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November 01, 2007

Despair and Drunkenness

Though some great food came out of it, this last trip got off to a rough start. If you caught last year's post on Peking Garden / Sichuan Garden, you know it's a place I adore. I've been there thirty times at the very least, and with the unusually long break between trips, I couldn't get down to the basement of Pacific Place fast enough. Unfortunately, rather than being met with Peking duck, liquory sweet shrimp and crispy fried conpoy, I was met with a construction site. Peking Garden / Sichuan Garden is no more. Adding insult to injury, the space was being prepared as an expansion of Zen, the restaurant next door of which I've never been terribly fond. As crushing restaurant closures go, this one was a gut punch -- a seventeen on the 1-10 scale.

Dominic Armato

But you have to look for the silver lining, so we grudgingly gave Zen another shot and ended up with a helluva shrimp dish. Drunken Shrimp can mean a lot of different things depending on where you get it, but it always falls into one of three basic categories. Most commonly, at least back home, it's just shrimp that's been stir-fried or steamed with a shaoxing-based sauce. On the other end of the spectrum, which I've not had a chance to try, is a more... challenging preparation. Live shrimp are tossed into a covered bowl with shaoxing and proceed to "drink" it up (though breathe would be more accurate). After about 15-20 minutes, once they're good and loopy, they're cracked open and eaten raw/live. The middle ground, which I attempted last year, involves getting the shrimp soused, and then steaming them before eating. Unfortunately, my shrimp kicked the proverbial bucket before making it to the booze, so it ended up being a more traditional marinade. Enter Zen. It's always nice to let somebody else properly prepare something that you've previously butchered, so when I saw these guys on the menu, I pounced. Hooooooly Christmas, were these fellas tasty. I expected a strong rice wine flavor, but this was a nuclear shaoxing bomb. Couple that with the natural sweetness of impossibly fresh shrimp, and this is one I'll be going back for. A lot.

This tradeoff is still way more downside than up, but I'll take my bitterness and do my best to drown it in wine-soaked shrimp. I hear they have some pretty good Xiao Long Bao, too.

Zen Chinese Cuisine
Pacific Place, 88 Queensway
Admiralty, Hong Kong
+852 2845 4555
Mon - Thu11:30 AM - 3:00 PM, 5:30 PM - 11:00 PM
Sat11:30 AM - 5:00 PM, 5:30 PM - 11:00 PM
Sun10:30 AM - 5:00 PM, 5:30 PM - 11:00 PM


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