Wednesday, July 14, 2021

A Rare Exception

I am never a fan of Tai Ping Koon, quite possibly one of the oldest local restaurants still standing and serves the so-called “Soy Sauce Western” cuisine, a fusion cooking style of sort mixing old-school service a la russe with a “Chinese characteristic” – how politically appropriate. But I thought I would make this an exception for once to eat there again given the restaurant is right across the street from where we were staying for the night. 

I supposed nothing has changed much at this iconic eatery’s Jordan branch since the 1960’s when they first opened at this location, sitting at a street corner a block away from Nathan Road. The waiter seemed bewildered when we decided to order a few more dishes in addition to their “Signature Set for Two”, and probably even more surprised when we ended up finishing all the dishes. We started with Seafood Soup, a slightly watered down version of the classic French bisque and served with the warm bun and butter, the local version of the Parker House Rolls. Wasn’t bad actually, even with bits of lobster meat inside the deep dish. 

Chicken Wings in “Swiss Sauce” is the dish made famous at this restaurant, braised using sweet soy sauce. To be honest I never quite enjoyed this – I would rather prefer wings be deep-fried or baked for the crispier crust – but the sweet glaze was tasty and the wings were moist and juicy. We followed with a similar theme with our “main course” of stir-fried flat noodles with sliced beef and “Swiss Sauce” using the same sweet soy sauce as gravy – that in my opinion fared better. And on the side was stir-fried cabbage with bacon, and I thought it was pretty decent too. 

If I must pick a favorite at this restaurant, it has to be the corned beef tongue, served in thick slices and boiled vegetables on the side. Lovely texture and good flavor, having cured and boiled in salt water. The giant souffle was the second add-on dish we ordered, baked inside a 8-inch giant glass ramekin. It’s always an attention seeker whenever the dish was brought out from the kitchen. Probably not the best souffle I have tasted but it did have that theatrical effect. Rounding up was coconut panna cotta (served in a small stainless steel bowl just like the old times) and a cup of coffee which came with the set menu. 

We brought our own wine this time, trying to match the food with a nice Brunello. I was rather surprised that they did have proper glassware to serve, and did a proper wine service, even with a makeshift paper napkin wrapped around the bottle. Much better than many restaurants with professional sommelier in their front house team, I reckon. The bottle opened up nicely after 30 minutes – ripe red fruits, jammy raspberry, cassis and a hint of tobacco and baking spices. Stood up well with the rich meaty dish with the rich soy sauce flavor. 

Not changing my opinion that this restaurant is probably overpriced and overhyped, but for once and once only, the meal turned out to be more decent that I thought. Nostalgia might still be overrated, but with things that we took for granted is being taken away from us bit by bit, that might as well be what we are left with and something we ought to treasure. 

When? June 5 2021
Where? Tai Ping Koon Restaurant, 19-21 Mau Lam Street, Jordan, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Corned Ox Tongue with Boiled Vegetables
Drink? 2015 Frescobaldi Castel Giocondo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

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