London - Chowdown at Min Jiang, Royal Garden Hotel
Chowdown yesterday evening at Min Jiang Sichuanese restaurant on the 10th floor of the Royal Garden Hotel on Kensington High Street. Limster made the bookings and also placed an advanced order for the restaurant's signature Peking duck, reputedly the best in the capital.
First the restaurant - slick and simple design, with gorgeous views over Kensington Park and the city skyline. Service from the multinational wait-staff (Chinese, Malaysian, Thai, Hongkongers) could have been more attentive, and slow at times at this busy restaurant.
- Peking duck, carved table-side - the initial cuts of hot, crisp fatty skin are to be eaten, after dipping into a little saucer of white sugar. Subsequent cuts will include the duck-meat together with crisp skin, to be wrapped in steamed rice-flour skin together with fine-cut cucumber and leeks, smothered with hoi sin sauce. The Peking duck skin wasn't as crisp as I expected, and the hoisin sauce was also not as assertive as versions in China/Far East. The steamed pancakes were a bit stodgy. The de-skinned duck was taken into the kitchen, where the remaining meats were removed and used to stir-fry with egg noodles, soysauce and eggs, and served as a follow-up course. Tastewise, it was pretty average. Anyway, Min Jiang's was supposed to be the *best* Peking duck in London - so, I guess this is as good as it gets here.
- Sautéed Gong Bao Tiger Prawns: fresh prawns stir-fried Sichuanese-style with dried chillis, ginger, cashewnuts in a thick, sweet-spicy sauce.
- Braised Pork Belly in a rich sauce with Chinese Buns: quite well-done here - it's a take on the Dong Po Pork dish from Hangzhou. Less fatty and less sweet than the version I have in Hangzhou or Shanghai - I liked the London version more. But the 3 miniscule "Chinese buns" - actually fried "man tou" were used more as a garnish than as an accompaniment to the dish in a more "authentic" Chinese setting.
- Braised Tofu with minced Chicken in Sichuan Chilli Sauce: this was the "Ma-Po Tofu" dish. Pretty average version turned out here.
- Egg Plant with minced Chicken and Sichuan Chilli sauce: this was my fave dish for the evening - braised eggplant with minced chicken in a bean-sauce and chillis. It had the requisite textures and flavours of a home-cooked dish. The sprinkling of chopped scallions on top provided a fresh, astringent bite to the whole dish. Nice.
- Black Sesame Paste Dumpling coated in Peanut Crumbs: no good here. The peanut crumbs weren't fresh and clung soggily to the mochi-like glutinous rice flour dumplings. The sesame filling lacked the rich, buttery taste I expected. Thankfully, there were also Western-style dessert options for folks who're not so much into Chinese sweets - and the chocolate cake, served with ice-cream, was not bad.
I think Min Jiang's got a great view. But its food or service were nowhere near that of its original outlet in Singapore's Goodwood Park Hotel.
Min Jiang Restaurant
10th Floor, Royal Garden Hotel
2-24 Kensington High St
London W8 4PT
Tel: +44 20 7361 1988
Your photos are so much better than mine. :-) I liked the noodles with egg better than you did, but I never met a noodle I didn't like, and I agree that the eggplant was delicious and very similar to a recipe I often use at home. I'd eat here again just for the view, and I enjoyed the duck pancakes although I don't have much to compare them with. I agree the skin could have been more crispy.
You'll need to make a trip to Beijing, June, and dine at Quanjude Kaoyadian in Qianmen, on the southern edge of Tianamen Square - it was largely synonymous with Peking duck ever since it opened its doors in 1864. I only made it there for the first time in 1999, but absolutely loved it.
In subsequent years and other visits to Beijing, I was at other Peking duck spots which were lauded by fellow Chowhounds: Da Dong, Made in China, Li Jun, etc. Many served duck which tasted *better* than Quanjude's in one way or another. But there's no beating having it at the place where it all began - imagine a restaurant housed in a grand, ornate 7-storey building which can accommodate 2,000 customers at a time: and serving only Peking duck!
Quanjude Kaoyadian was shown in a TV programme we had here recently. Ken Hom and someone else toured China for some weeks looking for local cuisine. It was a very interesting show. Quanjude reminded me of a dim sum place I used to go to in NYC - five floors or so and all filled with people chomping away on dim sum.
As to getting to Beiijing - who knows?