Sunday, 20 February 2011

Private Kitchen Extravaganza

Shelling out for a decadent meal at Stone House
Yesterday I went to dinner at a private kitchen called Stone House and it was something I had been looking forward to for a long time.

A few months ago my friend from California told me about a food blogger who flies just about anywhere for good food and was coming to Hong Kong. He was going to arrange a series of dinners and she encouraged me to sign up.

I contacted him and he gave me a long list of places and dates for the dinners. I signed up for three of them... and then later realized how much they would cost.

I tried to reason with myself that it's not often I get to go to private kitchens as you usually need a big group of people, and if I was able to tag along with some other foodies then it would be a good opportunity for me to try these places.

But then it turned out one of dates for one of the dinners I signed up for was changed and I couldn't make it; then a second one didn't have enough people so it was cancelled.

So I was left with this last one yesterday.

Roast suckling pig
And then a few days before, the blogger emailed us to say he himself wasn't able to make the dinner as he was flying off to Antarctica. Yep, he's communing with the penguins as I write this.

Anxious to make sure I got the address, I looked it up online and copied it in Chinese characters in case I didn't pronounce it right in Cantonese to the taxi driver. It was 15 Kotewall Road, in mid-levels, supposedly in an old house.

But when I got there, the white building with red lanterns in front and giant black steel doors was shut and it didn't look like anyone was in there. I rang the doorbell several times and no answer.

Luckily I had copied down one of the dinner guest's mobile number and called him. He himself got the address wrong too and it turns out the restaurant had moved to the first floor of the Cosmo Hotel on Queen's Road East a few months ago.

Seafood platter with the broth added
So I had to catch another cab to get there, about 20 minutes late, but it didn't look like the dinner had started at all as everyone was chatting amongst themselves.

It was a grab-bag mix of people, a restaurateur who had her own private kitchen in Sai Kung with her husband, a wine importer with his wife, a girl in public relations who brought her two cousins who are also trained chefs, a food blogger, a guy who deals with equities and a girl who writes for travel guides.

It wasn't until about 9pm did we get the dinner started -- did I tell you it was supposed to be about HK$1,000 ($128.50) per person for this dinner?

We sat down in a large private room, with a giant round table and large lazy susan in the middle that required some effort to rotate. There was also a sofa off to the side complete with karaoke equipment.

On the lazy susan were some appetisers -- chopped deep-fried lotus root, barbecued pork shoulder, deep-fried tofu cubes and deep-fried salt white fish. They seemed quite ordinary and not particularly outstanding.

Fried crispy chicken
Then the main event -- a roasted suckling pig was carried into the room, lying flat on its stomach complete with maraschino cherries for its eyes. The skin was carefully sliced up into rectangles and placed on mini pancakes. The skin was very crispy and not too greasy, very delicate and two pieces was definitely enough, though there was more to go around.

After came the seafood platter, a giant one filled with slices of abalone, geo duck and lobster. The server poured the broth over the dish before portioning it out to each person in a bowl with slices of deep-fried dough sticks. All the seafood was so fresh and sweet, combined with spring onions and coriander. The broth was also delicious.

Water chestnut cake
Next came baked crab meat in its shell, small crab shells that had a mixture of onion, crab meat and some mushroom in it, then baked. Again the portion was just right and not overcooked.

Then came the old style stewed beef shin, braised for a very long time as the beef was so easy to break up into smaller pieces and practically melted in the mouth. The gravy that came with it was also delicious.

We also had sauteed garoupa with broccoli, a standard dish with large pieces of fish that was firm and cooked just right. For a fine dining Cantonese restaurant it was a bit strange we didn't have a complete steamed fish, but perhaps the dish we had was considered better for a large party.

The fried crispy chicken was excellent -- the skin definitely crispy and not too greasy, meat tender and succulent. If I had more room in my stomach I'd have eaten more. It was a classic dish done very well.

Deep-fried dough with honey and sesame sauce
Then finally in a different presentation, we each got a plate of deep fried noodles, and then we poured on as much of the thick cornstarched sauce of shredded chicken, mushroom and bean sprouts we wanted. By now I was quite full and only finished about half my portion; there was lots of noodles and sauce left over. In fact many of the dishes weren't completely finished which was a bit of a waste even though someone did get the doggie bag afterwards.

Dessert featured a dough that was lightly deep-fried like a butterfly and we each drizzled as much honey sauce with sesame seeds we wanted. This is a classic dessert not many restaurants do anymore. We also had pan-fried water chestnut cake perhaps left over from the Chinese New Year holidays, and a giant fruit platter.

The restaurant didn't charge corkage so some people brought wine to go with the dinner which was nice. In the end we each paid HK$940 for the dinner.

The colourful fruit platter
While the food wasn't anything that had super ceded anything I'd ever had before, the standard was quite high and a few of the dishes were unusual. It's not something I would shell out again for, but I'm glad I tried it and met some new people too.

Stone House
1/F, Cosmo Hotel
375-377 Queen's Road East
Wan Chai
2559 9169
 

4 comments:

  1. only the rich and powerful people can afford such extravagance on a regular basis. i don't see much difference to the regular banquet type of dinner menu. may be the presentation a bit nicer.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Reminds me of the time I was in San Francisco in 2005 for a conference. Our host took us to a small restaurant where twenty were barely able to fit in. We were treated to a parade of exquisite tapas from the kitchen and when it was all over, the host whispered the total to me.
    "Wow", I thought, eight dollars. "No, no," said the host, "EIGHTY DOLLARS."

    ReplyDelete
  4. Reminds me of the time I was in San Francisco in 2005 for a conference. Our host took us to a small restaurant in Chinatown where twenty of us were barely able to fit in. We were treated to a parade of exquisite tapas from the kitchen and when it was all over, the host whispered the total to me.
    "Wow", I thought, eight dollars, as I reached for my wallet. Not bad for Chinese food.
    "No, no," said the host, "EIGHTY DOLLARS EACH!"
    And that was my first night in San Francisco!
    I later found out the restaurant was one where chefs go to on their night off.

    ReplyDelete