Shang Palace at Shenzhen Shangri-la Hotel

Not going to go into much detail here. Just wanted to let you all know (if you haven’t heard already) that there’s an all-you-can-eat dimsum lunch menu at Shang Palace at Shenzhen Shangri-la Hotel for only RMB 98! I think between my friend and I, for RMB 196 (Yes! RMB 98 per head and no extra service charge!) we bankrupted the restaurant.

This reminds me of the RMB 78 brunch at Lynn (琳怡中餐厅) across from Plaza 66 in Shanghai. I wonder if that deal is still around. It was fantastic.

Anyway, in particular, I want to point you to 3 dishes we thought were excellent:

  • Soup Dumplings (灌湯餃) – of course, don’t expect the same quality, size and appearance as ones you might find at Yixin Restaurant (益新), where all the soup is contained in the dumpling and you must poke it and let all the soup out … nothing like that.
  • X.O. Sauce Fried Rice Noodle Rolls (X.O. 醬炒腸粉) – I like this because I think most of the time, they fry this dish when you order them. They didn’t just pick them up from a pot full of it because its still a bit crunchy on the outside and really hot inside. The hotel-made X.O. sauce is also slightly spicy, but the dried shrimp and the conpoy help add a lot of flavour to it.
  • Steamed Beef Balls with Bean Curd Skin (山竹牛肉球) – Really soft beef balls and crunchy, although the “softness” might have something to do with soda powder, which makes this dish the one and only dish I am fine if the chef decides to use soda powder to make the beef less tender. And “crunchy” from the generous amount of chopped water chestnuts (馬蹄) and green onion adding into the beef balls.

Other dimsums were pretty decent too, but these 3 stood out from the rest.

All-you-can-eat at Shang Palace in SZ

All-you-can-eat at Shang Palace in SZ

Soup Dumplings (灌湯餃)

Soup Dumplings (灌湯餃)

Salt & Pepper Deep-fried Tofu (椒鹽豆腐)

Salt & Pepper Deep-fried Tofu (椒鹽豆腐)

X.O. Sauce Fried Rice Noodle Rolls (X.O. 醬炒腸粉)

X.O. Sauce Fried Rice Noodle Rolls (X.O. 醬炒腸粉)

Cabbage with Abalone Sauce (No Abalone)

Cabbage with Abalone Sauce (No Abalone)

Chive Dumplings (韭菜餃)

Chive Dumplings (韭菜餃)

Beef Tripe (牛柏葉)

Beef Tripe (牛柏葉)

Steamed Beef Balls with Bean Curd Skin (山竹牛肉球)

Steamed Beef Balls with Bean Curd Skin (山竹牛肉球)

Xiao Long Bao (小笼包)

Xiao Long Bao (小笼包)

(Happy) Egg Tarts

(Happy) Egg Tarts

Seriously, between the 2 of us, we had about RMB 380-400 worth of food, so the deal was definitely a great value. You’re very likely to hit the target anyway, so I recommend you stick with it.

Siu Yeh Rating: 9/10

Note: Photos taken with a BlackBerry Curve 8900.

Shangri-La Hotel
2/F., Shangri-La Hotel Shenzhen
East Side, Railway Station
1002 Jianshe Road
Shenzhen 518001, China
T: (86 755) 8233 0888
F: (86 755) 8233 9878

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Wine Overload at One Harbour Road

How it all began … I lost a bet to a buddy of mine in badminton and the stake was: loser has to treat the winner to a fairly decent bottle of wine valued at no more than HK$ 1,500 to be savored with a group of friends. Ouch! Luckily for me, the event somehow turned out to be “everyone just bring a nice bottle of wine to dinner and we’ll all have it together”. Nice! No complaints there 🙂

The only problem was, we needed to find a restaurant where they won’t charge us corkage. We had 4 bottles (1 champagne and 3 reds) so corkage fee would’ve easily set us back HK$ 1,000+! Fortunately, my buddy Nick – the same guy I lost to in the bet (here’s your shout out btw) – knows the manager at One Harbour Road very well and the extra fees were waived. And that’s how it all started; great wine paired with great Chinese cuisine at One Harbour Road.

It was my first time there but the decor and ambiance reminds me a little bit like The Square (翠玉軒). Both are dimly-lit Cantonese restaurants (in fact, almost too dim for a Cantonese restaurant. I like them bright, loud and vibrant!), but One Harbour Road has an extraordinary view of Central and TST to brag about (See really bad photos below).

View of Central ... sort of

View of Central ... sort of

Well, if it wasn’t for the fogged up floor-to-ceiling windows … it would’ve been a pretty spectacular view of Central.

View from our Table at One Harbour Road

View from our Table at One Harbour Road

And here’s a view of TST.

In terms of food, I also find the 2 restaurants to be very similar as well. Maybe The Square is a little more creative with their dishes. I remember having a Spare Ribs with Strawberry Sauce and Strawberry Pocky (?!) the last time I was there. And then there’s the Fried Tiger Prawn with Orange Sauce. Maybe that’s why it was recently awarded a Michelin star? And they claim not to use any MSG in their food, which I think is true.

Anyway, I digress. So we started the night with a bottle of Krug … and normally, I would at least describe the champagne a little … but the champagne (as good as it was) was only to get us started while the other 3 bottles (the main attractions!) were being poured into decanters for breathing. They were, in the order we had them:

1990 Dominus Estate (USA, California, Napa Valley)
1995 Château La Mission Haut-Brion (France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan)
1986 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron (France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac)

3 of the best wines I've had ... so far

3 of the best wines I've had ... so far

BREATH BABY BREATH!!!

BREATH BABY BREATH!!!

It definitely helped that we had Albert from Sparkz school us about the different make, history and characteristics of each wine. Just from taking a sniff from each empty bottle, he was able to tell which wine we can drink first and which needed a little more time breathing. Amazing.

Over in the food department, we started the night with some extremely juicy and flavourful cha siu that was fresh off the oven. The sweetness from the honey and caramelized fat balanced out the saltiness from the soy sauce, not to mention how tender the meat was. This was definitely one of the best cha siu’s I’ve had in a while (the other really good cha siu experience I’ve had was at Tao Yuan 陶源 Seafood Restaurant in Wanchai). In retrospect, I wish I had saved a few pieces to go with Dominus we were about to have. But I was too hungry and couldn’t wait until the wine is ready.

The already-half-full plate of CHA SIU!!!

The already-half-full plate of CHA SIU!!!

And here enters the first star of the night: Dominus from Napa. We gave it about 30-45 minutes before we started drinking the first sip. By then it was still slightly premature, but all of us were anticipating the uphill hike to the moment when the wine would fully open up. And when it did, I was totally loving it. The color was a deep red, incredibly complex for a Napa wine, (almost Chateau-like, but no surprise there since the owner Christian Moueix also owns Petrus, which you’ve probably heard of) very fine and smooth with berry, black currant and earthy flavours. It probably took about another 30 minutes before it was completely ready. Part of the joy in drinking wine is the process of anticipating the opening-up of wine. You keep asking yourself “When is it going to reach its peak?”

Meanwhile, we had a Chicken, Pear and Snow Fungus (雪耳) Soup, which was a really smooth and hearty soup. It was pretty thick from the snow fungus and it lined the throat with a layer of all the nutrients from the pear and snow fungus, which has a soothing effect (润). HIGHLY recommended for those of you who has a sore throat from fried food or from a long night of karaoke. If it wasn’t for all the wine that we’ll be drinking, I think I would’ve had another bowl.

Chicken, Pear and Snow Fungus (雪耳) Soup

Chicken, Pear and Snow Fungus (雪耳) Soup

Anyway, while we were still waiting for the Dominus to continue breathing, the server had already poured our second red for the night, which was the 1995 Château La Mission Haut-Brion from Pessac-Léognan. Again, I took a sip just to see whether it was ready or not and it was still far from opening up. So all of us were swirling the glass like mad, hoping that the catalyst (air) would speed up the process.

The Haut-Brion thats also taking its time breathing ...

The Haut-Brion thats also taking its time breathing ...

But the mystery surrounding wine is, you never quite know when the time comes when it is ready or not. When you think its ready, the wine can get even better or it can go south pretty quickly, so what would you do?

Well, you can’t do much about it … so we ate some more and took little sips just to make sure our wine was still on the right track.

Crispy Chicken (炸子鸡)

Crispy Chicken (炸子鸡)

This is the Crispy Chicken (炸子鸡) which was almost identical to the one served at The Square. The layer of fried chicken skin was past-golden yellow, very crispy and very thin (very important) while the meat inside wasn’t dry as all and still retained its juiciness, but it was fully cooked … a sign that the dish was cooked just right.

Choi Sum (or was it Asparagus?) with Beef

Choi Sum (or was it Asparagus?) with Beef

Then there’s the beef and tofu dish.

All the while, everyone on the table kept swirling and swirling …

Braised Tofu with Bak Choy

Braised Tofu with Bak Choy

Braised eggplant and minced beef pot. Its the ultimate dish to go with steamed rice!

Braised Eggplant with Minced Beef in Pot

Braised Eggplant with Minced Beef in Pot

None of the food we ordered were really “heavy” per se, but each dish has very intense flavours (especially the eggplant pot) that, I think, really complements the wines we were having.

And then we kept swirling some more until finally … the Haut-Brion is ready! By now, I was pretty much done with the Dominus, which I thought was the best wine I’ve ever had. But that was until I tried the La Mission Haut-Brion again and that sent my senses off the charts. What was a very acidic / tannicky (?) wine 10-15 minutes ago is now an incredibly intense and smooth wine. Very fragrant dark berries scent. It just goes down really easy and the after taste that lingers was equally as elegant.

Then came the last of the 3 – a 1986 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron, which after around 3 hours of decanting, is finally opening up too. Now it was a race to to savour both the Haut-Brion and Pichon Baron at the same time! The latter was opening up really quickly, almost like a spike … the fruit was still there in abundance, but the acidity is gone which is great. Like the Haut-Brion, it has a really long finish …

Just as I remembered there was still a quarter glass of Haut-Brion left, I took a sip and it was dead 😦 I almost felt like crying because thats probably like a couple hundred bucks there. My first time juggling so many different types of wine at once but it turned out to be a pretty fun experience.

In the end, I thought the dishes where nothing fancy (i.e. simple dishes), but they were really well cooked and goes very well with the wine. Until I try an ’82 Lafite-Rothschild, I think I’m pretty damn satisfied with what we had here!

Siu Yeh Rating: 9/10 for the restaurant, 10/10 for the wines!

One Harbour Road
7/F. & 8/F., Grand Hyatt Hong Kong
1 Habour Road
Wanchai, Hong Kong

Soho Place (聚豪坊) on Caine Road

July 14, 2009 Edit: This restaurant is open for business again.

This new restaurant I’m about to talk about is one you’ll never be able to try (i.e. no amount of money will you get you a seat here) … because I think they closed down already … effectively making this the most pointless entry ever. Soho Place opened its doors to the public about a month ago … operated for about a week and was closed for the last 3.

The renovation and everything is pretty nice too (not great), but imagine throwing that kind of money into rent, renovation, kitchen equipments, utensils, staff, uniform and countless other things … only to try out for 1 week? Hmm … I wonder what the problem is. So, as the professional food blogger that I am … I will call to ask what’s up and to send my regards (another real time blogging here).

Wow. Their number wouldn’t even connect.

Anyway, during that one week that they were operating (maybe for trial?), I did manage to squeeze a Sunday lunch there. When we got there at 12PM, we were one of the first tables … but when we left at 1:30PM, I’d say 14 of the 19 tables were filled. So it remains a mystery why they place is closed if they’re doing well. But maybe on Sunday businesses are good … from Monday to Friday, I don’t think anyone would eat there.

The manager prides himself in the fact that Soho Place is the only Chinese restaurant on Caine Road (ever since Tai Woo 太湖 Seafood Restaurant on Castle Road closed its doors a couple months ago). Err .. I guess now we know why?

So here’s the menu at Soho Place.

Menu at Soho Place (聚豪坊)

Menu at Soho Place (聚豪坊)

And here’s what we had: Salt and Pepper Squid, which was pretty good.

Salt & Pepper Squid

Salt & Pepper Squid

Umm, I don’t remember ordering shark’s fin and I don’t think this was. It was pretty much the same kind of broth / soup but without the shark’s fin, which for environmental and ethical reasons, I really enjoyed. When we drink shark’s fin soup, its really the soup anyway 🙂

Shark's Fin Soup? I forgot ... I doubt it was though!

Shark's Fin Soup? I forgot ... I doubt it was though!

This spring roll was also pretty good (looks like their fried stuff is not bad). The shrimp is fresh and the amount is pretty generous … I mean the whole spring roll was like eating shrimp dumplings but the outside is crunchy. Definitely an A for this dish.

Shrimp Spring Rolls

Shrimp Spring Rolls

They had 菜螃蟹 (egg white and crab meat) on the menu, which I thought was pretty odd considering I saw somewhere that this place is a Cantonese restaurant. So what’s a Shanghainese dish doing here? Well, the manager claims that they intend to include dishes from most popular Chinese cuisine into their menu … eventually (but I guess never is more appropriate now).

This dish was so-so. I can only take the egg white … I don’t think I can taste the crab meat at all.

菜螃蟹 ... in a Cantonese Restaurant?

菜螃蟹 ... in a Cantonese Restaurant?

Yeh … maybe you didn’t miss that much.

But this is the fastest I’ve ever seen a restaurant fold. Or maybe business was so good the first week, they’ve decided to take a break.

Soho Place (聚豪坊)
Shop A-D, G/F., On Fung Bldg.
110-118 Caine Road, Mid-levels
Central, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 3968 0328
Fax: +852 3968 0327

Shenzhen Laurel Restaurant (深圳丹桂軒飲食集團)

This is definitely one of my favorite restaurant in Shenzhen.

Apparently, they’re also 1 of 10 best restaurant groups in China for many years consecutively. The group has about 5-6 restaurants in Shenzhen, 1 in Macau’s StarWorld Galaxy and a few others in Southern China. The one that I usually go to (the only location I keep going to) is located on the second floor of the Shenzhen Century Plaza Hotel (深圳新都酒店). Its clean and the restaurant is separated by a smoking and non-smoking section the entire length of the hotel lobby (lol). The staff is attentive and most importantly, their food is of extremely high standards (for reasonable prices … well, compared to Hong Kong anyway).

So what kind of Chinese food do they serve? I would say a mixture of Chinese ethnic cuisine, but with an emphasis on Southern China cuisine. But you can still get  Kao Ya (烤鴨) or what we Cantonese call Peen Pei Aap (片皮鴨), which if I’m not mistaken, originated from Beijing?

An added bonus to why I love Laurel Restaurant so much is their emphasis on wine pairing. Obviously, they still serve a range of other Chinese liquor, but for a local Chinese restaurant to be so serious about wine is a quite refreshing concept to me. No really, they have decent, more-than-drinkable wine (not some RMB 30 bottle) everywhere in the restaurant and a pretty nice wine cellar. It looks like wine really is picking up in the mainland!

Beef Cubes with Onions (铁板牛柳)

Beef Cubes with Onions (铁板牛柳)

First up was beef steak chopped into cubes, served medium on a piping hot metal plate … so its still cooking right in front of you. The dish is nothing new, but its cooked very well … the beef is really juicy and extremely flavourful and not too chewy; all of which are signs that the beef is fresh, and wasn’t drenched in soda powder / baking soda and water (something you might find in the HK$ 48 lunch set at Steak Expert!).

Crabs with Vermicelli (粉丝蟹锅)

Crabs with Vermicelli (粉丝蟹锅)

Next was a Vermicelli Crab Pot. Whenever I order this dish, I’m not really ordering for the crabs. Its the vermicelli I want … because it had absorbed the flavours from the crab, plus generous amounts of garlic, spice and sauce. You’ll see its a pretty “dry” pot, but that’s because all the essence has gone into the vermicelli. Yum. Unfortunately, when I had this dish, the crab wasn’t as fresh as I’d hope for … the meat felt a little loose, which probably means it wasn’t as fresh as it should’ve been. Minus points here.

Roast Duck (烤鸭)

Roast Duck (烤鸭)

This is really good. But its not quite the same as Beijing’s Quanjude (北京全聚德) … but I can’t quite point my finger on why. I’m guessing the ducks from Quanjude is fatter and roast differently than the ones from Laurel Restaurant. In fact, the roast duck here at Laurel are pretty “lean” but Kao Ya standards haha … the layer of fat between the meat and the skin is really quite thin.

Anyway, the chef would come out, show you the roasted duck and ask whether you want “thin cut” or “thick cut”. Usually the latter includes a bit of meat on it as well … but I usually get the thin cut, which is literally just the roasted skin of the duck.

Place the skin in the wrap (sort of like a Pita, but very thin and less dry), add sweet sauce, cucumber, spring onion … and there you have it!

What left is a perfectly good skinned duck and they’ll ask you how you want it cooked. They dice the meat up and fry it together with anything you want. In this particular case, we had it with bitter melon (苦瓜), which I’ve conveniently forgotten to snap a photo of. I know … I’m not usually a fan of bitter melon, but its actually not bad. Not too bitter for a start.

Spring Onion Chicken

Spring Onion Chicken

This dish also made an impression on me. The way the chef prepared it was steam the chicken until its about 70% cooked, all the while being extremely careful not to let the juice out. Then he’ll fry the chicken on high heat (or flame) in a wok with a generous amount of garlic, shallots, onions, spring onion, ginger and parsley. Take the chicken out of the wok, chop and place neatly on dish before pouring all the remaining contents from the wok on the chicken. Its so good.

Pepper & Salt Frog Legs :)

Pepper & Salt Frog Legs 🙂

One of Laurel Restaurant’s many specialty dishes and also one of my favorite at the restaurant is the Pepper & Salt Frog Legs (椒鹽田雞腿). I order it every time and quality has been pretty consistent throughout. They’re deep-fried just right with the outside slightly crunchy and the insides cooked, but not overcooked (i.e. its still very juicy inside) … hmm … not to mention, its not too salty and there’s a good balance between the pepper and salt.

We had this other chicken soup too, but I forgot to take a photo of it … sorry! Their soup (both chicken and fish soup) is quite popular because they comes with a heavy dose of Chinese herbs (a mix of ginseng, dongguai, tongsum, red dates and kei chi / wolfberries); Not-quite-your-ordinary Chinese soup. I’m sure its different for everyone, but for me, it was one of those hearty soup that sits really well in your stomach and you feel warm all over … yeh, probably best for winter.

We Won RMB 500!!!

We Won RMB 500!!!

The bill came out to be about RMB 980 for a group of 5, which is neither cheap or too expensive (I’d say its a little skewing the higher-end, especially in China standards … but I’m comparing prices along the Bund in Shanghai, etc.). BUT, as we were doing our little “scratchy” thing on the fa piao’s (发票), we got RMB 500!!! You can’t really see it clearly though … I was using my iPhone … I wish I had my D60 so I get a good close-up of the unmistakable 伍佰元 . How crazy is that? I’ve gotten RMB 20 before, but winning RMB 500 is like … winning second or third prize to the Mark Six Lottery in Hong Kong … or so I was told. Apparently, there’s also RMB 1,000, 5,000 and even 10,000 but that’s exponentially harder to get … obviously.

So we basically got a 50% discount for the meal 🙂

Siu Yeh Rating: 9/10!

Note: Photos taken with an iPhone.

Shenzhen Laurel Restaurant (深圳丹桂軒飲食集團)
Shenzhen Century Plaza Hotel (深圳新都酒店)
深圳市建设路
Shenzhen, China

Michelin Bestows 31 Stars on Hong Kong

This is the headline for today’s Ming Pao: Michelin confirming that Hong Kong is worthy of being branded the “Paradise” for food lovers. Thanks! That’s great and all … but behind all of this fanfare, is Michelin Guide worthy of our recognition? I’m tempted to say no.

Ming Pao Headline

Ming Pao Headline

As expected, the introduction of a Hong Kong & Macau Michelin Guide drew heavy criticism recently with a famous local food critic, Chua Lam, saying that this is “just a joke … like a dialogue between idiots”. I think the Guide definitely awarded stars to restaurants that are undisputedly worthy of the recognition, but there are also ones that probably should not have been on the list. And there are quite a few more that wasn’t even mentioned! The problem is, there are just too many restaurants in Hong Kong (and Macau) that are also “worthy” of such recognition, and the folks at Michelin would risk diluting the power of the stars if they had went on a star-awarding spree …

It should also be noted that of the current 90 Michelin “inspectors”, 70 are based in Europe, 10 in the United States and only 10 are based in Asia … I dunno … Not to offend this chubby white tire-man named Bibendum (Edit: Thanks Peech!), but Asia’s a big place … and with 70 inspectors based in Europe, I’m in favour of the camp that says “Michelin’s a little bias in favour of Western cuisine and in particular, French cuisine”.

Oh, it is also worth noting that only 2 out of 20 “inspectors” who “inspected” all of these fine restaurants were Chinese. Hmm … I dunno, I think Chinese can rate their own cuisine just fine. I’m just trying to connect the dot and something seems a little fishy … (oh what a pun).

It’d be interesting to see what they do with the guide next year … on the one hand, they have a 108-year-old tradition to follow, but on the other hand, if they want to write a good food guide for Asian countries (save Japan), they need to drop their arrogance (or some might say, their narrow perspective) and embrace fine dining at a local level. Nevermind the ambience, “innovative dishes” and the servers’ attitude. This is Asia, screw the knifes and forks (and even chopsticks) … use your hands for the fried pigeons … forget manners, get down and dirty and just dig in, because at the end of the day … its all about the food.

**********

Here’s an article from today’s South China Morning Post:

SCMP Michelin Bestows 31 Stars on HK

SCMP Michelin Bestows 31 Stars on HK

Michelin Bestows 31 Stars on HK
By Vivienne Chow, Ng Yuk-hang and Amy Nip

A Hong Kong chef has become the world’s first Chinese Michelin three-star chef. Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons hotel, whose kitchen is presided over by 40-year veteran Chan Yan-tak, was the city’s only restaurant awarded the top three-star accolade by Michelin in its first guide to Hong Kong and Macau, launched yesterday – its first venture into China in 108 years.

French restaurant Robuchon a Galera in Macau won the only other three-star ranking, which denotes “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”. There are only 75 three-star restaurants in the world.

The rankings delighted the chosen restaurants but the guide came under criticism from some food critics after it was disclosed that just two of the 20 inspectors who assessed the restaurants were Chinese.

Guide Jean-Luc Naret said inspectors had visited the Lung King Heen 12 times and found its quality was consistently high.

Seven Hong Kong restaurants were awarded the second-ranked two stars, including Amber at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon and T’ang Court. Fourteen received one star, including Fook Lam Moon, Forum and Yung Kee.

Twenty-four restaurants that didn’t make it to the list were recommended in the Bib Gourmand section, which highlights quality restaurants offering a full three-course meal for HK$300 or less. Also mentioned were less pricey choices, such as Mak’s Noodle and Tsim Chai Kee.

Macau had one two-star restaurant, four one-star restaurants and two in the Bib Gourmand section.

The guide, which goes on sale on Friday, features 169 restaurants from Hong Kong and 33 from Macau, chosen from a shortlist of more than 1,000 visited anonymously by more than 20 inspectors since last year. It also featured 33 hotels in Hong Kong and 16 in Macau.

Of the inspectors, one was from Hong Kong and one from the mainland.

Questioned about the others’ expertise on Chinese food, Mr. Naret said: “You don’t have to be French to understand French cuisine.”

But Chua Lam, one of Hong Kong’s most famous food experts, said it was “just a joke … like a dialogue between idiots”.

“These people didn’t know about Chinese cuisines. The guide was only to create controversy so that people would buy it,” he said.

Lau Kin-wai, food critic and owner of Kin’s Kitchen, which was listed in the Bib Gourmand section, also questioned the inspectors’ knowledge of Chinese food. He could not agree with some of the choices.

Winning restauranteurs were more complimentary. “This guide has a long history and it has international recognition,” Michael Au, resident manager for both L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon and Robuchon a Galera, said, adding that the honour might increase the chosen restaurants’ business 20 to 30 percent despite the financial crisis.

Alvin Leung, chief chef of two-star Chinese restaurant Bo Innovation, said the uniqueness of the dishes was the key and vowed to make Chinese cuisine more fashionable. “I want to drive Chinese dishes to a fine dining level,” he said. Kinsen Kam, director and general manager of Yung Kee, said he was “very happy” that the restaurant had made it to the top 22.