The last month I have been noticeably absent from my blogging duties, and I wish I could say I was doing something noble like building a bridge or training for Trailwalker, but honestly? All I’ve been up to is overindulging with friends and visitors, eating at new places and being selfish and keeping these eating hotspots to myself. (Sorry readers). BUT, after hairy crabbing myself out and experiencing Halloween, Hong Kong style, I’ve realised I need to rein myself in.
So, after 4 weeks of feeling a bit like the greedy Augustus Gloop from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I’ve put the brakes, (for a few days at least), on eating at a “never before tried” establishment until I’ve bashed out at least one review.
A couple of months ago I went to Yin Yang. It’s a place that, although highly rated by some, was a major disappointment for me. The fact that it can be so inconsistent in its cooking is somewhat worrying, that is not to say though, that this place can’t or won’t be able to produce the goods on another day, but maybe I was just unlucky!
Yin Yang, named after HK’s local drink of half-coffee and half-tea, is a tiny, 3 table private kitchen hidden behind wooden doors on the ground floor of an ye-olde stone building on Ship Street in Wan Chai. It was opened by ad-agency owner turned organic chef, Margaret Xu Yuan, who takes most of the produce from her organic farm in the New Territories. The food is HK cuisine eclectic- Contemporary Chinese with a throwback to traditional Cantonese, Hakka, Chiu Chow cooking techniques, mixed with a colonial edge. Confused? I was. But, that descriptive pastiche aside, it’s the taste that counts.
As I sat down at a rickety wooden table with my friend, I cast an eye around the place and was struck by the very cool, retro kitchen at the back of the establishment. The kitchen itself is the decorative centerpiece and that, plus the rest of the tiny decorative details and music, really fosters a HK circa 1950s nostalgic atmosphere. I loved the SMEG fridge which reminded me of my Grandfather’s SMEG in KL and made me smile in fond memory.
My friend told me that when he booked, he was told the menu was somewhat set, but we had a choice between either the “Yellow Earth Roast Chicken” or the “Red Hot Baby Pig”. Luckily for me, he chose the Red Hot Baby Pig (there’s nothing quite like a bit of suckling pig), so I was really looking forward to it when the food started arriving.
The menu was peppered with dishes with vague names and we really didn’t have a clue what to expect, so the waiter had to explain everything to us.First up, was the “Organic Eggxplosion”, “Shiny Spiny”, “Spring water tofu” and the “Summer Sun”.
Shiny Spiny, turned out to be a a whole langoustine set in a plate of chicken jelly and organic fruit. Organic eggxplosion was a large plate filled with very small organic things. The waiter ‘helpfully’ told us, “…that is organic fig, that is organic dried vegetable leaf, that is organic eggplant, that is organic bitter gourd.” Halfway through hearing this spiel, I interrupted and said, “So basically everything is organic?” To which the waiter replied, “Yes” and then proceeded to continue being the spokesperson for all things organic. The plate of organic produce was not presented in a very attractive way and quite frankly, all of it tasted the same, with or without the organic condiments that were nestled in small spoons on the platter. The soft shell crabs were the smallest crabs I had ever seen and were not nearly crispy enough.
The Shiny Spiny dish was scary looking and flummoxed the both of us. After spending 5 minutes trying to work out how to cut and eat the langoustine without flicking it onto the neighbouring table, we decided to call the waiter back to cut it up, as we had only been provided with chopsticks to tackle it with. The meat, unfortunately, was chewy like rubber and the jelly odd and tasteless. Summer Sun was homemade minced ham wrapped around an organic egg, like a very posh Scotch egg. This dish was good, and the only one out of the starters that had any taste to it. The spring water tofu? Watery. G wanted to try out their homemade Kumquatcello, a parody of the lemoncello. It was approximately 98% ethanol, 2% fruit. You could’ve set the table on fire with that stuff. Horrendous. The Red Hot Baby Pig was served next, and that was lovely- juicy, tender with a fantastic crispy skin. It was served with a quirky lychee jam that complimented it very well and lessened the richness of the fat! After the unusual “Soup without Water” interlude, there followed the ‘Chinese Lemon Wok Paella’ and the ‘More More Vegetables’. The paella smelt amazing, but sadly, it did not taste as good as it smelt. There was major crustacean overload, and we had to fight to get to the bottom of the dish to scoop out the rice which was far too al-dente, borderline undercooked.I felt that Yin Yang, although noble for their quest to be all organic, forgot to pay attention to portion size. For 2 people, they served a ridiculous portion of vegetables, enough to feed 6 at least, and it was a complete waste when we could only make a tiny dent in a mountain of greens. I realise the name of the dish was “More more vegetables” but that’s just taking it to the extreme! Added to that, the dish was limply presented and extremely bland. As the last dish to be served before dessert, it certainly lacked the oomph to keep me interested till the end of the meal.Dessert was better, the best out of the selection was the mini banana wrapped in a sugared crepe, sweet and light. Again though, the presentation was lacklustre, maybe I am being overly-harsh but I honestly felt everything was lost in an expanse of crockery.
Verdict? Yin Yang is yearning to be something different, but it should stick to classics instead of attempting to be innovative and giving traditional dishes a contemporary twist. What’s wrong with replicating our ancestors’ cooking step by step and leaving it alone?
Chopstixfix rating: 2/5 (‘cos the pork was good)
Yin Yang, 18 Ship Street, Wan Chai. Tel: 2866 0868
Apologies for the photo quality- I left my camera at home that day- very remiss of me!