Tasting Court the private kitchen in Jordan closed a few months ago. It has recently reopened in Happy Valley. It focuses on classic, traditional and nostalgic Cantonese dishes cooked with high quality ingredients and deemphasizes pricey Cantonese banquet ingredients such as shark fin, bird’s nest, deep-sea fish, etc.
Originally I thought they were still closed but found during the trip that they reopened. So I booked a table to see how it compared with a favorite meal I had at The Chairman 3 years ago. The following is a report of a meal in August. The restaurant hasn’t officially reopened yet. But their facebook page is up. Word is beginning to get out, but its still possible to book a table with short notice.
Overall it was a very enjoyable banquet meal for me. Exquisite mastery of sauces and broth. Delicate handling of high quality ingredients made for a great value for its price even though, obviously, its not cheap.
1- Crispy Enoki Mushroom 酥 炸 金 針 菰- well fried, no grease leftover.
2- Wild Clam Scalded with Sake 日 本 清 酒 浸 蜆. The outstanding sweetness of the very fresh Filipino clams was balanced by the aromatic sake broth infused with ginger and scallion. I drank the broth, with had plenty of sake still in it. My favorite dish of the evening.
3- Char siu made with spanish iberico pork tenderloin- with the char siu sauce made with dau si, meen si and ‘olive’ si in the traditional manner, with no preservative that is common in most char siu places. A good mix of fatty and lean meat. My wife’s favorite dish.
4- Steamed Fresh Flowery Crab with Aged Shaoxing Wine & Red Yeast Rice Noodle 古 月 龍 山 蒸 花 蟹 配 紅 麴 粉. The hua diao wine brand was Gu Yue Long Shan 古越龍山, with the wine made in Shao Hsing. The wine containers were visible in the downstairs dining room. The manager emphasized that here they used 25 year hua diao vs 10 year at the chairman. The manager asked me how it compared with the same dish at The Chairman. Its hard for me to say since that meal was a while ago but I would say this dish was at least on par. Crab was obviously sweet and the ‘noodles’ soaked up all the wine sauce goodness. My wife said may be the Chairman dish was a bit better but it could be memory playing tricks. A couple of my dining companions were not huge in general on traditional Chinese wine sauces prep so while they found this dish good, they were ok with it. The manager emphasized that the 25 year hua diao was smoother.
5- Slow-cooked Chicken Soup with Fish Maw & Conch 花 膠 螺 頭 燉雞 - Very intense chicken flavour in the soup base from chicken (and bones), with pork, and outstanding sweetness from the conch. There were also a few pieces of conch edible in the soup. I love double boiled soup and I thought this soup was delicately balanced and was an exemplary version of such soup.
6- Slow-cooked Mini Meat Balls in Chicken Soup 葵 花 斬 肉 . Even though I was only ok with this dish, I admired the skill that went into the prep. To call it a meat ball was a big disservice to the dish. It used no tendon and was simmered in chicken broth for 7 hours. It was just melt in the mouth tender. This dish originated in the Tsui dynasty amongst the royals and later inspired the Shanghainese lion head meatball dish. The manager mentioned that the dish was also in the Chinese state banquet this year. One of my dining companion’s favorite.
7- Luffa squash with cloud ear mushroom cooked in fish broth. First the caveat on my comments in the next paragraph on this dish- the manager sped up the pacing of the dishes because there was a lull between this dish and the prior dish and our little ones were getting restless. So it arrived with the soya chicken and the fried rice.
My problem was that this dish was very light (and probably quite delicate) in seasoning by intent so eating it along with the soya chicken and fried rice meant that those two dishes’ more pronounced flavours overwhelmed this dish (and my palette) so I couldn’t taste much. Good fish broth. The squash was a bit raw.
8- Traditional Herbs Soy Sauce Chicken 天 一 養 生 雞/ 當 歸 黃 芪 黨 參 川 芎… 豉 油 雞. With dong guai, etc. Fresh chicken local from HK. Bouncy skin, unlike normal chicken with somewhat limp skin. Flavorful chicken-y meat. The soya sauce was the highlight, however, with it being intricately balanced amongst the many components and was a salty, a little sweet and aromatic. I was contemplating bringing the leftover sauce home in frozen form when the server took the plate away while I was looking in the other direction. Oh well.
9- Fried Rice with Ginger, Dried Scallops, Sakura Shrimp & Egg White 薑 米 瑤 柱 櫻 花 蝦 蛋 白 炒 飯. The Taiwanese shrimp introduced a complex briny sweet flavor that elevated the typical egg white fried rice dish to new heights. The manager also brought the left over crab hua diao sauce. Added to the fried rice, it lost the fried rice texture but gained a complex crabby winey taste.
10- Blended Jujube Coconut Juice Pudding 椰 汁 棗 茸 糕 and Huadiao with Dried Jujube Dessert Drink 花 雕 紅 棗 飲. The middle layer was cononut while the top and bottom layers were jujube. The dessert was gelatin-y and sticky and steamed. The jujube drink was made with the same hua diao in the crab dish. I have never been a fan of jujubes growing up so while I found it tasty, I didn’t ‘like’ it. But someone else may find it appealing.
Overall, a great version of traditional Cantonese cuisine, with time consuming and delicious prep and outstanding technique. I debate whether it reached the heights of the Chairman meal last time because I still dreamed about that ginger scallion chicken, but then the overall quality of this meal was excellent, and the kitchen was obviously very capable. One must enjoy the traditional wine sauce preparation to enjoy this meal, however. A couple of my dining companions liked the meal because of their preference on wine sauce but didn’t love.
There were 5 tables in the space. 4 upstairs and 1 downstairs. The manager (Andrew) said that the Jordan space was too big and was able to sit 200. They didn’t need such a big space and the rent was too high so they closed the Jordan location. They began renovation of the Happy Valley location at the end of June, started service at the beginning of July.
I inquired the source of the kitchen staff and they said that they were peers of those at The Chairman. I didn’t have a chance to inquire further later in the meal what ‘peers’ meant. The most knowledgeable server was the elderly gentleman. Get him if you want to learn about the dishes, the ingredients and the history.
Pacing of the meal was a little off with a bit of a wait for the red date dessert. Could use work there.
HK$728 per person for 10 courses. They didn’t charge us the customary 10% service but we added that anyway.
Other dishes seen- Baked Chicken Pickled with Sea Salt, Prawn Roe Stirred Noodle with Prawn & Shallot Essence Oil.
The first restaurant note on the left was ours. For those who are interested, you can see what the other tables had as well.