Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Across the Street

“Come eat at my secret stash spot”, suggested M, referring to the new space he acquired just across the street from his restaurant Renren Heping (人人和平小飯店) in North Point. We came to this neighborhood restaurant regularly mainly for its famous Cantonese barbecue and other home-style dishes, and also partly because its owner M is an old classmate of mine. And this time, he organized this dinner with a few of our common friends from school for an impromptu reunion of sorts with a special menu at this new shop. 

No shop sign on the front just yet but the plan was to turn this 3000 square feet spot formerly of a hotpot restaurant into a “private kitchen” for a more sophisticated menu with bigger groups once the renovation is completed. After some snacks of deep-fried golden fish skins (coated with salted egg yolk) 黃金炸魚皮 and cold marinated jelly fish 涼拌海蜇, we started with the whole suckling pig 鴻運脆皮乳豬, literally just roasted from the pit from across the street, carved and immediately brought over to our table. The restaurant is famous for its “award-winning” roast goose but I got to say the pig was just as good, with the skin perfectly crisp and the meat well brined for the tender texture and rich flavor. 

Traditional-style Fish head soup 懷舊鳳凰補腦魚雲羹 was next and it was prepared in the old way with julienned ginger, shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots and wood-ear mushrooms plus chicken liver stirred into the soup prepared with the delicate meat picked from the big grouper’s head, giving it a potage-like consistency. And then there’s pig’s brain, that soft and creamy blobs that looked like tofu, which added to the texture and flavor. I think I was the only one that went for the second and third bowl after M has explained to us what went inside the soup. 

Brain might have been of an acquired taste for many, prawns and abalones in our next course were more a common favorite by consensus. The South Africa abalones were done “so ja” 酥炸style, marinated with salt and white pepper, breaded with corn flour and egg-wash batter, deep-fried then served with fried garlic for the fluffy and crispy texture, and the prawn was also deep-fried, but this time, minced and wrapped in pork caul fat beforehand. Both were well-executed and delicious. 

Braised Grouper Fins were another old-school dishes, with the dorsal fin of the giant fish (with its head being made into the soup we had earlier) steamed and braised in the thickened gravy, and served with thick slices of shiitake mushrooms and dried tofu skins softened by the braising sauce.

Vegetable dish was a simple one, with local baby bak choi served with superior broth and braised garlic (蒜子野菌泡學斗菜). The final savory course of rice was another beauty, with pieces of chicken (again, coming from a local farm) deboned, fried with the skin on and baked with the rice mixed with aged and dried mandarin peel in a big lotus leaf (荷葉新會陳皮生煎嘉美雞焗飯). The meat was juicy and tender with the oil well infused into the rice, and the delicate flavor and aroma of the mandarin peel and lotus leaf balanced well with it. 

While most of the dishes were new to me, for desserts we went back to my favorite – the bowl of sweet soup prepared with tofu-skin and egg drop served with the churros made from the kitchen at the western restaurant next door (also owned by M). It wasn’t on the menu but I often requested this after realizing this seemingly strange and random combination worked extremely well together – think biscotti and coffee. 

When? September 24 2021
Where? Renren Heping Restaurant (Annex), 8 Fort Street, North Point
Menu Highlights? Deep-fried South African Abalones and Minced Prawn Meatballs 脆皮南非鮑魚清沙拼淮香豬網油百花蝦丸
Champagne Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut NV
2011 m2 "Old Vine Soucie Vineyard" Zinfindel, Central Valley California
2016 Chateau Lagrange, Saint-Julien AOC
2016 E.Guigal Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC

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