24 September, 2009

Beijing Gong - Imperial Cuisine Fit For A King

Mentioned about Imperial Cuisine, and Buddha Jumps Over the Wall probably would be the first dish that comes to your mind – but thanks to Beijing Gong, one will be educated with the ‘real’ imperial dishes based on recipes once used in China’s imperial kitchen (FYI, the Royal Family do not consumed good food everyday).

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Take a step into the restaurant, and one will find it sparsely decorated with original paintings and calligraphy art.

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The place sits an estimate 30 pax, with a private room for another 10. The dinner (priced at $28, $38 and $48 per pax pending on the selection of the soup) started with the cold appetisers which could change daily.

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Visually, the Fermented Fried Mung Beans didn’t look too appetising, but taste wise; it was clean, simple and light on the palate, with a slight “beany” (for a lack of a better word) taste – whoever thought this was one of the dishes that Empress Cixi is actually fond of!

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Long Beans with Sesame Paste and Garlic was another simple dish made tasty. Cooked to a nice texture, however, HFB thought the sesame paste was slightly domineering.

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Who could figure these Carrots were thinly sliced by hands? Lightly stir-fried, one could literally ‘taste’ the deftly techniques by the chef – the 刀功 (knife skill) gave the usually plain carrot an extra crunchy edge in terms of texture.

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HFB found the Thin Sliced Pork Knuckle superbly executed. There was hardly a trance of oily aftertaste when one consumed this dish (the chef painstakingly steamed this dish numerous times, removing the layer of oil after each instance) and it disintegrated almost instantaneously upon touching one’s mouth.

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The Cabbage with Mustard was more of a love-hate affair. One either appreciate it, or don’t – unfortunately in this case, it was too peculiar for HFB – the sourness was too overpowering, although he would credit it as an excellent dish to open up one’s palate for the hot dishes that are coming up next.

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The Deep Fried Lotus Root with Chives was really enjoyable. The crunchy consistency coupled with the savoury chives (another love-hate ingredient) was a delight and if one enjoys 锅贴 (Chinese Pan-fried Dumplings), one will definitely love this!

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The next dish was the exotic Fish Lip with Shredded Sea Cucumber and Bamboo Shoots in Premium Soup (Dry Cured Chinese Bacon and Old Mother Hen). Squeamishly as it sounded, the fish lips were actually thinly shredded in the soup, and looked pretty much like the sea cucumber, except it had a bit more bite and a slight fishy hint.

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One of the non-authentic dishes that catered more to the enjoyment of our locals, the Deep Fried Sea-Prawns coated with Sweet and Sour Sauce was the crowd favourite. Nicely battered and immensely flavoured, the prawns were really fresh and retained that crunchy bite! Paired with the deep-fried thinly sliced veggies (hand-cut again), it provided a nice break from the lighter dishes earlier on.

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Another flavoursome dish was the Braised Beef Brisket. It was intense and the meat was really tender, with slight fibrous bite. Delicious!

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HFB loves Tofu, and their version was brilliant. The tofu was braised till it was soft and silky, and which its skin soaked up the flavours from the gravy. One could also taste the freshness of the tofu, and HFB loved it that the gravy was light on the palate and complemented the tofu really well.

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土豆丝 or Thinly Sliced Potato was probably the “cheapest” dish to be featured that evening – how much could potato possibly cost? However lightly stirred fried, this dish turned up to be a real gem, the dark house for the evening, and perhaps even the most under-rated dish one could ever try. Again, one was savouring the exquisite 刀功 of the chef. The dish was so enticing after one mouthful, that pretty soon; everyone was helping themselves to seconds for this dish. The firm, crunchy texture of the potato provided that alluring factor – this dish is amazingly addictive!

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And if one think such fare is too exotic for you during lunch time, Beijing Gong is currently offering a $10 lunch menu that consists of Chinese Dumplings and a bowl of Noodles (HFB tried the Braised Beef version). To be honest, HFB is not a big fan of Chinese noodles, but the beef was remarkably tender and the soup was intensely flavoured.

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However, what he enjoyed most was the dumplings that exploded with broth when he took a nibble at the dumpling skin, which was done just right – not too thick, yet firm enough not to break when one picked it up with chopsticks.

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To end of the night, we were introduced to Empress Dowager favourite dessert – the Imperial Yogurt. To be honest, HFB still couldn’t quite figure out why she even liked this dish – perhaps that’s why he remained a commoner. The smooth curd was slightly sour, but mostly tasteless and left a dry aftertaste on the palate.

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However, the saving grace at the end came in the form of Traditional Teochew Mooncakes that were hand-made only upon orders. White Lotus Paste-filling coupled with a sprinkle of Sesame Seeds at the top, gave the nicely flaky pastry – fresh from the oven – an added bonus! And since Mid Autumn Festival is just around the corner, Beijing Gong is also offering a box of four traditional mooncakes at $25.

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P/S: HFB already ordered 2 boxes! So what are you waiting for?

Disclaimer: No ratings would be given, as this is an invited taste test. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Derek & Beijing Gong for their hospitality.

41 Kreta Ayer Road
Singapore 089003

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