Jai Yun - not just the same thing every time
Some recent reports on Jai Yun said that it seemed like despite Chef Nei's commitment to serving what's fresh and changing his menus frequently, it seemed like everyone always got the same thing for lunch - abalone foo yung, deep fried eggplant, kung pao chicken, etc.
Having never been to Jai Yun for lunch, I would have had no problem eating any of the above, but two of us went for lunch today and got the $18 menu, and had none of the above dishes. Regardless, it was still an incredible meal.
(the first five all came at the same time - they were cold dishes, but they appeared to be portioned for one person and not two)
1. Cucumber - very delicious - some good pickling or something
2. Tofu - perhaps the best tofu I've had - it was intricately layered and had a delicious flavor that almost made it like meat - everything that's been said about Chef Nei's knife skills are absolutely true.
3. Jellyfish - never had this before - it was quite good - almost felt cleansing - definitely did not taste like fish, more like a vegetable (therefore it fit in very well with the other dishes).
4. Some type of Chinese vegetable - didn't recognize it - good, nothing memorable.
5. Some very spicy thing with ginger - really really good.
6. Shrimp - Good, and very fresh, but was hoping he'd do more with the flavoring - some good mushrooms in it though.
7. Gluten (seitan) - Far and away the best course, despite being the one I would have been least excited abotu had I already known the menu. It was nice and puffy and so full of flavor - hadn't really ever eaten anything like this.
8. Grouper - Very good, nice and garlicky
9. Mushroom dish - This was the only disappointing dish of the meal, it tasted like something I'd get at House of Nanking - very overwhelmed with hoisin sauce or something similar.
Nonetheless, it was definitely a great experience and an amazing value. There were quite a bit of flies though - but people don't go here for the ambience.
When we talk about him serving the same thing over and over, it seems that he draws from about 3 dozen, maybe 4 dozen dishes. I attended a private 30-course lunch recently, and I'd had all but a couple of the dishes before. That may seem like a large repertoire, but compared to the range that other Chinese chefs can and do prepare regularly, it's quite small.