By Michael Karlo Lim
WE WERE at a toss between seeking out popular street eats and Anthony Bourdain’s last hurrahs in Hong Kong when the Kowloon Shangri-la invited us to lunch at their two Michelin-starred restaurant, the Shang Palace.
Our welcome was in delicate cups of the equally delicate and floral signature Osmanthus tea. Service deluxe is an understatement with the attentive yet unobtrusive wait staff anticipating your every need. The maître d’ saw these outsiders’ quizzical looks at the two pairs of chopsticks and ever so politely explained that the inner one is for own use and the other for service.
We began with an appetizer trio of Steamed Shrimp Dumpling, Pan-fried Rice Rolls with Dried Shrimp in Superior Soy Sauce and Roasted Crispy Pork Belly. Hakao (Har Gau) has a special place in my heart. The lone steamed shrimp dumpling in the little steamer was precious as is but even more so with their house chili sauces. Pan-fried rice rolls made for an excellent starch start with dried shrimp in, what was indeed, superior soy sauce.
Two, inch-cubes of roasted pork belly — crisped skin audibly crunching into the delicious layer of fat and succulent meat — was quite the tease in their sizes but proved wise restraint for the five other courses.
The soup course was a “Double-boiled” Chicken Soup with Sea Conch and Matsutake Mushrooms. Chicken is sweltered to literally stew in its own juices, coming up a deliciously intense chicken flavor. Softly chewy sea conch brought in a sweet, briny hint and matsutake mushrooms, earthiness.
This was followed by Steamed Spotted Garoupa Fillet in assorted vegetables, and Egg White Sauce topped with crispy Parma Ham. The egg white sauce coated the veggies with a velvety cream texture and a barely there egg flavor that allowed the bright vegetals through. I initially wanted more Parma, but the sprinkling of slivers was just enough to make a saltine counterpoint to the seafood sweetness of the fish steamed to perfection.
The second entree was Coddled Seasonal Vegetable, spinach in this case, with Fresh Crab Meat in Rice Broth. The clean slate starch taste of the broth, much like a silky congee sans the solids, provided an excellent base for the contrasting flavors of sweet crabmeat and saltine vegetable bitters of the spinach.
As in Chinese progressions, the rice dish was served last: Fried Rice with minced Wagyu Beef served stuffed in a whole tomato. Your Chao Fan gets shaken up with the stir-frying of Wagyu into the mix. What’s incredible here is the chef’s extreme restraint on seasoning, for this particular dish and that Chinese cuisine is wont to do the opposite, allowing the better appreciation of the meat. Another is the tomato treated as so to render it a strong argument for its correct classification as a fruit.
Dessert was not your usual chilled one in the piping hot “Double-boiled” Papaya Soup with Snow Fungus and Apricot Kernels. Accompanying it were Chinese petit fours of fruit jelly and a fanciful swan-shaped Buchi — white bean paste in phyllo pastry and flour cookie swan neck sitting on sesame seed “eggs” on a vermicelli “nest.”
“Shang Palace, the recipient of two Michelin stars (Michelin Guide, Hong Kong & Macau, 2009-2018), proudly presents an elevated level of Chinese dining. Cantonese specialties evoke the grandeur of traditional China, and the delicious food, ornate décor, and friendly staff make dining here a truly wonderful and most memorable experience.”
The Shang Palace is located at the Lower Level I of the Kowloon Shangri-La and is open for lunch and dinner. For inquiries and bookings, visit http://www.shangri-la.com.
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