I had dinner tonight at Yardbird, a hip yakitori joint due west of Hong Kong's Central district. A yakitori restaurant serves skewered chicken over a grill; and you order the very specific pieces of the animal and get served them on separate sticks. This place certainly elevates all that by (1) not cooking the skewers right in front of you, thereby sparing you from reeking of chicken fat when you leave, and (2) offering a slew of wonderful dishes, both small and large, for you to share...or consume completely alone as you secure a seat at the bar closest to the wall in the hopes of it going unnoticed that you're the only party of one in the entire establishment....
Washed down first with a 10-year Japanese whisky, neat, then two glasses of the house Gruener Veltliner, I ordered:
Batting in the three hole was a wonderful dish of spicy clams in a brown, garlic sauce. The heat went very nicely with the briny meat that had the requisite chewiness you'd expect. The flavor of the sauce was really striking, though. It was in layers; the heat came and went quickly as the garlic and soy took over. I'm imagining the dish as easily one of the world's greatest shared appetizers.
Clams in spicy garlic sauce:
Hitting cleanup was another winner, sauteed oysters in scallion and fried ginger. Though the dish was so heavy on the corn starch making the oysters seem battered, it all held together nicely. The oysters were huge, a bit on the sweet side and mild, overall. I really love dishes that are served piping hot, and this one sure was. I think this is a much more rarely-offered dish than the clams. It's really incredible how different they tasted, though.
My last dish at this joint was the black truffle crab fried rice. Cleverdicks, the menu picture showed slices of aged black truffle sitting atop the rice. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that mine was served with only a dusting of the stuff, and unfortunately, I didn't really taste it in the dish. Ignoring that, everything else about the rice was great: wonderful crab meat, no noticeable oil, diced cucumber for some crunch. Did I finish all five dishes? Hey, I hadn't eaten in 16 hours since "Dirty Dancing" medley last night at London House! Plus, dinner tonight wasn't for another whopping three hours.
Black truffle crab fried rice:
Kampachi is a fish commonly known as "yellowtail" while arrowhead is a plant native to China where the root is used much like a potato or turnip. Turn those into chips and chop up the kampachi served with whatever vegetables and herbs that work, and you've got a terrific cold appetizer.
Kanpachi tartare w/arrowheadchips:
Yakitori- oyster, tail, skin:
Next up were my skewer selections. I went with (1) the oyster, two small medallions of dark meat near the thigh bone on the back side of the chicken, (2) the skin and (3) the tail. All were excellent, the skin cooked til crunchy, and the other pieces cooked just enough to remain their juiciest. I've had the gizzard and heart before, but I passed on them to save room for the last two dishes. Anyhow, the chicken was really cooked with more care than I usually see in this style.
My third was the maitake mushrooms served in a tempura batter. The mushrooms were out of this world, tender and juicy. Unfortunately, they were just way too greasy. I should've ordered them grilled. Despite the grease, they were delish, and I'm sure the dish wasn't designed to be wolfed down by one person. <ahem>
Chicken & egg fried rice:
And so, my last dish was a half-portion of their chicken & egg fried rice. I know the two photos above don't look very different from one another save the intact soft-boiled egg no longer there. But believe me, the egg yolk served to make the dish even more rich, perhaps too rich. The short-grain rice and baby peas were cooked just perfect, and yes, that's chicken skin of the fried chapter that you see. Anyway, the dish gets three Licks because no nut should ever eat even just a half-portion alone.... I was so full I had to have an extra glass of white wine to give me bouyancy. No dessert for this guy trying to watch his girlish figure. It's a recurring theme that I've been passing on desserts, so far. No big deal, self-control has always been one of my strong suits, even if most of them don't fit anymore.
Hee Kee Crab General
Leading off, this dish was presented in its own shell and slightly chilled. It wasn't as tough as the abalone I'd had a few nights ago and had a nice, tangy flavor due to the sake that reduced out. If you love raw bar, this would be right up your alley. I threw in a photo of just the shell; I can see why these things are used as inlay on fancy guitars.
Lunch today was at Hee Kee Crab General, a terrific seafood spot known for its shellfish. It's on the 6th FL of this modern shopping plaza, yet you don't find them listed in any mall directory, so it was really tricky to find. I was this close to awarding the joint a GI tract since the service was very good and the decor way above average, but when I was served my second pot of tea, I opened the lid and saw a store-bought bag...for shame! Still a great joint, though, and maybe I'll return in five weeks.
Chilled abalone in sake:
December 27, 2017
Hitting second was one of the rarest foods I'll eat on this trip. The mantis shrimp, colloquially known as the "peeing" shrimp because of the jet of water it can shoot out when being handled, is a prehistoric-looking creature. It's difficult to tell which end is which, I'm sure another useful adaptation over these millions of years, and it's closer in size to a small lobster than it is to a "regular" shrimp. The same holds true for its flavor and texture; the meat is relatively sweet and not stringy like that found in a crab. Something I found surprising was the roe that ran down the middle of much of its body, or at least I thought it was roe; it was hard and dry and not very flavorful. Included is a picture of the surgical tools needed to crack open the plate armor on these little monsters. The mantis shrimp were expensive, priced per piece at about $38 each, and I had two for good measure. The dish was prepared with scallion and dried, minced garlic along with a tiny bit of fried rice noodles. While the overall flavor was very nice, the meat was a bit tough, and it didn't separate easily from its shell like shrimp and lobster often do. I'm afraid to think these might've been frozen or par cooked; they certainly weren't snatched out of the above aquarium after I placed my order. I find it off putting to have to work so hard at eating a dish; that's exactly the reason why I never order king crab legs, and those are much easier to deal with than these. The wet naps they left me at the beginning of the meal were greatly appreciated. I'm glad to have tried them, but I won't rush for seconds.