Monday, February 23, 2015

Birthday Dinner at Dynasty

We were at the Dynasty Restaurant, the Chinese dining outlet at the Renaissance Harbour View Hotel in Wanchai, on one Friday evening for a surprise birthday celebration my friend C threw for her dear husband. It's been ages since I last visited the restaurant, one of the handful finer hotel restaurants in town serving top quality traditional Cantonese cuisine. But they seems to be running in a relatively low profile, compared to its counterparts - you hardly saw them being mentioned in the news or magazines.

The restaurant only reopened in October after undergoing renovation for a good part of last year, and now it featured a spacious and brightly lit dining room, with floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides of the room. There were plenty of spaces in between tables so it's very comfortable and with the high ceiling it's not noisy even in an evening full of customers. With the restaurant in the lower floor of the hotel and with the major road work outside, the view wasn't particularly spectacular, but there's still a glimpse of the harbor and Kowloon skyline if you looked past the construction site in front. There are also a few private rooms at the back but tonight we were seated at the corner of the main room. I also like the beautiful table setting featuring classy bone china tableware.

The host has confirmed the menu in advance with some of the house specialty dishes and some off-menu seasonal items. She also brought along a number of wines to go with the food, including a young, vertical flight of Chateau Lascombes.

We started with a trio of appetizers which were all excellently prepared. The char-siu (蜜汁叉燒), or barbecued pork, was well-balanced in texture and flavors - tender and with the right sweetness and a good burnt crust. I always appreciate a good char siu dish and I thought I finished about half of it by myself that evening. Also impressive was the chicken liver (蜜汁燒雞肝), again roasted with a dip in the sweet maltose syrup, with a soft interior and rich taste. My only complaint is the liver was not served in the form of "gold-coin chicken", a traditional dish completed with fatty pork and the soft white bun - that would have been heavenly. 

Finally, the deep-fried bombay-duck fish with salt and chili (椒鹽九肚魚) was covered in a very light batter so it has a very delicate texture. It was well-seasoned (complete with sprinkles of chili flakes and fried garlic) so there's no need for any additional dipping sauce for added flavors.

Second course was an unusual choice of winter soup, which is a double-boiled chicken in glutinous rice liquor with snow fungus and wolfberries (雲耳杞子煮雞酒). It's a traditional Cantonese soup better known for its medicinal value for post-partum recovery, but for other people, this is still a great winter soup which keep you warmed with the strong liquor present.

We continued the seasonal theme with a pair of dishes served in sizzling casserole pot - one with prawns sauteed in garlic and black pepper (蒜香胡椒中蝦煲), and the other garoupa with ginger (薑蔥生爆班頭腩煲). I particularly loved the prawns which was deep-fried with delicate crispy shells and well-seasoned with plenty of garlic.

Salt-baked chicken (正宗鹽焗雞) is another classic Cantonese dish that may be common but good ones were few and far between. This is definitely one of the best versions I had and that's one of the dishes we completely wiped clean in no time.

Dong Po Pork (東坡肉) - more a Shanghainese dish than Canto - was brought to the table in a fancy tripod-shaped claypot casserole. A cube-sized pork belly - garnished with gold leaf - was then spooned into individual bowl along with the rich soy-based gravy and served in front of us. I personally would love it to be fattier but overall the flavor was great.

We finished the meal with vegetables and noodles before desserts. Usually those dishes were simply afterthought in many Chinese meals that no one paid much attention to prepare or eat, but here they were wonderfully done and I was glad I saved my appetite for them. I especially liked sumptuous steamed crab claws in Huadiao wine and chicken oil, served with egg noodles at the bottom to take in all the delicious sauces (花雕雞油蟹拑蒸麵線). It was easily my favorite dish of the evening.

It's a birthday dinner so we finished with a trio of desserts including the traditional steamed Chinese birthday buns, a piece of cheesecake and the mango pomelo sago cream. All of them were very nice as well.

We didn't go particularly heavy on booze that evening - only managed 7 bottles among the 12 of us. We started with a couple champagnes (Bollinger and Krug both non-vintage) and moved on to a vertical flight of Chateau Lascombes - with an older 1995, then the more recent consecutive vintages from 2006 to 2009. There weren't many surprises in the champagnes - both showing typical characters of what they are with the Krug edged better with its rich toasty flavor going well with the dishes. Of the flight of reds, tonight my favorites were the 1995 and 2007 vintages. The 1995 obviously was mature with big fruity, blackcurrant and cherry flavors, some especially fragrant floral nose, and fine tannins. Not as complex as I have expected but very enjoyable, not showing any sign of tiredness and with a long finish. And for the flight of recent vintages, I liked 2007 best with the food we had - again with an expressive nose and jammy fruity flavors more inclined towards red fruits than black, some vanilla, medium body, silky texture and not particularly tannic. This one is ready to drink but I think the 2009 showed potential to improve in a few years time.

When? February 13 2015
Where? Dynasty Restaurant, 3/F Renaissance Harbour View Hotel, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Steamed Crab Claw in Huadiao wine and Chicken Oil (花雕雞油蟹拑蒸麵線)
Bollinger Special Cuvee Brut
Krug Grande Cuvee
Chateau Lascombes 1995
Chateau Lascombes 2006
Chateau Lascombes 2007
Chateau Lascombes 2008
Chateau Lascombes 2009

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