Friday, September 23, 2016

Vegetarian for a Night

My friend D was perhaps one of the most authoritative voices in the vegetarianism movement in town, and knowing he's a regular at Seventh Son Restaurant, I suggested we went there for a meatless dinner when we tried to fix up a time and place to catch up. It's my first time coming to the restaurant at its current location since they moved a few blocks down in Wanchai a few months ago, now housed inside a business hotel in the midst of the bar district. Despite the "colorful" neighborhood, I actually prefer this new location with a more spacious setting and modernized décor.

Well, Seventh Son is not a vegetarian restaurant per se – in fact, they count suckling pig and braised abalones as some of their signature dishes – but they do have a few interesting meatless dishes, some on their menu in a dedicated vegetarian section and some you just have to know and asked for them off-menu like D did for our table.

Despite sticking with a small set of ingredients (Tofu and all kinds of mushrooms pretty much were the main theme for the evening), I was quite impressed with all the different flavors being presented. We began with the fried lotus root patty, with the nutty flavor of the chopped lotus root from into a small patty then pan-fried to slight crispiness on top. Then the casserole of eggplant with firm slabs of tofu in spicy garlic sauce was mouth-watering with the sizzling, rich sauce and a kick from the chilies added in.

I had a great Pei Pa Tofu (琵琶豆腐) just a few days ago, but this version at Seventh Son was done vegetarian style with morel mushrooms. It's equally delicious and I swear I wouldn’t have noticed there’s something missing in it (traditionally the dish was made with tofu and minced fish meat mixed in). I am usually not a fan of those typical Chinese vegetarian cooking trying to mimic the meat dish, but I must say the Sweet and Sour Bear's Head Mushroom were excellent both in presentation and flavor, replacing the tender chunks of pork with the equally "meaty" Bear's Head Mushroom (or Monkey Head Mushroom 猴頭菇 as in the literal translation from its Chinese name).

The bean curd parcel with assorted mushrooms is a modified version of the classic Chiuchow dish Shek Lau Chicken (石榴雞), replacing minced chicken with finely-chopped mushrooms as filling of a dumpling wrapped with paper-thin bean curd sheet before steamed and served with a clear gravy. It’s delicate and well-presented, like the blossoming flower the dish was named after (Shek Lau is Pomengrante in Chinese). We ended our meal with a small bowl of the "Pian Er Mian" (片兒麵) in soup, which is an old-school Cantonese dish using razor-thin dough boiled, deep-fried and soaked in superior broth to serve, giving it an unique texture unlike regular egg noodles.

We couldn't quite make up our mind of what desserts to order so we ended up having four different kinds to share. My favorite was the steamed date cake which was served warm with a sticky texture and subtly sweet taste. Sometimes we almost took it for granted, but these little sweet dimsums served at the end of a typical Cantonese meal can easily rival any petit fours served at any fine-dining outlets in terms of presentation and taste.

When? September 18 2016
Where? Seventh Son Restaurant, 3/F, The Wharney Guang Dong Hotel, 57-73 Lockhart Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Bean Curd Parcels with Assorted Mushrooms (素石榴球)

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