee from the house of Deutz. It's toasty with an almond and ripe pear note, and I think its almost buttery richness worked well with the dishes.

Service is fine most of the time - except at times it's hard to get hold of someone when they were busy with other customers, and the speed of serving was a bit sporadic. Sometimes it took 20 minutes for one dish to arrive, then all of a sudden, the rest of the dishes showed up at once. That's already better than the next table where I saw 6 dishes arriving at the same time crowding the entire lazy susan while the customers were still busy working on their hairy crabs in front.

Perhaps we should start making this double celebration a yearly occasion of ours, and with free champagne and dessert as added incentive, guess we wouldn't mind doing this again here next year.

More pictures posted on my Flickr album:

When? November 28 2014
Where? Spring Moon at The Peninsula, Salisbury Road, Tsimshatsui, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Tofu with Hairy Crab Meat and Roes (蟹粉豆腐)
Drinks? Deutz Champagne Brut Cuvee Peninsula NV

1 comment :

Peech said...

It always makes me wonder why, at a 5-star hotel the likes of the Peninsula, they still can't train their staff or the kitchen to pace the food service. It doesn't matter how good your food is, it's simply not enjoyable if it has gotten cold by the time you take a bite.