It has been a long while since my last visit to Prince Hotel & Residence. Their pork-free dim sum has always been decent under veteran Hong Kong chef, Chan Kong Tung (formerly of the Regent KL's Lai Ching Yuen). Recently the hotel welcomes not only a new sifu to churn out these dainty morsels but also Chef Lawrence Eng to helm its Chinese kitchen.
We were indeed lucky to have the chance to sample some of Chef Eng's signature dishes as depicted above. A trio of rather unconventional looking dim sum gave us an indication of what was to come - modern Chinese cuisine with a surprisingly pared-down approach yet cleverly imbued with global, totally Occidental flavours.
Out of the appetising trio, the black har gow (shrimp dumpling) is by far the most intriguing for its simple, squid ink-induced, slightly chewy tang meen skin and springy prawn filling. The miniature parcel actually contains foie gras, pine nuts and minced chicken - wonder if the chef makes the filling rich on purpose since in Thailand, a similar creation is known as money bags? The deep-fried crab claw which totters on the brink of normalcy is saved by its distinctive sauce that is concocted from beetroot, ginger juice, plum sauce, sugar syrup and fragrant oil.
The world's most expensive spice, saffron weaves its magical colour and flavour on the Superior Pumpkin Broth with Crab Meat Dumpling and Dragon Pearls. But the bland wintermelon beneath the dumpling detracted too much of the pumpkin’s muted sweetness. Perhaps it would have worked better had the wintermelon been poached in superior stock beforehand. Despite brimming with chunky crab meat, the sole dumpling also lacks 'oomph'.
Luckily, the subsequent dish of Wok-fried Chicken and Pickled Lotus Root more than made amends for earlier shortcomings. I adore the delicious and subtle fruity sweetness of the rather sticky champagne sauce which coated the fried pieces of boneless chicken. Having the sour tartness and crunchiness of lotus root pickles to temper any cloying aftertaste is truly a brilliant move on the chef's part.
Nothing beats a good piquant sauce and the Hot Bean Sauce generously slathered on the King Prawns dish got the thumbs up from around us. Instead of the usual whole steamed fish, the Seabass Roulade with Enoki, Chinese Chive Flowers and Superior Soya Sauce is ideal for diners who prefer easy-to-eat, boneless fish dishes with clear, unadulterated flavours. Personally I'm not really big on fish so I wasn't too hot on this.
It's best to avoid the Steamed Glutinous Rice and Live Flower Crab Wrapped in Bamboo Leaves if you happen to be dining in polite company. Don't get me wrong - it's a tasty dish as the sticky glutinous rice is simply redolent with the crab’s inherent sweetness. But to get to the crab meat, one has to get to grips with it and things can get really messy here. So unless you have time to devour this at leisure or in the casual company of family and bosom buddies, this dish requires too much work.
Jasmine Tea Crème Brûlée and Baked Lotus Flower Cookies rounded dinner off on a sweet note. The first has this typical French dessert subtly perfumed with the bitter undertone and heady aroma of jasmine tea whilst the second turns out to be a work of art as the baked flaky pastry filled with lotus seed paste is beautifully shaped like a two-toned lotus blossom.
Service befits standards expected of a five-star hotel except during weekday lunch hours. This is when diners may have to try slightly harder to get the staff’s attention as most of them rush around trying to cope with the hectic pace. I personally have had no bad run-in with their service thus far so this bodes well for the outlet.
TAI ZI HEEN (pork-free)
Level 2, Prince Hotel & Residence
Jalan Conlay 50450
Tel - 2170 8888 x 8200