Sunday, August 29, 2010

You will have Peking Duck only - or how I learnt to trust the waiter at the American Restaurant

With its wood panelling, octagon mirrors, tiled floor and Chinese landscape print on the wall, the American Restaurant could be a restaurant on Little Bourke Street in Melbourne the decor is so familiar. But it's not, it's in Wan Chai in Hong Kong.

Lonely Planet's Hong Kong & Macau City Guide (2010) tells me that the American Restaurant was so named to attract American soldiers in Wan Chai on R&R during the Vietnam War. It attracts the rich and famous, like Robbie Coltrane who was spied by a work colleague getting impatient with the slow service offered by the elderly wait staff, the expatriate community, the local Hong Kong Chinese community and people like us - tourists.

The American Restaurant specialises in Northern Chinese cuisine, and according to my trusty Lonely Planet book offers a Northern speciality rarely seen - pigs throat stir fried with parsley. Now I think I was at that point of our trip where I would have been prepared to be a bit adventurous and try a dish like this. It was dinner on day two of our trip and while our meals had been delicious they had been familiar and tame. However, I was not going to have this opportunity, oh no.

The first dish I chose from the menu was the half serve of Peking Duck. Now, expecting this to be served to us as a couple of pancakes, duck slices, cucumber and spring onion for garnish I went to point to another dish on the menu.

"No half Peking Duck. You will have whole Peking Duck only" I was told, 'that is enough. Forty-five minutes, ok?"

Now, I was a little bit shocked at being told this. What was going on? Whole Peking Duck? I'm not used to being told what to do. I'm the eldest child in the family, I tell people what to do, not vice versa. And I was paying for this too.

"Oh" was my crestfallen response. "But what does it come with?" I asked anxiously. I couldn't have only meat for dinner.

"Cucumbers and spring onion".

"That's it?"

"Yes. Plenty for you both".

Who was I too argue. With a collective waiting experience of at least 500 hundred years between the ten elderly, male waiting staff working that night, what did I know? Nothing. They knew better than me how much and what I needed to eat.

I was a bit peckish though and wasn't sure I could wait 45 minutes without becoming a bit tetchy. So we ordered some fried spring rolls.

We should have given these a miss. They tasted like they were filled with the kai see ming of my childhood - minced beef and cabbage. We drank some Tsing Tao beer, ate a couple and wondered why we bothered - the duck arrived in 30 minutes. And what a spectacular dish it was.

The whole duck was brought out and cut before our eyes, then presented to us on a platter that bulged with juicy, tender, slices of roast duck.

The Peking Duck was served with a mountain of lovely, light, thin pancakes, rich hoisin sauce, juicy sliced cucumber and spring onions (which to my mind were a bit chewy). We think we had at least a dozen pancakes each, probably more. It was a feast, and our waiter was right - the whole Peking Duck was enough for us.

We had to compose the pancake our selves, which was a bit of a disappointment to me. None of the flourish experienced at BBQ King in Sydney where they do it for you. Oh well, a small disappointment.

American Restaurant is an institution in Hong Kong and has been around for over 40 years. Apparently it can get very busy on the weekends. It was quiet the night we were there, which was Thursday, but soon filled to about half its capacity. Despite what other reviews say, we found the service to be attentive and prompt, perhaps because it was only half full.

As we left and walked out into the still humid Hong Kong evening, we felt very satisfied after eating our whole Peking Duck. It wasn't the best we've eaten but it was still tasty. It's probably the most Peking Duck we've ever consumed (and are ever likely to consume again) in one sitting.

The atmosphere was enjoyable and we had fun. We would definitely go back to try some of their other dishes.

American Restaurant
Ground Floor, Golden Star Building
20 Lockhart Road
Wan Chai
Hong Kong

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Delicious Kitchen - that it was!

I hope that says Delicious Kitchen

The Quince Poacher moves to a new level. We're globe-trotting and in Hong Kong for four days for a short break. Hey, I know it's not that long but it's still a global city and one that offers up exciting experiences for anyone who likes food.

Delicious Kitchen is where we had our first meal on our trip to Hong Kong. Lunch to be exact. And while the restaurant doesn't push any boundaries in terms of its offerings, it is what you'd expect from a good Cantonese style restaurant. It's located in Causeway Bay, which is a shopping area on Hong Kong island. Delicious Kitchen's interior was what I'd call modern utilitarian, the 21st century's version of a 1950s Chinese cafe. Lots of surfaces that were easy to clean. The tables are a mock wood laminate, food and drinks are served in black and white crockery. We were seated on comfortable stools and overall it is quite welcoming.

The clientele when we walked in augured well. It was full of, let us say mature-aged Hong Kong ladies out to enjoy lunch. S. thought this a good sign and we weren't disappointed. Tea was swiftly provided to us when we sat down. We started with the fried pork chop. This was of a generous size and absolutely delicious. Covered in a honey glaze it was tender, juicy, sticky and sweet. For me, this was the stand-out dish. Spectacular in its simplicity. I will be going back for one more serve before we leave.

We ordered two pork dishes. The second was sliced pork with garlic, pepper and cabbage. This dish was more chilli than garlic pepper, nevertheless it was still very tasty - a generous plate of thinly sliced pork, cabbage, chilli and tofu covered in glistening chilli oil. It had a hot kick that wasn't over overwhelming and had delicious smoky undertones. S. quite enjoyed this, in fact he ate most of it before I could get to it!

The Yueng Chow style fried rice was for me fried rice as we know it - that familiar favourite of Cantonese style fried rice that is served in Chinese restaurants in suburban Melbourne. Only better. It contained a generous amount of prawns, slices of pork, cubed ham, beef brisket, lettuce and egg. The beef brisket was lovely, subtly infused with star anise. More salty than sweet, I quite enjoyed this dish and everything that went into it.

Crunch is one of my favourite textures and the deep fried wontons did not disappoint. Filled with spinach and plump prawns that popped in your mouth when you bit into them, the crunchy outer texture of the fried wontons provided the perfect contrast to this. These were served with a rich, smoky, red chilli sauce that was not overtly sweet and complimented the dish perfectly.

Finally, there was an incentive program that offered a free 'dessert' for purchases over a certain value. The dessert in question was a mashed red bean pancake. The pancake was deep fried, which added a savoury crunch on the outside and the red beans had only the merest hint of sweetness. It wasn't a taste our palate is used to. This was probably the least impressive dish we ate for lunch and was to our minds, better suited to a cup of tea in the afternoon than the end of lunch. But don't let this make you think this spoiled the meal for us - far from it. It was delicious!

What we had:
Fried pork chop
Sliced pork with garlic, pepper and cabbage
Deep fried wonton with chilli sauce
Fried Rice Yueng Chow style
Mashed red bean pancake

How much did it cost?

A delicious, slap-up feast for $A40.

Delicious Kitchen
9 -11B Cleveland Street
Causeway Bay
Hong Kong

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My new favourite pizza

Antalya is my favourite local Turkish restaurant. It's literally around the corner and just down the road from us.

I'm not going to do a full review here. Nina Rousseau did a fine job of that last week in The Age. However, I will tell you about my new favourite pizza from there and show you some more photos of their food.

Mmmm, tasty potato salad

Last week for the first time I tried their marinated minced lamb pizza, toppped with a rich tomato sauce and finely minced lamb. It's served with juicy lemon wedges and a generous amount of parsley.

You squeeze the lemon juice all over the slices and wrap the pizza around the parsley. The flavours are fresh, balanced and the crispness of the crust is just sensational.

You can have your Ladros and Pizza Meine Liebe, this is the best thin crust pizza I have had in a long, long time. Just how I love it. How come it has taken me four years to try it?

Antalya Turkish Restaurant on Urbanspoon