[Hong Kong] Tasting Court 天一閣 - Best Cantonese Food I've Had
I went to Tasting Court recently and it was honestly one of the best Cantonese food I've had in a while! Started by the son of a founding member of the famous Cantonese restaurant The Chairman (another favorite of mine), Tasting Court is a private kitchen located in Happy Valley which focuses on very traditional and ancient methods of Cantonese cooking. I ended up trying dishes that I've never even heard of before and it was definitely an eye-opening experience for both J and I. Reservations are required as they need to prepare the ingredients in advance and they mainly serve set menus although you can order a la carte as well. Reservations are easy as you can WhatsApp the restaurant to reserve and set the menu. Two set menus are available which starts from $598 per person and if you want the steamed flowery crab, you have to go for the $748 menu. I didn't want the set menu as it seemed to be a lot of food for 2 people (about 10 courses) so I ordered a la carte but in the end it would up costing around the same.
The restaurant can seat around 40+ people and the decor was very simple but made up for it with its peacefulness - we were one of the only two tables there that night.
Century Egg with Roasted Pepper / 椒燒皮蛋 ($28/each) - this century egg appetizer with roasted pepper was a fantastic starter for our meal as the flavors were absolutely divine and even more amazing was the spicy vinegar sauce that came with it (so good I made sure all the sauce was gone!).
Grilled Iberico Pork Char Siu / 西班牙黑毛豬叉燒 ($134/half portion) - this Iberico Pork Char Siu was unlike any char siu I've ever had as it had been cooked with a mixture of 3 different bean paste - miso, black bean and Chinese olive. The flavors came together extremely well and the pork was delightfully soft, tender and juicy too. It also came with a pickled daikon rose for cleansing the palate in between bites.
Steamed Fresh Flowery Crab with Aged Shao Xing Wine served with Rice Noodle / 25年陳花雕蒸花蟹 ($1040) - I loved this steamed flowery crab with Hua Diao wine at The Chairman and it was the reason why I wanted to try Tasting Court in the first place to see how they would compare. The crab and sauce were definitely better here with the use of a delicate and aromatic 25 year-old Hua Diao wine while the rice noodles were better and bouncier at The Chairman. I'd give the edge to Tasting Court and if they can improve on the texture of the rice noodles, then this dish here would definitely be a home run. The only thing was that when I requested this dish, I didn't know how expensive it would be and I was quite shocked when I saw the price at the end which made our bill cost as much as it would have if we had gotten the tasting menu. It's worth the price though as we were probably given a portion for 4 people easily but I'd recommend getting the tasting menu anyway to avoid any surprises at the end (plus you'll get to try more dishes).
Slow Cooked Meat Ball in Chicken Soup / 葵花斬肉 ($98/each) - this dish was certainly the most interesting of the night as its origins can be traced to a thousand years ago to the Sui Dynasty where it was invented by Emperor Yang's imperial chef. The pork was finely chopped by hand for hours until the texture was extremely soft and cooked in clear chicken broth. The taste was simple and yet flavorful, and the meatball was probably the softest I've ever had in my life! Another version of this was born in Shanghai afterwards and cooked in soy sauce instead which is the well-beloved Lion's Head as we know it today.
Baby Pigeon Smoked with Osmanthus & Long Jing Tea / 桂花煙燻妙齡鴿 ($138) - the aroma was super strong and smoky for the pigeon which lingered on my fingers and the inside of my mouth afterwards. It was also my least favorite dish of the night - not that I didn't enjoy the pigeon but as there were barely any meat to eat so I'd recommend getting another poultry dish to try instead.
Blended Jujube Coconut Juice Pudding / 椰汁棗茸糕 - at the end we were given 2 complimentary desserts to try including this pudding which was deliciously chewy to eat.
Hua Diao with Dried Jujube Dessert Drink / 花雕紅棗飲 - this cold drink was surprisingly delicious as it was refreshingly sweet and sour at the same time. The Hua Diao wine had been cooked with black sugar and jujube before being chilled overnight. It was the perfect ending to our evening of gastronomic journey back in time in traditional Cantonese cuisine.
Verdict - while the prices may be not be cheap, the impressive quality of the food is worth every penny and I'd highly recommend Tasting Court to anyone who is interested in savoring traditional and ancient Cantonese recipes!
Tasting Court 天一閣
M/F, 63-65 Wong Nai Chung Road, Happy ValleyTel: +852 2493 1133
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