Thursday, September 6, 2012

scallop vs. abalone

When my mother chose Ah Yat Harbour View Restaurant for our last dinner in Hong Kong, I wondered if it was a good idea, because: 1) there were only two of us, and 2) it was a Chinese fine dining restaurant. As all lovers of Chinese cuisine know, a noisy, crowded, slightly dirty, mess-hall type establishment is usually where a good Chinese meal dwells-- no frou frou, no nonsense. And when it comes to the number of dishes and people at the table, the more the merrier.

But Ah Yat has picked up some positive reviews, not to mention that all-important one Michelin star. And the chef's specialty is braised whole abalone, which Ma loves. So I reserved a window-side table for two for 7PM on 14 August 2012.

This view of Victoria Harbour is why I like to stay in Tsim Sha Tsui when I'm in Hong Kong.

While Ma perused the extensive menu, I attacked the appetizer. Delicious!

Crunchy, vinegary black fungus. We call it "rat's ears" here.

After consulting our super proficient and accommodating server, we decided on four dishes which I felt were just the right amount of sustenance for two people.

Pan-fried scallops with soy sauce, HK$260+

Pan-fried Australia Kobe beef with Matsutake mushroom and assorted mushrooms, HK$200+

Steamed thinly sliced bean curd braised with shrimps, diced duck and chicken in abalone sauce, HK$180+ 

Fried rice with braised whole abalone and fresh crab meat, HK$188+

But naturally, my mother couldn't help herself and ordered more.

Sautéed prawns with Sichuan chili sauce, HK$200+

Verdict: The scallops were sweet, succulent and superb (excuse the alliterations). This dish impressed me the most as it was the most simple and naked-- just six huge pieces of expertly cooked, lightly seasoned shellfish on a plate. It erased the memories of all the skinny, rubbery, over-salted scallops that I've had in my life.

I'm a fan of soy in all its ambrosial embodiments, and Ah Yat's bean curd dish was very nice and deeply satisfying. What seemed like a weird hodge podge of ingredients actually contributed to making each bite a perfectly balanced one.

The beef was just OK, and the assorted mushrooms were a bit too salty. The shrimps were bland and a complete waste of cholesterol and uric acid-- no Sichuan flavor at all.

I can't say much about Ah Yat's abalone since only Ma ate it, but I really can't say much about ANY abalone at all. I'm sure it was very good, being so exorbitantly priced and garnering quite a few rave reviews, but to me, a braised abalone is just a chunky, rubbery sea snail that's been cooked to death and has no taste other than the sauce it's swimming in. I would much rather eat a fresh raw oyster, or mussels steamed in white wine, or yez, a pan-seared scallop. But that's just me.

Overall, I would have to say that Ah Yat Harbour View Restaurant is fair to middling. It's expensive and the food is not very special, so I probably wouldn't go back. However, if abalone is your thing or if you want to dine with a killer view, then Ah Yat is for you.

Made a little rhyme there. :-)

Ah Yat Harbour View Restaurant is located at the 29th floor of iSquare at 63 Nathan Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. Phone (852) 2328 0983. They're open for lunch and dinner. No website.

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