Friday, April 06, 2007

Scenes from Xi Yan

This was another dinner that was a long time in coming. If I remembered correctly, several prior arrangements had been made and things never took off because of various personal commitments by the attendees with various excuses for not being able to honor a simple dinner appointment at the last moments. This time round, some of us have actually made it. For the record, all the anticipation of this dinner probably set expectations higher. For $105, I had certainly expected better.

Xi Yan is a private dining room (it actually looks like an art gallery) that hails from Hong Kong. The place is located along 38A Craig Road. How this place works is that one turns up for their appointment with them and you eat what they have on menu for that day. There is no a la carte order from the menu and this featured dinner was a 12 course contemporary Chinese dinner which comes with a vocalized introduction of how each dish is painstakingly created upon service. Right. I mean, right on to the pictures....

greenhouse tomatoes in sesame sauce - these tomatoes were purported to be organic and grown in greenhouses. The texture of the tomatoes were noticeably different from regular ones and were actually more like persimmons rather than tomatoes. The sauce was a sesame vinaigrette taste a lot like the bottled types. Still, this turned out to be an appetising starter.

cold tofu pork floss - this chilled tofu was the second starter. The server made mention of the tofu being freshly made instead of using those that are factory made. Apart from the soy sauce which made it appetising, there was actually nothing special we could discerned about the tofu.

shrimp and crab paste on baguette toast - as mentioned by the server, the paste of shrimp and crab tasted like 'hay bee' or dried chilli shrimp. This was totally uninteresting and in fact, tasted cheap.

Sichuan pickles in spicy sauce - apart from tasting cheap, this was probably really cheap. Strip sliced gherkins and radishes that were marinated in some spicy Sichuan sauce. The effect was a combination of spiciness and sourness with a heavy hint of herbs. It didn't taste good to me.

deep fried prawns with salted egg yolk - the saving grace of the prawns was actually the sauce which was made with salted egg yolk. Mouth watering stuff. The prawns themselves weren't the fresh crunchy type I had expected. Didn't think I was asking for too much to expect that. The result was a disappointment. Did I mention that they weren't well cleaned as well?

stewed beef shin in tangerine peel - I couldn't taste any tangerine peel in this, but the sauce that was used to stew the beef was full of tangerine flavor. This stewed beef was pretty tasty.

fried lemongrass shrimp paste grouper - I couldn't find anything very special about prawn paste fish. What I really enjoyed was the very tangy citrus pomelo salad filled with chopped water chestnut. It made a  good compliment to the fried grouper.

basil sorbet intermezzo -basil sorbet with chopped fruits. Did it's job There is nothing more to say about the palate cleanser.

furong chicken soup - a chicken soup which was less flavorful than I was expecting. Another dish that fell off the mark. I'm sure I've had better soup elsewhere.

young and old happy news - for dou miao stir fried with preserved vegetables, this dish certainly had a cryptic name that got everyone on the table intrigued. The reason for the name on the other hand, was crappy. This was a very normal dish of fried dou miao, and I'm sure is rather inexpensive and easy to whip up. Thumbs down for a $105 dinner.

tofu ice cream on pandan glutinous rice - with the general impression of the food items here being mediocre, I had low expectations for the dessert. The pleasant surprise here was that this was actually very good. The fragrant pandan glutinous rice was coupled nicely with coconut milk and the cold ice cream. Tasted very Asian and was good enough that I wished there was more. Someone out there should mimic this. It probably will sell.

The general consensus for the dinner is that it was expensive for what was had. Xi Yan is probably good for an experience, not so much of that culinary adventure that one might expect from the place. Execution fell a little short and I think there was poor quality control over of some of the ingredients used. Personally, I wouldn't recommend it beyond a first.

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