Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hong Kong - Club Qing

Club Qing - helmed by Chef Andy has been around for 6 years. Started in the days when private dining became trendy in Hong Kong, Club Qing still draws a healthy crowd after all this time. Thanks to seasonal menus put together with a lot of thought and appreciation for ingredients by Andy and the team, the food uses seasonal produce from all over the world to deliver modern Cantonese cuisine.

Despite having patronised Club Qing on many occasions over the last few years, this is the first time I am reviewing it formally. But as they say, good things come to those who wait... And I assure it is worth the experience.

On this occasion, we chose the current Menu A and added an order of Marinated Sharks' Fin in Crab Sauce and Crab Roe. The specialty of Club Qing is the use of fine grade Chinese tea as intercourses. A clever way to cleanse the palate and makes for good appreciation especially if you like your tea as I do. The teas are also available for sale and I never fail to leave without.
To kick dinner off, a Long Jing Tea is served. A light green tea, it does wonders to warm the tummy and open our appetites.

The 2 appetisers are served together. Andy recommends tasting the Fresh Crab Meat and Cucumbers in Home-made Japanese Salmon Roe Sauce first. Light and tangy, it is served chilled and is a good burst of clean flavours after the warm tea. The other more robust appetiser of Serrano Ham Roll with slightly-baked Portobello Mushrooms is a wondrous combination of the smoky ham with the richness of the portobello, whose flavours are more pronounced from the baking. Perfect with a glass of Burgundy.

The signature dish of sauteed prawns in a Thai style with lemon leaves and curry sauce was well executed. Although not spectacular in presentation, we were pleasantly surprised by the taste. The prawns cooked in their shells retained their natural juices while absorbing the muilti-spice gravy. Even the soft eggplants were worth savouring.
The second signature dish of deep-fried oyster roll with salad and raspberry and herb sauce was better than the first in its novelty. The use of a fresh oyster rolled with salad, before deep frying was excellent since it kept the roll light and textured. What was excellent was the raspberry dip. Very fresh, with the right amount of tang. I couldn't get enough of it.

Although not on the menu, Andy let us have his signature chilled tomato in lychee sauce. A refreshing and interesting combination.. a lychee tomato... or a tomato lychee... whatever, it is a brilliant interlude as it welcomed the next highlight - Sharksfin!!

Even if by no means the best quality sharksfin, the infusion from the crab roe and juices gave it the perfect sweetness from the sea. As you can see from the pic, Andy is generous with his sharksfin, and his skills in braising makes up for the not so perfect quality sharksfin. His use of a rich stock keeps the dish flavourful but not heavy. This is a winner!

The Chinese traditional double-boiled soup of American Ginseng and dried shell fish was very competent but I was feeling a bit full from the sharks' fin and did not enjoy the soup as much as I ordinarily would have.
And so, a timely second Chinese Tea Serving of Iron Kwan-Yin Oolong Tea was good to cut through the many flavours over the last few courses and ready the palate for the next course.

The marinated beef ribs in home-made special sauce was another pleasant surprise. The presentation above could have been prettier but the amount of gravy was justified. Served with steamed "man tow"s, everyone mopped it all up. The traces of preserved chinese bean curd made even more palatable with other "secret ingredients" is in my opinion, the modern rendition of the braised beef brisket - a national dish of Hong Kong, perhaps second only to shrimp wantons. I would have preferred brisket over beef ribs which braise to a higher level of tenderness, but would not complain. Hearty goodness.

The final dish of cold Japanese udon with dried Shrimp and double sauce was also a winner. The use of Inaniwa udon was a good choice especially when served cold - still firm and with a nice chewiness to it. The 2 sauces of a soya vinaigrette and a peanut butter sauce were also excellent when combined over the udon. Combined with the crispiness of the dried shrimps and the fresh and crunchy cucumbers, it made for a nice finish.

True to Andy's Chiu Chow heritage, the third Chinese Tea served was a Dan Chung Tea. This is a better grade than you get in most Chiu Chow restaurants and very fragrant.

Andy’s Creative Dessert of the day was a yoghurt mousse infused with honey. Although I am not a big fan of mousses, I ate this willingly. The tartness from the yoghurt, balanced with honey, combined to deliver in a texture firmer than the common mousse. Simple but it played the perfect dessert role in a meal like this and was careful not to steal the limelight from a perfect tasting menu.

The only peeve I have (which you can get over fairly easily) is that you need to come prepared with cash for payment. And if you are not a regular customer, a deposit is typically required when you make the reservation. Their rationale: many dishes need to be prepared ahead of time (a lot of braising and stewing as you saw) and because no walk-ins are accepted, any un-honoured reservations means a hit right to the bottom line. And for a relatively small set up, I guess that hurts. But as I pointed out, the peeve is worth overcoming over and over again.

Club Qing
10/F, Cosmos Building,
8 - 11 Lan Kwai Fong,
Tel: (852) 2536-9773

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