Friday, December 4, 2015

Thanksgiving Turkey a la Peking Duck

We haven't really celebrated thanksgiving for the past few years, but this year, when we saw the special promotion at Mott 32 for their special roast turkey during the thanksgiving week, we thought we would give it a try and have our belated celebration at lunch on the Sunday after thanksgiving.

As we walked down the dark staircase of the restaurant right in the middle of the central business district at the basement of Standard Chartered Building, I was actually surprised that the place was so crowded in a Sunday afternoon. Yes, I know the place was packed with people on weekdays and evenings, being one of those high-end Chinese restaurants many people talked about, but I never expected so many people in this part of town during weekends.

Facing the seemingly daunting task of finishing one whole turkey among the five of us, we thought we would just order a few more additional items while we waited for the big bird to be ready. The Iberico pork charsiu is one of the signature dishes of the restaurant, using the premium Spanish pork with classic Cantonese barbecue cooking. It's hard not to love the texture of the meat with the rich flavors, but I wasn't a fan of the lack of burnt crust on the outside and the glaze dominant by honey instead of red fermented tofu and maltose, as in the old-fashioned style. I wasn't completely sold this time, especially given the price they were charging for that.

The second appetizer fared better in my opinion - the classic Szechuanese cold appetizer of Pork Belly Rolls with Garlic and Chili Dressing (蒜泥白肉). Slices of pork belly was rolled with a piece of julienned cucumber in the middle, and sat on the dark sauce made with minced garlic, chili, soy sauce and vinegar. It was a simple dish but I love the overall flavor, especially the sauce giving you a slight tingling sensation on the tongue with a bit of Szechuan peppers mixed in.

A good 20 minutes have passed and we finally saw the roast turkey being taken out from the brick rotisserie at the open kitchen behind us, much to our excitement. The bird was not particularly big - perfect for sharing among 5-6 persons but not more really - but it was well-roasted with crispy and shiny skin, and good amount of fat dripping down. It was then shown to us at the table and carved table-side.

This is when the fun part started. Traditionally turkey was eaten with cranberry sauce and stuffing, of course, but here, it's given a creative twist and served 3 ways, similar to what we do with Peking Duck. First most of the meat and skin were carved into thick slices, and to be eaten with thin pancakes and condiments - lemon-plum sauce, garlic sauce and what's described as "Chef Lee's Secret Turkey Sauce". I must admit this is one of the best turkey I have had in my memory, with the perfectly crispy skin and juicy meat. The pancake was made paper-thin and came piping hot in the steam basket. And all 3 sauces were delicious too, especially the secret turkey sauce, which I thought was the sweet fermented soybean sauce commonly used in Northern Chinese cuisine. Sometimes it's dangerous to move away from the tradition, but I thought this version was very good.

The second dish was brought in just as we were finishing up the sliced turkey with pancakes. It's an adopted version of "Lo Hei", a dish made popular in Southeast Asia as one of the celebratory dishes during Chinese New Year. The original version called for slices of raw fish served with colorful ingredients, and to be tossed up by everyone standing around the table using their chopsticks to symbolize the rise of good fortune. Here, the fish was replaced by the turkey, and alongside were julienned papaya, dragon fruit, cantaloupes, scallions, red bell peppers with cashew nuts and sweet peanut sauce. The dish was refreshing and we enjoyed doing the "lo hei" rituals, mixing and tossing all the ingredients together.

The third dish was similar to what we usually do with Peking Duck too, with the rest of the meat minced and sauteed with water chestnut, mushroom and bamboo shoot dices. It was spooned into crisp lettuce "cups" and to be eaten with the same sauces used in the first course. I wouldn't say I prefer this over the duck version, but once again, the sauces were the winner.

We were quite surprised that we finished the whole turkey without much effort, and even with rooms to spare for an additional dish afterwards. But unfortunately, the stir-fried beef noodles we ordered at the end was a disappointment. It was one of the most common Cantonese dishes and this one lacked substance - a few more slices of beef certainly wouldn't hurt (we hardly had one for each of us) - and overall I thought it's not even at the same standard as one done at a mom-and-pop shop anywhere in town.

Other than that, I thought the service was a bit lackluster. Nothing major but just felt they could have been a bit friendlier and accommodating. A few times when we needed something we just couldn't find anyone available around, or when we asked, the staff gave us the "are you kidding" glance before obliging (often for something very simple and reasonable that they should have done that in the first place without asking). Oh well.

Overall the lunch was alright, and we loved the turkey, something we definitely don't mind trying again come next thanksgiving.

When? November 29 2015
Where? Mott 32, Basement, Standard Chartered Bank Building, 4 Des Voeux Road Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Roast Turkey 3-ways, Chinese style.

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