Sunday, March 17, 2013

Hong Kong - Yung Kee 容記小菜王

Not to be confused with its English namesake in Central, Hong Kong for a certain style of goose, this is  right in the heartland of Kowloon.  Sham Shui Po was developed commercially very early on but has mainly become an old residential area now with one of the most well known computer centers in the territory.  The other attraction is Apliu Street where electronics are traded in big volumes.  All the hustle and bustle means folks gotta eat and there is no shortage of choice in the area.

Packed even at 10pm
Yung Kee, as the Chinese name suggests, serves up a myriad of home style dishes, with a twist, says its owner.  His philosophy of less salt, less oil and less MSG, is apparent in the food, all designed to make you feel like you're dining in a Hong Kong home away from your own.  Small, tight, spartan and with the air-conditioning way too cold.

Old style tea pot and tableware
We went way too late to try any of the specialties but what we got, we came away pretty satisfied and look forward to going back next time, and pre-ordering the specials, especially now that we know that Mr. Chatty Boss knows one of our cohorts for many a decade..

Preserved vegetable and pork congee 菜乾豬骨粥
Cutting back on carbs meant I passed on rice, also so I could try a lot more of the dishes ordered.  But to warm myself from the North Pole A-C, I settled on the congee which was nicely done.  And yes, tasty but not salty so you feel can drink this endlessly without any guilt.  Smooth with just a little bite from the broken grains. 

Pan fried Pork Patties 鹹魚茸煎肉餅
By far the winner of the night, these were as good as any I've ever had, and I've had quite a few.  Bouncy insides and a subtle hint of salted fish for that added umami.  Any thought that this was too big a pattie each for one person was thrown out the window, since I could have done with more than half a pattie after they halved it.  

Stewed pork trotters in Italian Balsamic 意式豬腳薑
This was my other fave for the night.  Presentation was underwhelming since the vinegar looked thin and tasteless, but the taste was definitely there.  Unlike traditional ones which tend to have a caramelly finish to the tartness, this had a cleaner sweetness and we were told by Mr. Chatty Boss himself that he combines balsamic with fruit vinegars to keep it light.  He insisted we drink every last drop of the gravy, and I had no difficulties complying with the order.  The ginger had some heat to offer a kick but not overly so as to take away from the dish so you can literally polish this off without remains (save for the bones).

Steamed tripe 薑蔥牛珀葉
This is one of those touch and go dishes since I give up if the tripe has the texture of tyres.  But this one was executed to perfection, crunchy but not chewy.  Oh so easy to pop, especially in a sauce that has hints of sesame oil, and a dip that is soy, spicy chillies and fresh garlic.  

Other dishes were competent but less to write home about.

Sweet sour pork ribs 菠蘿生炒骨
With just enough sauce to quote and ribs still "juicy" as Mr. Chatty Boss calls it, yes, this was delivered almost to perfection although I like my pork pieces just a tad crispier.

Stir fried little cabbages with fermented tofu 椒絲腐乳白菜仔
These vegetables are usually just fried without much else or served in a roasted garlic bulb laced superior stock.  This way was different and darn tasty.  LIKE!

Stir fried lettuce with dace 油麥菜炒鯪魚
Even those who don't like to eat the greens would enjoy this.  Always a tad oily since that's how they preserve the dace but just pretend it's spinaci with anchovies, then it's all good again.

Chicken and pork liver casserole 
Since the special chicken was sold out, this was recommended as an alternative.  Tasty and good with a bowl of rice, chicken was succulent and gives you a hint of what they can really do with their own farm-reared chickens which we were assured were not from north of the border.  Pork liver slices were done just nice to be tender and soaked up the essence of the gravy.

Tofu barrel 竹筒肉碎豆腐
This was where the dish didn't live up to its looks.  What I conjured up in my mind when I  saw the wooden barrel was a rustic beany taste from the tofu in a robust sauce.  What I got on my palate was just regular tofu pieces with ground pork and Chinese mushrooms.  Won't be a repeat order from me.

One more thing: Mr. Chatty Boss raves about his home made soup which goes on the boil forever.  I found it a little tasteless and thin.  If you don't get access to soups often because of your lifestyle you might make do but otherwise skip it since it ain't cheap compared to everything else.

That said, I will venture back to the heartlands to sample his supposed specialties of crispy roast pork, steamed chicken with secret sesame sauce, and his vegetarian tofu rolls.  Stay tuned.

G/F, 118-120 Fuk Wa Street
Sham Shui Po, Kowloon
Tel: +852-2387 1051

Monday, March 4, 2013

Hong Kong - Sushi Sase

It is a refreshing change of scene from the usual sushi experience in Hong Kong.  Bright, airy with lots of space per diner at the sushi counter.  Very contemporary in feel unlike others who feel very much in a time warp from the 80s.  It was an all round Zen feel despite the busy corner in Central it is located at.  Perhaps it reminds Sase san of Sushi Zen, where he hailed from.  And of course, they have free wifi.  Never mind a password that read as long as superkallifragilistic espiallidocious.  Seriously.

Walnut Tofu
The amuse bouche of walnut tofu and spinach in a sesame sauce were both good but the tofu was a stand out for the essence of walnut captured in a a smooth yet slightly chewy piece of tofu, capped with a very well roasted nut to rid it of excess oils.  

Having made the choice of the Chef's Omakase set, we sat down to business.  At HK$1,580 this is serious business.  We didn't get Sase san since I booked late, but Chef Wai was very professional and had a good Japanese discipline about him.  Yes, the strong silent type.  That said, he does smile when presenting a new course.  Perhaps he was nervous since he did forget our pickles until we asked.

The raw food was a fresh selection of Flounder, Tuna (Maguro), Sea urchin, House-smoked fish, Octopus (Tako) and Snow crab.  

Sea Urchin
Sweet and creamy.  No condiments necessary.  Just pure unadulterated protein from the sea.

This was lightly steamed and finished with a sweet glace.  Tender and needs very little chewing, unlike products from lesser places.  The condiment of Yuzukosho added a spicy tang and gave it a different twist.

Snow crab
Fall off the shell freshness.  And very sweet.  The creamy roe was foie gras of the sea, packed with the salty sea and a nice contrast to the sweetness of the crab.

Deep fried Monk Fish
In the cooked food section, the deep fried monk fish stood out better than the other choice of soy-braised Kinki.  Don't get me wrong, the Kinki was very well executed accompanied by radish and young spinach.  Very light yet tasty.  But the monk fish was an exciting battle of crisp batter and a slightly crunchy fish.  Each buttery mouthful quite addictive, especially with the highlights of lime squishes over the top.  

The sushi course was a presentation of 9 pieces, including ark shell, mackeral, snapper, wild amberjack (buri),  shrimp, salmon roe, tuna belly and sea eel.  The rice was of high quality with the right amount of marinade, and well cooked to show separation of grains yet maintain a stickiness that held together without being overly tight.

Salmon roe
This is always enjoyable when the fresh roes pop in the mouth.  Held loosely together by a seaweed which added crispness, there is many a good thing happening on the palate here.  And you know you're working with the good stuff when the roes are naturally sweet, unlike the ones which have been sitting in brine for a while.

Seared Tuna belly
Slightly smoky balanced the fatty goodness.  Yes, it was good.

Sea Eel
Although filled with tiny bones, all edible if you just overcome the psychological barrier of swallowing fish bones.  This is one of those experiences that are worth it for the cottony sweetness this creature offers.  Enhanced by a sweet soy glace, it is quite something.

Baked egg
Only one of 2 places I know that make this in Hong Kong, you will have a hard time believing this spongy sweet cake is actually an omelet.  Prep time and effort is a little more and that's why this is so good.  This in itself is worth the trip.

Matcha Panna Cotta
Desserts were surprisingly fantastic.  This matcha panna cotta used a traditional matcha powder explaining the deep and dark green color.  Buried underneath is a creamy milk pudding that is rich yet light, or at least it gives you the delusion of so since the bitterness of the matcha is such a contrast to the sweet goodness of the milk.  Made ostentatious by a broken gold leaf covering a sweet black bean sitting atop.

Honey ice cream with cinnamon ice
This was yet another winner.  Creamy honey given a clever bite by a cinammon flavored crushed ice.  Enough said.  

Food wise, there is little complaint about this place despite the hefty price tag.  Service was decent depending on who you get.  Still, service aside, it is one of Hong Kong's finest sushi joints as at the date of this post and if you think about the money you save on a ticket to Japan, this more than pays for itself.  A resounding "yes" to a repeat.  Is it bonus time yet?

49 Hollywood Road
Tel: +852-28150455