New Year’s Eve at China Club in Hong Kong

New Year’s Eve was spent at the China Club, a retro-chic private club in Hong Kong, for music from the early 1900s, atmosphere from all over the place, and food that was mostly Cantonese.

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Tawn and I dressed to the nines. We didn’t realize that the theme for the night was for Great Gastby-ish dress, otherwise we would have worn some vintage crushed velvet dinner jackets. I’m proud that I achieved one of my 2013 resolutions: being able to tie my own bow tie without watching the YouTube video to guide me. Success!

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The interior of the club, which occupies the top three floors of the old Bank of China building, has the feel of a Chinese tea house but with loads of contemporary art on the walls. It was a happening place with lots of young professionals crowding the tables. Someone needs to remind these young men that gentlemen do not remove their jackets at the dinner table.

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The menu is mostly Chinese, with an emphasis on Cantonese cuisine, the style indigenous to Hong Kong. We did order a few variations, though. Appetizers began with these deep fried prawns with foie gras, wrapped in tofu sheets, which featured large, fresh prawn meat.

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Soups are usually available per-person, that way everyone can order what they want. One of our friends had this crab claw meat (one perfect, unbroken piece) served in a lovely consommé broth with vegetables.

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The other friend and Tawn both ordered the sweet and sour soup, a classic that was very nicely done. (Yes, I tried a bite of everything!)

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I tried one of the special soups, which was braised beef brisket in hand-pulled noodles. The brisket was nicely tender and flavorful while the noodles had a pleasant “al dente” texture.

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One of the recommended dishes was the charsiu, or roasted, honey-glazed pork belly. This staple of Cantonese cuisine is succulent and, when done well, is the perfect balance of flavors and textures. The chef did a good job with this and another plate would have been welcome

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This is a Szechuan style dish: sautéed diced chicken with garlic, star anise, chilies, and spring onion. It isn’t as hot as you might imagine and was one of my favorite dishes.

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For variety, I ordered another Szechuan dish: dan dan noodles. This dish has a spicy chili sauce made with preserved vegetables and minced pork served over noodles. This particular version had a lot more sauce than usual and the sauce had less of the tongue-numbing Szechuan peppercorns than I have experienced in other versions. Nonetheless, it was enjoyable.

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Sautéed lotus root, sweet peas, water chestnuts, and various fungi served in a nest made from deep fried taro root. This was a wonderful example of the clean flavors, simple preparation, and elegant presentation of Cantonese cuisine. Of course, it can also be heavy and oily when poorly done.

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I ordered this dish as an appetizer and it arrived near the end of the meal. Familiar to people who dine at Vietnamese restaurants, it is chopped shrimp made into a paste, formed around sugar cane, and deep fried. Always tasty.

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We concluded the meal with some fried rice, this one a mixture of different meats and vegetables. As with most Chinese banquets (although this meal was ordered a la carte), the rice is served last so that you do not fill up on it during the meal.

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For dessert, we shared a few items that didn’t photograph well plus these lovely egg custard tarts. With a very flakey and not-too-oily crust, the tarts were a nice conclusion to the meal.

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We also inexplicably received fortune cookies. I say “inexplicably” because these are an American invention and not authentic in the least. To top it off, there seems to be a trend of fortune cookies increasingly reading like “advice” cookies. As one Chinese friend pointed out, the quality of writing must be suffering because the fortunes are now outsourced to a factory in China. Ha!

All in all, China Club was a good meal and a fun place to dine on New Year’s Eve. For more info, here’s their website. Note that the club is members-only so to go, a member needs to make reservations for you.

New Year’s Eve Food

What better way to start the new year (not to mention, what better first post to write) than to prepare some good food?  While Tawn was away at his family’s annual New Year’s Eve party and didn’t return home until ten minutes before midnight, I hosted a missionary friend from Chiang Mai and one of her friends who is visiting from the US.

Kari and Brandi were wonderful company and we spent almost four hours visiting and eating.  For dinner, I prepared a simple meal that thankfully used up the last of the lasagna ingredients that I produced earlier in the week.  Remind me next time not to double an already large batch of pasta and bolognese sauce!

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To begin with some Thai style pumpkin soup.  Made with homemade stock, this soup features tumeric, fresh ginger, and a little bit of coconut milk to add richness.  Garnished with a few drops of garlic-chili oil, which was enough to give it a definite kick.

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An interesting recent discovery, a vegetable called kanaeng in Thai.  An American restaurateur friend calls these “baby cabbages” on his menu, but they are more akin to loosely wrapped Brussels sprouts.  I followed his preparation, stir-frying them with garlic, soy sauce, and crispy pork.

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Probably a little heavy on the crispy pork, but is anyone going to tell me you can really have too much pork?  I think not!  (Well, okay, Dr. Zakiah, Lalima, and a few others will, but that’s for religious, not flavor reasons!)

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The final dish of lasagna.  I added a bit of meat and more tomatoes to the bolognese sauce to make for a richer, meatier dish.  It worked out beautifully, except that the bubbling sauce burned on the handles making for unsightly presentation.  The guests liked it enough to bring a few slices back to the mission house with them, though.

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Homemade bread, a rye-wheat combination.  Notice the faint lines running along the length of the loaf?  Those are from a banneton.  I’ll write more about those soon.

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Dessert was a chocolate chip and pecan bread pudding served with creme Anglaise sauce.  Very tasty, although perhaps a touch rich after this filling meal.  But why not end the year on a rich note with the hope that the new year will be equally rich and satisfying?

I hope your celebration was just as wonderful as mine.