Sunday, January 5, 2014

Fat 'n Happy - New Year's Dinner at Fat Rice

I was very happy when Fat Rice opened last year.  I had long complained that there were no Portuguese restaurants and while Fat Rice, which serves a Macanese menu, is not precisely Portuguese, because Macau was long a Portuguese colony and serves food with a lot of Portuguese flavors.  When I saw that they were serving a special 5 course menu for New Year's Eve, I jumped at the offer.  Because they were serving everyone the same menu, they staggered seating at the bar and various tables.  I made my reservation at a table but because I was dining by myself and there were open seats at the bar, they offered me a seat at the bar which, in my opinion, is a better seat because it looks into the bar and open kitchen.  I started things off with a cocktail they called The Green Fairy.  Normally, when someone refers to the Green Fairy, they are referring to Absinthe which has a decidedly black licorice flavor.  This was not absinthe and had no absinthe in it but it did have a green cast and a black licorice flavor.  It was made with Anise Hyssop Vodka, Pernod, and Cava and garnished with a lemon peel, so in addition to the anise flavor it also had a light sparkling quality to it.  It was bright and had a palate cleansing quality to it.  I happen to like black licorice, so for me, this was a nice start.

For the first food course, we were served what was called a Pu Pu Platter.  What it was was a selection of contrasting bites and flavors.  Working from left to right, it started with Jellyfish and Duck Breast.  The jellyfish actually reminded me of crisp pickles by texture and taste and linguini by shape and size.  The duck breast was thinly sliced and very tender.  The two contrasting flavors actually complemented each other well.  Next in line was Smoked Tofu and Peanut that I might have called Smoked Tofu and Mushrooms because it actually had more Shiitake Mushrooms than Peanuts.  These all went together well.  The tofu brought smoke, the mushrooms had the earthy, mushroomy flavor that you might expect of mushrooms, and while the peanuts did add some flavor, I would say that they were more important as a textural element.  The third part to me was like a simple salad.  It was a combination of Romaine Stem and Granny Smith Apples and that is exactly what it tasted like.  It was a simple combination of lettuce and apples that tasted green and had a tart finish.  The last element was the one about which I was most curious.  It was called Mala Beef Tendon.  I would normally expect beef tendons to be pretty tough but these were a surprise.  It appeared as if they were unrolled and flattened and served with a savory sauce.  They had a crunch to them but they were actually pretty easy to eat and tasty as well.

While I was working my way through the appetizer plate, I was served another cocktail (on the house).  This was a combination of Muscatel and Cava served with Star Anise and Orange Peel so it also was sparkling and had a black licorice flavor, although this was a bit sweeter than the Green Fairy.

The second food course was the XO Oyster.  It was an Old 1871 Oyster, an Atlantic oyster bred in the brackish water at the edge of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia.  It was served with Black Beans and Cilantro and garnished with Romaine Lettuce leaves.  It was briny, and meaty with an earthy flavor and it was also very good.  It also set the stage for the next course, the Congee.
I had had Congee before and was pretty underwhelmed by it.  The congee I was served here though, was a different animal entirely.  At it's most basic, Congee is a rice porridge that is cooked to the point that the rice begins to disintegrate.  It is fairly rich but it can also be pretty bland unless something is added to it.  With this Congee, Lobster, Long Beans, Chinese Crullers, and Bacon were added.  It was rich, savory, hearty, and really good.  Most of the lobster meat was removed from the shells and the shell was added for flavor.  There was some meat round the leg joints witch was really tender.  The cruller was added to help absorb the moisture, the long beans added a vegetable crunch with flavor similar to green beans, and everything is better with bacon.

For the main course, we were served Red Braised Rabbit with Bok Choy, Turnips, Tofu Skin, and Sauce Superior, which is a combination of Reduced Chicken Stock and Jamon Iberico.  The rabbit was fall-off-the-bone tender and very flavorful and while it does have a lighter flavor, I would not say that it tastes like chicken although that also may have been due to the braising liquid.  The bok choy and turnips were fresh and flavorful and the tofu skin was interesting.  There were two of them and they were each rolled up and tied like parchment with a vegetable "string".  They were flavored with the Sauce Superior and had a nice chew.
The dessert, while it did have some Asian flavors, I would say was more French than Asian or Portuguese.  It was a Chocolate Pot de Creme with Orange, Persimmon, and Mint, and an Almondine Cookie.  A Pot de Creme is a loose custard served in a small custard dish.  I wouldn't have expected chocolate to go with orange but the persimmon, mint, and the almond cookie tied everything together.  I personally prefer my custards to be more "solid" than what a pot de creme is normally but the flavors and the flavor combinations made for a very good dish. and a good finish to the meal.  I again will say that I really like Fat Rice, they add a lot to the neighborhood, and the dinner was both a nice end to a great year in dining and the beginning of a great evening/New Year.  

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