Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Creative Chinese Cuisine

The signature "super lean" roast duck
This afternoon I had a chance to sample some Beijing food.

The Mandarin Oriental will be bringing in chefs including Da Dong himself in April where he will cook a gala dinner on April 20 at Man Wah.

Sliced Canadian geoduck with Sichuan pepper
While the food is for the most part Chinese, he has taken the cuisine one step further in terms of cooking with different ingredients and the Japanese minimalist-style of presentation.

Today I had a chance to sample some of the dishes, each very good, and of course the famous "super lean" roast duck.

To start we were each presented a square plate and on top of that was a thin hollowed out globe of ice sitting on a bed of fabric and inside it was sliced Canadian geoduck with Sichuan pepper. The ice kept the poached geoduck cool and it had a bite thanks to the peppercorns that wasn't too overpowering.

Chef Da Dong dressing a plate
Next came an interesting combination of small cubed pieces of lotus root covered with foie gras that had been thinly sliced and looked like ham slices. This was paired with some sweet osmanthus sauce and it worked very well. The sweetness of the sauce naturally goes well with lotus root, but even more so with the foie gras, enhancing its silky smooth texture.

Da Dong gave a contemporary take on a traditional Shanghainese dish of bean curd sheets with finely diced Chinese spinach. Here he sandwiched the spinach in between minced bean curd that may have seemed bland but actually had a delicate flavour that was refreshing.

Intrigue went around the table in trying to figure out what squid egg soup would look like. It arrived in small espresso cups and the smell was very earthy and like mushrooms. With a small spoon we fished out the skin of the squid egg, a very thin slippery white ingredient that didn't have much taste on its own, but was like a noodle. Apparently squid egg soup is a traditional Chinese dish, but obviously Da Dong has presented a different interpretation that was delicious.

Chef Dong's braised sea cucumber presented like a pine branch
His signature braised sea cucumber was presented on a long rectangular plate, cooked with leeks in a thick sweet-soy sauce. We enjoyed each bite, similar to tendon in texture, and the addition of the leek was unfamiliar but tasted great.

For a bit of a crunch, the fresh jelly fish with broad bean was very good. Interestingly it was paired with strawberries as well. It's a simple dish seasoned with a bit of chilli oil.

Then came the main event -- the roast duck that was wheeled to our table and ceremoniously sliced up very quickly. The duck was excellent as always, hardly any fat on it and the meat very tender. Everyone admired the individual plate of condiments that almost looked too pretty to eat.

Braised abalone and Chinese yam with rice in truffle sauce
Another delightful dish was the braised abalone and Chinese yam with rice in truffle sauce. They arrived in individual small clay pots with Chinese characters on each ranging from happiness and prosperity to long life. The aroma was heavenly from the truffle sauce and it was topped with a small plump abalone that was very tender. The rice had been thoroughly marinated in the sauce so each bite was very good.

It's so great to see Da Dong continue developing his dishes, making them not only delicious but thoughtfully presented so that the dining experience is absolutely memorable.

Da Dong Roast Duck Returns to Man Wah April 14-22
25/F, Mandarin Oriental
5 Connaught Road
2825 4003

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