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Casa Victoria - A Michelin Star Calibre, Cantonese 'Surf & Turf' Chowmeet

The arrival of Summer makes organizing a Chowmeet a much less risky affair. Gone is the peril of no shows or possible last minute cancellation due to inclement weather.

The recent discovery of an award winning Cantonese Cuisine chef working in Toronto, who once played a major role in a Hong Kong Michelin 2* kitchen, provided me with the incentive to put together 2014's first chowmeet. Joining the kitchen team of Casa Victoria, Chef Ming was one of the key architect instrumental in making the famed 'Roasted Suckling Piglet' and 'Hand Held Oil poached/Par-roasted Squab' into iconic signature dishes in Hong Kong's gastronomic temple, the Michelin 2* Fook Lum Moon.

This evening, under surprisingly chilly and windy weather, a group of passionate food loving chowhounders answered my clarion call and descended on Markham's 'Casa Victoria' for a fun evening of pre-arranged, multi-course classic Cantonese fare prepared by Chef Ming and his team. Amongst the attendees were also a number of die-hard foodies, who made a special trip all the way from Washington DC just to join us!

In addition to picking from the a la carte menu, our large group also allows me the opportunity to customize our meal, with the help of the Chef, to include advanced order, more elaborate and refined dishes incorporating uncommon and exotic ingredients.

The following is our tasting menu banquet of the night:

- Finger food Amuse of Crispy Fried Squid Tentacles with Spiced Salt.

- Whole Cantonese Roasted Suckling Piglet presented 2 ways: Crispy Skin & Succulent Meat.

- Whole Oil Poached/ Par Roasted 'Sha-Tin Style' Squabs.( 1/2 bird per person )

- Fan Shaped Stirred fry Chinese 'Prosciutto' Style Cured Ham with Hokkaido Jumbo Diver Scallops.

- Floridian Line-Caught Garoupa prepared 2 ways: Sautéed Filet with King Mushroom, Asparagus Tips and Yellowing Chives; Crispy Fried Filet with Spicy Batter.

- Wok Seared Jumbo BC Oysters with Black Peppercorn, Ice-Wine and Honey Glaze in Pancake Wrap.

- 'Mother & Son' Lobster/ King Prawns Duo - Stirred Fry Giant Lobster with Maggi Sauce; Fried King Prawns with Salted Duck Egg Yolk Coating

- Sauteed Pea Shoot with 'Yin-Yan' Ragu Toppings - Fresh Crabmeat and Egg White; Braised Shredded Dried Scallop in Oyster Sauce.

- Minced Ginger. Egg White and Lobster Tamale Fried Rice.

- Dessert Duet of Chilled Coconut Milk, Mango and Sago Dessert Soup plus Freshly Baked Egg Custard Tart topped with Bird's nest

- Petite Fours of Chinese Cookies with lotus seed paste fillings

( Oops! Sorry folks! Noticed photos and description out of sync! Have fun putting the puzzles together! )

As expected, the quantity of food was quite substantial and at the end of this multi-course affair, we were all stuffed! IMO, all the dishes we savored were artistically arranged, delectable and unique in its own special way. Quality is definitely comparable to Hong Hong's Michelin Star standard. With so many taste and textural profiles involved, it would take me a whole evening to describe and summarized them all. As such, rather than doing a dish by dish review, I will just let the pictures, the dish description, your imagination and feed back from attendees do all the talking!

My favorites of the evening have to go to the ultra crispy/crunchy skin Suckling Piglet, the juicy, delicate tasting Squab, the amazing multi-dimensional crispy Oysters, the 'Full of Wok-Hay' Lobster and King Prawns duo plus the delicate and aromatic Mango and Tapioca dessert soup. Indeed, worthy of a Michelin Star!

Service was efficient and friendly with the chef making a curtain call at the end of the meal.

All in all, a wonderful evening of fine food shared with great fellow foodie 'chowfriends'!

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  1. Looks absolutely delicious. Wish I were in the city for this...

    1. Nice! Did the cooking reach Fook Lam Moon, or at least, HK standards?

      1 Reply
      1. re: klyeoh

        For a few dishes, 'Definitely Yes'! The Oysters were amazing. The Giant lobster had wonderful 'wok-hay' components and the Suckling piglet was as good as one would get outside of Hong Kong!

      2. Thanks Charles:
        Another great Chowmeet! Service at Casa Victoria was exceptional and the attention paid to us was certainly the best so far. Very interesting and fun group of attendees and your qualities as a host made the evening complete. The food ....I will leave it to more eloquent others to describe, I can only say that selection, quality and presentation exceeded my very high expectations. Obviously I am hooked as I sit here this morning contemplating a hour and half drive back in just for the Squid Tentacles and Oysters alone. Thanks again for a very memorable evening.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Lefty

          Your are most welcome!! I'm glad you had a wonderful time!
          Great food, great wine, great service and most of all great company - indeed a combo really hard to beat!!

        2. Everything looks top notch.

          I frequent CV for dim sum, but have never been for dinner.

          This clearly....must be rectified.

          1. Out of curiosity , Charles , how many were in attendance?

            2 Replies
            1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

              Charles can answer but I counted around 26. It was a great dinner. Even Mrs fD, who does not really enjoy many Chinese restaurants really liked this dinner.

              1. Thanks Charles for organizing this.

                OK, so it was a ‘special’ dinner (although most (?all) items were available from their banquet menu). And Charles obviously has a good relationship with the restaurant, so perhaps we got some special treatment as well. But I can only judge what was served.

                First, a personal preference – I tend to prefer the spicier cuisines of China (especially Szechuan and Hunan), so I don’t have massive experience of higher end Cantonese and/or Shanghai and or several other lesser-spiced variations under the ‘Chinese Food’ umbrella. The few occasions I’ve tried finer-dining ‘Chinese’ (e.g. Flower Drum in Melbourne) I’ve generally been disappointed.

                However, the meal at Casa Victoria was probably the finest ‘non-spicy Chinese’ meal I’ve ever had (at least in 10 years). Every dish was excellent and memorable. The service was exceptional and the plating was spectacular. On several dishes we had to wait for a procession of photographers to record their memories.
                EVERY dish was superbly spiced – not “hot” but layered and complex. And textures (my particular interest) were different in each dish. Every so often, there would be a ‘burst’ of a flavour (e.g. ginger in the rice dish) which made every bite interesting.

                I don’t think I can pick out a favourite dish – from the first bite (of tentacles) through to the ‘bird’s nest’ finish, every dish was outstanding. The suckling pig was both crunchy and meaty, without being at all greasy – if any criticism here, I found the ‘sparkling eyes’ a little over-the-top.

                The squab was superb – great flavour and the brain (for those who dared) had a contrasting texture.

                The scallop dish was a real wow for me. The presentation was fantastic. The scallops were cooked perfectly. The ham gave a salty contrast (and texture) to the sweetness of the scallops, and the veggies added crunch. I’ve just convinced myself this was my favourite dish of the evening!

                The garoupa two ways was superb. Having the fish both poached and fried gave entirely different textures for the same ingredient. The mushroom ‘fries’ gave a chewy character, and the asparagus gave a great crunch. A perfect dish. I’ve just changed my favourite dish!

                The oyster dish was probably my favourite oyster dish ever! Crispy, chewy, liquid centre!

                Lobster/King Prawn was merely very good. We’ve had comparable lobster at other chowmeet (s) and the Maggi sauce was a little subdued. I also found the texture of the coating on the Prawns to be a little strange for my palate – slightly ‘mealy’ – I noticed it stimulated the production of saliva, so maybe there was an ingredient that caused a mild allergic response.

                Sauteed Pea shoot (more pea-leaf than shoot, I’d say) dish was a textural tour-de-force. The flavours weren’t as striking as those in some other dishes, but the textures hit every point of the palate.

                The fried rice was anything but. It belies the name. Bursts of flavour from the ginger and tamale. All other ‘fried rice’ will pale by comparison.

                And dessert was also excellent. The Mango and tapioca soup showed great textures (again) and freshness and excellent aromatics. The lotus seed paste ‘petit fours’ were excellent – very fresh, and this was my first time for the ‘Bird’s Nest Custard’. Maybe a little unusual in texture (for western palates) but anytime I can try something new is a bonus for me.

                My next wedding will be at Casa Victoria (but please don’t tell AmuseGirl).

                4 Replies
                1. re: estufarian

                  @ Estufarian:
                  My pleasure to organize a fun event for fellow hounds!
                  Glad you have an enjoyable time. So far all e-mail I received had been positive.
                  May be I have to organize a 'SECOND ROUND' for those who salivates during and after reading your write-up and wanted to try the experience for themselves.

                  @ Fellow hounds:
                  Feel free to contact me ( e-mail posted in my profile ) if you missed out on the first round. By chance popular demands dictate, I'll try to organize another round for those who missed out.

                  1. re: estufarian

                    Not much to add here:
                    +1 for the oysters. For me it was the stand out dish and the best preparation I've eaten as well. I also loved the flavour and crunch from the "Chinese Gathiya" (that's what I'm calling them) they added a nice counterpoint to the middle soft part of the oyster. I will drive the 30 mins with my wife just to share a plate of a dozen of those oysters over a glass of wine.

                    The squab was excellent. I was a little disappointed because it required work with the hands. I have no problem eating with my hands but all my previous experiences with squab have been "de-boned" enabling little work with utensils. Being such a small bird prepared with enormous flavour, each bite could not satiate my palate as I worked my way through the bones. I was getting a little frustrated. That's my problem not the restaurants, it was delicious.

                    I "cheated" with the fried rice, adding some chilli sauce to give a kick. I detected a smokiness to the dish which really complimented the existing flavours.

                    Curiously Charles, what did the restaurant do with the pig's head? Several of us on the table were willing (anxious) to taste the ears and crispy cheeks.

                    I encourage anyone to take Charles up on his offer - it was a superb meal.

                    1. re: Apprentice

                      Foodies do indeed think alike!!
                      I inquired about the heads after the meal! Finding out they were planning to make a rice porridge with them, I asked for them and took them home. Heated up one this lunch time. Good but VERY FATTY!
                      Shall I cut out the ears of the other one and mail them to you like 'Mafioso'?! Ha!

                  2. It was a lovely evening - great to meet so many hounds. I started to say my favourite dish was the oysters (delicious large BC ones) but then added the ginger poached garoupa to the list, but started to think about the scallops. Then stopped! It was all delicious. Thanks again Charles - see everyone soon I hope.

                    1. Charles, how could you possibly have had seats available for so long? I would have been the first to join, but after marriage I caught MSG intolerance from my wife so had to pass.
                      Also, I suppose that I could have eaten the apple in the pig's mouth in the roast pig dish.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                        I also have MSG intolerance - but not a trace after that meal!

                        1. re: estufarian

                          Unless incorporated in special sauces such as Oyster, Hoi-Sin or Maggi, which the chefs have no control of. Nowadays, very few high end fine dining Chinese establishments actually use MSG. In fact, a few like 'Spring Villa', actually listed the 'Sans MSG' modus operandi on their menu!

                      2. Thanks again to Charles Yu for arranging this exceptional evening and meal.

                        Favourites - oh my so hard to chose but definitely the oysters, suckling pig, lobster, and grouper. I would say my least favourite was the squab. I wish I wasn't so full by the time the rice arrived because it was delicious.

                        It was so nice to be able to meet many of the CH'ers I've come to know on this board.

                        Mr MG and I look forward to the next one!!!

                        And now, I'm thinking about dim sum at Casa Victoria.....

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: millygirl

                          My pleasure, Millygirl. Glad to hear you both had a wonderful time!

                          I found most 'macho-man' loved the idea of tearing into the Squab whilst more refined ladies tend to find it an obstacle. However, since all attendees are 'hounds', its nice to have a dish involving frugal act! Ha!

                          BTW, their Dim Sums are nice and the yummy fried squid tentacles we had as amuse is on their Dim Sum Menu.

                          Happy Chowing!

                        2. Charles, thanks for organinzing the dinner. It was fantastic and we really enjoyed ourselves. I really liked the salty egg prawns, but it is really hard to pick a favourite! It was so much fun to meet up with like-minded people!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: gladyskchan

                            I'm happy you had a fun time!
                            Any fried food with salted duck egg yolk coating is GOOD!!!!