Friday, September 9, 2016

Portuguese Wines and Cantonese Cuisine

We were perhaps the only table in the room who cared much more about the dishes to be served rather than the wines that were being poured and passed around at a recent dinner event at Kin’s Kitchen in Wanchai. We always wanted to go back to the restaurant for their old-school Cantonese dishes, and the dinner, with the theme of "Piggy Feast" featuring wines from a Portuguese vineyard held in late August, provided us the perfect excuse to eat together.

The dinner menu was specifically designed to pair with the wines from Casa de Mouraz, an organic vineyard in Dao region of Portugal, and as the name of the dinner event suggests, pork was the major theme but there were other non-pork dishes as well. We started with Guo Ja (戈渣), something we ordered on top of the original menu. It’s an old Cantonese dishes made with frozen then deep-fried chicken consommé custard. Kin’s Kitchen is one of a few restaurants in town still offering this on the menu, and I thought this was decent with the right soft, delicate texture and intense flavor.

We then went on with the rest of the long Piggy Feast menu, with twelve different dishes altogether, starting with the Roasted Pork Loin Tip Char Siu (梅尖叉燒) and ended with a couple sweet dimsum snacks as dessert. The Char Siu was done in the more traditional style - with richer roast and smoky flavor rather than the more contemporary, sweeter style with a heavy maltose glaze - and with the delicious charred tips. The almond flavor in the almond and pork lung soup (杏汁白肺湯) was milder than the one I usually had but with a stronger meaty taste, like those usually made at home.

The braised Yunnan ham with honey (蜜汁火方) was my favorite dish of the evening – the bloc of Yunnan ham was slow-cooked with honey syrup bringing this an unique savory sweet taste, and served with the equally sweet braised lotus seeds and steamed buns, to be eaten like a slider. The thick slice of ham might be the main attraction of the dish but to me, the lotus seeds were the highlight, slightly crunchy with a floral aroma and sweetness well-infused, balancing the flavor from that of the cured ham.

Among the few non-pork dishes served, the smoked chicken was the clear winner, as expected. It has been the signature dish of the restaurant since the old days in their original location in Tin Hau and one we order every single time we dined here. It’s slow-cooked with a soy-sauce braising liquid then smoked with black tea leaves. It’s incredibly tender, with strong smoky taste and a hint of sweetness.

The giant braised fish was served towards the end of the meal. It was said to be a wild-caught camouflage grouper – it came in pretty good size but I thought the fish itself somewhat lacked flavor, but worked just fine with pickled cabbage, green beans and deep-fried tofu added to provide some complexity and taste. We were told the noodles would be the highlight of the dinner.  Yes, I do agree that the noodle itself was impeccable, with the perfect bouncy texture and cut hair-thin, but I could live with a richer taste like the classic Shanghainese version of "Cong You Ban Mien"(蔥油拌麵), or noodles with charred scallion oil, instead of just the fresh julienned spring onions being used in this version.

I am not an expert in Portuguese wines but I thought quite a few of those we have tasted the evening were more than decent and went well with the dishes. I especially liked the few white wines made with indigenous grapes - big, full-bodied, with good minerals and austere citrus notes - and they went well with the lighter dishes served in the beginning of the dinner. Overall we were properly stuffed with great dishes and bottom-less bottles of decent wines - not a bad way to spend a random Thursday night with this crowd that were always fun to eat with!

When? August 25 2016
Where? Kin's Kitchen (留家廚房), Fifth Floor, W Square, 314-324 Hennessy Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Slow-cooked Yunnan Ham with Honey (蜜汁火方), Kin's Smoked Chicken (留家煙燻雞)
2013 Casa de Mouraz AIR Vinho Verde
2012 Casa de Mouraz Antonio Lopes Ribeiro Douro DO Red
2012 Casa de Mouraz Dao DOC White
2013 Casa de Mouraz "Encruzado" Dao DOC White
2011 Casa de Mouraz Dao DOC Red
2011 Casa de Mouraz "Private Selection" Dao DOC Red

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