January provided me the opportunity not only to visit India again, but also to have a three day get away in Hong Kong before landing in Chennai.
To say it was heaven, would be an understatement, and yet, it reassured me that the quality and diversity of Chinese food available to me, both, local near home, as well as in NYC, are both more than adequate facsimiles of food in Hong Kong.
I had reservations/concerns about the quality of food I'd encounter in Hong Kong. If the food was TOO FABULOUS, I'd never want Chinese food in NY again; and if the food was UNDERWHELMING, I'd never want to return to Hong Kong.
Our first meal was dinner at Hoy King Heen (located within the old Intercontinental Hotel on Mody Road). The food was delicious. Presentation lovely, and flavors so subtle, reminding me A LOT of French food I've had, both near home as well as in Paris itself. Global flavors, presented in a French manner. Just lovely.
What I ate that first meal was at, what I would call, a fancy place. My meal consisted of hot and sour soup, and there was curried brisket stuffed inside of a pear, poached and presented with its own au jus. Subtle. Sweet. Meaty. It made me very happy--so happy, I might dare to attempt this at home.
And then there was a terrine of sorts, that we shared, layered veggies and bamboo pith, an island of a terrine, served with a consomme and slivered asparagus.
There was another meal, which was more casual, which we had at Dim Dimsum Dim Sum, and sadly no photos were snapped there. But we had an assortment of things ranging from mei fun noodles, to turnip cake, and dumplings, and two different variations of rice crepe, one stuffed with crunchy chicken, and the other (my favorite) stuffed with black mushrooms.
Another night we had dinner at Yau Yuen Siu Tsui, a noodle shop, where we had BiangBiang Noodles, broad noodles with a chili oil type sauce, fatty pork belly, some sort of greens. Tasty, and a bit complicated to eat with the slippery plastic chop sticks they provided. We ended up seated at a table with a couple (Ray and Savita) who actually live in Hong Kong, and we ended up having a lovely meal. Totally lost in the moment, I didn't think to either photo our meals or Ray and Savita, or friend them on social media. In India, there is this concept of "train friendships," where you hop on a train and become friends with the person sitting next to you, sharing a meal and conversation, and when you hop off at your destination, you never hear from them again. This was the Hong Kong noodle shop equivalent of that!
Another day, we had a fancy lunch at Yan Toh Heen, located in the Intercontinental. The harbor view was lovely, the staff was attentive, friendly and helpful, and the food far exceeded our imagination.
Items we had were:
Yan Toh Heen Superior Dumplings (Steamed scallop w/black truffles & vegetables; steamed lobster & birdsnest dumpling w/gold leaf; and steamed king crab dumpling w/green vegetables);
Baked Conpoy, Iberico Ham, and Turnip in Puff Pastry and Baked barbecued pork buns;
Roasted pork belly with crispy crust (truly remarkably crispy!);
Fried rice, wrapped and steamed in a lotus leaf;
The tea they served was very special, and floral: Osthmanthus, I believe.
At some point during our trip (I lost track at this point), we were in a pinch to find a place for lunch, so we stopped in the local outpost of Saravana Bhavan for lunch. We had sambar vada, chole w/batura, and some paneer and gobi pakoras. All delicious, and exactly the same, whether we are eating this in Madras or NYC or London. Funny thing is, later on in our trip while we were in Madras, we ate at a Saravana Bhavan THERE, too, as it is our family tradition to eat there as a family once while we are visiting.
On our last day in the city, when we checked out of the hotel (our flight to India wasn't until later in the day), we went to an Indonesian restaurant for a riffstaffel--so much deliciousness, and fairly inexpensive, too.
Pictured above is what was the top tier contents of our high tea we enjoyed at the Peninsula. The experience was everything you'd expect, and the live musicians who were there were doing a classical sounding version of the theme from MASH "Suicide is Painless." (Interesting musical choice, eh?)
Our time in Madras is very family oriented, and pictured above is the first breakfast my mother-in-law provided for us, which was (if I remember correctly) iddli upma, and it was homey and delicious.
We managed to go out to one very fancy dinner out with my brother-in-law at a Peshawari restaurant located at the Grand Chola Hotel in the center of Chennai. The food, cocktails and wait staff were lovely--including the kitchen staff, as I was able to go in and take a tour and see my food being prepared. Beyond this, I'll reserve any further commentary about my enjoyment (or lack thereof) of what I'll call "dinnertime conversation." I get glimpses of reality during these trips every two years, and let's just say I'm glad we don't live in Chennai, I'm too strong willed of a woman to sit and listen to someone let's just say be an unsophisticated misogynist, on a regular basis.
We left Madras around 2 a.m., back to Hong Kong, where we had a lay over long enough to have one more meal, and we managed to have a lovely lunch of egg drop soup, and this great platter of BBQ pork and goose.