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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Bites: Shun Fung on the River @ Perth

Shun Fung used to be the home to one of the worst Chinese cuisines in Perth.  My first visit six years ago left a lasting impressions of what a Chinese restaurant should not be.  However, I was invited to rethink that phrase a few weeks back when a friend who knows the owners invited me for a tasting session which led on to more.  From what I can see, Eva who owns the places realizes the extent of the damage left by mismanagement as she and her husband only manages the 30 odd restaurants they own back home in China.  With the new management led by her sister Ida and a crew of new chefs with over 1 century of experience, they are here to bring change.  Have that been fruitful though is something my tongue wonders.
For the tasting session that day, we were offered a personalized banquet which costs $100 per head.  For this price, there several restaurants including Yu’s at Crown, and the now closed Grand Palace.  For me, this is the point where things should get really serious.  Quality, service and everything else has to be impeccable.  The tasting menu that night consist of a few appetizers:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChinese Kimchee; tasty Chinese cabbage that is marinated in a mild spicy sauce and served tender.  This was a nice rendition of the Korean Kimchee with the exception that cabbage Shun Fung uses has a more tender bite compared to the traditional kimchee’s in town.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe marinated duck wings was another appetizer we had that night.  It was nice but for me, this was definitely not duck wings.  It felt more like the thigh.  The meat was cooked just spot on with a hint of Chinese wine.  With the dip, it was yummy!  Other appetizers which I had but though was rather normal includes the marinated chili and the rocket salad.  Strong flavors but for me, it does not carry the traditional Chinese feel.
As we progressed to the main, Eva explains that Shun Fung does not serve A particular type of food, but instead serves various dishes from all the provinces along with China.  She also acknowledges the demand for food that not only taste good, but looks good too.  To put it simply, she has a sharp eye for detail and expects her food to come out looking pretty ;)!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABaked oysters with Foie Gras sauce.  This was part of the three season platter.  It was cooked just spot on with a rich Foie Gras sauce.  My main question here will be the use of the Foie Gras.  While the oyster were fresh, the Foie Gras somehow lacked the same richness as the oyster.  When we say Foie Gras, I want rich, decadent, creamy, and fatty.  For all the reasons my doctor does not want me to eat Foie Gras.
This was a picture from my past visit with a friend but this formed part of the 3 season platter that was served to us bloggers again that night.P4220062For me, this is a MUST order dish.  The dish called deep fried golden radish balls is by no means Vegan.  It has finely chopped seafood such as squid which was cooked to perfection.  It was slightly crisp with a nice melt in your mouth bite to the seafood.  For me, I liked this the best out of the lot.  Feels like something  I would usually order back home that forms part of a Chinese Four Season platter when celebrating an occasion.  Also served with the golden radish balls and oysters were the crispy white bait with an aioli dressing.  While this felt a little too Western for my liking, it was still a well executed finger food which would have gone well with alcohol.
Before moving on to the mains, we had a soup course.  For tonight, we had the fine sliced abalone in superior soup.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABe it abalone, sharks fin, sea cucumber or bird’s nest, these are things which can cost a few hundreds to many thousands of dollars.  Yet, without the perfect technique, this is no more than expensive rubber.  In modern terms, a tyre.  Here at Shun Fung, I love the superior soup which is made with a milk and chicken broth.  The soup has great smooth consistency with the black fungus, and coriander giving it crunchiness.  My “weny wonder’s why” factor here will be the abalone.  I was thinking more of a melt in your mouth feel like those braised ones.  However, the ones here were more of a textural component which was chewy.  Not bad though not great.
When we were finished, our mains started coming out.   The first main for the night was the Coral Trout two ways.  At Shun Fung, the Coral Trout served varies in size and is typically prepared two ways to maximise the use of the fish.  The first Coral Trout course was the steam Coral Trout,  ginger and shallot.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI hate fish, especially smelly fish.  Fortunately, this comes from the sea and did not carry a foul fishy smell.  In fact, this was superb.  The fish was cooked spot on and the mushrooms that accompanied the dish was absolutely tender.  Soy dressing was subtle with a hint of ginger.  It was really yummy.  For me, this was one of the highlights of my dinner there!
Once the meaty bits were used, the remained part of the fish was deep fried salt-pepper style.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUnlike the former course, these needed a little more effort to eat.  Boney bites made it hard to enjoy but the mild salty-pepper taste gave me all the encouragement I needed. Perhaps this can be fried till the bones are crispy and edible?  I would so very much love that!
The next course was the honey mustard prawns.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was another likeable dish that night.  It differed significantly from the typical Chinese buttermilk or ginger oyster prawns but still very moorish!  The most enjoyable bit was not the fresh and juicy prawns but the sauce.  Likening it to Tetsuya’s or Sepia would definitely be an overkill here but for me, the mild potency of the honey mustard was just sublime.  The mustard was potent to the extent where you can feel it but not enough make one choke and cough.  I would have enjoyed a thicker coating as I did not have to suffer any injuries.
The beef course for the night is the Diced Wagyu Beef on a Sizzling Stone.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile this is not new to me, I found it a little more Japanese than Chinese.  Then again, perhaps this was a good opportunity to have quality meat not coated in corn flour and sauce i.e typical sizzling dishes at Chinese restaurants.  Definitely a nice touch to a classic dish.
Szechuan Spicy Chicken
To those familiar with the cuisine, the word Szechuan immediately causes the brain to think of numbness.  The flavor known as “mala” in Chinese means numbing spiciness.  Yet it was numbing not because of the chilies but rather the Szechuan peppercorns.   The dish did that exactly.  It left my tongue with a lingering numbness.  It’s a flavor which I do not really like.  But as I have complained to Eva, I dislikes the overcooked chicken even more.  I mean, who likes stringy chicken?  That definitely is a fetish =/!
Braised King Oyster Mushrooms with ShallotsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor me, this was another very likeable dish.  The mushrooms were not the softest but the braising sauce just kept me going back for more.  It was very tasty and having plainly blanched broccolis seemed like the best way to complement such strong flavors. 
The last course was the sizzling beans.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor me, sizzling sambal belacan or minced pork beans and you are automatically on a home run.  But here, they used “mala”. The funniest thing about it was that the boss is also not a big fan of “mala”.  When I told her it was “Mala”, she immediately declined a serve from her waitress.  In terms of being cooked right, it was.  But it was the flavor that was a let down.  Definite a no-no from me :P!
Before we had out desserts, we move onto the dim sim platter.  It was not your typical dim sim but a serve of carbohydrates to prepare us for the dessert.  In more traditional meals especially in China, it is quite normal to serve stable carbohydrates like yam, corn, nuts and sweet potato.  Here, we had a modern attempt of recreating a similar course.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI loved every bit of these tasty morsel and would have easily gone for seconds and even thirds.  For the little darling, this was the only course where her eyes opened big and wide.  From the meticulously layered osmanthus flower jelly to the crisp fried dough, it was all very delicious.  The durian rolls were so delicately put together and its end product was just amazing.  I am from Malaysia and this is always a favourite back home.  More surprisingly, I who normally dislike pumpkin found the golden balls filled with pumpkin puree to be on par with the durian puffs.  To bring it home, the sweet osmanthus jelly cooled my tongue.  This is  definitely a must have.
The happy ending for the night is a choice of fried ice cream, red bean pancake or bean soup.  I chose the red bean pancake.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhere do I start hmmmm.  It was nice but I could only find very little praises for it.  This was OK but had no “wow” factor.  It felt rather typical.
The little darling had the fried ice cream with caramel sauce.
While I commend the effort of making it look nice, I found the accompaniments to be a little tacky.  A chocolate stick and a biscuit. =.=!  Fortunately the ice cream had good flavor although she would have preferred the crust to be thinner.  It was a little too doughy for her liking.
By the end of the night, you would have guessed it.  I was filled to the brim.  Shun Fung tonight appeared as a different persona.  Its food was refined.  Days of the faux Chinese dishes I hope, are sincerely gone.  IMHO, Eva has brought a sense of new direction to the restaurant.  If she is persistent with her way, I can see this place grow quickly in term of popularity.   The food is inspired and fits well for all.  Its price tag of $100 per head might be a little tricky but for those special occasions, it might be worth a splurge.  Speaking to my friends around town, very few would be keen to fork out such sum of money for Chinese cuisine.  At that price, most diners expect a show.  It must tick all the right boxes for service, appearance, taste and everything has to be there.  While I find such requirements almost impossible for Chinese cuisine, Shun Fung might one day break my believe. 
Also, with the banquet rooms so private, this is a great business meet up.  Furthermore, Shun Fung is strategically located along the river in the CBD. I believe this will attract business people from a multitude of industries.
Shun Fung on the River on Urbanspoon