Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cantonese Cuisine With Complimentary Roller Coaster Ride. Chef Chan Kwok at Zing, Millenneum Hotel, Bukit Bintang, KL.

(non halal)

Faux Antique Chandelier

Most regular readers of this little whimsical blog would have noticed that I am not a regular diner at Chinese Restaurants. I am not particularly averse to Chinese food, but I seldom dine in a big group and unfortunately the portions that are served in Chinese restaurants are too daunting for a solitary diner. Unless you fancy having just a plate of sweet and sour chicken and rice and call it a complete experience of having dined in a Chinese restaurant.

Flower arrangement

Invitations from friends to join them for dinner at a Chinese Restaurant is usually taken as an opportunity to reacquaint myself with my cultural root of my ancestors. Actually, only two things remind me that I am a Chinese. One is Chinese restaurants and the other is my own government. Notice the absence of the column for ethnicity when filling in forms while overseas?

But I digress. This is not a socio-political blog.

Well spaced tables with bead curtains

One cannot help but to be amazed by the relative tranquility of Zing which is atypical for Chinese restaurants, with it's Gothic faux antique 1920's Shanghai furnishings that is regrettably marred by the presence of 1980's styled modernism. I was pleasantly surprised by it's service staff. Being accustomed to just expecting nothing more than efficiency at Chinese Restaurants, I was greeted with a smiles and attempts to make me feel welcome. The tables are well spaced to render the ambient conversations to a mellifluous murmur, earning Zing extra brownie points.

Chef Chan Kwok from Orchard Hotel's Hua Ting Restaurant was cooking that night, and with him I had some high expectations because the name is almost synonymous with fine Cantonese Dining in Singapore.

The meal came in sets and we ordered some dishes a la carte for variety.

Crispy Roasted Duck Accompanied with Grilled Fresh Scallops Skewer and Chilled Cucumber with Black Fungus Marinated in Fruit Vinaigrette from the Dinner Set

The roasted duck was perfectly succulent with a beautiful gamey and smokey aroma and the right amount of subcutaneous fat under the slightly crispy skin. It came paired with some grilled scallops. I was lulled into ecstatic bliss by the crunchy cool cucumber and black fungus as a side dish that was drizzled in slightly sourish fruit vinaigrette that provided a beautiful contrast, both in terms of taste and texture.

Double Boiled Baby Superior Shark's Cartilage from the Dinner Set

Unlike normal shark's fin soup that is braised in clear double stock, Chef Chan's version came immersed with milky coloured shark's cartilage soup laced with Chinese Wolfberries and Cabbage. It had a slightly sticky after taste that took some getting used to but was sublimely seductive in taste.

Braised Home Made Emerald Bean Curd with Seasonal Greens Topped with Pan Fried Scallops from the a la carte menu

The Emerald Green Bean Curd was a delightful show case of skill and creativity. It was silky smooth and had a light bounce with the green taste (of ?watercress? spinach?), and served as a sponging agent that absorbed the delicious flavour of the scallop that perched gracefully on top. Served with some vegetables, it is a calorie counter's dream dish and proved that healthy, delicious food is indeed not an oxymoron.

Pan Fried Fillet of Kurobuta Pork from the Set Menu

However, the aristocratic Kurobota Pork was tortured by it's inquisitors prior to being served and was left burning on the heretic's stake for too long thus rendered it tough and sinewy. Instead of pieces of pork chomping infidel's wet dream, we got pieces of caliginous gustatory nightmare.

Pacific Clams sauteed with Fresh Lily Buds, Celery, Seasonal Greens and Preserved Olives from the Set Menu

The sauteed pacific clams was rather pedestrian and did not do justice to the Chef's pedigree. It was glaringly out of place. In fact I could probably get some squalid manger born versions which could have been more satisfying.

Fresh Water King Prawn perpared 2 ways: 1. Deep Fried Prawn Head Glazed with Salt and Pepper 2. Braised Prawn with Superior Stock
from the a la carte menu

Anything done two ways is questionable. Unless it is able to showcase brilliant and contrasting cooking techniques or enhance the overall taste of the dish is either a sign of fickleness or a split personality. The prawns were visually arresting and aromatic with a crispy, crunchy, though slightly oversalted head filled with roe. But I thought the body was slightly overcooked as it was rubbery. I doubt an overcooked piece of prawn could ever be resuscitated even by the enviable endeavor of dousing it with best of sauces (the best superior stock included) and should best be relegated to the morgue.

Stewed Rice Vermicelli with Crystal Vermicelli with Sliced Fish and Bitter Gourd in Black Bean Sauce from the a la carte menu

Stay clear from the carbohydrates, the health guru says and in this particular meal I should have adhered to this dictum. I was not able to differentiate the crystal noodles from the vermicelli as they lay clumped and soggy drenched in vapid black beans sauce.

Stewed Noodle with Fresh Water King Prawn from the Set Menu

The noodles were again soggy and clumped. Whatever traces of prawn flavours was nuked by an unpalatable mushroom cloud of noxious alkali emanating from the noodles.

Chilled Fresh Fruits with Aloe Vera and Hawthorn Berry Jelly from the Set Menu

The desserts were probably a lagniappe served in chinked glass, a halfhearted appeasement of sorts to whiners who demand a sweet ending to their meals. I would not have missed it at all if it was not served.

I wish I could have launched into panegyrics as an ode to the meal. It was too inconsistent with vertiginous highs and abysmal lows. Taking into account again that the Chef was cooking away from his milleu, the meal probably failed reflect his true capabilities.

If Chef Chan Kwok ever makes his way back to KL again, forget the sets and aim for the more than excellent Roasted Duck, Shark Cartilage Soup and Emerald Tofu. Unfortunately this makes dining at Zing having a banal similarity to shopping at a hypermarket. Dash in, grab the sale items and never get distracted by other items which you will invariably end up regretting paying for.

PS: I would like to apologize for not being to reply to your comments for the past 2 months because I was away from KL most of the time. Thank you.


Grand Millenneum
160, Jalan Bukit Bintang
Kuala Lumpur

Tel: +

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