Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cafe de Hong Kong: Chinese New Year Feast

Lo Hei lunch with office colleagues

Chinese New Year..15 days of feasting, even in the 2009's depressed economic climate, there is just too much imbibing for good health. My makan kakis from the office decided we need to lift our spirits with the traditional Lo Hei...I called up Francis Mak - the owner of CdHK...and we were set. I had celebrated my family Christmas dinner at Cafe de Hong Kong, so it is rather appropriate to add Chinese New Year as well.

The Yu Sheng dish got the ball rolling:

strips of raw salmon, mixed with shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces and condiments. Yusheng literally means "raw fish" but since "fish (鱼)" is commonly conflated with its homophone "abundance (余)", Yúshēng (鱼生) is interpreted as a homophone for Yúshēng (余升) meaning an increase in abundance. Therefore, yusheng is considered a symbol of abundance, prosperity and vigor.

Each ingredient has its own symbolism, repeated by the waitress at the table, but I forget.

After the toss:

As an appetiser, we had deep fried fish skin

Interestingly, not a single bit of oil or grease was to be detected on the fish skin, even though it is quite apparent that it had been deep fried. Very crispy, good flavour, no fishy smell. We almost inhaled the entire basket as soon as it was set on the table. Nods all round, signifying enjoyment.

Mongolian pork ribs were up next. Succulent meat, encrusted in a thin, rather crispy outer, and smothered with mongolian sauce. Very good. The meat was more tender and flavourful than the dish of the same name in Siang Hee. I prefer Francis' version.

We ordered braised lamb brisket as an experiment...

It came in a claypot, served over a camphor fire. Bubbling, boiling...whiffs of herbal fragrance lifts from the pot. A quick sampling revealed that the lamb had only the slightest bit of game taste, and was rather mild.

The soup was very refreshing, not unlike the Mamak soup kambing, but way more refined in taste. The subtle hints of lamb was ably supported by the herbs, mushroom and other ingredients. I found it to be rather good, though one of kakis thought the lamb to be slightly more gamey than she would have liked, but another thought it was fine.

I had to introduce the Fortune Seafood Roll - with the symbolism of fortune for the year of the ox, and that I enjoyed it very much during previous visits.

Vegetables in the form of brocolli and scallops:

A pet peeve of mine of this dish is how frequent the chef's inability to control the fire and timing overcooks the brocolli...leaving it in a mushy mess. But not this chef. The brocolli was full of flavour, crunchy even. The scallops were seared and medium raw...wonderful.

I also had to let my colleagues taste the wonderful roast chicken I had already blogged about in the earlier CdHK report..

Francis recommended the Lap Mei Fan...

This was a fabulous dish. All present heartily approved. Chinese sausage, diced, and fried with rice. Delectable. Very fragrant. The rice was done right...not too sticky, but enough to be slightly starchy, richly covered with sauce, eggs. Accompanied by shredded vegetables which provided the right amount of crunch. It seems simple, but the masterful balance between sausage, vegetables, tampered with soy sauce, and a testament to the chef's ability to control and tame the forceful fire was evident. Wok hei was strong.

We also had the famous French Toast. This was no ordinary toast.

Note the expression on the ladies' faces when presented with this GIANT piece of egg encrusted bread. The slice of bread must have been at least 2 inches thick. It had been sliced open, insides generously filled with peanut butter. And coated with egg. Pan fried till golden perfection, and served with a generous piece of butter and syrup. Not for the faint hearted, and certainly not for one who is not hungry.

Excellent. The egg was cooked to a crisp, still bursting with eggy flavour. The peanut butter provided a nice intresting taste, as was the syrup and butter.

Cafe De HongKong 新天地小厨/茶餐厅
586 Balestier Road
#01-01 Eastpac Building
Tel: 62553865
email: jkcintl@yahoo.com.sg
Contact: Francis Mak
Parking on premises


Shot with Panasonic DMC-FX55, on autoexposure, autoISO (mostly 400 but some 200). Needless to say, compared to my usual Canon EOS 1Dmkiii with 17-40 f/4L, details were lacking. And due to the small sensor size, depth of field was rather large, even though all of the shots were done at f/2.8.
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