Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Freshly Minted

Call it a stroke of luck when we managed to get a table at The Chairman on the weekend right after they have regained the Michelin star after almost 10 years. A table to eat there was already hard to get by these days given they couldn’t open at night, and the newly minted accolade won’t help on that front either. 

We decided to go with whatever their owner DY decided to feed us, plus the Char Siu dish that we requested. After the amuse-bouche of pickled young ginger root (still one of the best in town), we started with a pair of appetizers served side by side, and both I enjoyed much. The baby squid marinated in soy sauce and Szechuan pepper and served chilled has the best, rich flavor infused into the perfectly tender squid, and the crab and mushroom dumpling is an old-school Cantonese dish, with picked crab meat, diced bamboo shoots, pork and shiitake mushrooms filled in a flat dumpling (like a gold coin, hence its Chinese name meaning “Gold Coin Crab Dumpling”) and deep-fried. The vinegar served on the side just balanced out some of the fatty oily taste. 

I don’t remember if I ever had Pig’s Tail before, but it turned out to be larger than I thought, with the thicker part filled with meat and collagen tissues near the joint. The pieces were marinated, deep-fried then slow-cooked with a gentle basting of plum sauce. It was amazingly delicious with the best textures. We had a triple crustacean attack with the next dish, with sauteed slippers lobsters topped with “pang kei” sauce (made with the tiny freshwater Seasarmine crab roes) and shrimp oil. Compared to its cousin regular lobsters the slipper lobster may not have the strongest flavor but I love its delicate texture, and the sauce and oil provided much of the umami taste. Not good for keeping down our cholesterol but definitely kept up our satisfaction level. 

Every time we thought about skipping their signature crab dish and opted for something different, and every time we succumbed to the temptation and asked for an encore. It’s not a proper The Chairman meal without their classic dish, with the large steamed flowery crab served with aged Shaoxing wine sauce and flat rice noodles. Of course I always mopped up the sauce with an extra bowl of rice. The poached chicken we had represented the best way to prepare the dish in traditional Cantonese cuisine, with the young castrated chicken, known for its tender and juicy meat and fatty skin, was brined, slow poached and served with scallion oil on top and grated ginger on the side. That combined brought out the rich chicken flavor. And then, of course it’s the Char Siu which I thought it’s the best in town (or even in the world) by a good mile with the perfect meat texture with just the right fat, perfect marinate (with just a hint of fermented tofu and rose liqueur) and the perfect roasted crust with some charred bits – that would be my choice of my last meal if it ever came to that. 

After the veggies (pea sprouts served in fish broth and layered tofu sheets), the rice was brought to us in a large earthenware casserole, Japanese kamameshi style. In it was the rice mixed with bits of smoked threadfin fish and dried scallops. The fish was smoked on a grill with the bones carefully removed and mixed into the rice, so every bite was filled with an assortment of flavor. It was fulfilling and mind-blowingly good. We finished with the dessert platter, including my favorite mung bean “cake” with subtle sweetness. 

We started our meal with a vintage champagne followed by a flight of Burgundy. Surprised the glass of champagne still showed plenty of youthful characters (bright citrus and some pears) and I like the acidity balance – still waiting for some secondary notes to come through though. The three bottles from similar vintages and neighboring villages showed quite different characters. We started with the softest one, aromatic, some light black fruits on the palate and softened tannins. Thought the second one of Gevrey-Chambertin was a little closed, some plums and cherries but finish a bit short. The last one, also a non-cru village wine, was the most intense, ruby color, concentrated, ripe black fruits, and I like the silky tannins and long after-taste – I would be curious to see how their premier cru ones fare in a few years. 

We went home happy and satisfied, and already began to plan for our next meal there. 

More photos:

When? January 30 2021
Where? The Chairman, 18 Kau U Fong, Central
Menu Highlights? Soya sauce Slow-cooked Pork Tail with Plum Sauce
2006 Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte “Palmes d’Or” Brut
2009 Domaine Meo Camuzet Nuits St Georges Premier Cru “Aux Boudots”
2013 Domaine Marchand-Grillot Gevrey-Chambertin “Au Velle”
2010 Domaine Ponsot Chambolle-Musigny “Cuvee des Cigales”

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