Thursday, February 8, 2024

One Last Meal in Shenzhen

We started our dinner at Gem Garden slightly earlier than usual so we could catch our ride back to Hong Kong at reasonable hours. Spending a weekend in Shenzhen without a taste of Chinese food seems strange but we had a good time trying different things, but then we were glad we finished with something more traditional in our last meal. 

Gem Garden sat inside One Avenue in Futian District, arguably one of the newest, most high-end shopping mall in town with just about everything and anything. The maze-like decor was impressive, filled with modern artwork as we were led to the private dining room at the back. The restaurant is under the same ownership as Shokutei which we visited the day before and specialized in Chaoshan Cuisine from the hometown of owner's family in the eastern part of Guangdong Province. 

Chaoshan Cuisine was known for its seafood and vegetable dishes (plus goose, as some might rightfully point out) and our menu represents the more refined version of them. We began with a pair marinated goose dishes - the goose web was deboned with nice crunchy texture, and the goose livers were served in thick slices and I love the firm texture. Both have been marinated in the traditional "Lo Sui" sauce with rich and subtly herbaceous flavor. The whole "Sunflower Chicken", was simply brined and poached and that's all needed to bring out the best taste from the bird said to be fed with sunflower seeds. 

Traditionally, "Fish Rice", or cold fish, was served whole with the fish poached then left chilled. But this time, chef served the threadfin in bite-sized portion with a dab of yellow soybean paste on top for the fancier presentation and easier way to eat. Cold Crab is another local specialty and here, it's prepared with the seasonal roe-rich hairy crab, cured in mild soy sauce and rice wine and served raw. It had an amazing umami flavor in each bite. 

Double-boiled Duck Soup was warm and hearty, and I like the hint of dried mandarin peel added in. The stir-fried shreds of fin and picked crab meat showed great skills by the chef with nice "wok hei", done dry and fluffy. The giant conch shell was served in elaborate manner, with the whole piece presented at the table over charcoal fire and flambeed with Mao Tai liquor for the show and for the aroma and flavor. 

We finished with a few more homestyle dishes including stir-fried beef slices with julienned ginger and boiled young yellow croaker with soybean paste and fish broth. The Clam and Taro was an interesting dish - the local white clams came in good size with rich umami and mineral flavor, but we love the taro even more, with perfect soft texture and hint of sweetness. Deep-fried Bombay Duck fish fillet may be a common dish but here it's presented with the salivating pineapple filling. I count the sweet mashed taro as one of my favorite desserts from the region and this one we had was surely my favorite of my favorite with the smoothest texture (and without a noticeable trace of oil) and perfect level of sweetness.  

We enjoyed the careful selection of drinks to go with the dishes too. Chaoshan area is known for their elaborate way to serve tea and the production of oolong tea, so we were served a few different types plus wines as the evening went along. The fragrant white peony tea was served as our welcome drink, with the petal-like tea leaves brewed in the cup for the mild but aromatic taste, and our second cup of cold-brewed phoenix dan cong worked perfectly well with the few chilled seafood appetizers. I think the big California chardonnay matched the taste from the rich "lo sui" marinate too. Further on we enjoyed a horizontal flight of new vs old world pinot, and the oolong tea served in traditional gongfu tea ceremony by the tea master using the Yixing teapot, unglazed and made with the special purple clay said to make the tea taste better with more refined structure.

When? January 14 2024
Where? Gem Garden, Shop L239, One Avenue Center, Futian District, Shenzhen, Guangdong Province
Menu Highlights? Chaoshan Style Raw Hairy Crabs 生醃大閘蟹
2019 Kistler "Les Noisetiers" Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, USA
2016 Angel Flower Pinot Noir Pyramid Valley, New Zealand
2018 Domaine Serafin Pere & Fils Gevrey Chambertain AOC
Web: (Instagram)

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