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Macau Style Crispy Skin Ham Hock @ The Kitchen, Millbrae

Last week three of us had dinner at The Kitchen in Millbrae. This was my first time back since shortly after it opened, when it had impressed me with the strong execution and contemporary style of cooking. The walls were adorned with poster size photos of various specials, many of them featuring goose intestines. Mom scanned the elaborate menus, then said in a voice dripping with irony, “They forgot to give us the cheap menu.” Yes, prices are higher here than most of our recent meals, but the portion size is larger too. The servings turned out to be more suitable for a party of six or more to share.

Best of the dishes was the Macau style crispy skin ham hock, $13, served off the bone and sliced into two-bite size pieces. This was served with a pink-hued, tart dipping sauce that was an excellent foil for the porcine richness. William was very enthusiastic about this one saying, “The succulence and smoky flavor of ham hock meat, crunchy skin, this offers everything we like pork.” He’s a crispy pata aficionado, and this might make him switch loyalties. He is still talking about this dish.

Ham hock
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3088/2...

Also good was the braised seafood over tofu, $13, with abundant sweet shrimp, chunks of scallop, bits of grass mushrooms, gai lan coins, and conpoy in a delicate seafood sauce. I liked the generous amount of conpoy (dried scallop), but William commented that it might be too strong a flavor for some.

Braised seafood and tofu in steamer basket
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3172/2...

Mustard greens in supreme broth, $13, were bright green, carefully groomed, and top quality and garnished with a julienne of Virginia ham. However, the hearts were a little undercooked, with an almost raw crunch for some pieces and not pulling out all the potential flavor. I would have preferred the supreme broth unthickened, but it was delicious nonetheless and I didn’t lose a drop.

Very disappointing was the steamed surf clam with garlic, $7. Besides being less than fresh, it was overcooked and chewy. The minced garlic on top was far too powerful, perhaps to cover up the state of the raw material. Also, it lost all its juices before getting to the table.

Steamed surf clam with garlic
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3249/2...

The complimentary tong sui was a lightly sweetened papaya and snow ear fungus hot soup. We’re not red bean fans, so this was a welcome change.

Papaya and snow ear fungus dessert soup
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3124/2...

With steamed rice, our tab was $61 including tax and tip.

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The Kitchen
279 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030

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  1. I'm with William, that ham hock looks wonderful, and good enough to switch one's loyalties for! Thanks for the report; I've marked this one to head to soon. Pork...mmmm....

    1 Reply
    1. re: susancinsf

      When that plate of sliced ham hock first came to the table, I thought we'd have some left to take home. Not a chance, three of us ate the whole thing.

    2. Yes, that ham hock was a thing of beauty!!! Thanks for the mouthwatering photo.....this one definitely goes on my list.

      1. Asian Pearl in Richmond's Pacific East Mall, a sister restaurant to The Kitchen, also has this ham hock dish. I don't know if it's the photograph, but the dish I had at Asian Pearl had a deeper pink color from the cure.

        I found it to be a bit salty but the vinegar dipping sauce helped.

        3 Replies
        1. re: PorkButt

          My brother looked at my photo and said it seemed a little light to him. So, I suspect that they're probably the same. I'd consider it more of an appetizer, although it's not in that section of the menu, but we wolfed down enough each to get some salt build-up too. The dipping sauce or some of the lemon is essential.

          But more importantly, did it earn the PorkButt seal of approval?

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          Asian Pearl
          3288 Pierce St, Richmond, CA 94804

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            I thought it was delicious. There was a patch of skin that wasn't crisped and was very chewy but that's a minor fault. It does take some restraint not to pick up the bone to gnaw off the last bits.

            Apparently this dish is considered a classic but this was the first I'd heard of it. One of my dining companions left Hong Kong over 40 years ago and never had the chance to try it. She was understandably excited to see it on the menu and really enjoyed it

            1. re: PorkButt

              Thanks for sharing this, makes the dish even more special. We'd not tried it before, and I've not seen it on any other menus that I can recall.

        2. Another thing on that menu, on the same page, I think used to be stir fried milk with fish paste. It is very good and to me very unusual. A friend of a friend who is from Macao said it is from Macao. It is also on the menu at Asia Pearl in Richmond.

          3 Replies
          1. re: wally

            Is the stir fried milk with fish paste the dish that looks like egg white curds?

            Edited to add: If so, here's a photo of the version at Zen Peninsula.
            http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Yes, it comes on crispy rice noodles.

              1. re: wally

                Thanks much, I loved the version at Zen Peninsula and Jai Yun. Had a dreadful rendition at the now closed Chef Wai's in San Mateo, but would like to try this dish again.

          2. The original comment has been removed