Sunday, March 7, 2021

The New Man Wah

Other than the new Mandarin Club on the 23rd Floor, February also marked the opening month for two restaurants at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong. One of which was Man Wah, the Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant which went through the renovation and now with an expanded space and totally different décor, and that’s where we dropped by for lunch right after we checked in for our staycation weekend.  

I like the classic Chinese style décor with wooden furniture and red carpet and tablecloth in the old Man Wah over these years (but not so much of the lighting which has a funny tint of red especially in the evening), but the restaurant was given a modern makeover, now with the elegant blue and gold tone and milder lighting, more pleasing to the eyes in my opinion. The layout was altered somewhat too, with the dining area now expanded into what used to be M Bar plus a larger kitchen for the team led by Chef Wong. 

It’s been a while since we last met Chef Wong with our previous visit came over a year ago in the private room, and this time, our lunch started in a rather unusual way with a brief tour of the kitchen. Kitchens in Chinese restaurant were often considered out of bound for outsiders so we were ecstatic for the opportunity to have a peek into the workings of one, with the stations handling the cutting and preparation, the cooking (the “wok” station), and also the areas at the back where dim sum and roast dishes were prepared. With the renovation came all the new equipment and Chef Wong was able to customize the area to better suit his team and his work. 

We asked for chef’s recommendation for some dishes before we added a couple more. We began with a couple crafty dishes, first the deep-fried “Guo-ja” dumpling (松茸戈渣) followed by the duck feet roll (懷舊功夫鴨腳包). Based upon the original version made using chicken consomme, Chef Wong presented its modified version of Guo-ja made using Matsutake mushrooms, which gave the dish a much richer flavor and darker color. I like that contrast with the soft and delicate texture. The duck feet roll was somewhat a lost dishes that was once common in every Cantonese chef's repertoire but rarely seen these days due to the complexity in preparation. Chef Wong revived the old recipe and gave it an upscale look, with scores of ingredients (roast pork, charsiu, chicken liver, taro and of course, the deboned duck leg) carefully rolled with duck intestine, roasted and served in medallion-sized slices. It was nicely plated with exquisite taste, accompanied by pickled winter gourd on the side. 

Another beautifully plated dish arrived, and this time it's a trio of appetizer dishes. The wax apple (lin mo in Cantonese) was cut into small cubes marinated with sichuan pepper oil for the nice spicy kick and served in a small bowl; the strips of crispy eels were done Shanghainese style, deep-fried and caramelized, and served with the fancy garnish of an arch formed by the piece of eel bone; the radish cake was something not on the menu (yet), with the small cubes of radish pudding cake (Cantonese lor bak go) were deep-fried with salted egg yolk on top. They were wickedly good. 

Chilled marinated abalone (滬燒鮑魚) was the dish we added on. I love the bouncy texture of a well-cooked piece of abalone with good balance of flavor, having braised in superior broth than caramelized with gravy. We also had a few dimsum items - the har gau, prawn dumpling with bamboo shoots (筍尖鮮蝦餃) and the Chiu-chow vegetable dumpling (潮州素粉果) were served in the bamboo basket. Both perfectly wrapped in two different style of dumpling skins. The mini iberico ham puff (伊比利亞火腿燒餅) was straight from the oven hot, and with a nice flaky pastry. I don't remember when I had the classic Cantonese soup dumpling (灌湯餃) the last time - a tricky dish to make with the thinnest dumpling that's of the size of a fist and stuffed with shrimps, scallops, pork, shiitake mushrooms and supreme broth. It's good especially for nostalgia's sake. 

To finish, it's a series of bite-sized desserts - my favorites were the red-bean pudding 缽仔糕 in the shape of a peanut plus the baked egg tart with flaky pastry base. 

In case you want more pictures, they are here:

When? February 20 2021
Where? Man Wah at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Classic barbecued duck feet with barbecued pork, pork belly, chicken liver, taro wrapped by duck intestine


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