Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Six Courses of Wonderful at Tin Lung Heen

Last Wednesday evening I was at Tin Lung Heen, the Cantonese restaurant at Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong at their marketing team's invitation, both to celebrate the Chinese New Year, and to check out their new special spring menu designed with the theme of tea.

It was only my first visit to this Michelin-starred restaurant near the top of the tallest hotel in the world. With good comments I have heard from friends about the place and its executive chef Paul Lau, I was actually quite looking forward to the meal.

Tonight's menu was specially designed to celebrate the coming of spring, with a number of dishes prepared using various kinds of tea. We started with a light appetizer of simmered abalone in rose tea and seared scallops (玫瑰花茶浸鮮鮑帶子), which were both marvelous. Fresh abalone was simmered in low temperature with rose tea-infused superior broth giving it an enticing floral aroma and a tender texture. The Japanese scallops were dipped in a light batter and delicately seared, giving it a perfect crispy top without any trace of oily flavor.

We continued with another seafood dish. Sauteed lobster with Long Jing tea and fresh lily bulb (龍井鮮百合龍蝦球) was a variation of a famous dish in Shanghainese cuisine cooked with the gentle indigenous Long Jing tea. The original version uses river shrimps but Chef Paul opted for the richer and more substantial lobster meat which was cooked just right. And I love the combination of the deep-fried tea leaves and the seasonal lily bulb adding to the complexity to the dish with some crunchiness and a hint of sweetness.

It's somewhat tricky to pair wines with tea-themed dishes, but sommelier Benson was up to the task with his selections of the evening. We began with a cheerful vintage champagne before the meal and moved on to another crowd-pleasing choice of an off-dry riesling full of fruity flavor with some mineral, working well with the seafood.

The soup was probably the one course with the least noticeable tea flavor but I enjoyed it very much. The double-boiled chicken soup (單欉水仙花膠燉雞) was prepared the classic way and coupled with yellow croaker fish maw, considered a delicacy in Chinese cuisine. It's rich and soothing, and if you tried hard enough, you could even sense the some floral aroma and earthiness coming from the leaves of Shui Hsien, a variation of oolong tea, being infused into the soup.

Foie gras, or goose liver was not an uncommon dish in Cantonese cuisine but I almost saw our next course of braised wagyu beef tongue and foie gras with lychee black tea (荔枝紅茶鵝肝煮和牛舌) as a fusion creation with some western influences. The contrast in textures between the thinly-sliced beef tongues and steamed foie gras was an interesting one, rounded up together with a light broth gravy with lychee black tea and accented by the presence of the sweet preserved lychees served on the side. It was a well-balanced dish with unique flavors.

I would be happy to continue with the riesling for the dish but Benson's choice of a "Super-Tuscan" red was not bad either. The nose and palate was unmistakably sangiovese - plum, hawthorn flavor combining with violet aroma, and the cabarnet sauvignon in the blend added to the body and roundness.

Our final savory course was fried rice with green tea and Alaskan crab (阿拉斯加蟹肉綠茶飯) after a cup of hot chrysanthemum tea was served as palate cleanser. The addition of the green tea to the rice was a very nice touch giving it an unique fragrance and the crab meat was tasty.

Dessert was of contemporary style - with a Hongkong-style Milk Tea Panna Cotta topped with Bird's Nest, and a nice little piece of pineapple puff shaped like a real pineapple (官燕凍茶鮮奶拼鳳梨酥). I already had a more-than-decent pineapple puff earlier in the afternoon but this one was even more delicate and delicious with the slightly warm, freshly baked puff shell and threads of pineapple filling taking only from the sweetest core. Just wish we could have more. We finished with a Moscato d'Asti, with its delightful bubbles, floral nose, pear, apricot and a mild honeysuckle on the palate, was simple but very enjoyable.

From start to finish, this is one impressive meal I must say, with original ideas and unique dishes. I can't wait to return to try more of Chef Paul Lau's dishes in the near future.

More pictures on my flickr album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/g4gary/sets/72157650747684109/

When? March 4 2015
Where? Tin Lung Heen, Ritz Carlton Hong Kong, International Commerce Centre, West Kowloon
Menu Highlights? Simmered fresh abalone and scallops in rose tea
Champagne Tattinger 2005 Brut Reserve
Dr Loosen Riesling Kabinett 2012
Castello Romitorio Romito del Romitorio Sant' Antimo Rosso DOC 2006
La Spinetta "Biancospino" Moscato d'Asti DOCG 2013
Web: www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/HongKong/Dining/tin_lung_heen/Default.htm

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