Xi Yan

In Food - HK on April 29, 2011 at 11:02 am

Xi Yan is an Asian restaurant, but one that borrows, partially, the concept of a many-course meal from the French.  The dishes are carefully crafted and attempt to be “special” or “interesting”, a key in modern gastronomy.  However, unlike in most modern French (I use the term “French” loosely) restaurants, it does not serve dishes individually.  In fact it is much like Table No. 1 in Shanghai, where all the dishes are shared within your own party.  The dishes are the same for everybody in the restaurant, and only portion size differs from table to table.  I had been anticipating this meal for a while, for I had eaten at this restaurant a while back and didn’t remember much about it.  The casual Xi Yan restaurant by Pacific Place 3 is one of my favorite restaurants for a quick meal in Hong Kong though, so I really wanted to try this fancier one.

We started out with a sticky rice ball filled with plump salted abalone topped with balls of ikura (one per person).  This ended up being one of my favorite dishes of the evening; I liked how the sticky rice complimented the chewy abalone and how the ikura burst and moistened the whole dish.

Abalone wrapped in sticky rice with ikura topping

While the salmon was of a good quality and was tender as well, it did not boast of anything special in appearance, taste, or texture.

Thick Salmon Slices

The next dish is one that I found most disappointing.  Xi Yan is supposed to have, in a sense, asian food elevated to the next level.  Though the diced vegetables that fill this roll is of a different kind, this dish has extreme similarities to the Shanghainese “malantou” which is essentially the same thing with a different vegetable (and without the dried shrimp dotted on top).

Diced Vegetables wrapped in Beancurd

I personally did not enjoy this dish much, but it is definitely open to consideration as the other 4 friends I was dining with thought this the best dish of the night.  It is the classic Sichuanese “housuigai”, peeled chicken atop glass noodles with thousand-year-old eggs to acompany, all in a spicy soyasauce based sauce.  I love spicy food, but frankly, this was too much for me.  (The waiter did ask how spicy you want the dish to be before it is served, and we said spicy).  To me, the spiciness masked the taste of the chicken, noodles, and eggs but I guess if you really enjoy spicy foods you’ll enjoy this.

Spicy Chicken with Flat Transparent Noodles

The next dish I did like:  clams and sticky rice cakes in a clean yet rich broth.  The soup wasn’t too filling but was certainly fulfilling, and the clams went surprisingly well with the chewy rice cakes.  It was a complete opposite to the above dish, making it a good follow-up.

Clams in Broth with Chewy Rice Cakes

A little palette cleanser, a longan sorbet:

Longan sorbet

Steamed fish is a classic, and this was pretty decent.  The fish was tender yet firm, and the green onions, my favorite accompaniment, were plentiful and were nice and crispy.

Steamed Fish

Our vegetable dish was a plate of “gailan”, dotted with ginger cubes.  The vegetables were cooked well; the shoots were firm and a little crispy.  The presentation was also quite nice, with the ends split and the whole dish a vibrant green.  However, the vegetables were in no way any tastier than any other normal restaurant, though the presentation of the dish is better than most.  It also did not boast of anything “interesting” and is quite common.

Vegetables - "Gailan"

The dessert was a homemade mango ice cream, and it was surprisingly good.  It had a creamy, smooth, texture and the mango flavor was perfect – a little tart but not too sweet or sour.  This refreshing end to the meal was actually my favorite part of dinner at Xi Yan.

Homemade Mango Ice Cream

Although the food here certainly tasted good, it did not meet my expectations of eating “interesting” food.  Xi Yan is supposed to be a restaurant that serves such food, and although presentation was good and seating was comfortable, the food did not reach my hopes for an exciting dinner.


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