Run of the mill Chinese restaurants are a dime a dozen but there is one place, Edsa Shangri-La’s Summer Palace with resident head Chef Tony Sum that strives to push the envelope.
This time they have invited Master Chef Yuan Chaoying, the Shangri-La Hotel group’s resident Peking Duck Master. He is based in Kerry Centre Hotel Beijing at the Horizon Chinese restaurant serving as Head Chef-Peking Duck. Chef Yuan carries an impressive resume, honing his skill at the famed two century old Quanjude Restaurant for 23 years perfecting Peking Duck. He will be in Manila until January 14 only, together with his two sous-chefs, training the local staff in his way of cooking.
We started off the meal with some dimsum, Steamed Scallop Dumpling (P190), a steaming basket with three delectable looking scallops atop translucent skinned dumplings. I let it cool down a bit and popped the whole thing inside my mouth, the skin chewy followed by crisp shrimps and soft scallops.
Steamed Pork Siomai with Shrimps (P190). I thought I had the best tasting siomai’s in Manila at Shang Palace, boy was I wrong. The shrimps are plumper and bigger and the taste is better.
Deep Fried Two Kinds of Eggs with Almond Seed (P200). This is one dimsum that is unique, from the presentation to the dish itself. Its shaped like egg that have been halved with shrimps, chicken and duck eggs inside with a generous amount of almond slices outside. Its a nice texture play with the crispy outer layer, crunchy almond and the firm shrimps inside.
Braised Minced Spinach Soup with Dried Fish and Bean Curd (P560/small). I’ve had many different iterations of this before but this one was the lightest despite the deep emerald color. Each ingredient blended together perfectly, not one overpowering the other.
Finally, the main event, Peking Duck (P3,000/1 way). Peking Duck is one of the national dishes of China, initially served to the Emperor and other royalty. Chef Yuan even shared that they had even used lychee shells as tinder to give extra flavor.
Chef Yuan personally wrapped each of the rolls while his sous-chef expertly carves the duck. It was quite a joy to watch them work, to the point of mesmerizing us.
The wrappers were almost translucent, offering a peek into the slivers of meat and vegetables inside. Each roll was chewy with smoky duck meat inside. The meat tasted very natural and tender drizzle with a special hoisin sauce that he has adapted for local taste, which contain a bit of peanut to temper the salty taste.
Chef Yuan shared with us that there were a lot of things that constrained him from replicating his version of the duck. He had initially wanted to use Beijing ducks,whose meat are more tender because they are raised quicker, but for some reason could no bring them in and he used US ducks instead. The oven he normally uses is also not available here as well as the apple or lychee wood he uses for cooking the duck. I can not imagine how wonderful the Peking duck would be if I eat it there but so far this is the best tasting one I’ve had.
Fried King Prawn Balls Coated with Cornflakes (P1000/small). A visually stunning dish with its mix of yellows, greens and reds. This is another nicely textured dish, which are favorites of mine to eat. The play inside the mouth is a usually overlooked aspect of cooking. The cornflakes here are not merely fresh from the box, instead they are coated with a bit of sweetness to add strength to the crunch it brings. The prawns are BIG, lightly fried then coated with a sticky sauce to enable to cornflakes to cling to it.
Fried Codfish Fillet with Apple Fruit, a creation of Chef Tony. This julienned granny smith apples and mango creates a sweet, tarty and a bit spicy relish on top of the flaky codfish fillet. One taste and you’ll surmise that this is not regular Chinese food but something fresh and exciting.
For dessert, Shanghai Pancake topped with Black Sesame Ice Cream (P200). This dessert has the Chinese ingredients right (black sesame and red beans) but presented in a new contemporary way. A mix of cold and hot, crispy and soft, a sweet ending to a sumptuous meal. I finished the whole thing even if I’m not a fan of red bean, yum.
For Chinese New Year, you might opt to bring home Ninko Tikoy (P998), traditional rice cake in coconut pandan flavor shaped like a fish to help usher in the bounty of the new year.
The interiors at Summer Palace exudes class, elegance and modern yet retains Chinese elements throughout. The presence of the Chinese lanterns are merely to welcome the coming Chinese New Year. Best seat in the house is in the middle highlighted by a large crystal chandelier and carved wooden dividers.
Chef Tony Sum has crafted a unique and diverse menu that has given me a new found appreciation for tired old Chinese cuisine. Chic and classy plates and presentation help to make it fun to eat. I hope to sample more of his creations in the future.
1 Garden Way, Ortigas Center, Manadaluyong City
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