Executive Lunch-Time Eats @ Tsui Hang Village, Central, Hong Kong

Date of Visit: August 27 2013

It was near impossible to find a place for lunch in Central before the restaurant boom took off with a gusto in Hong Kong a decade ago. Now, a short walk on the pedestrian overhead bridge to Sheung Wan from IFC or an escalator ride to Mid-Levels is all you need to find an array of new restaurants serving up cuisines from all over the world.

This is a significant departure from my good ‘ol days of McDonald’s take-aways and styrofoam lunch-boxes *sniff*. Then again, I was only an architectural intern engrossed with my mundane priorities of specifying steps in the stairs, gradients in the ramps, toilet accessories – amongst the most exciting tasks! My mind was far away from digging out any culinary finds then!

I degress… back to Central, I say reservations are still recommended today especially since this is a busy financial district.

Tsui Hang Village in New World Tower, Central has been around ever since I can remember. This is a family favourite. We used to have to check-in at least once every week when I was little. Gran had a ‘trader’s couch’ in Central where she reports for ‘duty’ every workday! Anyway, after many face-lifts, this is still the same expansive restaurant on the second floor of an office building with a low ceiling. Heck! Even the maitre d’ is still the same woman!

Food here are classic Cantonese, with dim sums for lunch. Some of the a la carte, I recommend are salted fish fried rice, braised e-fu noodles, 2-faced yellow noodles and back pepper beef on sizzling hot plates.

Naturally as a golden-oldie, Tsui Hang Village made into the list of recommended restaurants in Michelin Hong Kong & Macau Guides in 2012, 2013.

Great news for the ‘bananas‘ (Chinese who cannot read Chinese) out there! Bi-lingual menu with pictures – ordering made easy. All one needed to do is to tick off the boxes for the food one wants with the pencil provided and give it to the waiter.

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Bi-lingual tick-the-box menu with pictures

Honey Glazed BBQ Pork (HK$128): Sticky, juicy, succulent pork – half fat, half lean – exceptionally tender porky bites with sweet chewy unctuousness. I enjoyed the honeyed soy beans, so much that my chopsticks have only 1 path – to the plate for the beans into my mouth and back!

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Honey Glazed BBQ Pork

Steamed Braised Chicken Feet: Don’t say yuck! Also known as ‘Phoenix Claws‘, in Cantonese, this is a nutritious savoury-sweet delicacy with plenty of collagen to make you look younger and prettier! Curious at how this dish is cooked, I checked online (recipe here) and to my horror they have to be first deep-fried in order for it to puff up when steamed. Not so healthy now, is it? Still, as a once in a while delicacy, it’s OK as a treat, right?

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Steamed Braised Chicken Feet

Steamed BBQ Pork Bun: This is sweet BBQ pork filling in white fluffy cottony-soft buns. The filling is very hot. Personally, I am not crazy about BBQ buns because they are too sweet for me. I usually share the bun and have it as my dessert.

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Steamed BBQ Pork Bun

Steamed Squid: An old classic in any yumcha. I think a basket of this is becoming a rarity nowadays. I especially enjoyed the supposedly cholesterol-lowering or was it blood-pressure lowering pomelo skins under the squids dressed in salty nam jin sauce.

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Steamed Squid

Steamed Vegetarian Dumplings: Chinese chives or ‘gau choi‘ wrapped in glutinous rice paper wrappings.

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Steamed Vegetarian Dumplings

Vegetarian Stir-fry (Lo Hon Chai): Snap peas, carrots, celeries, bamboo shoots, black fungus, lotus roots, lotus buds and chestnuts. A flavoured packed dish with all my favourite vegetables in it. The notables in this dish are the crunchy lotus roots and water chestnuts.

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Vegetarian Stir-fry

Steamed Pork Ribs: I have not had this dish for quite a long time and it was not as good as I remembered. It was all bone cartilages with little meat. Basically a deep-fried pork ribs which is later steamed and given a generous garnishing of chopped garlic.

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Steamed Pork Ribs

Steamed Beef Balls: Finally! The favourite among my favourite dim sums. The beef balls here are rather special to me because the beef are minced to a pulp, thus having the texture of beef paste. The added parsleys and water chestnuts in the beef balls are accentuated with the soy vinegar provided.

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Steamed Beef Balls

The total time we spent in Tsui Hang Village from arrival to picking up the tab was only 50minutes! Now, that’s executive lunch-time in Hong Kong for you!

‘Come Dine in My Lounge’ @ Duddell’s, Central, Hong Kong

Date of Visit: August 26 2013

With a slew of of new restaurant openings in Hong Kong, each one surpassing the other in terms of interior design, style and theme. I narrowed my dining choice to Chinese – well, since I am in Hong Kong, Chinese cuisine is what the Hong Kongers do best, right? From my go-to mag for Hong Kong dining (Hong Kong Tattler’s), I found out that the latest ‘It‘ place in town is Duddell’s which opened recently in May. Wise choice it worked out to be because I really needed a place to chill-out over lunch after a solid 3-hours meeting in the morning.

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View from Board Room: Intermittent storm brewing

Duddell’s is a ‘art-social-eating place‘, a duplex restaurant occupying Levels 3 & 4 of Shanghai Tang Mansion on historic Duddell Street, where the famous stone steps and the only 4 surviving gas lamps in Hong Kong are (info here).

The designer is Ilse Crawford from London – whom I had the honours of googling and found out to be the ex-editor of international decorating bible, British Elle Decoration before setting up Studio Ilse a decade ago. Her previous projects include Soho House New York, Aesop, Grand Hotel Stockholm, and Ett Hem hotels. (Samples of her work can be found in this blog, here and her interview with SCMP regarding her design on Duddell’s here)

The design of Duddell’s resemble a private residence of a gentleman art-collector with a salon, library, dining room, and a 2,000 square foot outdoor garden terrace (huge in urban HK’s standard!). We were met by a ‘butler’ aka ‘maitre d’ aka ‘bouncer’ in dark suits, upon entry. After checking out our ‘cred’ aka ‘booking’, we were shown to the 2nd floor to be seated at the salon area.

I was immediately impressed by the extensive use of travertine – that solid, heavy, so ’50s material with holes and troughs (high maintenance) – now back in vogue. The heavy solid travertine staircase linked the 2 dining floors and the bar/ salon area upstairs into one cohesive design.

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Travertine staircase linking both the physical space and visual connection of the 2 floors

Like a page taken straight out of The Conran Shop catalogue, the decors uses high-end expensive designers chairs and furnishings – notably Eames Chairs and Arco Lights.

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Main restaurant (downstairs)
Sourced from Internet: (?)

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2nd Floor: Bar/ Salon/ Library

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Bar serving artisanal cocktails and champagnes

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Looking out to the outdoor garden for alfresco dining

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Designer chairs: Nice to look at, comfortable to sit, but hard to get up!

Although there are a lot of notable pictures and paintings that decorated the walls, what moved me are the photographs of King of Kowloon‘s work aka Tsang Tsou-choi, a garbage-collector turned graffiti artist now an international artist (Hong Kong’s answer to Banksy) – which jazzed up the separate alcove with red banquette seatings. When he died in 1987, he had painted over 55,000 graffitis all over Hong Kong, sadly only 4 remained. The Hong Kong community is now fighting to preserve his works (read here).

To endorse itself as an art-gallery, Duddell’s also offers private membership with a year-round art programs, talks and rotating exhibitions curated by famous names in the global art scene.

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Photographs of ‘King of Kowloon’s graffiti

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Red alcove

Trying hard to enjoy the environment, my ears picked up faint babbles of noise travelling all the way from the main restaurant downstairs. This together with the weak sound-proofing meant that I can hear word-for-word the complaints of a woman about her ‘friend’ and thus pretty annoying – what a relief when she left! It is not my intention to eavesdrop but my advise to her would be: “Get rid of your friend if she is so annoying or tolerate her if you still want to continue the friendship. Otherwise – Shut up”!

Alright, enough talk about decor, art and what-nots, I hear you – you are hungry and want to know what I ate from the kitchen of a former T’ang Court (1 Michelin star) chef Siu Hin Chi… so let’s rock on!

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Loving the illustration
(L) Mr Duddell’s Wine Menu
(R) Ms Duddell’s Food Menu

The Barbecued Pork with Honey ($240) was well executed with soft BBQ pork glazed in honey. Having said that, this is a ubiquitous dish in all Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong. A BBQ platter is a must in every menu and the offerings are just as comparable but at lesser price.

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Barbecued Pork with Honey

Next up, Steamed Vegetarian Dumpling with Morel Mushroom ($60). I could smell the black truffles, but once in my mouth, I could only taste the mushrooms and none of the truffles. The dumpling skin was well-made, thick enough to be still translucent yet not stick to my teeth.

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Steamed Vegetarian Dumpling with Morel Mushroom

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Steamed Vegetarian Dumpling with Morel Mushroom

The Fried Rice Roll with XO Chili Sauce ($80) followed. I loved how my teeth cut through the crispy and slightly burnt bits on the surface into the soft doughy inside. The XO chili sauce gave a flavoursome spicy kick. Nice!

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Fried Rice Roll with XO Chili Sauce

Baked Pork Puff with Scallion ($54) was delightful. I enjoyed the buttery pastry wrapping sweet BBQ pork pieces.

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Baked Pork Puff with Scallion

Deep fried Glutinous Balls with Pork Pieces ($54). Another pork pieces creation, but this time, wrapped in sweet crispy outer layer with a chewy skin and delectable pork filling.

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Deep fried Glutinous Balls with Pork Pieces

Lobster Soup Dumpling ($110) was ordered individually for each of us. A very pricey choice but so delicious. The soup was light and flavoursome. Although I have shell-fish allergy, I did not get a reaction, so I can vouch for the freshness of the lobster.

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Lobster Soup Dumpling

Last but not least, the restaurant’s unique creation of a refreshingly mild Chilled Avocado Sago Cream with Chocolate ($50). This dessert soup gave me an idea for my Vitamix. A blitz of avocado, add in some sago then top with coco powder. This is an easy recipe to make at home and would be a nice dessert.

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Chilled Avocado Sago Cream with Chocolate

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Chilled Avocado Sago Cream with Chocolate

Duddell’s is best described as an art gallery within a restaurant. It is very pricey but in Hong Kong, one has to be acquainted with the idea for paying for the decoration. I like to say that service was very attentive and professional – looking smart in their beige waist jackets! In my next blog, I will show you my favourite lunch time place in Central where office-workers eat.

While at IFC, for my next appointment, I picked up a box of Pierre Herme’s macaroons for Gran. I much prefer PH over L’s. PH actually has ‘flavour’ as opposed to L’s sweetness. My Centurion Gran loves the soft chewy macaroon! 😄

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Pierre Herme’s macaroons

Pierre Herme’s 2013 range: Les Jardines

Dim Sums With The Sunday Hikers @ Ming Court, Langham Place Hotel, Mongkok, Hong Kong

Date of Visit: August 26 2013

Bro informed us that he had booked Sunday Lunch at Ming Court, a 2 Michelin Stars Cantonese restaurant at the Langham Place Hotel, Mongkok, which is on Level 4 of the hotel we are staying.

“Lunch at 10:30am and there is a dress code”, he reminded us.

“Lunch? At 10:30am, that’s very early”, Mom said, “Are you sure?”.

“Well, there was a choice of 10:30am or 1:30pm, nothing available for 12pm.  I don’t think they serve lunch!”, came Bro’s reply.

So here we, at 10:30am sharp standing in front of Ming Court amid a mini crowd. After registration with the maitre de, we were seated promptly. The restaurant is very classy, with a collection of Ming replicas and ink landscape paintings.  However, there was no baby stool for my bag!  This is not quite the Michelin restaurant that I expect after our experience at Yé Shanghai yesterday.

The restaurant filled up rather quickly and we noticed diners dressed very casually in their ‘Sunday best’ of in hiker shorts, T-shirts and even Crocs, some even arriving with backpacks! Did these people hiked here and where is the required ‘dress code’ we all wondered.  Mom being her observant self, then said to Bro that he must have made a reservation in English through the hotel reception, which he did.

Apparently my Bro has been mistaken for a gweilo or laowai (depending on whether you are speaking Cantonese of Mandarin).   The hotel has to make sure that house guests do not turn up in wife-beaters, T-shirts or flip-flops! Or God forbid bathrobes!  Well, you know how simple some people can be – the resto is in the hotel, it’s a matter of riding the lifts, pressing the buttons down and up, so why not?  That aside, we had experienced in  Japanese fine-dining establishments where guests turned up in hiking gears (totally spoiling the chichi atmosphere), it was hard for the  restaurants to turn them away because that would mean a loss in business – and Japanese economy is ‘no good’ at the moment.  (Know the word ‘RESPECT’ dudes? Duh!)  Moreover in ryokans, they specifically put notices on dress codes in theirrooms – NO YUTAKAS IN RESTAURANTS!

Anyhow, since it was only 10:30am, we were not eager to eat heavily, thinking that we will go somewhere else for a late lunch or tea later. Hence, we only ordered only 5 dim sums to kick-start our day.  Urmmm…the food were…

Condiments on our table consists of XO Chilli Sauce with Baby Shrimps and Black Beans Sauce

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XO Chilli Sauce with Baby Shrimps and Black Beans

1)  Pan-fried Turnip Cakes: Pretty good with bits of Chinese ham in it but nothing outstanding.  (When I was a toddler, I could eat 1 basket of steamed turnip pudding all by myself, so that’s kinda makes me an expert! Hear! Hear!)

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Pan-fried Turnip Cakes

2)  Char-Siu Rice Roll: The rice roll was good, thick chewy skin which did not stick to my teeth. The char-siu was savoury sweet with added parsley for a herby kick.  I like!

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Char-Siu Rice Roll

3)  Pork dumpling with foie gras paste:  Sounded interesting on the menu but very ordinary in reality. The skin was too thick and doughy, sticking to my teeth.  There was no hint of foie gras at all.  Disappointed!

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Pork dumpling with foie gras paste

4)  Beef balls with Bean Curd Sheets:  This is another of my all-time dim sum favourite, Ming Court’s version has all the right ingredients of minced beef, parsley and chestnuts, but lacked a certain finesse.

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Beef balls with Bean Curd Sheets

5)  Glutinous rice wrapped in leaf has a lot of conpoy, the rice was perfect. The whole package was very fragrant.  This is the best dimsum dish.

Every year, during the Tuen Ng Festival or Dragon Boat festival, Ming Court will prepare Rice Dumplings for sale. When I was living in Hong Kong, I never fail to buy a couple – and they were generously stuffed with convoy, mushrooms and meat in steamed rice.

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Glutinous rice wrapped in leaf

So there you have, the brunch was pretty ordinary, not 2 Michelin Stars material, nothing to sing about.  It was better off eating at Club L (the hotel’s in-house lounge), the dimsums are  catered by Ming Court anyway.  In hindsight, after perusing other reviews, we should have done dinner instead, since this is where the gastronomic experience lies.

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Dimsums for breakfast at Club L

After brunch, we went to Times Square Shopping Mall in Causeway Bay.  There were many people, but not as many as I remembered – where are you, people? Disneyland?

In front of the mall, I was awestruck.  There were 2 huge robotic figurines standing imposingly.  Apparently, they are Gundam and Zauku II, making their first appearance outside of Japan, in the event called “Gundam Docks in Hong Kong“.  The 2 models are approximately  7 meter  which are scaled to 1/3 of the original Gundam in Odaiba, Tokyo.  I’m not a fan of them, so left after taking some pictures.  However, if you are interested to see more, I found a You Tube link here – Enjoy!

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Gundam

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Zauku II

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Zauku II

The ‘Fishy’ Case of the Yellowfish @ Yé Shanghai, TST, Hong Kong

Date of Visit: August 24 2013

On the occasion of mom’s birthday, we went to Yé Shanghai, a 2 Michelin Stars  establishment located on level 6 of Marco Polo Hotel, TST for a Shanghainese lunch. There are 3 hotels along the Canton Road all within the same complex (Harbour City and Ocean Terminal – and these are the only shopping mall you need to know/ visit in Hong Kong if you are short of time).

Upon entry to the restaurant, there is a very nice bar area dressed in eclectically moody dark timber, it was rather chic, no doubt making  an ideal place for pre-dinner drinks.   I would love to take out my camera to start taking pictures to show my readers, but since the restaurant was starting to get busy, I did not fancy to make a nuisance of myself.

We were seated at the main dining area at round tables instead of the timber-framed booth seatings. With french-windows on one side of the restaurant we got plenty of natural lights and views looking out to Hullet House (one have to look beyond the balcony area).

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My views

Once seated, the waiter gave me a baby stool for my handbag! This is what I call Michelin service!

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Baby stool for my bag!

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Bag perching prettily on stool

Condiments on our table

In Chinese restaurants there are usually condiments ready on the table which are  added on to the bill.  They are also available in bottles for sale at the door.

XO Chilli Sauce: Lots of baby shrimps and very spicy. There is no stopping me digging spoonfuls out of the container to pick at the tiny shrimps one-by-one

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XO Chilli Sauce

Dried turnip: Spicy and sweet. Love the crunchiness of the turnips dressed in fragrant sesame oil

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Dried turnip

There is a dim sum menu but we decided to rise to the occasion by ordering our favourites from the proper lunch menu.

We started with Typical Shanghainese Cold Appetisers.

Tea Leaf Smoked Flavoured Eggs: Most delicious. The orangey yolks were perfectly custardy surrounded by sweet smoky egg whites. We tend to order these every time we see them on the menu.

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Tea Leaf Smoked Flavoured Eggs

Huadiao Wine Marinated ‘Drunken’ Chicken. Another customary dish for us. The tender chicken came intact with skin and fat. The fat literally melted away when I chewed on the chicken. The wine was very strong and fragrant, it was too delicious to leave it alone… I drank by the spoonful!

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Drunken Chicken

Shredded Jelly fish with Cucumber: Crunchy and charred, the jelly fish was dressed in sesame oil. The cucumber was refreshing and for those needing a spicy kick, there is a badass mustard sauce for you to dunk your jelly fish in!

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Jelly fish with Cucumber

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Our table of cold appetisers

The Mains that we ordered…

Deep-fried Sweet and Sour Yellowfish with Pine Nuts: It was already deboned when it came to our table. While I liked the deep-fried fish very much – dense meaty fish yet not oily – I did not care for the thick tomato gravy at all because they were overly sweet and starchy. I don’t need extra carbs.

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Sweet and sour yellow fish with pine nuts

My tale of the  ‘fishy Yellowfish’:

Yellow-fish or Croaker is very scarce nowadays and reminds me of the trip to Putuo Shan (a sacred mountain near Ningbo, China) that I took with Mom and her BFFs nearly 10 years ago. While my aunts were checking out the fish to order for lunch, one of them pointed at a fish in a plastic basin to enquire the whether it is a yellowfish and the market price – immediately – the fish-monger grabbed the fish and knocked it out! WHACK with the butt of a chopper! KAPOW! 7-0-0- Ren-Min-Bi! Gone and poof! The most expensive fish we have ever eaten and up to this day, we still laugh about it whenever we order Yellowfish. Moral of the story? Never point, keep finger to self! Another gaff was that yellowfish is never caught alive, they die as soon as they are out of the water -duh!

If you are interested to visit Putuo Shan, here’s a link, but mind you EVERYTHING there is newly built!  The Red Guards had destroyed all the statues during the Cultural Revolution.  The Chinese were in a hurry to get the UNESCO cultural heritage grant when they started rebuilding the site- however,  I don’t think it was approved because it was more of a theme park with ghastly golden statues without originality about it, thus did not comply with ICOMOS guide lines.

Back to food…

Braised Shanghai Cabbage with Beancurd Sheets: Simple dish of wholesome goodness. Fresh baby bakchoy in chicken essence.

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Braised Shanghai Cabbage with Beancurd Sheets

Pork Belly with Steamed Bun. Now this is a ‘deconstructed’ pork belly bun which easily beats Momofuku’s and Ippudo‘s famous pork belly buns hands down!  A cute steamed white bun perching on the sweet, gingery pork belly which was warpped by a piece of pandanus leaf.  The tender pork belly literally melted in my mouth.   I used the white bun to mop up the delicious soy sauce.

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Pork Belly with Steamed Bun: Nice presentation

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Pork Belly with with good fat and pork ratio

Noodles with spring onions and soy: Since it’s Mom’s birthday, we ordered a Shanghainese street food, the simple noodles cooked in soy sauce with baby river shrimps and the ‘prized’ spring onions. The springy noodles were delectable. The soy sauce left a sweet lingering aftertaste.

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Noodles with spring onions and soy

Desserts

Typically Chinese desserts consist of boring sweet bean soups, puddings or to make things a little more interesting, deep-fried egg whites or bananas fritters!  However, I must say that I am very impressed with Yé Shanghai’s Western fusion.

Tofu pudding with basil seeds, mango and nato de coco and pomelo: A very ordinary looking pudding with pomelo on top corrugating in a sea of mango sauce, dotted with translucent nato de coco.  Lo-behold, a surprise awaits when we dug in, it was filled with basil seeds and mango! This was a yummy dessert with the clean refreshing tofu taste.

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Tofu pudding with basil seeds, mango and nato de coco and pomelo

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Hidden treasures of basil seeds and chunks of mango

Black Sesame Crème Brûlée with Roasted Peanut Butter Ice Cream: Not pretty to look at, but surprisingly tasty. The addition of grinded black sesame made the brûlée grainy, but gave a strong nuttiness and sesame aroma, pairing black well with the salty roasted peanut butter ice-cream. A modern Chinese-take on the French classic.

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Black Sesame Crème Brûlée with Roasted Peanut Butter Ice Cream:

Ginger Panna Cotta: A very simple Chinese ginger pud with bits of ginger in it.  Personally, I think the strawberries and mango sauce are more for presentation.

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Ginger panna cotta:

The waiter knowing that we are Shanghainese, recommended that we buy a box of their home-made Black Dates and Walnut Mooncakes ( $160 per box of 6).   We regretted that we only bought 2 boxes because it was really well-made with smooth black dates paste, which is very rare nowadays.  It take s a lot of work to get a smooth paste.   Moreover, this is an acquired taste for non-Shanghainese since it is ‘tartishly-sour’, slightly bitter with a hint of charcoal.

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Black Dates and Walnut Mooncakes

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Mooncake embossed with Ye Shanghai in Cantonese-style baked skin

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Black Dates and Walnut Mooncakes

Finally for our dinner at home which we celebrated again with Gran, Lucy (our helper) prepared  Abalone Chicken Soup Longevity Noodles and a hard-boiled egg for each of us.

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Abalone Chicken Soup Longevity Noodles