It was a taste of the unexpected at the Chinese Palace where Frankie Woo rules the roost.
The Chinese Pani Puri was amazing with the crispy thin puff ball crumbling at the bite, and tumbling subtly spiced minced duck onto the palate. I tasted chopped onion, cucumber and hints of cumin in the duck. How like chef Woo to turn an Indian street snack into a fine Chinese appetiser.
The next dish was classic Teochew Simmered Pork Ear. It brought back flavours of old – the pig’s ear slow-braised for two hours with spices and sauce, then rolled up, chilled and sliced.
These two starters were part of a five-course menu recently launched at Chinese Palace. We also had the New Style Mini Monk Jumps Over the Wall (Fatt Thieu Cheong), a sumptuous double-boiled soup in a coconut with sea cucumber, abalone, fish maw, shark’s fin, black chicken and mushroom. The chef picked up a long piece of fish maw out of the coconut with his chopsticks. It was total luxury, savouring each ingredient and enjoying the soup imbued with the essence of all these goodies.
Then there was the Roasted Pigeon, which used to be one of the dishes in a Manchu banquet of old. This was perfectly seasoned and roasted, served with a salad. The roasted pigeon is to be eaten with hands so you can relish every bite of the crispy skin and delicate meat.
Braised Ee-Fu Noodles with Prawns and Truffle Paste was next. Ee-fu noodles from Hong Kong are already in a class of their own in texture and taste, what more tossed with aromatic truffle paste and the sweetness of sea prawns. Chilled Mango Puree with pomelo ended this superb meal. The five-course menu costs RM228++ each for a minimum of four pax.
This menu is in keeping with Chinese dining trends in recent years. “In the past 20 years, the Four Seasons dish was so popular, and would be part of an eight or nine-course dinner,” says Woo. “Now it’s about two appetisers, a double-boiled soup, perhaps a steamed fish, fried noodles and dessert. Why waste an eight-course meal when you can’t finish it?”
On previous occasions, we have been bowled over by his other creations found in the a la carte menu such as the Sichuan-Style Kampung Chicken in Chilli Oil that had a dome of okra covering hot and tangy shredded chicken meat seasoned with vinegar, chilli oil and sesame oil, alongside chilli oil and peanuts. I also had the most delicious Braised Beef Brisket and Beef Tendon with Radish in Claypot here, which was unusually paired with hotpot ingredients.
Woo has spoilt hotpot for us as he has raised the bar so high that no others come close to that divine steamboat feast. And that’s how he rolls, always creating new exciting dishes to tease his customers’ taste buds.