Whenever there’s a new Chinese restaurant in town, there are words I long to hear associated with it: Hong Kong chef!
A few decades ago, this was still unheard of. There were just a handful of Chinese restaurants I was aware of. One was Hong Ning along Aurora Boulevard in Cubao, which occasionally took away business from my favorite siopao-mami place, Ma Mon Luk.
Then there was Kowloon House, a favorite place our family celebrations. I also remember a place called Ming’s among the many outlets at the New Frontier Cinema area, and the many panciterias like Smart, T. Pinpin Café, Lido, Ramon Lee and many others.
Not too long after experiencing these places, I got a chance to visit Hong Kong, and my perspective of Chinese cuisine changed forever. I feasted on authentic fried rice with its subtle flavors cooked in various styles, a variety of dim-sum items peddled by shouting non-English speaking ladies, roast goose with its crispy skin, simple dishes at the back alley of Tsim Sha Tsui like roast duck over steaming hot rice with kailan drizzled with oyster sauce, and many other dishes the Chinese restaurants back home didn’t have.
It was in Hong Kong where I learned that the popular sweet-and-sour pork is not an authentic Hong Kong dish, but a creation of Chinese restaurants in the West. Nonetheless, because it has become so popular, all Hong Kong Chinese restaurants were also now serving it.
In one of the press lunches I attended recently, a foodie friend, Sol Vansi, told me of her new discovery: a Chinese restaurant near the Mall of Asia. And she mentioned the magic words: Hong Kong chef! That’s all I needed to hear, so off I went.
I was so impressed when I walked into Golden Bay Seafood Restaurant. This dining place is huge and occupies its own building. It is like walking into one of those fine-dining restaurants in Hong Kong: high-ceilinged, with colorful décor, a lot of lazy Susan tables and some well-dressed maitre’d.
I was told there are 10 chefs from Hong Kong here, each one specializing in a particular cuisine. One does roasts, another dim sum, still another seafoods and so on. It’s said the resto even has one that specializes in fried rice alone. The place also has huge tanks of live seafood: sea mantis, crabs, shrimp, fish, Alaskan king crab. Very impressive!
I have my shallow way of determining if a does restaurant serves authentic Chinese cuisine. I try the sweet-and-sour pork, the dim sum chicken feet or any fried rice. If one of these passes muster, I am more or less certain that the other dishes will be comparable to Hong Kong standards.
I also like Golden Bay’s menu because of the appetizing pictures, which gives you a pretty good idea of what you are ordering. I hate ordering something and then seeing another dish on a nearby table looking more appealing than the one I ordered.
At this place, I used the fried rice as my gauge for authenticity. Plus, here are the dishes I tasted: hakaw or shrimp siomai and pork siomai, stuffed sea cucumber, hot prawn salad, lechon kawali, roast duck, salted-fish fried rice, Japanese cake, steamed fish fillet with garlic, egg-white fried rice with dried scallops, pancit misua topped with peanuts, and Snow Lady for dessert.
I ordered the hakaw to see how the wrapper was cooked. The filling was fresh and delicious and the wrapper was firm, not too sticky and steamed perfectly. With some chili oil and black vinegar, it was a great starter.
The fried rice was as authentic as it could get. I ordered salted-fish fried rice with chicken and egg-white fried rice. I loved both, but the egg-white fried rice with dried scallops was not only new and unique, it made me hum with satisfaction. The flavors are subtle, the rice loose and, in the midst of flavors in the palate, the mild saltiness of the scallops came out. This is a must!
I also enjoyed the hot prawn salad. These are crispy batter prawns deep fried to a crisp and served hot with a sweet chilled white sauce with mixed fruits. Great blend of hot and cold.
The sea cucumber was used as a bed to steamed, finely ground bola-bola. Very good, too.
I also loved the roast boneless duck. The skin was very crispy, the meat moist and flavorful, and this dish even tasted better with a dipping in the plum sauce.
The Japanese cake was crunchy outside and chewy inside. Also good. Same with the steamed boneless garlic fish.
I also ordered the fried taro with duck. It was crunchy, creamy and tasty. And I loved the unique pancit misua, which looked more like bihon, topped with peanuts and scrambled-egg strips. I have never tried this version, but it was masarap, too.
For the coup de grace, we had a dessert called Snow Lady. It was sweet, creamy, milky and simply fantastic.
What an experience. I will definitely come back to try the many other dishes on the menu. I am already eyeing the Peking duck, chicken feet, sweet-and-sour pork and, for sure, the egg-white fried rice with dried scallops again.
Our local Chinese cuisine has come a long way, and I pray that, one day, our local Chinese chefs will acquire the standards of those in Hong Kong.
Golden Bay Seafood Restaurant is along Macapagal Avenue in Pasay. Take Edsa toward Pasay and cross Roxas Boulevard. Turn left on Macapagal Avenue. Make the first U-turn, and it will be on your right. Huge building. Call 5567525, 5567527, 8040332.