Thursday, May 2, 2019

Almost a Total Repeat

It’s been over 2 years since we last ate at Shun Tak Fraternal Association, so we were happy to re-join our friends H and A for a long overdue encore dinner there recently. Coincidentally, we were seated at the exact same spot as last time, a small but comfortable private room which were more than adequate for the six of us. Even the menu was similar, with a few of their signature dishes originated in the area of ingredient-rich Shunde not far away from here. But as we were told that the original chef has left since our last visit, there were subtle but noticeable difference in cooking style with the new team even when many of the dishes were a repeat from our last visit.

We started with the mandarin fish soup. Scores of ingredients (carp fish, tofu skin, shitake mushrooms, etc) were carefully sliced or shredded, slow-cooked and turned into a hearty soup. Felt the hint of ginger flavor was more subtle this time, but the cilantro was more distinct. Overall flavor was mild but comforting. Crystal king prawn was next. It was my favorite course last time and it’s still as good as I thought. Both the prawn and the egg white custard underneath was done with perfect texture – prawn tender but bouncy, the egg white custard soft and silky. Thought the egg white was slightly under-seasoned but that would be my only complaint.

The sweet and sour pork was another memorable dish we had and I felt like it’s even more refined this time, with the meat cut into chunks of identical size, dipped into a batter and deep-fried, before finishing with the sweet and sour glaze along with bell peppers and pineapples. And the roast pigeon was done with less of the dark soy basting sauce hence the skin has a lighter color, but remained flavorful and crispy. I even thought the heads and necks of the pigeon were excellent – that’s probably the best bits.

We didn’t have the stuffed carp the last time but I am glad that we did order the dish this time. Probably the most well-known dish of Shunde cuisine, Meat of the fresh carp dish was taken out, mixed with herbs and seasoning, and mashed into paste, then stuffed back into the fish to steam and sautéed with the rich black bean sauce. The fish was then plated whole and served in thick slices. It’s not the most common dish found elsewhere these days (because of the work involved) and this version was one of the best I have had in my memories.

We finished with a bowl of fried rice cooked in a lotus leaf wrap with the subtle aroma from the leaf well infused into the rice, and the dessert of sweet almond cream soup, which was soothing and tasty. Went with a few bottles throughout the evening. The pair of young Bordeaux left bank were showing some potentials for years to come but the 14-year-old bottle from Central Coast of California was just entering its prime. And the champagne was perfect as a celebratory toast, plus it paired well with the fish soup and the prawn dish we had at the beginning.

When? April 25 2019
Where? Shun Tak Fraternal Association, 2/F, United Building, 17-19 Jubilee Street, Central
Menu Highlights? Traditional Sweet and Sour Pork
NV Sotheby’s Champagne R&L Legras Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut
2013 Chateau d'Armailhac, Pauillac
2011 Chateau Duhart Milon, Pauillac
2005 Jonata “el Corazon de Jonata” Santa Ynex Valley, Central Coast, USA

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