Thursday, February 11, 2010

Highlight #281: Regal Cantonese - Restaurant: Regal Palace (Hong Kong)

Hong Kong is full of five star hotels and I dare say that every one of them has a good if not excellent anchoring restaurant. Being the only place in the region pegged to the US dollar, the Hong Kong's five star hotels are actually quite affordable to dollar wielding folks.

Our temp home, the Regal Hotel Hong Kong, has a Michelin one star, Regal Palace, which specializes in Cantonese food. Before our drive to the airport, we had a last meal here starting the with requisite Cantonese "old fire soup."

For the Cantonese, dinner also properly begins with a soup. And by soup, they mean a long and slow cooked clay pot creation started early in the day.

While the soup is chock full of goodies such as chicken, beef, pork, ribs, gingseng and other Chinese herbs, the soup is served without these things inside. Rather, the solids are separately presented on a plate (see middle of table), more for viewing (so you know what went into the soup), than for eating. It is believed that all the goodness had already seeped into the liquid, which is very mildly seasoned and drank for health and awakening of appetite. When herbs are used, it is especially important to choose the type of "old fire soup" suitable for ones particular temperament. So not only making of the soup is an art, the same goes for the choosing and drinking of the soup.

After our chicken and gingseng soup, we moved on to the tasty matters. I ordered some classic dishes to send off our friend. That included a juicy plate of roast pork, which our friend claimed to be the best he ever had, a plate of cold braised beef brisket, and a palate purifying fish and mushroom stew.

One restaurant speciality that took us by surprise was this fried white fish in a slightly tangy sauce. The coating was so light, it was virtually grease less. Rather than flaky, the fish inside was as moist as tender tofu.

Before I could stop her, our server cut up this whole piece of soy braised pork. To give us a visual of how tender the meat is, she did this not with a knife, but with the edge of a small plate. See how neat the cut edges are? This was one piece of tender meat.

While the egg tarts may attract your attention here, what I really want to talk about is the "ginger juice collision milk" in the foreground. The unique name is a literal description of this dessert in the making. Fresh ginger is roughly stumped in a mortar to produce a small amount a juice for the bottom of the bowl. Milk is then slow boiled with some sugar to just shy of boiling. The control of temperature is super important here as it determines whether and how well the milk will congeal. Slightly cooled (again temp important), the milk is fast poured into the bowl with a flourish, causing the collision with the ginger juice. How the collision happens is apparently also important to ensure consistency of the final product. Once poured, the bowl is not touch to disturbed the cooling. The cooled bowl is then chilled until service. It is said that the proper texture is achieved for this dessert if a porcelain soup spoon placed on top will not break the surface. It's one of my very favorite things to eat for both the creamy texture and the unexpected hint of heat from the ginger juice. This one was texturally very good, but a little muted in terms of the ginger.

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