8 Tables and Mr. Jiu's [SF]: The View From Hong Kong

From the South China Morning Post:

Note Chef Chen’s previous comments on this article in a prior thread.

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Forgot to reply. Chef, do you think the Bay Area can support a high end Chinese restaurant catered to folks who are already familiar with high end Chinese?

I do! As long as it’s very well done with decor and service to boot. I just started pushing into this area myself with this dish…Braised Dalian Sea Cucumber, Trout Roe, Shrimp Mousse, with Shrimp Roe Sauce over Taro/Ginger/Leek Basket!

I believe a few of you are very fluent in Chinese and are familiar with fine Cantonese dining in Hong Kong.

Below is an article written by Danny Yip for Eat Drink Man Woman, who has been in the food and beverage industry for a good number of years, with experience in opening restaurants in Australia and now Hong Kong (most of you have probably heard of The Chairman in Central). That restaurant is unique in the way they source their ingredients, seek purity and natural flavors and using pure skill to enhance them. Some of the more opinionated diners scoff at their concept, but their persistence in doing things their way speaks to their longevity and relevance to this day. They recently did a collaboration with two folks from Foshan who run a private kitchen in Guangzhou that is open 3 days out of the week, where they source the purest unadultered ingredients within Southern China, and with research into historical academic archives, bring out lost traditional recipes for a fun project that lasted 3 days (and only friends and people in the industry got to partake). From the process they learned so much about Cantonese cuisine and had a lot of fun doing it. This has been the talk of town over there for a bit.

He penned some of his after thoughts here of the collaboration:

The ending sentence speaks volumes:

“做中菜的,如果不用心發掘這些本屬於我們的寶藏,而去研究外國松茸鵝肝魚子醬,搞得不倫不類,真的說不過去”

For those doing Chinese food, if we do not put our hearts into discovering such treasures (native ingredients that belong to us) and instead spend time researching (basically incorporating) foreign ingredients such as truffle and caviar, and turn dishes into something unidentifiable (and messy), it’s really unspeakable and disheartening.

I would love to see high end Chinese dining here in the USA be at that level of refinement, almost like kaiseki without the use of fusion or relying on fancy westernized ingredients, and to influence others to do the same. Otherwise it’s just like quite a few Michelin star restaurants here (sushi comes to mind) where there is innovative ideas for show or copying others, but no identity, preservation, and elevation of the basics to the next level, and a disservice to the food and ingredients themselves.

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Agree with KK but great food is also evolving. China now produces more caviar than anywhere in the world and pretty good Foie Gras. And Yunnan still abundant with super mushrooms etc as anywhere in the world. They used to have incredible Melanosporum but now stock ruined by the the greedy foragers. In the west…we need to show we can do all their techniques and western luxury and slowly introduce the long and great cuisine of China. We shouldn’t bury our heads and think they don’t get it unless we try. And frankly Chinese are horrible marketers of their great inventions! Think China, Paper, Gunpowder from steeped history!

The local parallel to the ideal that Danny Yip articulated, ingredient quality wise, is probably Chez Panisse and its offshoots, or a place like Manresa where some of the ingredients are foraged.

Give me the equivalent of The Chairman or Tasting Court here, and I will be happy.

A description of a meal from the collaboration between The Chairman and House 102 here:

Details of House 102 (written in Chinese):

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Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, Yuanyang County, Yunnan
Credit: inkelv1122, Flickr