The new, stylish Beijing import from Harbour City new wing specialises in Peking Duck and impressive range of food offerings

The ritual of having Peking duck has its charm and intrigue, from the theatrical tableside carving of the bird to the spreading out of mahogany-tanned skin into bite-sized wafer-thin slices. It’s an early form of interactive dining where guests make their own duck wraps with sweet sauce, scallions, cucumber and steamed crepe-like pancakes. When we heard that Beijing’s legendary Xihe Ya Yuan would be officially opening at Harbour City’s new wing, we were on the next ferry over.

Xihe Ya Yuan’s modest entrance opens up into a narrow dining space with tables set on both sides. Under the high ceiling, there is an abundance of dark wooden panels, sculptures, and ink paintings all combining to create a vintage Chinese feel. The entire dining space is inviting in the daytime, with natural light streaming in through floor-to-ceiling windows.

We began our meal with cold dishes. The crispy cabbage with rich sesame paste was an unseemly delight. The sesame sauce, a brown puddle upon which sat fresh, crisp napa cabbage, is creamy and great accompaniment to the sweet vegetable. Cucumber balls in spicy sauce are surprisingly light, where dices of cucumber are wrapped with a crystal-clear wrapper like dumplings and served with a Sichuan chilli-and-soy dressing.

Peking duck may take a traditional form that never changes, but the way it is presented is the key to what makes Xihe Ya Yuan unique. 40-day old ducks are marinated for three days before roasting. Carved tableside, the bird is divided into three separate portions, each enjoyed differently: the thinnest slices with blueberry sauce and popping candy, the breast with sweet yellow mustard, and the meat for wraps. We found the blueberry sauce too sweet for our taste, but the popping candy gave a nice tickling sensation. Both the steamed crepes and carved duck are served warmed up at the table, a nice touch.

Xihe Ya Yuan’s marinated pork with soy sauce may seem fatty to some, but the cured meat is mild and the layer of fat gives a crunchy texture. Grandma Zhang’s pork ball is a signature, a meatball cooked with soy sauce, star anise and sugar to give it a glaze. The sauce is best with a small bowlful of rice served on the side.

Carbs are well-executed at Xihe Ya Yuan, noodles with soybean paste and condiments are popular although the noodles were slightly overcooked. The Xihe pork pancake is a fine treat, a pork-filled pancake rolled and pan-fried until crisp and golden. Sweet sesame paste pancake is rich and fudgy, almost like a chocolate brownie, but filled with a heady punch of the toasted seed.

Xihe Ya Yuan’s food offerings are impressive, as half-portions are available in a selection of dishes, encouraging guests to sample more. The wine list, however, was disappointing as selections are sparse—, especially the by-the-glass options. Brewed teas, however, especially the jasmine tea, is good quality and a great accompaniment to the food. It is worth noting that Xihe Ya Yuan divides its dinner sessions into two settings: 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm and 8:30 pm onwards. Reservations are strongly recommended.

Xihe Ya Yuan, Shop OTE 203, 2/F Ocean Terminal, Harbour City, 3-27 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui; +852 2157 3128

 

Rating: 3/5 


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