Tuesday, January 3, 2012

1MB Travels: Hong Kong: Prince Restaurant

Last year, Prince Restaurant provided one of the best meals on my trip to Hong Kong - so I was excited to return this year. This time, for dinner, on my second night back!

We were greeted immediately with the lovely trio of 'welcome dishes' - guava with plum salt, peanuts and XO sauce*. The guava was again fantastic, with its refreshing, crunchy, subtle sweetness enhanced by the sweet/tartness of plum salt. You can dip the peanuts in the XO sauce, or save the condiment for use in dishes later in the meal.

To kick off dinner, the Soup of the Day ($198HK / ~$26US) definitely got our attention with its seahorse tails and sea whelk mixed in with chicken and Chinese herbs. As standard for Chinese restaurants, they bring you the full pot of soup, pour the broth into individual bowls, then scoop out the "tong ja" or solid ingredients used to make the soup, into a separate bowl for you to eat. Too bad the seahorse was not used whole...we only got the tails...

Knowing my love for truffle and the new and unusual, my mom had us try the Stir Fried Bean Sprouts & Glass Noodle with Egg, Dried Scallop and Truffle ($138HK / ~$18US) - the price may seem high for a stir fry dish with all veggies, but once we smelled and saw (in that order!) the unmistakeable specks of real black truffle integrated throughout the dish, we thought it was worth every dollar.

I normally don't like bean sprouts, it's so bland and boring - but it works surprisingly well in perfect balance with every other element here to create a dish that's nothing short of divine in taste and texture. The crunchy sprouts, yieldy glass noodles, soft fluffy clouds of egg and shred of dried scallop was made intoxicatingly fragrant with heat from the wok (that you can taste in the food) and the scent of black truffle. So simple a dish, yet so sophisticated and delicious. This was easily our favorite Chinese dish made with truffle, in recent memory.

Next up: another dish I haven't had before,which has a beautiful sounding Chinese name 艷影紗窗 that translates in essence to "Mysterious Beauty" ($128HK / ~$16US). Which doesn't really tell you much about what it is, but makes sense once you see it.

Steamed bamboo pith rolls, stuffed with slivers of mushroom and bamboo shoots, topped with goji berries, are placed in alternating rows with kai lan.

The name of the dish refers to the beautiful veil-like quality of the bamboo pith, somewhat see through where you can sort of make out what's inside but you can't see it clearly, you just sort of see a shadow of it. The name is supposed to poetically evoke the shadow of a beautiful woman glimpsed through a veil or thin curtain - in a romantic, not creepy way - get your dirty minds out of the gutter.

But what in the heck is bamboo pith you ask? I had to do some detective work too - it's 竹笙, a type of mushroom with a porous veil that hangs down from the cap. It's also known as "Long Net Stinkhorn", but the cooked version at least doesn't smell bad or tate bitter as its name may imply, it's used in savory dishes but has a lovely subtle sweetness - Bamboo Pith is a more appetizing name. Once cooked it shrinks and the net becomes tighter, but still semi-see through - the look and texture reminds me of fish maw (an expensive Chinese delicacy: the air bladder or swim bladder of a fish, which sounds unappetizing but has an exquisite light and soft spongy unique texture and very subtle, not fishy, taste) - so this is sort of the more affordable alternative.

This dish was also simple, but novel, and beautiful to look at. I loved the delicate texture of the bamboo pith, gently bathed in starchy but clear broth, and offset first by the light crunch of the slivered mushroom and bamboo shoots stuffed inside, then by the heftier crunch and pops of green in the stalks of kai lan. Loved this.

For our last dish (I was still jetlagged and not ready for a full on meal with dessert etc.), we had the Fried Sticky Rice with Preserved Sausage ($168HK / ~$21US). This though amazingly delicious - you can taste the individual grains of rice distinctly, and fragrance released by a nice hot wok (always one of the signs of the chef's skill), with rich but perfectly restrained flavors punctuated by bits of juicy preserved sausage. Our only complaint about this dish would be the price - it's mysteriously more than the one with truffle, and doesn't have a lot of seafood in it (beyond the shreds of dried scallop).

All in all, another great meal at Prince Restaurant - pricey but worth it in my opinion overall (fried rice being the exception) for the fine dining level Chinese. It's going on my list of favorites in Hong Kong!

On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6.5 bites
Presentation - 5.5 bites
Originality - 6 bites
Ambience - 6 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$$ (3 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 100%

*Note for tourists: there is a charge for the three 'welcome dishes' ($54HK for all three / ~$7US) - you can probably decline them if you don't want to get charged, but we've never done this as it's not customary. There is also a small charge for tea service, though you get unlimited refills of Chinese loose leaf tea of your choice ($15HK per person / ~$2US though it all comes in one pot for the table). There's also a 10% service charge that is automatically charged to the total bill, which is standard to all restaurants in Hong Kong - this is basically the tip, it's not expected for you to leave more, but if you received exceptional service and wish to leave more, it would make your server extremely happy.


Hong Kong

Prince Restaurant
5/F, The Lee Gardens, 33 Hysan Avenue, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Ph: +852 2577-4888

Website: princerestaurant.com.hk


1 comment:

  1. thank you for posting this blog i really enjoyed and i love to eat hong kong food ..



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