This Chinese New Year is the Year of the Goat. I never know what that means in terms of its impact on daily life. Are goats in? Should we be embracing all things goat, embracing our inner goat and trying to channel the personality traits associated with this animal; calmness, gentleness, thoughtfulness and amicability?
I have actually eaten goat. When traveling in Nepal many dinners ago, I had decided to rent a moped and go exploring on the roads that were more pot hole than road. An hour in and when trying to overtake a bus, another car came swerving outwards, causing me to crash. My bad luck was cancelled out by the location of the accident, dropping me right outside a bike repair shop. As one of the mechanics straightened out the moped, one of the others, who was called Raju, shared with me his dish of goat stew. Goat is pretty tough and stringy, and it was not the most appetizing of meals over which to bond with a Nepalese mechanic.
However, the polar opposite of this experience can be found at Hakkasan, the renowned restaurant in Mayfair. Its Chinese New Year signature menu is expertly crafted with an abundance of food.
Starting off, my companion and I shared a dim sum platter, spicy lamb lupin wrap and soft shell crab with red chili and curry leaf. The dim sum were sumptuously prepared, light and not cloying. The soft shell crab was very delicate, with the addition of the chili and curry leaf providing a subtle and nuanced flavour.
What followed for the main course was a succession of dishes that left my companion and I wondering if the flow of dishes would ever stop. There was the spicy prawn with lily bulb and almond, the stir-fry black pepper rib eye beef, the grilled Chilean seabass in honey, the stir fry lily bulb and garlic shoot with preserved olive and dry chili, and all fitted around a huge pot of abalone and dry scallop fried rice.
It is impossible to describe each of the dishes in detail, and the fault lies with myself. My companion and I were so overwhelmed with the choice and variety of the dishes that we stumbled from one to the other, eager to not to miss out on anything. We picked off what we could and were left cursing the fact that we had only the one stomach we could fill.
The outstanding meal was rounded off with a kumquat wishing tree, caramalised macadamia. Although it was a small creation, it was lovingly presented and a fantastic companion to the rest of the courses.
I have now come to realise that the Chinese New Year beats the hell out of what we decadent Westerners do on December 31. It is filled with good food, great wine and the exchanging of gifts. Whereas ours tends to be filled with bad food, overpriced drinks and the exchanging of punches.
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