Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Taiwan Tourism Appreciation Lunch @ China Tang

After the nonsense of the Hangzhou Tourism Dinner, my boss owed me a good Chinese meal. Actually the only reason I got to go is because he is in India, and someone from the company had to go and fly the flag at the Taiwan Tourism Appreciation Lunch. Yes me.
I’ve never been to Taiwan, we don’t sell that much of it to be honest, but the European office (who are based in Frankfurt) want to keep us onboard. So once or twice a year they host a luncheon and recently it has been held at China Tang, which is inside the Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane. Very posh.
I’ve seen many debates about whether Chinese food can climb the dizzy heights of European food. We all know it can and has been for hundreds of years. It’s just we have got so used to our palettes being over salted, that the delicate flavours of Chinese cooking is more or less lost on a lot of people. This includes me a lot of the time. Plus as with most people in the UK, growing up with cheap Chinese takeaways, these have really put the boot in for 99% of the population taking Chinese food seriously. I know of a few people whose idea of high end Chinese food is at a large buffet restaurant in north London. So does Chinese food work in a 5 star hotel?
The Taiwan Tourism Bureau put on a bloody good show. It was a small affair with only about 20 of us. 6 people from the Tourist office and their PR firm, a couple of guys from Eva Air, a few scrounger traveller journos trying to get free trips out of us tour operators. Fat chance, and a few tour operators who actually pretend to sell Taiwan. A jolly bunch we were.
You can really tell that Capitalist China knows how to play the game better than Communist (?) China. I like Capitalist China.
Walking down through the Dorchester, you can see that it oozes money and sophistication. It really is a lovely hotel. Although I wouldn’t want to stay there. Have you seen the décor in those rooms?
We were to meet in the bar downstairs and do some power networking before the main presentation. Thankfully the presentation only lasted 5 minutes, unlike the Hangzhou one, which lasted an hour. Big difference between Communist China and Capitalist China. I’m liking Capitalist China.
The presentation was short and sweet, and really they hit the nail on the head. For such a small country it has a hell of a lot going for it. Shame I’m off to the mainland later this year. It could have been an interesting trip with a stop over in Bangkok enroute.
After the power networking and short and sweet presentation the lunch was served in one of the private rooms adjacent to the bar. China Tang is a pure Cantonese restaurant and it really showed in the food. We started off with some dim sum. A nice way to kick of an afternoon of eating, drinking and more power networking, and more drinking.
The highlights of the dim sum were the Har Kar. These steamed dumplings were well seasoned and the shrimp really shone through, the skins was very translucent and I’m sure you could have seen through them. I would have looked properly but it popped in my mouth so quickly.
The scallop dumplings were thick, plumpy and had a wonderful scaloppy taste. They were steamed to perfection and were still had a bite to them.
The satay and spring rolls were ok, nothing special and as good as you get in China Town. Yeah, not that impressive.
Next up we had a couple of ducks cooked in the classic Peking style. It was pretty impressive to watch the girls deftly cut those birds down, and at such great speed. The skin was not as crispy as I’ve had it before, but it was good none the less. The flesh was pink and juicy and it went down a treat. I would have eaten more but the old girl next to me was picking all the food up with her hands, and she didn’t look too healthy. She actually reminded me of a mad old cat lady. I declined the offers of more Peking duck.
The mains I guess you could say, or even course number 3 had some classic Cantonese favourites like wok fried prawns, which had a very sweet sauce. Stir fried beef in black pepper sauce. These little morsels were so tender, they literally disappeared as soon as they hit my tongue. The guy from EVA Air was 100% certain they used a tenderiser in the kitchen. Could have been, they were very soft like little morsels of beefy air.
Of course they had the classic sweet and sour pork, with raw peppers and pineapple. A little homage to the cheap and easy Chinese takeaways that have made a good dish so bad. Respect.
I was slightly shocked that this top notch restaurant would serve virtually raw green peppers. Unreal.
I’ve only ever had sweet and sour pork in two countries before. England and China. It sucks in England, and it does at China Tang as well.
All in all the food we had was passable I’m just glad I never had to pay for it. But everyone had a good time, which was it was all about.
So if you’ve been to China and are thinking of going back, then maybe head off to Taiwan for a completely unique experience.

China Tang, Dorchester Hotel on Urbanspoon


Mr Noodles said...

Sounds good but having been on the Dorchester's website, I'm not sure that I'd spend my own money on the privilege.

Compounding the raw green pepper shocker, I'm a bit surprised that there's pineapple in the sweet & sour. Posh places usually omit pineapple (and turn down the colour) when serving up sweet & sour.

BTW - if you do get the chance to go to Taiwan, take it. The night markets of Taipei are something else - street food at its best.

Tina @flourtrader said...

Yes the endless Chinese Buffet restaurants in the states have not really helped to promote Asian food as being "top notch", but then again the "greasy spoon" joints here in American have not helped the US's reputation for food either.
However, I feel that none of us will know the real truth until we actually visit the country itself.

Mike@ The Culinary Lens said...

I remember being totally blown away the first time I ate higher end Chinese food. Back in the '80s I was assisting my the boss in a Scottish food promotion at the Goodwood Park Hotel in Singapore where they had an incredible Sichuan restaurant. It was way outside my price range but we were taken there by the hotel and treated like royalty. An amazing experience for a 19 year old from Ireland. It spoiled me for life LOL
I remember The Dorchester from when Anton Mossiman was the chef thank you for triggering some great memories

Mzungu said...

Mr N - Taiwan is def on my radar now, although it's gonna be quite a few years before I get the chance to hit its shores.

Tina - If you get the chance to goto the mainland, you have to go. The food we get here in the west is pale in comparison, but that is true of Mexican and Italian food as well. It's always better in the home land.

Mike - Glad to have helped with the memories.

Kay @ Chopstix2Steaknives said...

Taiwan is at a whole different level, I loved it when I was in Taipei.
i guess i wont be heading to China Tang anytime soon.

Mzungu said...

Kay - It was well cooked food, but a bit of a let down. But I do want to goto Taiwan now.