Thursday, July 8, 2010

Hainan ShaoYe 海南少爺

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There are quite some buzz on this place recently in various food publications in Hong Kong and I actually went during the first week of their opening a a few weeks ago. I guess it is time to share my experience. First of all, many foodies usually visit a new establishment after at least a couple of weeks or sometimes months of operations to ensure quality consistency. While it is understandable for a new resto to require time to "settle in" in terms of operations, it is not an excuse for inconsistency with food quality and etc. As long as you are open for business, day 1 or day 1000 should not make so much of a difference in my opinion. My experience at Hainan Shaoye fell into the disappointing category.


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With an overly abundance of information out there, I think many now know that this place is a venture from the group behind The Drawing Room with the Chef from Chatterbox in Singapore. As the name suggests, the Hainan Chinese Rice is its main draw. Many diners walk in waith the expectation of tasting Hainan chicken just like those they tried in Singapore but like I said in previous entries, being physically in Singapore can be a factor affecting your taste buds.

In my Sh!ok review, I mentioned about the two different school of thoughts in regards to "traditional" Hainan Chicken and the Hainan chicken here seemed to fall somewhere in between perhaps. As a short recap, you can have very flavorful chicken or that of bland flavor and rely on the sauces. In other words, either chicken is the focus or the sauce is whereby the meat is there to help bring out the best f the sauces. There is no right / wrong answer, it is all about personal preferences in my opinion.

What I can say about the chicken here was that the meat was rather bland yet the chicken skin was very rich and flavorful. There were three various sauces for you to dip into, namely the minced ginger, chili sauce and thicken soy sauce. The thickened soy sauce can be thicker in my opinion. Alright, enough with the flavors, time to move onto the meat texture. I ordered the normal cut and how I regret I did not order the thigh only for an extra $10. Thigh meat was firm to the bite and tender but the breast was ... mushy? I do know that the breast part is usually tougher than thigh and have a different texture to it but it just wasn't ... great. I wonder if the thigh and the breast came from the same piece of chicken anyhow.

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I liked how they use a tea pot to hold the soup to keep the temperature as constant as possible but I think it is important to start off with hot soup first! Aside from the 3 different sauces, you will find a small grayish tray which was a egg custard with mousse made of thousand year preserved eggs. Quite an interesting side dish and it went pretty well by itself or with the rice.

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As for the rice, I quite enjoyed it with hints of gingery and of course chicken flavors. Soft yet not overly mushy, not bad.

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We wanted to order the Chai Tow Kway 菜頭粿 (with black sauce) but guess what, they were sold out at around 8pm! Not happy at all! So instead we ordered the Bak Kut Teh which was the Cantonese style with Chinese herbal flavors. It was a bit too weak in terms of herbal flavors.

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We also ordered the laksa but the soup base was rather weak and watery as well. I prefer the soup to be thicker and creamier but that's just me of course.

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... enough talking for today ... I do have high expectation or perhaps I should be more considerate and come back later once everything has been smoothed out? After all, I ams yet to try the Chai Tow Kway 菜頭粿 (with black sauce).

Likes:

  • Chicken Rice - hints of ginger and flavorful

Dislikes:

  • The Hainan Chicken - especially the breast part.
  • Bak Kut Teh - weak in flavors

Avg Spending: HKD 100 - 200 per person

Hainan ShaoYe 海南少爺
Shop 311, 3/F, World Trade Centre,
280 Glucester Road, Causeway Bay
Tel: 2111 3166


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9 comments:

Hong Kong & Macau Fine Food said...

Jason Bon Vivant: "...but like I said in previous entries, being physically in Singapore can be a factor affecting your taste buds."

So true indeed! Good point. :D

Do pardon my Sensationalism before writing it :P : there's no doubt we're receiving the real deal as chef Han Seng Fong directly received the original recipe from the 4 creators of the original M.O. Chatterbox chicken rice, before working there himself for 30 odd years. Little known to HK (as I've never seen this news published locally), is that Han had also opened a separate shop in a Singapore Shopping Mall inbetween his stint at Chatterbox and coming to HK, so he didn't come directly from the hotel!

I think there's also a catch to it all - Chatterbox's version is not the be all and end all version in Singapore, as it is considered the most 'sterile' Hotel-like version, meant to be somehow more light, sophisticated rather than the bolder interpretations with the in-your-face rice, chicken (often served skinless in Singapore!) and heavy sauces. :D

Isn't it fun dining out and exploring!

Greentea00 said...

i just went two days ago but like you, i'm quite disaapointed as well..waited about half an hr line up..We ordered 2 sets of their 'famous' hoi nam chicken (one regular chicken breast and mine is the dark meat chicken), 1 Bak Kut Teh soup, 1 lime soda.
...maybe it was my too high expectation after reading too many good reviews from KC blog, HK magazine and Wow. The chicken was 'okay' but really, it was too small for the portion. I thought they would give the thigh or legs but apparently mine doesn't look like a whole thigh or legs at all..but with lots n lots of fatty skins and no sweet and sour pickles.
To me, the most important criteria for the hoi nam chicken is the sauce. (i know many people go for the chicken oil based rice..)

The 3 sauce are nothing special to me at all, especially the ginger garlic sauce!..I would say, the famous hoi nam chicken place in TST EAST (sorry i forgot the name), the Thailand Chicken Place (Wanchai & Shum shui po) or Anytime (Pearl plaza, cwb) could do lot better than this. Rice is ok but still I would expect more fragrances from the chicken stock. Lime Soda and the Bak Kut Teh soup was not bad that time..overall, i dont think it worth such a long waiting..and i could go somewhere else with better authentic hoi nam chicken.

I forgot my camera that day so I didn't post the review in my yahoo blog this time...

Jason said...

@Greentea00: Disappointed indeed! I tried my best to be as mutual as possible and tried not to compare with other establishments in Hong Kong but even with that mind set, there is definitely room for improvement.

Based on my knowledge, the owner do want to focus on the importance of the sauces and follow the "bland" chicken approach I mentioned before. However, sometimes it is hard to implement when you are not the one doing all the cooking / execution. Plus, I think the Chef is already too well known (or at least how he has been promoted so far over the last few weeks on various publications) that he would follow his own ideas in my opinion. Also, it is quite possible that they are trying to adapt to the Hong Kong "taste buds" hence the less than satisfying sauces at the end.

In any case, rather disappointed.

Jason said...

@Hong Kong & Macau Fine Food: Thanks for your kind words once again! It is certainly interesting to learn things from you and see what I have just learned today regarding the chef!

I have no doubt that the recipe was good but there got to be more factors to great hai nan chicken then it seems. When diners enjoy it at the Chatterbox, can it be the atmosphere? the surrounding? I am not sure, there are many things that can affect one's perception of taste in my opinion. Would the same MO Chatterbox Chicken Rice taste differently if it was served at a Hawker Center at 50% less in terms of price? Possibly, I do not know.

You see, I never really find history in general all that interesting when I was young, but now HISTORY can be so interesting ... we learn from history, human continue to evolve based on history ... "History never repeats itself; at times it rhymes" - Mark Twain

ooops slightly off topic haha

Hong Kong & Macau Fine Food said...

:D

Please wait for my 2nd instalment of the follow up write-up soon (of another shop, which was planned all along indeed as a 2nd surprise!). It might address some of the issues you've raised indeed, I just haven't gotten around to penning it properly yet - u probably know the reason as to why haha! :D

Agree with you on so many points raised indeed1 - many times when we go out and dine, our own psychology and expectations or interpretations will cloud our judgments?? The MO Chatterbox I ate in Singapore was no way the best I've eaten over there, even taking into consideration it's the most elegant 'hotel's version' not a hawker stall rendition. But Tony the owner of Hainan Shaoye probably chose it in the end for a reason after trying many shops, and perhaps he made the wrong choice for HK too, considering he has openly claimed he thought HK'ers are not really into strong tasting dishes/sauces, which could be a miscalculation on his part, unfortunatley. So its all about the context and where its located, what the weather is like, whether its exuberating exoticism in its sub-tropical climate or its street stall like atmosphere, when we often sit on stools without A/C, etc.

Eating Hainanese Chicken Rice or any Food indeed, is to me, very interesting because its like wine drinkers trying to pick between drinking a Burgundy vs a NZ Pinot, a South Australian Shiraz or a Hermitage/Cotie Rotie, a Loire vs a Bordeaux or new world Sauvignon Blanc, California/Barossa Reds vs a Cabernet Franc from France or Italian/Spanish red, etc. There's bound to be some kind of subjectivity involved as you cherry pick on what we all think is the best version, no matter how open minded we aim to be.

We should go to Singapore together 1 day and eat our hearts out and write some reports afterwards. ^o^'

Jin said...

Hey Jason and Hong Kong & Macau Fine Food, please take me along when you do plan a Singapore trip! Or you can come to Manila and I'll bring you to the best Hainanese chicken rice here! ;)

Jason said...

@Jin: For some reasons all I can think of now is Big Daddy Chicken! But yes, I will let you know the next time I drop by Singapore (Manila still on my priority list of course!)

TasteHongKong said...

Sounds like you are one of the very first to write a commentary on this eatery. Next Magazine has just published theirs in the latest issue.

Jason said...

@TasteHongKong: I went during the first week of its opening. Have you tried yet?

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