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On Super Bowl Sunday, 11 friends gathered for an epic luncheon at Royal Feast in Millbrae prepared by Master Chef Zhongyi Liu. His celebration menu opened with eight cold appetizers, then eight dishes with poetic and auspicious names for good fortune as this was the lead in to Chinese New Year festivities. It took a bit of sussing out to come up with an appropriate English translation and description of the dishes to convey the play on words, imagery and spirit that chef has given them.
The $888 menu for a table of 10 included
Five spice pomfret
Jujube date and Chinese yam
Royal signature pig feet jelly
Drunken yellow feather heritage chicken
Sea cucumber in hot mustard sauce
Cloud ear fungus salad
Cherry radish mix cucumber in Chinese vinegar sauce
“Hundreds of Children Bring Family Happiness” Hot and sour soup with cuttlefish roe
“Brimming Abundance Bowl” Royal signature emperor’s pot: abalone, dried oyster, sea cucumber, fish maw, shrimp, dried scallop, yellow feather chicken, pork shank, beef tendon, black mushroom, enoki mushroom, oyster mushroom, quail eggs
“Enduring Spirit of the Dragon and Horse” Two-flavors kung pao lobster and buttercream tiger prawns
“Perpetual Balances” Squirrel fish
“Golden Phoenix” Eight treasure duck
“Family Reunion” Fresh scallop quenelles with king crab sauce
“Spring Sunshine over the Earth” Quail eggs, baby bok choy, shrimp forcemeat with duck web in white sauce
“Gold and Silver at Home” Sea urchin roe fried rice and grilled duck tongues
“Everyone’s Sweet Tea” Bird’s nest macerated with ginseng
The Emperor’s Pot seemed bottomless when after serving the first round of bowls for everyone, our waiter topped off the big pot with a sidecar of the golden emulsified chicken stock/sauce. One friend described the Tanjia-style stock as almost like a "chicken milkshake". Besides the abalone, I'd have to say that the fried then braised piece of pork skin was my favorite bite. There is a famous Fujian dish called Buddha Jumps over the Wall 佛跳牆 (Fo Tiao Qiang), and this is reminiscent of it but with a higher ratio of seafood. And that's how Mr. Wang describe it to me when I first inquired about the Emperor's Pot. The legend of Buddha Jumps over the Wall is that the scent of the dish is so enticing even a vegetarian Buddha could be enticed to vault over a barrier to find it. I’m sure that this concoction would motivate Buddha to jump over the wall once more.
Squirrel fish was magnificent. Finely tuned sweet and sour saucing and succulent flesh under the lightly crisp batter.
An array of BYO fine libations, including the 1971 Chateau Rieussec, one of the great vintages from this Premier Grand Cru Sauternes. Opened with the duck course, the syrupy dessert wine layered rich on rich supported by an acidic backbone, and once again serving a sweet wine with a dish from the Chinese spice box yielded a fascinating pairing. Not that the O’ Liberty Duck stuffed with eight treasures (e.g., chestnuts, lap cheong) and sticky rice needed gilding . . . an improvement this time over April’s version, much juicier of flesh and crunchier skin. Not a speck left, even the duck head was devoured, relieved of the tongue, cheeks and every edible morsel.
A bag of duck tongues and webs were delivered by Liberty Duck too and I assumed they would appear as an additional appetizer. But instead Chef Liu inserted them into his menu. A circle of deboned duck webs clutching pearly orbs of shrimp forcemeat rimmed the platter of bok choy hearts. The sea urchin roe fried rice individual servings were garnished with a pair of umami-bomb marinated and grilled duck tongues. Loved it when one guest exclaimed that these would be a much better Super Bowl snack with a brew than chicken wings!
148 El Camino Real
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