Japanese Travelogue Part 11
Michael Taylor can’t seem to get enough of Tokyo. So when the press trip ends and everyone else goes home, he stays on. Today he reviews what is reputedly one of the best Chinese restaurants in the Japanese capital – China Blue at the Conrad Tokyo.
If This Is Japan, Why Am I Eating Chinese Food?
My only regret after dining at China Blue at the Conrad Tokyo in Tokyo, Japan, is that I didn’t get to meet Chef Albert Tse in person. The menu at the restaurant he overseas is innovative, and the food I consumed was splendid. I really would have liked to have been able to ask him where he gets his inspiration.
Unfortunately it was his day off.
As I mentioned yesterday (see: Restaurant Review: If This Is Japan, Let’s Eat Chinese Food! ), I’ve dined at Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons in Hong Kong. I believe that it is the only Chinese restaurant in the world to have been awarded three Michelin stars.
So I was curious to see how one of the top Chinese restaurants in Tokyo would measure up to one of the top Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong. China Blue, for your information, has just one Michelin star. So it’s not a totally fair comparison.
Ambiance, Service, and Food
In terms of ambiance, I’d have to say that China Blue wins hands down. The blue interior and those floor to ceiling picture windows with views of Tokyo at night are spectacular.
In terms of service, I think that Lung King Heen has an edge. Staff are knowledgeable and eager to please. Service is faultless. Wine glasses are always kept full.
When it comes to food – now it gets tough. The cooking styles at the two restaurants are so entirely different that it’s hard to compare them.
If I remember correctly – and it HAS been a while since I dined at Lung King Heen – the food was more traditional – what I would term classic Cantonese cuisine. The food at China Blue is anything but traditional. Nouvelle Cantonese, perhaps?
Conservative Chinese foodies might scoff at the liberties that Chef Albert takes with Chinese cuisine, but I’m not a traditionalist. I like chefs that stretch the boundaries, and I thought the food at China Blue was delightful.
Special Course Menu
Okay, this is the menu proposed by the chef, and this is what I ate …
- Deep fried Japanese beef and green vegetables with mustard and black sugar sauce – this dish blew me away, and I simply cannot categorize it. Chinese? Japanese? Southeast Asian? How about, “None of the above”? It was sweet. It was crunchy. It was gooey. It’s like nothing I’ve ever had before.
- Braised whole shark’s fin with soy sauce and superior soup – okay, please don’t send me hate mail, but I DID try the shark’s fin soup at China Blue. The broth was rich and flavourful – a bit darker and thicker and more pungent than what I’m used to. I liked the broth, but the shark’s fin was a bit stringy.
- Steamed white fish and rice crepe with foie gras sauce – you’ll often find rice crepes, as they are termed here, wrapped around things like shrimp, beef, or char siu. They’re standard fare at Cantonese tea houses. This is the first time I’ve seen one housing fish, and it was an absolute delight. And that foie gras sauce was to die for.
- Deep fried scallop and banana wrapped in bacon and rice paper – Wow! What an unusual combination of flavours and textures! I’d fly all the way to Tokyo for this dish!
- Braised noddle with XO chili sauce – I’ve never been a big fan of braised noodles. It seems that every Chinese wedding banquet ends with them, and what an anti-climax to an otherwise yummy meal. Well these were a breath of fresh air. They were served in a liquidy sauce with a spicy kick. I thoroughly enjoyed them.
- Chef’s special dessert – there was a shot glass full of mango juice together with and a rich concoction of caramel jelly, coconut ice cream, avocado mouse, sugar candy, and pistachio. I’m not a big fan of Chinese desserts, but in this case, I’ll make an exception.
I wouldn’t turn down an invitation to dine at either Lung King Heen or China Blue, but – thanks to that deep fried scallop and banana wrapped in bacon and rice paper – I think I’d have to give China Blue a slight edge.
To Be Continued
This is the 11th in a series on traveling in Tokyo, Japan.