Thursday, April 29, 2021

Now Asia's Best

We love our last meal at The Chairman in January so much that we made another booking to eat at the restaurant before we finished the meal, and before we know for sure dinner service would be resumed by then. And I am glad that we did have the foresight of planning in advance. 

Our last lunch came at the heel of the news about they being awarded a Michelin star, and this time, our dinner came 2 days after they being named Asia’s Best. What a nice coincidence. Owner and friend DY helped us with sorting out the food menu, and we each brought some bottles to pair with the food. 

We began with the crispy rice dumpling (zongzi) stuffed with pork belly. A twist to the traditional food eaten during the mid-summer Tuen Ng Festival, this feel like a simpler version with glutinous rice, mung beans, salted egg yolk and pork belly formed like a flat patty and deep-fried for the crispy crust. On the side it was the thick, syrupy soy sauce and chrysanthemum sugar for the interesting savory-sweet combination. I don’t recall having pigeon here before, and I regret not trying this earlier.  The baby pigeon, marinated in soy sauce and spices and poached, was just cooked through and had the perfect tender and pinkish meat. The marinate was mild but showed much complexity, rustic, slightly smoky, a bit of star anise, peppers and hint of sweetness. Gave the bird a nice bronze color too. And even the head and neck were great too – fatty, tender with rich meaty flavor. 

We saw the evolution of their char siu over the past years and this may be the best I have had, so far. The crust was charred and well-caramelized with maltose glaze, and the meat has the right among of fat and super tender. Freshwater seasarmine crab roes was the one DY highly recommended, saying this rare local delicacy is in season at around this time with the richest flavor. This time, it’s served with stir-fried slipper lobsters, also in season at this time, with generous drizzle of shrimp oil and green peas. Everything worked so well together, and I thought the ginger diamond was a nice touch to give the dish a slight kick.

It goes without saying the flowery crabs were great as usual, this time with a pretty decent-sized one. I am normally not a fan of lamb but I was curious enough that I ordered the spicy lamb ribs anyway. And I loved it – the meat was fell-off-the-bone tender and slightly gamey, and I love the spices smothered on top, giving the meat a nice crust. The vegetables and layered tofu in fish broth was a good balancing act, with the mildly flavored dish sat in between a few rich ones. 

And we finished our savory courses with the casserole rice, this time made with braised pork belly and preserved vegetables. I have had my good share of decent braised pork belly elsewhere but this one with the crispy rice is certainly among the best I have had. The soft preserved vegetables and pork has always been a match in heaven and common in Cantonese Hakka cuisine, with the unique savory-sweet flavor of the cured and sun-dried mustard green paired well with the thin slices of the fatty belly. And the rice, cooked in the casserole with the crispy edges, worked to balance the salty flavor. Dessert was the usual one – sweet almond soup, osmanthus pudding and mung-bean cake. Just sweet enough to give the meal a perfect end. 

I kept the menu as secret until the night but it turned out the wines everyone contributed blindly made it an awesome flight to pair with the dishes throughout the evening. We started with a bottle of bubbly Blanc de Noirs, an unusual one made with 100% Pinot Meunier – nice bouquet of floral aroma, some plum, brioche, rich in minerals, and stood up well with the pigeon. A pair of burgundy – one red and one white of the same vintage was poured side by side for the charsiu, slipper lobsters and crabs. Both came from respectable winemakers and showed in the bottles they produced. We finished with a pair of right bank Bordeaux, again from two equally respectable vineyards. Can never go wrong with a Cheval Blanc, especially a well-aged one. Medium, elegant, pleasant violet aroma, ripe red fruits on the palate, hint of coffee and nice smooth tannins. The Pavie, 10 years younger than the Cheval Blanc, was fuller, with more black fruits, smoky with some tar and cedar wood, and matched well with our last course of pork belly. 

With the new accolades came the much longer waiting list, and we made sure we had our next booking confirmed before we walked out the door, thoroughly enjoyed yet another epic meal at this little restaurant in a quiet street which has slowly and steadily became world famous. 

More photos in my album:

When? March 27 2021
Where? The Chairman, 18 Kau U Fong, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Slippers Lobster Stir-fried with Freshwater Crab Roes
Champagne Egly Ouriet Les Vignes de Vrigny Premier Cru NV (Disgorged July 2020)
2009 Domaine Hubert Lamy Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru “Les Macherelles”
2009 Domain Benjamin Leroux Volnay Premier Cru “Les Mitans”
1995 Chateau Cheval Blanc, St-Emilion Grand Cru
2006 Chateau Pavie, St Emilion Grand Cru

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