Friday, September 6, 2019

Dinner By Chance

A chance encounter with our friend DSJ led to me crashing the dinner organized by her and other common friends the evening right after. Dinner was at Man Wah on top of Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, and I had little doubt that the meal was going to be spectacular even before the first dish was served. With their Chef Wong Wing Keung working hard to pick up a few cooking skills from DSJ lately, I know he would pull all he’s been learning to impress his si-fu.

It’s been more than a year already since Chef Wong moved to the restaurant after the stint at Yee Tung Heen at the now-demolished Excelsior hotel, and this is my second time visiting the restaurant since he settled in at his new position. We went for nine courses this time, starting with a couple dim-sum items as our amuse-bouche/appetizers, and ending with sweet soup and petit fours as desserts.

Har Gau (Shrimp dumpling) and Ngau Yuk (Beef Meatballs) were common dim sum dishes found almost everywhere but the one served this evening stood out from the rest. The shrimp dumpling was plump, perfectly wrapped and with good flavor from the filling, and the beef meatball is a new version, with tofu-skin wrapped around the piece of meatballs like a pouch, and I love the soft texture of the meatball too, in addition to the nice presentation. The deep-fried sea urchin “guo-ja” pudding is something Chef Wong has been working on, based on the classic recipe perfected by the late Pearl Kong and passed onto DSJ, and she has now shared the recipe with Chef Wong. I had the same last year at the same place last year but I could clearly see the improvement this time – with better balance in flavor and presentation, firm on the outside and silky soft inside. That’s eye-opening.

I couldn’t remember when’s the last time I had duck feet terrine, another Cantonese classic that’s almost lost in time (鴨腳包拼柚子青瓜). One we had was a modified version and served with slightly pickled cucumber and grapefruit. Not sure what the tiny bits of grapefruit did to the overall taste of the dish, but the terrine was well made. There’s no description that could properly captured how complicated it was to prepare for our soup course. From the appearance it’s just like any other vegetable soup topped with some picked crab meat, but it’s made by picking the most tender shoot of spinach (perhaps less than 10% of the total bunch), carefully hand-chopped into small bits, and mixed into the broth base cooked extensively long with scores of ingredients. Again, it’s a heirloom recipe that only a few knew these days, with simple but comforting flavor.

The sautéed pig tripe with vegetables (七彩炒肚尖) was another dish which took a lot of effort to make with no details overlooked in order to achieve perfection. This version was milder in flavor (than the one we had at the secret SBI Kitchen) but decent nonetheless. We also enjoyed the pan-fried pork patty mixed with salted fish, another well-executed home-style dish. At this time, Chef Wong appeared with a huge plate with chicken done in a salt dome. Salt-baked chicken was chef’s signature dish back in the Yee Tung Heen days and glad he brought this over in Man Wah. Perfectly cooked with juicy meat and the slightly crispy, golden skin. And another good part was the meat juice that was served in a separate bowl which I didn't hesitate to soak it all up with a bowl of steamed rice.

To wrap up, it’s a pan-fried vegetarian dumpling (another crafty dish with all ingredients finely diced in equal sizes), bowl of noodles, sweet soup of longan fruit and goji berries, and a pair of Chinese petit fours served in a fancy bird cage.

Of course, we went with some awesome wines throughout the evening – beginning with a pair of sake, then a few more bottles of wine. But the most interesting was the tea that our friends brought over to share, including some vintage pu’er tea. Soft, rounded and smooth with hint of nuttiness. Worked like a charm with the dishes. Am glad I got to crash this, not to mention I got DSJ’s limited-edition mooncake to go home with.

More photos at

When? August 21 2019
Where? Man Wah, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Deep-fried sea urchin “Guo-ja” dumpling
Azumaichi Shizukushibori Daiginjo Senbatsu 29BY - Gochouda Brewery, Saga Prefecture
(東一 雫搾り 大吟醸 選抜29BY - 佐賀県 五町田酒造)
Kokuryu Junmai Daiginjo Ginfu 2017 (Shumon edition) - Kokuryu Brewery, Fukui Prefecture
(黒龍  吟風 純米大吟醸 酒門 2017 - 福井県 黒龍酒造)
1982 Domaine Charles Noellat Nuits Saint Georges AOC
2005 Jonata El Alma de Jonata, Santa Ynez Valley, USA
2007 Sasso di Sole Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva

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