Friday, March 4, 2016

Canto Dinner with a View

After spending the whole Sunday afternoon at the spa upstairs at InterContinental Hong Kong, I guess it made sense to stay behind for a simple dinner at Yan Toh Heen, their award-winning Chinese restaurant in the basement, to wrap up the weekend. To be honest, it's been a long while since my last visit - if memories served me correctly the last time I was here the restaurant was still under renovation (like more than 2 years ago?) and definitely before they got the second Michelin star.

The “new” dining area was well-appointed with dim lighting and elegant decor, with the spectacular Hong Kong skyline served as the perfect backdrop in front of the floor-to-ceiling window. While I thought it may be too uptight for family dinner or casual get-together with friends, I reckon it’s a perfect venue for business functions or entertaining any out-of-towners.

We literally ate non-stop during the Chinese New Year break plus we were recovering from the sumptuous lunch at the spa a few hours before, so we opted for a light dinner with just a handful of dishes. My favorite dish of the night was the stuffed crab shell with crab meat (脆釀鮮蟹蓋), served in individual portion as our first course. The whole crab was first cooked, then the meat was picked and stuffed back into the shell, and finished in the oven with fine bread crumbs spread on top, forming a golden crust after baking. It was delicate and tasty – all that’s needed was a small spoonful of worcestershire sauce or chili sauce to augment the flavor. The rest of the dishes were fine too – it was hard to find places that do classic Cantonese dishes that well these days.

We also picked something new that we wouldn't normally order - like the vegetarian Braised Bird’s Nest and Imperial Fungus Stuffed in Bamboo Piths (燕液竹笙上素卷). With woodear (imperial fungus) sauteed, stuffed and steamed inside bamboo piths, then served with a gravy made of braised bird's nest, which was considered a delicacy, and vegetables on the side. It's delicate, light-flavored with an interesting texture.

We only managed one more dish other than the rice and dessert - that's not very typical of us to order so little (an indication that the non-stop Chinese New Year feasting has finally caught on us). The sauteed freshwater eel arrived sizzling hot in a clay casserole pot. The chunks of eel were meaty, rich and flavorful and were served with a slightly sweet marsala gravy sauce, leeks and slices of what I thought were sweet and crunchy mountain yam. The portion was a bit small - even for the two of us - but it tasted good.

But tonight the service... was... eh... super... slow and at times erratic. Took them over 30 minutes after the first course (and a few inquiries) before our next course arrived. Not to mention the serving order was wrong, with the fried glutinous rice with Chinese cured meat (臘味糯米飯), normally served as the last savory course, came way before all the other dishes arrived. That said, the glutinous rice was great - while it's not one over-loaded with ingredients, the rice was skillfully cooked with great texture. So the service hiccups were more a nuisance - especially while I was starving - rather than being a major issue.

I also loved the desserts – including snacks served on a fancy tray as petit fours, seasonal fruits cut and piled on a glowing “ice pyramid”, and the baked sago pudding with chestnut paste, a variation of the old-school dessert using chestnut instead of lotus bean paste. Overall taste-wise the dishes were definitely hitting the right chord and despite the few hit and misses in other areas, we enjoyed our evening over a decent meal and a spectacular view of our city.

More photos on my Flickr album:

When? February 14 2016
Where? Yan Toh Heen, InterContinental Hong Kong, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsimshatsui, Kowloon
Menu Highlights? Golden Stuffed Crab Shell with Crabmeat

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