Monday, February 3, 2020

Chairman - The Encore

As soon as we walked out the door from The Chairman after a satisfying lunch a few months ago, the same group was already planning an encore and we soon fixed a date after the festive season in this new year to do that, this time on a Saturday afternoon with even more people. I once again asked DY to help work out the menu for us and we ended up with some repeats and some new dishes, plus one vegetarian menu with totally different dishes for one of our friends.

We again started with the pickled young ginger as amuse bouche. I felt this time the ginger was even softer than the one I had last time – maybe due to prolonged pickling - and again, with well balanced taste. The giant razor clam was done in the traditional way – steamed with a splash of soy sauce, minced garlic and vermicelli to soak up all the flavor from the sauce and clam juice, but here they also threw in diced preserved lemon – cured and aged 20 years according to the menu description. The pulp was long gone after the long curing but the zest gave a vibrant acidity and minerality to the dish and added another level of umami flavor. The clam came in good size too -  almost 8 inches long – and with bouncy texture.

The mutton bun surely wasn’t Cantonese, nor something I would normally order (not a fan of lamb), but I enjoyed the bite of the steamed gua-bao stuffed with pulled mutton belly, done Northern Chinese style. On the side was scores of condiments – ginger, cucumber, caramelized onion etc. – plus sweet soybean sauce. The meat was rich but not overly gamey (which is a good thing to me) and I love the soft steamed bun, except it would be better if it’s served hot. We had mixed comments on the next course of sautéed clams. Venus clams were common species found almost year-round in local markets but I thought the ones we had this time came in particularly large size and got good sweet flavor. It’s done Thai style, sautéed in wok with chili jam and Thai basil. Some found it a bit too sweet compared to the traditional Nam Prik Pao.

It’s the first time I had this slipper lobster dish. The appearance of this shellfish looks like a cross-breed between lobster and mantis shrimp (but it’s not), and it’s served with the shell removed, steamed, and with rice broth and vegetables. The slipper lobster has a milder flavor but with great texture, and I thought it worked well with the delicate flavor of the rice broth, slowed cooked with fish and rice and strained before serving. Splashed on top was some rich shrimp oil and shrimp roes for the accent of umami taste. It was a comforting yet complex dish.

The slipper lobster was almost served as a prelude to the crabs – of course there has to be crabs. I think we were served two crabs of slightly bigger size than the ones we had the last time and it’s good as always. And then it was the goose again, roasted in the traditional way and finished using camphor wood fire for the smoky flavor. The bird was not as fatty as the one we had the last time, but it’s just as outstanding with the meat was fell-off-the-bone tender and the skin perfectly crisp with a thin layer of fat attached underneath. Again, the head and neck parts were ones we were fighting over – those surely were the best part with the fatty meat and skin.

We wrapped up our meal with a couple more savory dishes. The seasonal pea-shoot was done in the simplest manner, a quick flip on the red-hot wok with scallion oil, and then it’s the sticky rice with crab and sakura shrimps. I loved the rice dish last time but I felt this was an improved version, with the rice in perfect texture with each grain coated with the oil and essence from the crab juice, and accompanied by the tiny sakura shrimps and picked crab meat mixed in. We had a hard time figuring out which was our favorite dish this time - crab, goose or this. (my vote went for the rice this time)

Lastly it was the dessert – as we were celebrating some birthdays at the table, we asked the kitchen to prepare the traditional Chinese birthday peachy buns for us. Love the sweet lotus seed filling which almost tasted like caramel and the delicate soft buns – again, I personally prefer this to be served piping hot so I did take some points off that (but I did chow down two of those before I left the place)

We went with a few bottles this time, mostly French with the exception of an Napa Cab and a vintage Port at the end. The 10-year old champagne was bone-dry and gripped with minerals, and the Meursault of the same age opened up beautifully after a quick swirl on the glass, rounded, ripe lemon and very concentrated. That paired perfectly with the razor clam dish I reckon. The pair of 2010 Echezeaux began to come to age with a medium body and ripe red fruit, and then it was the cab from Napa from a legendary winery which was always pleasant to drink (more black fruit, vanilla, some sweet spices)

The 1995 Cheval Blanc was beautiful – a lighter body than I expected but with a nice mix of red fruit characters, silky tannin and long finish. May got buried if it went with a steak, but was perfect with the goose. The vintage port almost as old as I was another beauty – medium bodied, not those super jammy type but just the right sweetness for the mild desserts we had.

More photos in my Flickr album:

When? January 11 2020
Where? The Chairman, 18 Kau U Fong, Central
Menu Highlights? Sticky Rice with Crab Meat and Sakura Shrimps
2009 Bruno Paillard Champagne Assemblage Brut (Disgorged September 2017)
2009 Domaine Benjamin Leroux Meursault "Les Narvaux"
2010 Domaine Philippe Charlopin-Parizot Echezeaux Grand Cru
2005 Stag's Leap Wine Cellar SLV Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
1995 Chateau Cheval Blanc St Emilion Grand Cru Classe
1977 Dow's Silver Jubilee Vintage Port

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