Thursday, May 11, 2017

Stellar Shunde Meal

Stellar House is among the handful of new independent restaurants serving traditional Chinese cuisine in a cozy, contemporary setting, providing more fine-dining choices to the local dining scene in a space formerly occupied mostly by those Chinese restaurants inside upscale hotels.

I joined a group of friends for a dinner there recently at the invitation of the owner, and from the dishes we have tried, I have to agree that the food and experience do match the name of stellar quality, with no non-sense cooking by Head Chef Chan, a veteran in Shunde Cantonese cuisine coming from the exclusive yet ever-popular Shunde Fraternal Association clubhouse.

Arguably speaking, Shunde cuisine represented the best of classic Cantonese cooking, taking advantage of the many excellent ingredients found in the township of Shunde in the heart of Pearl River Delta, proximity to the prosperous Canton region, and the discerning palates of the locals. The menu we had that evening mainly drawn from tried-and-true dishes passing down through generations in the area.

We started with the Shunde style fish soup, with hand-shredded freshwater carp meat and julienned wood-ear mushrooms and loofah. The soup almost has the thick consistency like chowder, full of umami flavor from a fish soup base with a hint of ginger mixed in. The stir-fried milk was another signature dish of the region, with milk curd cooked in a red-hot work quickly to reach the right firm texture similar to scrambled eggs but only creamier, and served with triple-layered pork rolls.

The region was better known for the freshwater fish dishes, but we also had a couple seafood courses. It's hard to rival the crystal king prawn we had at our favorite secret private kitchen but this one was still better than most around town. The tiger grouper, which came in decent size and served two ways, was great, with bouncy meat, well-flavored with good "wok hei" especially the chunks of fish fillet stir-fried with vegetables.

We had the exact same dish of stir-fried egg with vegetarian fin just a few days ago elsewhere. While both were excellent, the one I had at Stellar House was the clear winner with the eggs done fluffier with better taste. And my favorite of the night was the roast baby pigeons, which arrived towards the end of our meal. They were cooked with perfection with the crispy and shiny skin (well basted with oil) and juicy meat - that required precision, multiple steps of preparation, and skills to get this right.

Rounded up our long menu were other classic Cantonese classics such as sweet and sour pork, fried sticky rice and the dessert of ground walnut sweet soup. This is solid, old-school cooking all around, given a modern makeover with good ambiance and presentation. And all of us went home totally satisfied and happy after such a wonderful feast.

When? May 9 2017
Where? Stellar House, 3/F Chuang's Enterprises Building, 382 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Signature Roasted Baby Pigeons
Wine? 2014 Domaine Couly-Dutheil "Les Moulins de Tuerquant" Chenin Blanc AOC Saumur

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