Monday, February 23, 2009

Hong Kong, Day 2: Lamma Island

My head still heavy from the partying we did the night before, I forced myself out of bed for lunch. My sister Foxychef has arranged a seafood lunch at Lamma Island and was insistent that we still forge ahead with the plan, despite the bad hangovers. So, at breakfast, I down my favorite day-after remedy (an ice-cold Coke Light) and get on the ferry to Central.

From Central, my group (Me, Foxychef, Beersponge, Juggies and my parents) took another 35-minute ferry ride to the island’s Sok Kwu Wan port where Foxychef’s brochure told us we’ll find the row of seafood restaurants. Despite the fog and dismal weather, the hydrofoil ride was mostly smooth, with the occasional side-slap from medium-sized waves.

Lamma Island is the third largest land mass after Hong Kong and Kowloon and has become popular with both locals and tourists for their fresh seafood. As we approached the dock at Sok Kwu Wan, we saw the shore which is dotted with “fish cages” and lined with several restaurants. It reminds me of our local “Sea Side” wherein you buy seafood from the market and then bring your purchases to one of the restaurant for them to be cooked as you preferred.

As we got off the boat, our complaining stomachs led us to the first restaurant on the row- Rainbow Seafood. We were immediately welcomed by Bryan, who seemed to be either the head waiter or resident English speaker of the establishment.
He showed seafood experts Foxychef and company their live fish and crustaceans in tanks and baskets, while I was mesmerized by their see-through fridge stocked with a pretty decent selection of white wines.

We got a table on their expansive veranda by the sea and Bryan promised to take care of how our food was going to be prepared.

First to arrive were the Szechuan Bamboo Clams. The tubular clams were tender with a bit of a bite, a pleasant sea taste coming through the mildly spicy sauce.

Quick to follow were the Scallops and Clams prepared the same way- steamed with vermicelli, garlic and scallions. The beauty of this dish is in its simplicity, the garlic mellowed out by the steaming and effectively eliminating any fishyness from the shellfish.

Next was a lobster-relative called squilla, deep-fried and sprinkled with crispy noodles, garlic and chillies. It had a tender and juicy texture similar to our pitik or horseshoe crab. I liked the crispy, salty topping.

Right after that was the lobster prepared the same way as the scallops and clams. By this time I was growing tired of all the garlic, and after the squilla, the lobster meat seemed tougher by comparison. I can’t complain, though: it was still fresh lobster that was very well-prepared.

Finally, we were served the Steamed Fish which was sliced and then stir-fried in vegetables and green peppers. It was a simple dish and could have been outstanding if not for the overload of pungent aromas and strong flavors which preceded it.

Since I was in the company of beer drinkers, I had almost an entire bottle of wine to myself. Out of the restaurant’s fridge, I picked out a Cloudy Bay Te Koko 2005 from Marlborough, New Zealand. I have always been partial to Sauvignon Blancs from this region, enjoying the pleasant gooseberries its generally bright and crisp character. I was surprised that this particular Sav Blanc is almost buttery and with a pronounced oakiness- a characteristic more common with Chardonnays. I read somewhere that this particular Cloudy Bay sav blanc has had some considerable time in the barrel, which gives it that rounder, burlier character.

Personally, I found this odd. Why make a Sauvignon Blanc taste like a chard? Oh well, I suppose some people are into that, but I prefer my New Zealand Sav blancs done the traditional way.

It was a good lunch enjoyed by all, even non-seafood lovers like myself. The service was great since we were the only ones there, and none of that frantic craziness I usually associate with waiters in Hong Kong. Must be the island vibe.


Miguel said...

Good choice on the wine - I particularly enjoy Cloudy Bay - I think it would go well with Chinese Food :)

Chinkee said...

Hi Mig! Yeah it went pretty well with the shellfish actually.:-) Was just caught off-guard by the chard-like oakiness.

Was wondering nga if I should have gone with a dry Riesling...

Noel said...

Hi, Chinkee. This made me hungry for seafood. ¡Oye, Miguel! Bring on the pulpo, boquerones and kokotxas! I'm raring to go!

Kidding aside, the squillas you showed are like large versions of our own "alupihan dagat". Very nice deep fried with a bit of heat like you had it. I like it a lot in HK. You can get it here at, among others, Dragon's Gate on Roxas Blvd.

Where's my and Miguel's pasalubong? Heh heh.



Chinkee said...

Hi Noel! So that's what alipuhang dagat looks like! I'm so clueless when it comes to sea creatures, especially now that I'm constantly with someone who does not eat the stuff. Hehe.

Sorry no pasalubong for anyone this time! I'm saving my dollars for Europe. Haha! Hope to see you guys soon though... When's the next Gourmand Night?

Hey Mig, what happened pala to that Gourmandise dinner you were planning? Bka iniwan nyo ko ha!:-)

Chinkee said...

Sorry, alupihan, not alipuhang. Haahaha!

Noel said...

Better than alipungang dagat....

Heh heh.