If you know me well you know I’m extremely partial to Asian flavours and that I have a massive weak spot for Chinese food. Most dinner invitations I tend to politely turn down but an invite to an Oriental meal is my Achilles heel. I will NEVER say no. In fact I will make time just so I can be present for that meal.
I have my own personal favourite restaurants where I usually frequent when I need my Chi fix but it’s always interesting to experiment with different restaurants to see what they do and how differently or similarly they do it. I had one of the most memorable meals at the Saturday Yum Cha brunch at San Qi at the Four Seasons Hotel, so when I was invited to a Chef’s table to kick off one of their latest menu offerings I certainly wasn’t going to say no.
San Qi is the Asian restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel and having eaten here before I know I can expect great things. It’s one of the few restaurant spaces I really like because it isn’t trying to scream authentic Asian with it’s décor, it would much rather let the food speak for its self.
I like it when restaurants try to do something different with their menu and San Qi has a fun menu running all through the month of October. In fact they kicked of what they call the San Qi Cantonese Basket on the 1st of October which is also China’s National Day.
The theme of the Cantonese basket is fairly simple. Their Chinese Chef Ralf has handpicked some ingredients from his basket of treats and has decided to show off his cooking skills! He’s alloted a different ingredient for each day of the month and on the day you decide to dine, Chef Ralf will whip up an entire 4 course menu keeping in mind that specific ingredient of the day! You can of course share your preferences, your choice of meats etc and then leave it to the master to dazzle you. And dazzle he most certainly does!
The day I was invited with fellow food writers was the very first inaugural dinner and the ingredient was Chinese cabbage. I quite like Chinese cabbage so I thought this would be a really interesting meal. However if I landed up on a day where the ingredient was eggplant (shudder) or spinach or something completely unappealing I know I would be in trouble.
The cabbage isn’t particularly my favourite but I can work with it. I love when I don’t have to think or stress over the ordering and I can sweetly smile and say ‘ Surprise me’ without sounding like I’m flirting or being extremely weird.The first thing served is a salad. When I first look at it I just think this is extremely simple. It is slivers of carrot, and what I think was cucumber and cabbage but crisp and lightly seasoned. The flavours were very simple and even though I would have liked maybe a slight sauce to add to it I really enjoyed it. Simple always works for me. As much as I appreciate and admire complicated dishes it’s the simpletons that I’m most satisfied with.
The pan seared dim sums with bok choy and prawn was my favourite course. Maybe I’m being partial because I’m a dim sum gobbler and love these plump little parcels of goodness. Also shrimp in any form is a winner so this was what I commonly refer to as my ‘ happy dish’. There was a tangy mildly spicy sauce beneath each seared dim sum so it wasn’t plain, Usually these balls of heaven need a dipping sauce but personally I’m ok with or without it. What a pity it’s just 3 on a plate. I could easily have done more. (Note how I refrain from naming a number, I’m such a glutton)
Now this is where Chef Ralf decides to take it up a notch. The next course is a plate of shrimp, mushroom and asparagus tightly wrapped in Chinese cabbage gently sitting in a pond of a simple brown broth. Most Cantonese food will feature very subtle light flavours. Though they like spice its never loud or a sensory overload. It’s all about the balance of flavour and no grease on the plate. This dish was exactly that.
The last course was kimchi inspired rice with chicken. So again keeping with the Cantonese style of cooking the rice was spicy but not over done. Somehow this was one dish that didn’t seem to really dazzle me. It’s fairly simple but I got a strange hint of acidity along with the spicy and somehow didn’t appeal to me personally. I think I would have liked it not spiced and with more ingredients complimenting the Chinese cabbage.
Dessert is thankfully not ingredient inspired, however if it a fun ingredient I’m sure the chef could whip something up. I chose well for my dessert. From all of San Qi’s sweet treats I chose the pandan flavoured crepes with mango sorbet. I’m a crepe lover and the coconuttier the flavour the better for me so this combination worked perfectly. The mango sorbet is delicious and paired with the crepes it makes one of the best desserts I’ve had recently.
If you’re bored of mundane and the regular stuff and want to spice things up pop in on any one of these days. You’ll be seated right up front near the kitchen so you get a front row seat to where all the action takes place. You’ll get to not only watch Chef Ralf perform but interact easily with him so he can cater to your preferences. If you’re not sure when to go, maybe this list will help.