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The Cuisine of Paradise – 28 HuBin Road

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It was the two main courses that set this restaurant apart from the rest. The first was the legendary Beggar’s chicken – a stuffed whole chicken wrapped in layers of lotus leaf and covered with clay before baking for an hour. Initially, I hesitated to order this dish, as I have had many disappointing experiences with it in other restaurants – overly dry meat with bitterness from the preserved stuffing. Surprisingly, I was completely enlightened by the result here. The bone fell off with just a gentle touch, and the meat was juicy, packed with the flavours of rice wine and soy sauce along with the seductive fragrance of sesame oil, star anise, ginger, and all the good stuffing, finished with a hint of sweetness on the palate. It was as good a chicken could possibly get! This chicken really changed my impression of this traditional dish forever. I later learnt from the former Executive Chef, Peter Zhou, that he had experimented with more than 200 recipes in order to fine tune this Beggar’s chicken to perfection. The astonishing result justifies the effort. Truly impressive!

Next was the restaurant’s signature Dongpo pork that comes with a small basket of pancakes. It was an eye-catching braised pork belly layered up into a pyramid! This plating is a result of meticulous knife work that involves slicing the pork belly along the edge into a single long strip before rolling it back to form this shape. A spectacular masterpiece! This dish was also featured in an episode of the food and travel series “Rhodes across China”.

We unravelled this pyramid by picking up the outer end of the strip and detaching it with a slight pull. That’s how thin it was! The pleasure began with a subtle sweetness from the warm chestnut pancake, followed by the deep savouriness of the marinated crunchy shredded bamboo shoot, then came the fully braised soft meat saturated with the aromatic sauce. Once the thin layer of fat started melting in our mouths, we immediately understood why this was the iconic dish of the restaurant. It was impossible to not enjoy this dish! The best part was that the dish wasn’t greasy at all, and it kept us wanting more piece after piece. The restaurant’s preparation of this pork would definitely make the famous poet Su Dongpo proud!