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Yue at the City Garden Hotel in North Point is fine-dining Chinese restaurant focusing on Cantonese cuisine, which is noted for its freshness and natural flavours. It will serve a series of innovative Chilli Cantonese dishes for autumn and winter. But isn't that an oxymoron?
- Merriam-Webster defines an oxymoron as “a combination of contradictory or incongruous words … that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements”.
- American Heritage defines an oxymoron as “a rhetorical figure [of speech] in which incongruous or contradictory terms are combined”.
- Oxford defines an oxymoron as “a figure of speech by which a locution produces an incongruous, seemingly self-contradictory effect”.
Whichever definition you choose (and the three of them are spectacularly similar), you would have to agree that – if you know anything about Chinese cuisine – a “Cantonese Chilli Feast” is an oxymoron if ever there was one!
The simple fact is, chili peppers are rarely used in Cantonese cookery, which is noted for the freshness of the ingredients and the enhancing rather than the masking natural flavours.
Chilies, which were introduced to China in the late Ming and early Qing dynasties, are most widely used in Sichuanese cuisine and Hunanese cuisine, which are noted for their bold flavours and sometimes overpowering spiciness.
So I was intrigued to be invited to press dinner to preview the Cantonese Chilli Feast that will be served at Yue, the fine-dining Cantonese restaurant at the City Garden Hotel in North Point on Hong Kong Island. It will be served at least through mid-January.
The menu features a series of dishes drawing upon chilli peppers that the restaurant’s executive chef has sourced from South America, Spain and the Caribbean.
But the chef is not using the chilies the way chefs in Sichuan or Hunan province would usually use them. He is preparing the dishes according to classical Cantonese style cooking techniques. As a result, the dishes are surprisingly light with an unmistakable freshness.
The level of heat varies from dish to dish, but it starts with the appetizers, continues through to the main dishes, and culminates with the desserts.
Chef Lai Ching Shing is the Executive Chinese Chef at Yue, the fine-dining Chinese restaurant at the City Garden Hotel, which is located in the North Point section of Hong Kong Island.
Chef Lai has had more than 30 years of experience in Cantonese cookery, having headed the kitchens of Chinese restaurants from Hong Kong to Singapore, Beijing to Shanghai. He joined Yue in 2010.
While born and raised in Hong Kong, Chef Lai has conquered varoius cooking styles, specializing in recipes that require braising and double-boiling.
Chef Lai spent six month strengthening his craft at the Chinese Master Chef course offered by the Chinese Culinary Institute in 2016.
Since Chef Lai joined Yue in 2010, the eatery garnered Michelin stars for five straight years. He has also been a frequent winner at the Best of the Best Culinary Awards organized by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
Cantonese Chilli Feast
Members of Hong Kong's English language and Japanese language media (pictured above) were invited to Yue to sample a Chilli Cantonese Feast, which highlighted the chili-based dishes that will be served at Yue through through mid-January.
Diners can order the dishes on an a la carte basis along with other dishes on the restaurant's extensive menu.
芒薩龍蝦涷 Lobster Terrine with Manzano Chili Pepper Jelly
各種辣椒 Chilled Assorted Chilies, Marinated with Pomelo Vinegar
煙燻釀紅椒 Smoked Rainforest Chillies Stuffed with Minced Prawn
柚子醋車厘茄 Cherry Tomatoes in Pomelo Vinegar
杏汁花腸燉蹄筋 Double-boiled almond soup with fish maw and pork tendon
椒香宮廷肉 Braised Pork Belly Topped with Red Spanish Piquillo Chilli Pepper
黃椒醬紗窗鱈魚 Steamed Cod Fish in Rice Paper and Topped with Yellow Scotch Bonnet Chili Pepper Paste
美人椒脆雞煲 Fried Chicken with Orange and Yellow Cayenne Chilli Peppers in Clay Pot
雪嶺紅梅映松露 Seared Star Garoupa Fillet with Fish Maw on Egg Whites with Truffle Sauce – this dish won the Gold with Distinction Award at the 2010 Best of the Best Culinary Awards sponsored by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
白翠紅玉藏珍地 Steamed Minced Pork with Foie Gras and Scallops – This dish won the Gold with Distinction Award at the 2015 Best of the Best Culinary Awards sponsored by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
輝映小辣椒 Yuan Yang Peppers - Steamed spicy dumpling filled with lotus seed paste and egg custard.
桂花陳酒辣丸子 Sweetened Soup with Osmanthus Wine and Spicy Glutinous Rice Balls
The progression of dishes was well paced, starting with pickled peppers, which were surprisingly light and fresh, proving to be the perfect preview to the spectacular meal that was to follow.
The dishes were beautifully plated – so beautiful, in fact, that it seemed sacrilege to tuck into a few of them. The braised pork belly is a case in point. I've had this dish numerous times, and it is one of my favourite Chinese dishes, but never has a chef managed to make it look that magnificent.
While a Chilli Cantonese Feast might seem like an oxymoron – chili peppers are rarely used in Cantonese cookery – Chef Lai managed stay true to his roots, using the peppers to enhance rather than mask the exquisite natural flavours of the other ingredients.
What a long way Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong have come since I first visited the city in the 1970's.
In those days, Chinese restaurants were only about three things: taste, taste, and taste. To extend the oxymoronic metaphor, the term "fine dining Chinese restaurant" simply didn't exist. It would have been considered an oxymoron.
The stylish dining room is furnished in soft earth tones with rich chocolate brown accents. At lunch, picture windows along one wall offer views of the garden next to the hotel.
Two thumbs up for a magnificent meal! I'm not sure which I enjoyed more – the excellent food or the warm hospitality of our charming hosts: Yvonne Poon and Chua Kar Tim of the City Garden Hotel and Tama Chan and Jeff Chan of Chance Communications..
Yue – City Garden Hotel, 9 City Garden Road, North Point, Hong Kong. Telephone: (852) 2887-1111.
Within walking distance of the Fortress Hill MTR station, Island Line, Exit B.