I think I know Cantonese restaurants pretty well. Over the years I've eaten at hundreds of them, mostly in New York City. I've explored just about every corner of the menus and when I can I usually order from their second, secret menu written only in Chinese. But Cantonese just might be the most varied cuisine on earth, so I'm sure I'm missing something. And I think this discussion will be useful for those readers who've never before ventured to a Cantonese place that doesn't serve fortune cookies. So I'll start by listing the things I love. (I should add that I almost never order stir-fried dishes. For me, a stir-fry is a stir-fry, though those in the know can see a huge difference between a dish made with good wok air, by an expert chef, and one thrown together by a novice.)
Casseroles. I love 'em. Lovely fresh ingredients, each lovingly prepared in advance, carefully assembled in a big clay pot with a bit of sauce on the bottom, and put on a flame to boil the sauce. Fish head, seafood and dofu, chicken, I love them all. I like sizzling plates too, and stuff served in a mini wok with a burner underneath. And rice casseroles too, with the edge of the rice seared by the clay pot.
Anything steamed. What a great way to cook a fish. Or chicken with mushrooms on a lotus leaf, or fish head with bean sauce, or anything else. Or that lovely dish with slices of steamed chicken alternate with country ham and mushrooms.
Anything braised. Juicy duck, dripping with a light salty gravy, topped with seafood and mushrooms and chicken.
I'd love crab if I ever figured out how to eat it. Served in a sauce made with eggs, or steamed over rice so the juice seeps into the rice.
Modern stuff. XO sauce, shrimp with mayonnaise, any of the more creative HK dishes I can find in NY.To give you an idea of which such dishes are available in NYC, here's my review of the most creative restaurant here, which I think compares favorably with restaurants just about anywhere.. Most of the dishes I tried are described in my replies to my own post. www.chowhound.com/topics/435984
Noodles are great too, though I usually order one of the above instead. And yeah, there's dim sum... but I just about never do that.
So what am I missing?