Tuesday, February 28, 2012

大董烤鸭店 Da Dong Peking Duck (Beijing) - ♕♕♕♕ 1/2

    Many foodies visit Da Dong to eat,  but on a personal level I was more interested in Chef Dong’s food philosophy and his latest contributions to the Chinese Culinary Scene.   Known to be a pioneer and always updating his menu,  as well as since having caught on with the world trend and now partially incorporating molecular food science techniques into some of his recipes.   The Roast Duck might be famous,  but that’s a fixed asset that will always be here to stay.  I was more interested in his latest food plays..



Walking towards the Dongsishitiao  (东四十条)  outlet,
About 5 minutes walk from the Subway.



Da Dong has been Evolving annually.  
They are locally famous for 3 different Types of Dishes they serve,  and it is not their Peking Duck only which has contributed to their inclusion as the winner of No.1 Beijing Restaurant in Timeout Beijing in consecutive years recently-
- Original Super Lean Peking Duck  (酥不腻 烤鸭)
- Modern Beijing Poetic ‘ Surreal Cuisine  (意境菜)
-  Braised Sea Cucumber  (海參)



Apple and Pear Wood,  Open Roasting Oven -
Most authentic style shops use either Lychee Wood or Apple Wood to roast their ducks as per Beijing tradition, which is hard to find outside Beijing.  Other shops adhering to this method thus covered so-far include Beijing’s Made in China (長江一號) & Quanjude (全聚德),  Macau’s Beijing Kitchen (滿堂彩) and  紅8粥麵 (Red 8 Noodles & Congee).  Also Hong Kong’s 大都烤鴨 (Empire City Roasted Duck).  There are also some other shops which I liked but haven’t blogged about yet..



Modern Chinese Restaurant Setting -
When Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck was filming the In Search of Perfection –Peking Duck series,  he visited Da Dong’s boss for advice.  Rumour goes that Mr Da Dong finally realised  how the Chinese Culinary world is falling behind modern Molecular Food Science based cooking techniques that are being practised elsewhere…  It gave him motivation to also improve his own cuisine,  including the use of liquid nitrogen and sous vide machines in his shops nowadays.  



Dragon Well Tea -
Tea in Pekinese cuisine is taken seriously,  much like in Fujian province or Taiwan restaurants. 
It is not a rare sight to see Specialty Tea offerings in such restaurants,  including some mentioned above or at  京花軒.



Pickled Beef Tripe Slices - 老坛百叶
A Da Dong signature cold Appetiser,  beef tripes are pickled in a Peking kimchi-like marinade.  This is the 3rd cut out of the 4 Cow’s stomach compartments the ‘omasum’.   This was slightly bland and tasted a bit too refrigerated.  A little disappointed except for texture  ~  6.5/10  


(春歌) Spring Song - 
Shrimp with Spring Tea,  Sliced Pear Cake & Beancurd,   & Chinese Toon in Liquid Nitrogen -
The first trilogy of Poetic appetisers or 意境菜. 




Sliced Pear Cake - 京糕梨絲春卷
Looked pretty with the Gold bow tie and all,  but didn’t really get it in the taste,  as it looks like a bunch of flowers but too moistened and pretentious,  but didn’t create sparks.  ~  5/10


Bean Curd with Chinese Toon in Liquid Nitrogen - 液氮香椿豆腐
I liked the toon veggies but it was a bit too cold.  Funny thing is I didn’t see anything much about Liquid Nitrogen here.   If this is attempting to emulate a The Fat Duck experience,  I fail to see it’s success or appeal.   Tasted ok though.   ~    7/10

春茶小湖蝦 - Shrimp with Spring Tea
This was finally a dish I understood from the flavours structure.   The river shrimp is in a briny solution but topped with a floating green tea sauce,  looking like a structured cocktail!  ~  8/10





Bean Curd with Chinese Toon - 香椿豆腐
Some sad blogger arriving in from Hong Kong was obviously onto a mind lapse here,  because this is just a bigger portion of one of the above trio appetisers.   This performed slightly better and with red kidney beans and flowers for decoration.   But it was still a little dense from refrigeration.   Confirmed my suspicion that this looked more pretty than it tastes…   ~   6.5/10


Roasted Super Lean Peking Duck -
I need to re-emphasis on the super lean part because the version here is much smaller and less fattier that other versions.   The chef is trying to make the duck crunchy but without becoming too greasy in the final outcome.  This bold theoretical approach could well back-fire,  but it achieved it’s purpose.  The duck skin was cellulosed crunchy rather than thin biscuity crunchy,  minus the fat.  At a slight sacrifice to the slightly dryer meat than usual but still decent 




With an assortment of 8 Condiments including Rose Heart Radish and Scallions, Pickles.
This certainly looked the part,  and out of all Peking Duck shops this was the most impressive.. The Sweet Sauce for local Beijingers is also very important,  here it had depth and rivals a good smoky BBQ sauce.   Many overseas versions are only about sweetness,  which are far off the mark compared to the real Beijing versions.   In fact even the colour is diff…


Duck Brain and Duck thigh -
These had crispy external skin.


Mandarin Crepes -
Mid-thinness, floury powdery and more drier than most.   I like them to be a little bit more translucent & elasticky sometimes.   ~  7/10  




Toasted Sesame Bun  (燒餅) -
Most authentic Pekinese Duck shops in Beijing provide these as an alternative to the crepes.  So you fill them up with duck meat!   ~  7/10



Peking Duck Sliced 2 Ways -
One of the things I notice with eating Peking Ducks here is that the Duck Head with its brain is always given to the customer,  sometimes with an additional piece of meat on the side.   But the main platter always has breast and leg meat sliced diagonally – whereas the fattier skin from the belly are eaten as skin only.   This is the trendiest way to carve a duck and it looks magnificent!   One simply cannot find such expertly sliced Peking Duck,  even at Shatin 18 in Hong Kong or Quanjude in Melbourne.   Despite their direct linkage to the famous Beijing shops.   ~  8.5/10


Duck and Tofu Soup -
Like most shops,  this was weakish in duck flavours.  ~  6/10


Fruit Platter -
Plated artistically..



Dandelion of Chinese Bottle Goud  (蒲公英糖葫芦) -
A candy floss made to resemble a Dandelion surrounds a candied Chinese Bottle Goud, a common Beijing street food but here made into a prettier flower-in-pot presentation.  ~  8/10





Hawthorn Sherbet  (山渣冰霜) -
This was a nice ending dessert and refreshing from the sweet and sour sherbet.  Fresh hawthorn are used here and is such a Beijing thing -  in HK we often eat the dried or candied version only.   ~  9/10




As mentioned,  Da Dong does 3 Different Styles of Food here & is famous for Sea Cucumbers too -   The presentation of the artistic food was thoughtful,  I liked some of his creativities.
Some worked better than others particularly the desserts and there were other notable signatures dishes like the Goose Liver in Aspic or Sea Cucumbers I couldn’t order by myself in this meal.   The super lean Peking Duck however had a superb ‘crackling’ skin,  and came with the best condiments and sesame buns/crepes in general.  This is what I would like to return back to eat.





Price:  RMB $250
Ease of Access:   3.5/5 (Close to Subway Station, 5 minutes walk)
Food:  ♕♕♕♕ 1/2

Opening Hours:
Mon to Sun 11am - 10pm
Address: Beijing,  No.22A Dongsi Shitiao, Dongcheng District 100007
Ph: 010-51690329


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Doctor Java, Organic Coffee (Melbourne) - ♕♕♕♕ 1/2

  Doctor Java is a coffee cart that is only found on the day they hold a cart at the weekly Farmer’s Market in Melbourne.   The coffee is spot-on roasted and catering for the middle-quantile drinkers infatuated with their milk based coffees..    Which means it is not aiming to please the traditional Italian crowd and the latest New 3rd wave terroir based cafes importing from all over the world.   Afterall,  who really cares about the minute differences.   This from the beginning was to please the overall crowd but perhaps lacking in spirit..



Coffee Cart -
Doctor Java.  Just the name by itself makes me think this is not the latest 3rd wave trend.



Caffe Latte -
This was my 1st coffee.  It was more than decent and an everyday milk-coffee type of drink.  Could drink this all day long.   This didn’t look too attractive by default but taste wise  this is better than 95% of shops in HK, bar a few shops who fully know what they are trying to achieve.   ~ 6.9/10



Another Caffé Latte –
Like more Melbourne cafes,  latte art is not always poured to impress visually.    Much like the average looking coffee presented above.  But if u want to see a pretty picture on your coffee, insist on something just a little more special since the baristas are accommodative.    Out came a geometrically shaped and clean latte art to replace the 1st cup.    Can you believe,  the above coffee and the one below were made all by the same barista person?   In the eye of the professional baristas,  taste is always >  than the presentation !  




Price:  AUD $3
Ease of Access:   2/5 (Need a car and knowledge as to where it is next to be found.)
Coffee:  ♕♕♕♕1/2

Opening Hours: 
12pm to 8pm  (usually all sold out, by around 6pm at most)
Address: Found at Weekly Food Markets, or permanently at 87a Smith Street, Collingwood, Melbourne.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Taiwanese Beef Noodles Festival (Hong Kong) - from 25th to 26th Feb 2012

  Hong Kong in general is missing out on quality Taiwanese Beef Noodles which will be on par with expected Taiwanese standards.  This situation has been amplified by the sudden influx of quality Japanese Ramen shops popping up around town,  propping up Japanese banners to claim their supremacy in various local suburbs,  plus our Hainanese Chicken Rice shops are honestly not too far off Singaporean levels anyway.    Diamond Hill Shopping Mall,  at Diamond Hill MTR Station in Hong Kong is holding a Taiwanese Beef Noodles event for 2 consecutive days and tomorrow on Sunday is the last chance to try out some of the noodles from a hand selected few award winning Taiwanese noodle shops.    There is one catch however as due to the inclined nature of the pop-up circumstance,  some shops cannot replicate the 100% original in-shop versions by constraint,  whereas some stalls resort to makeshift noodles as temporary substitutes.   A few shops as observed do not provide their signature Beef Intestines or chose to forego using the harder-to-cook-right Beef cuts in order to maintain overall quality and to eliminate the risk of jeopardizing reputation.   The soup base never still gives a rough indication as to what one could extrapolate from and adjust expectations when finally eating them at the original Taiwanese stalls…   This charitable event was always meant to be merely a preview.


8 Taiwanese Noodle Shops are presented here,   running from 25 to 26th of Feb.
The queue for each round of noodles is approx. 15 to 30 minutes.
You donate $20 to a box and in return receive 1 redemption voucher at a time,
which entitles you to a chosen one bowl of noodle.



#No. 1  This Shop’s Clear Broth style noodles won our heart -
Thanks to @Dor19 from DorothyMa.com’s Review , we were tipped off to trying this bowl.  The broth was filled with beef meat and bone flavours, with a subtle hint of Chinese Medicine and judicial amounts of spice and no traces of MSG.  The beef sheen weren’t fork tender though tasty, the beef ribs were perfectly boiled.  The noodles remained elastic and chewy.   This will be a shop I’ll visit when I go to Taiwan again. 





#No. 2  This shop is the only Shop here which makes their own Noodles on the spot -
The noodles were thinner than others and more like Shanghainese la mian noodles in taste.  The soup base was decent only but too heavy in alcohol,  unveiling not much surprise layers despite using more vegetables and goji.   I personally didn’t like this the most.  That’s despite  them being the 2011 Overall Winner for Clear Broth Beef noodles back in Taipei. 



#No. 3  The Beef Sheens here were thickly cut and had the best overall texture -
The soup is beefy and slightly spicy,  but quite salty.   This is more of a generic style Red version Beef Noodles.  This is likable,  but I personally prefer the broth to be more structured and less in your face bold and heavily spiced.




#No. 4  This Shop’s Red version Beef Noodle is BOLD ! -
Some foodies liked this,  but I think we arrived a bit too late (?) and the soup had evolved to become way too salty.  For a salt whore like myself I hardly ever find things overly salty yet this also had too much apparent MSG.   It’s quite heavily spiced but despite the darker colour wasn’t too beefy at all.   The beef pieces were however braised very well.    Probably would need a cold beer to drink with this to balance it out,  but it’s decent.



#No. 5  The Most Surprising Package -
This came with flame-grilled beef ribs which imparted more aroma into the noodles bowl.   The egg  as usual was cooked all the way through instead of being onsen-like in Japanese Ramens.  The soup base was a appreciated 2nd surprise as it was quite sophisticated,  with a more veggies and herbal medicinal taste but still containing enough beefiness to resonate through in the background.   This modernised soup base is exploring off the beaten track a bit,  but it worked and provided the most long lasting sensation and we also liked how this had no traceable MSG.

In Summary -
Our tasters arrived at our own ‘preferred choices’, which deviated slightly from others during separate visits,  and there is no right or wrong!!     But for some of us bloggers such as http://dorothyma.com  and http://kentxfood.blogspot.com/ ,  we probably liked No. 1 and No. 5 the best consensually even though we didn’t eat together,  followed closely by No. 3 above.   No.4 had really good beef pieces too to be fair.   *There are still 3 shops we haven’t explored.  Let me know how you think! 

Address:   鑽石山荷里活廣場的明星廣場
Level 1, Plaza Hollywood, Diamond Hill

Opening Hours:  
12pm to 8pm  (usually sold out around 6pm)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

大都烤鴨 Empire City Roasted Duck – (Hong Kong ) - ♕♕♕ 1/2

  This new Peking Duck specialist is opened by  鴻星海鮮酒家 (Super Star Restaurant),  a group which during its peak glorious days was deemed decent but never truly exceptional.  Their biggest achievement was cementing a permanent record in the history book when one of their head chefs went on to represent Hong Kong and winning a battle in the Japanese Iron Chef Competition  ~  no other HK restaurant contestants managed to repeat this feat during the 1980s.    Ever since then  the quality of food has retreated from its peak.   This time around  their new restaurant is designed around a Pekinese theme and roasting their Peking Ducks with lychee wood as per traditional Beijing tradition.   Perhaps they are onto a winner here in concept, since it’s one of a kind in Hong Kong  despite most shops in Beijing practicing this by default.    Macau’s Beijing Kitchen (滿堂彩) also uses the same traditional cooking method and the latter’s duck proved to be far superior.   We had mixed thoughts about here as some dishes were promising indeed,  but some turned out to be a little average for now..  



Peking ducks in Beijing are not perfect, but still that much more better relatively speaking.
Carving technique difference is where Beijing or Macau’s Beijing Kitchen (滿堂彩)  really excel. 


Lychee Wood Open Oven -
The only one of its kind in Hong Kong,  which is surprising.  Even Park Hyatt’s Shatin 18 uses an inferior gas ovendespite being the sister restaurant of Beijing’s Made in China and Macau’s Beijing Kitchen both of which also use lychee wood for roasting.



Crystal Jelly Fish Meat  (水晶魚凍) -
Pressed fish meat with stock jelly.  These were a little weak in flavour,
wouldn’t be able to tell what I was eating if blind-folded.   ~   6/10


Pickled Turnip (醬蘿蔔) -
This was great and enjoyable,  also cooked well.  ~  10/10




Gelatine coated Deboned Duck Tongues (水晶鴨舌) - $55
The gelatin was set a little too hard and the taste was expectedly weak. 
I think this is hard to rate,  as the execution wasn’t wrong,  but the recipe itself was never going to be impressive….    ~   6.5/10




Salted Poached Duck Liver (鹽水鴨肝) -
The duck livers were of the right mousse-like texture but seriously lacked taste.
I developed a feeling by now that all cold appetizers here were going to be more bland than usual. May be even overly refrigerated ~   6/10



Bamboo Pith and Tofu (竹笙山水豆腐) -
A little bland in soy flavour and the bamboo pith too soft.  ~  6/10



Mushrooms Marinated in Oyster Sauce(醬油蘑菇) -
Surprisingly retaining a crunch and seasoned well,  and great presentation.  
~  8/10




Marinated Duck Giblets (繡球腎仁) -
Again notice the knife work, which is quite a Mainland Chinese novelty.  The giblets/kidneys were surprisingly done well here.   ~  9/10





Preserved Spicy Turnip and Silver Fungus in Flower Shape (一支獨秀) -
This requires Advance Order.  The presentation is pretty but this actually tasted quite appetizing with the hot and sour flavour mingling with the crunchiness of the turnip.   ~  8/10




Lychee Wood Roasted Peking Duck (烤北京填鴨) - $268
The one duck we looked forward to the most,  the slicing up of this duck was not as elegant as the ones in Beijing,  which are usually separated into 3 types of presentation.   The Duck Skin is not bad as it is crisp but it is definitely not crunchy like the real Pekinese version.   The duck meat was slightly too tepid cold upon serving,  even taking into consideration of the short period we were taking photos.     Overall,  this was ok-decent but not exceptional  ~   6.9/10




Julienned Scallions, Melon, Cucumber and Roseheart Radish..
These were of good quality actually,  which made up for the duck.
These are usually found in real Beijing Pekinese Duck restaurants.




Colourful Duck Wrap..
Mandarin Crepes were decently thin, but just a tad moist.




Stir Fried Duck mince and Preserved Vegetables in Wheat Bun (鴨肉末麥包) -
The bun was dry.  The duck meat with the preserved veggies were done well with a subtle hint of genuine reduced sauce taste,  rather than MSG.  



Bun let it down a bit…
~  6.9/10



Sesame Pastry and Fried Duck Mince (二鬆炒鴨末 ~ 叉子燒餅) -
The sesame pastries were quite flakily good and aromatic.  The Duck meat this time mixed with pinenuts were quite decent.   ~   8/10

Duck meat in the Sesame Pastry..




Soaked Vegetables with Yunnan Wild Mushroom (雲南野菌浸翡翠) -
This was just like a normal stir-fry dish,  but the mushrooms as expected were completely tasteless both in ingredients quality and cooking.   ~   4/10





Braised Duck Meat with Special Sauce (大紅三杯烤鴨架) -
A dish normally made from chicken instead of duck,  the version tonight was not hot at all,  like the Taiwanese version.  There also wasn’t much rice alcohol’s taste.   Not really as authentic in taste or rich enough,  a little disappointed.   ~  6/10


Sauteed Chinese Cabbage (開水白菜) -
This is actually a Sichuan dish and without checking the menu first I thought it was another familiar dish from up North.  The broth is meant to be quite gamey from the duck/chicken and pork knuckles but this was a little weak.  Although this was decent personally since it retains the sweetness of the original Chinese Cabbage !   ~  7/10




Stir Fried Beef Ribs (胡同牛肋肉) -
We needed some more meat,  and this last order was surprisingly decent.  The meat was just tender and the sauce nicely tuned.  Not sure as to it’s authenticity to Beijing cuisine however,  as I thought the original recipe is Lamb based.   Nevertheless  ~   8/10


Duck Meat and Rice Wrapped with Lotus Leaf (荷香包鴨飯) -
I have never heard of other friends dining on the same night or other nights,  except for myself.  I actually enjoyed this,  may be because I like the interior to be a bit more moist whereas the rice here was still fluffy enough and not all caked together.  ~   7/10




Pea Flour Cake with Red Beans (慈禧豌豆黃) -
Another Beijing traditional dessert.  For some reason this had a really strong pea flour taste to the point it was overwhelming.   Also set a little too hard.     ~  6.5/10




Glutinous Rice Rolls with Sweet Bean Flour (金陵驢打滾) -
This dessert is named the same as a Chiu Chow cuisine dish,  but this is the correct Beijing version.  This was again a topic of heated debate,  as it tasted just so grassy !   It doesn’t look like it would but it carried an overwhelmingly strong but unexpected taste.  Texture was decent however….   ~   6/10




Ducklings (小鴨子酥) -
Looked better than it tastes.  A little crumbly with a dryish filling.    ~   5/10




士多啤梨汁豆沙窩餅  (Fried Red bean Paste Crepes with Strawberry Sauce) -
The strawberry sauce doesn’t work with red beans.  The problem with this dessert was that it was slightly thickish hard yet under-fried before it is crispy enough.   ~   5/10



Fried Oat Coated Sweet Potato (貝勒燕蕃薯) -
This was the only decent dessert out of the 4 which was more normal.  Not oily at all and not overly sweetened,  good job finally.   ~   8/10




This Restaurant slightly surpassed my own expectations..
I think others didn’t quite admire it.   I guess I’ve had some pretty ordinary meals in Beijing before,  where the food looked better than they tasted,  to made me reset and adjust my expectations.
The appetisers were certainly aiming to replicate a Beijing experience,  some are decent some were bland.   The Duck wasn’t as good as I had come to expect and could be carved more expertly to be more of a proper modern Pekinese Duck restaurant.  I will post some other Beijing meals after this for comparison  Smile



Price:  $250
Ease of Access:   4.5/5 (Above Tsim Sha Tsui Station,  K-11 Mall exit)
Food:  ♕♕♕1/2 to ♕♕♕♕

Opening Hours -
Mon to Sun   11am – 11pm
Address: 尖沙咀河內道18號K11購物藝術館2樓221號舖
Shop 221, Level 2, K11 Art Mall, 18 Hanoi Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Ph: 2628 0662


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