Tuesday, May 17, 2022

New Spot and New Word

Chef Sai To and the Mira Dining team have such a unique concept in transforming this new spot in IFC that they invented a new word, “Chinesology”, to be the new name for the restaurant, taking up what used to be The French Window. While contemporary Chinese cuisine was obviously not something revolutionary, I was curious what this new dining venue would bring when I was invited to a dinner tasting late last month. 

At first sight I was impressed with the facelift, changing the somewhat aged and cliché western restaurant décor into something sleek and trendy with flamboyant-colored furniture and recessed lighting, with booth style tables in the main dining area resembling more of a night club than conventional restaurants. The long bar was gone and replaced with a smaller one on the side, plus more private dining rooms. One thing that remained unchanged was the gorgeous harbor view right outside the floor-to-ceiling windows, which remained one of the attractions. 

Their a la carte menu features a nice combination of classic and contemporary dishes with dim-sum items available during the day as well. Meanwhile, the Degustation menu which we were having was more elaborate and true to the chef’s concept of his own unique rendition of cooking style, combining traditional ingredients and techniques with flair. We began with a pair of hot appetizers. Salted Egg Prawns is always a crowd-pleaser with the distinct savory-umami taste, but here Chef Sai To decided to use soft-shell prawns for a different, more delicate texture. The second dish was an upgraded version of the home-style stir-fried minced beef, using Kagoshima Wagyu beef miced and tossed with julienned vegetables and crushed peanuts and served on an “edible spoon” made of crispy spring roll wrapper. I love the cute presentation and it’s delicious too. 

Soup was the key component of classic Cantonese cuisine and one we had was enjoyable, double-boiled with pork and almond and served with the soft fish maw. Chef added chunks of Japanese honeydew melon in for the extra sweetness, which I though was a nice touch. The rest of the menu was mostly seafood-themed with rather strong flavor. The scallop dish played with the old Chinese saying of “pearl covered in straw” (禾稈冚珍珠), with a piece of giant Hokkaido scallop sauteed with shrimp paste and covered in fried leeks and mini Japanese Sakura shrimps. The horsehead tilefish, a.k.a. Amadai in Japanese, was done using the traditional “jin fung” (煎封) method (panfrying with a quick basting of sauce whilst cooking) but kept the scales on so they were all crisped up.

My favorite of the night was the steamed egg white custard with lobster and crab. Here the silky egg white custard underneath was steamed with coconut water added for the somewhat exotic flavor. Tea-smoked chicken was served with much fanfare in a large earthenware casserole filled with osmanthus tea smoke under the lid. Apart from the enticing aroma that filled the table immediately, the chicken was well cooked with the paper-thin crispy skin, well-tanned with basting of soy sauce while roasting. 

Early spring may not be the usual crab season, but we finished with the salivating crab roes and flat mung bean noodles, and balsamic “crystals” on the side. Our dessert was one inspired by the traditional bingtanghulu (冰糖葫蘆, a common street snack in Northern China), with preserved plum mousse served in a red candied shell, served on a silver skewer inside a traditional “jewelry box”.  

I liked the pairing of cocktails too with their drink menu in the consistent Chinese-influenced theme using traditional herbs. I particularly liked the Bamboo Punch, made using the traditional Shanxi Bamboo Leaf liquor with five-spice cordial and soda – it’s very easy going with a hint of refreshing aroma. With the tea-smoked chicken we were served their house gin neat in an old-fashioned brass container, infused with red dates, longan and hawthorn for the slightly punchier taste. 

When? April 26 2022
Where? Chineasology, Shop 3101, Podium Level 3 ifc mall, Central
Menu Highlights? Lobster, Crab Meat, Egg White Custard, Young Coconut

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