As a young boy, I considered Kowloon House my only exposure to good Chinese food. It was a treat whenever there was a family celebration. Many authentic Chinese restaurants have opened since then but Kowloon will always be comfort Chinese food to me.
In Hong Kong when I started traveling, I could go to the simplest sidewalk eatery and enjoy steamed rice with a slice of bokchoy topped with roasted goose and its drippings, a slice of crispy lechon Macau or pork barbecue.
In Manila, the places that have superior tasting Chinese cuisine are China Blue by chef Jereme Leung at Conrad Hotel, Summer Palace at Shangri-La Edsa, Peking Garden, Shang Palace at Makati Shang, and Hai Shin Lou.
To be added to the list is Oriental Palace. Owner Henry Chua has a highly rated chef from Hong Kong. Tsoi Chiu Fai is also a Chinese cookbook author and a student of Chua’s dad. (So that’s why they were able to get him!)
We started with Deep Fried Taro Ball stuffed with Japanese Scallops and Mango Slice. The outside was crunchy with crispy breading, the inside was creamy and soft. All of a sudden, there emerged the mild saltiness of the perfectly cooked scallops followed by tart-sweet mango. Yum! This was going to be a very promising lunch.
The Crispy Wasabi Prawn Spring Roll was next. These were crispy prawns covered in light batter, the heads were stuffed and crispy fried. It was laid over fried spinach leaves and served with candied walnuts. The combination was something I had never tried before.
I loved the sweet burned flavor of the walnuts.
In one bowl was Tai Chi Bisque: both yellow soup and green soup. It had the texture of bird’s nest soup. Simple tasting but delicious nonetheless.
We then had colorful Fried Turbot (a type of flatfish) topped with a mix of carrots, asparagus and bell peppers.
Then we had a show: the breaking of Beggar’s Chicken. A huge chunk of bread was brought out, the chef started cutting through the bread and inside was a huge wrapper of pressure-cooked lotus leaves.
Inside the lotus leaves was a tender, fall-off-the-bone Beggar’s Chicken! Brown sauce had been poured on top. It was my first time to experience this outside of Hong Kong and it was a winner!
But the dish that really blew my mind was Steamed Crab and Vegetables in Special Rice. Here, I dropped all the formalities and did kamayan. The crab was seasoned and deep-fried and was such a winner with the special rice.
The rice was sticky much like a kiampong. It had chopped Chinese chorizo, hibi, mushrooms, spring onions and drippings of the crab. It was delicious.
Then I did something I and many of us would always do to decide a place had really good food: I ordered sweet and sour pork. And it was crispy, sour, sweet. Oriental Palace really had exceptional food.
This place is my new go-to Chinese restaurant! Check it out!
Oriental Palace is at 148
Tomas Morato and Sct. Gandia Streets, Quezon City (beside Jollibee). Call 246 9069.
The Fukuoka/Hiroshima food trip on March 22-27 is full and a second trip is being arranged for April. Interested? I promise to break your diet. E-mail [email protected]