Thursday, July 5, 2018

Second Dimsum Lunch

The next day after our dinner at 102 House and subsequently a late night supper at a local joint (for bowls of comforting congees and a few street food dishes), we met up with Jimmy and Chef Xu again for more local food before we headed home, this time at the legendary White Swan Hotel by the Pearl River bank for a second dimsum lunch in as many days while travelling to this town.

I can’t remember when was the last time I set foot at this hotel which is celebrating its 35th anniversary, perhaps as far back as my first ever trip out of Hong Kong when I was a kid when we stayed here briefly for one night at the hotel. Back then the hotel was strictly restricted to “foreigners” and locals were barred from access. But the property, which underwent a total overhaul a few years ago, showed no sign of age now with a modernized décor and a mixture of local and out-of-towner clientele these days. But the signature interior remained, including the fish pond at the basement, completed with old pagodas and waterfall, like a classic Cantonese garden. Jade River, their Cantonese restaurant on the first floor, followed the similar theme, with the setting like an old Chinese house completed with water ponds, stone carvings and bird cages (with real birds kept inside)

The place was said to be serving the best Dim Sum in town and that’s what we were coming here for. I was impressed by the dim sum we had at Mandarin Oriental the day before and the one at Jade River was definitely up there in the same level, if not higher. And this time having more people at the table instead of just the two of us we managed to try out more dishes.

The dim sum dishes arrived in no particular order soon after we put in our order. First was the pair of “cheung fun”, steamed rice flour rolls, with one filled with vegetarian ingredients, and the other, barbecued pork. The rice flour rolls were made translucent thin with good, slightly chewy texture. The deep-fried glutinous rice dumpling (a.k.a. Ham Sui Gok咸水角) must be the cutest I have even see, like a little chicken placed in a wooden cage. It has excellent flavor to show forth too, with tasty filling of diced pork and mushrooms and more.

The baked barbecued pork bun was quite unlike what we usually had in Hong Kong, with a firmer, crispier crust and with cured mustard green mixed with chunks of barbecued pork as filling. That’s the version I preferred with the delicious filling. We offered a few steamed dumplings of different kinds, and they were well prepared. The “black and white” dumpling – one listed on the Chef’s Special menu – was interesting with one side cuttlefish mousse and the other the succulent prawns, and both were wrapped in a thin dumpling skin and steamed. The vegetarian dumpling was similar to “Har Gau” using the similar skin, but has a slight different texture and taste, obviously.

What’s described as “not the usual siu mai” turned out to be one using glutinous rice as filling and topped with flying fish roes. But I preferred the traditional one more, with fatty and juicy minced pork, well wrapped with dumpling skin and topped with a dab of crab roes. We were approaching the Tuen Ng Festival (a.k.a. Dragon Boat Festival) in mid-June, and so we began to see rice dumpling (zong zi) dishes appearing on the menu. But this time it’s something slightly different, with the rice dumpling unwrapped, cut into thick slices and pan-fried coated with egg wash. It was delicious with plenty of filling giving this a nice texture and taste.

The swan dumpling is the signature item of the restaurant. It’s similar to the deep-fried turnip dumpling we had elsewhere, except this time it’s in the shape of a swan, with the dumpling making up the body and a flour bread stick twisted to form the head and neck. Beside the cute presentation, I love the puffy pastry of the dumpling.

The only disappointing dish we had was the noodles with minced pork (zha cheung meen). We didn’t wait too long to dip into the plate of noodles but by then they were already sticking together like it’s been sitting around for hours, and the sauce and broth which came with the noodles were only average as well and a tad bit too sweet for me. We finished with a pair of dessert dim sums. The black sesame bun – which resembled the face of a panda – was decent (I personally preferred the type with white sesame instead), but my favorite was the Shaqima, the traditional fritter made with egg and flour, deep fried and glazed with syrup, similar to an American funnel cake but cube-shaped. It’s slightly crunchy, puffy and with a good sweet balance. It’s getting harder to find this served in restaurant in Hong Kong, let alone a well-prepared one like this.

I wouldn’t have even considered coming over to eat if it’s not recommended by Chef Xu and Jimmy, but this is one impressive dim sum lunch and a satisfying conclusion of our whirlwind visit of this foodie city so close to us.

More photos in my Flickr album:

When? May 22 2018
Where? Jade River, The White Swan Hotel, 1 Shamian Nan Jie, Shamian Island, Guangzhou, China
玉堂春暖, 中國廣州荔灣區沙面南街1號白天鵝賓館
Menu Highlights? Baked Barbecued Pork Bun

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