Chinese food was always on the top of my list as a young foodie growing up in suburban Massachusetts. It is universally appreciated by all generations of my family, so we call it the "go to" cuisine of choice. Mind you my palate has developed quite a bit since those days as I began to explore other Asian delicacies. Since moving to Dubai around 3 years ago, Chinese food really began to fall off the radar as an option because there really weren't many quality restaurants of this type in town.....until now!
When I first learned about Hong Loong (translation: Red Dragon) restaurant at the new Sofitel on The Palm, I was intrigued. This hotel brand is synonymous for quality and is heavily driven by their F&B outlets. Having already experienced modern French at Studio Du Chefs, it was evident they paid immense attention to detail, so I had a feeling the Chinese concept was going to deliver in all respects.
At the entrance we were greeted by the Happy Buddha statue, that gave me a feeling of warmth and excitement. We then proceeded to the hostess, who walked us into the restaurant, which was quiet on this particular evening. Due to it's soft opening phase the hotel has been slowly working at promoting their F&B concepts, and have said they want everything to be perfect before they have their official launch of the hotel in November2013.
The very talented Malaysian chef Eddie came out to greet us, and gave some of his recommendations for the evening. He briefly informed us about his training and explained that after many years in the industry he had mastered the art of Cantonese fare, particularly perfecting his craft at Zheng He in Madinat Jumeirah. We didn't waste much time to order and decided to go with a variety of tasting size portions to maximize on this authentic Asian experience.
First to arrive at the table was this simple amuse bouche, a fried lychee topped with sweet prawn. I am fond of lychee but have only enjoyed them in dessert or drink form. It was unusual to see it in a savory dish, and deep fried on top of it. Texturally it worked and paired beautifully with the sweet prawn. The light touch of spicy honey and coriander brightened it up even further and prepared our palates for the delightful meal to come.
enoki mushrooms came highly recommended by Chef Eddie. He informed me the broth takes nine hours to develop and consists of everything from lobster claws to prawn tails and crab shells. The rich taste had so much depth and with a velvety smooth texture, it was a great example of the chefs skill set coming into play. Not to mention his quirky creativity when it came to plating this exquisite soup which floated on a cloud of dry ice to the table.
From the next course, the item that really stood out to me was the Mantis shrimp with a garlic and spicy chili sauce, a pop of flavor and the most unexpected tender texture. This particular crustacean is consumed in select parts of the world including Japan, Vietnam, China (Cantonese cuisine in particular where it's called *"pissing-shrimp"), the Mediterranean, Philippines, and Hawaii. These interesting looking sea creatures are a unique breed. A cross between shrimp and lobster the cooked flesh of this shellfish is oh so delicate and delicious! Paired with this deep fried bun, this was a melt in your mouth dish reminiscent of the famous Singaporean Chili Crab.
* apparently the shrimp shoots a jet of water when it's picked up emulating the act of urination.
Douchi, this fermented, salted, soybean sauce. Commonly paired with seafood and vegetables this flavorful ingredient is sharp, but with bitter and sweet undertones. The jumbo shrimp coated in the delectable sauce was cooked well and this dish allowed both of these key ingredients to compliment one another.
Hong Loong is a newcomer to the Dubai culinary scene, but it will quickly make its mark amongst the classics very soon. The over all quality is top notch with a divers menu and appropriate price points for an establishment of this caliber. This restaurant has a lot to offer, so whether you are staying at the hotel or making a special trip out to this part of town, you won't be disappointed with your dining experience here.