Monday, June 06, 2011

The 'Standing Penguin Chicken'@Siu Lam Kung Restaurant

Thinking of a place for family dinner in the weekend is no easy job. I mean, it is almost impossible to make them have anything too fancy; therefore adventurous visits to places i have not been to can be crossed out. They also prefer traditional Chinese food, nothing fushion or creative, or too pricey. I always try to strive a balance between meeting their needs and at the same time exploring new places beyond their little comfort zone. This time I made it (yay!) by showing them a picture of the standing 'penguin' chicken at Siu Lam Kung Restaurant taken by my foodie friend Kent. Raising an eyebrow, they agreed to give it a try. I called to reserve the chicken and also a stuffed pigeon along with a table at seven in the evening.

With a name so confusing to read (is it laam or yuen?), the Restaurant can be easily accessible in Sheung Wan. The restaurant is one floor up while the Chaa Chen Teng branch is on the ground floor, and to our surprise it serves conventional chaa chen teng food and breakfast sets like toasts with scrambled eggs, milk tea etc. What a stark contrast with the Chung Shan dishes the Chinese Restaurant serves upstairs!
The Restaurant is by law and license a 'Clubhouse', and therefore a membership card, applicable upon our first visit, is necessary to eat there. It cost only $30 for a permanent membership and we got a vintage membership card, gold in colour. It reminded me of the VIP cards of Indian restaurants casually available in Chung Hing Mansion!

The menu is pretty extensive that you can almost get anything that comes to your mind, but since my family prefers something traditional, we ended up ordering 5 'signature' Chung-Shan dishes and soup.

For the soup we had the 魚雲羹.the soup was literally thick and rich in ingredients: you could find shredded cabbages, veggies, black fungus, chinese mushroom, as well as egg white and of course, fish head in it.

There was a hint of the unpleasant taste of fish but it could be easily overcame by adding in some pepper. I personally did not quite like it as i did not eat fish heads. But if you do, i am pretty sure you would be loving it just as much as my parents did.

Next was the 企鵝雞,a very popular dish at the restaurant as several others were served to other tables during our brief stay at the restaurant. We were first presented with the whole chicken, positioned in a pretty horrifying standing position (with the eyes poked through...gross), then it was taken away for a waiter to cut into pieces to serve.

The roasted chicken was nice - pipping hot from the kitchen, the skin was still crispy despite being a little oilish. The flesh were not particularly tender however, especially in the breast part, but i found the thinner pieces of chicken with more soft bones than white meat full of juice and flavour.
Even though the chicken was small, we three could not finish the whole chicken and ended up packing half of it home-and it tasted just as yummy as fresh after 24 hours in the fridge. Scarily amazing!

Next was the 炸鯪魚球 served in a basket. We were warned by the helpful manager that there was some preserved oyster paste inside the fish balls so we gota be careful when we eat. The fish balls were pipping hot, very spongy and juicy. The coat was thinner than i had expected-nicely deep-fried it was and it was better than what I had at Loh Fu Kee - the balls were more crispy but more oily.

The fish paste tasted fresh and not very flour-ish, which was great. Some had the preserved oyster paste in the ball but some did not have, yet the little plate of oyster paste was quite lovely - the oyster tasted slightly of alcohol and not very salty. It was really good and worth ordering again when we eat here next time!

Another dish we had ordered in advance was the 八寶鴿, a miniature of the 八寶鴨,the signature dish of Lin Heung Tea House. I had that years back and there were way too much stuffings in the whole duck and it was too heavy, not to mention that it was impossible for 3 to finish one. But i guess one pigeon could be easily finished by us.

The waiter first showed us the whole stuffed pigeon and cut it open with fork and knife on the table, exposing the stuffing - chestnuts, lotus seeds, drop's tears, you name it. The texture and taste was complex, nicely flavoured and sweet, some were softer while some were more chewy and crunchy. The skin of the pigeon was thin and not fat, and the little pigeon meat attached to it was sweet and tender. It was very nice - even the sauce was delicious! I think the stuffed pigeon would be even nicer than the stuffed duck for the duck meat got to be tougher. In short - you got to order this if you happen to eat at Siu Lam Kung.

Last was the 椒絲腐乳炒通菜. It was just so-so, nothing too special. Should have ordered the signature 農村啫啫菜 which was aromatic and delicious, according to the sizzling pots of veggies taken to other tables that ordered the dish.

We could not finish everything and packed part of the food away. As we asked for the bill the helpful manager asked if we would like to have some Chinese dessert - for free. The dessert of the day was hot green bean sweet soup(綠豆沙), something I do not usually have. It turned out to be surprisingly delicious however. It was less sweet than what we had at Yuen Kee but it was equally thick in texture. The green beans were cooked until they became more mushy in texture - the so-called '起沙' in Cantonese. The flavour, texture and smell, everything, was nicely balanced. It was marvelous. You got to have this no matter how full you might be after the meal!

It surprised me that my dad appeared to be so fond of the food; it is usually hard to please him. But while we liked the taste of everything we agreed that it is better to eat in a big crowd so that the huge dishes could be better shared. We also noticed some popular dishes such as the roasted suckling pig, cut and chopped on the table; as well as the steamed fish with dark bean paste, and many more. The decor of the place may not look modern and the menu may not be very special and fancy, but the taste of everything was full and nice. Do come with your family for a hearty Cantonese meal if you are to eat in Sheung Wan. I would certainly come again to try out other dishes - and probably one visit to the Chaa Chen Teng branch downstairs too, perhaps a breakfast in the morning or whatever!

小杬公菜館 Siu Lam Kung Restaurant
1/F, Alliance Building, 133 Connaught Road Central, Sheung Wan
2511 5566

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