Min Jiang, South Kensington

September 20, 2016
Min Jiang: authentic Chinese food in South Kensington, London

"Welcome, esteemed guests from five lands and four seas, to gather as friends for various delicacies"

MIN JIANG
Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington, London

________

Mandarin is a language so fluid and multi-faceted that if you ask several different speakers with even the slightest variation of fluency among themselves to translate, each one will give you a different interpretation. Above is my understanding of the couplet that greets guests in Chong Qing - the striking, glossy-red private dining room of Min Jiang - but then again, native Mandarin speakers have diplomatically described my comprehension ability as 'adorably foreign'. Oh dear.

However, a concept that is not alien to this Overseas Chinese Malaysian-now British expat is the comfort of authentic Chinese cooking in a foreign land. A surefire indication of such a establishment is, as is the case with Min Jiang on Kensington High Street, is a chorus of various Chinese accents: I heard the baritones of husky Mainland accents, the clear altos of the Taiwanese; the curious, sometimes soprano-like drawls of the Malaysian Chinese, with Cantonese cadenzas peppering the symphony.

That overture raised the brocade curtain on a gorgeous meal for four at 'London's most authentic Chinese restaurant'.



Min Jiang: authentic Chinese food in South Kensington, London


CHEERS, MY DEARS

Aftab, Honey, Katy, and I were introduced to our surroundings in the lounge area while our table was being prepared. We took in our view - a sprawling vista of Kensington Gardens and the city beyond by way of the windows that spanned an entire wall of the dining room - while sipping on cocktails: an Oriental Fizz (lychee juice, vanilla vodka and champagne), a Passion Fruit Martini (passoa, Mandarin vodka, fresh passion fruit and pineapple juice), an Okatini (Absolut blue vodka, oka sake and fresh lychee juice); and for myself, a bellini recommended by the bartender.


Min Jiang: authentic Chinese food in South Kensington, London




Min Jiang: authentic Chinese food in South Kensington, London


PRIVATE DINING

While the restaurant feels airy and bright, no doubt because of the windows facing Kensington Gardens, the private dining room has a decidedly different ambience. Chong Qing is cozy and warm with dramatic, deep red walls, losing none of the park view thanks to the mirrors which add a multi-dimensional, almost ad infinitum feel to the small but ample space. Glowing couplets written in Chinese characters decorate the mirror, welcoming guests and inviting different poetic interpretations of the words.



Tweet & Eat, Exhibit A: Honey capturing the dim sum platter for posterity.
Min Jiang: authentic Chinese food in South Kensington, London
Our aperitif, a Theophile Roederer non-vintage brut. Floral and full-bodied (like me).
Tweet & Eat, Exhibit B: Bloggers doing what we do best...



YOU WIN SOME, YOU DIM SUM

The Min Jiang Dim Sum Sharing Platter had my two favourites plus a couple of new styles - har gau (prawn dumpling), siu mai (pork and prawn dumpling), pumpkin and mixed seafood dumpling, and crab meat dumpling - and each parcel tasted as it should - like it could've came straight off a trolley pushed by a 'dim sum aunty' in any one of Hong Kong's many yam cha places.


Min Jiang: authentic Chinese food in South Kensington, London


LEGENDARY WOOD-FIRED BEIJING DUCK

Min Jiang's famous signature dish is their Legendary Wood-Fired Beijing Duck, with many an opinion that it's the best in London. As a Malaysian Chinese, I can tell you that many of my country(wo)men (and quite a few Singaporeans too) will insist that the only place for duck in London is Four Seasons in Bayswater, but I disagree. The Min Jiang duck is a product of patience and preparation: you have to pre-order it at least 24 hours before your meal. Freshness and less food wastage (a cardinal sin) aside, this ensues in the food fantasies I usually have in the hours leading up to my dinners (don't you also get through your day this way?).

Every bit of duck meat is used: from crispy duck skin dipped in sugar (which melts the skin as it touches your tongue), to accompany stir-fried noodles, sliced duck to be eaten as strips of meat with condiments - including pickled daikon, ginger, garlic paste, hoisin sauce, spring onions, cucumber and plum sauce - or wrapped in wafer-thin pancakes. Gorgeous, absolutely moreish, and definitely the thing of legend.


As I like it: duck with hoisin sauce and ginger, wrapped in pancake
Beef with black pepper sauce
Gong bao prawns with chilli
Sliced pork belly with fried beancurd
More hearty Chinese dishes made an appearance: beef with a very flavourful black pepper sauce, plump gong bao prawns with a well-balanced spicy kick of chilli, sliced pork belly with beancurd and steamed buns - the combination of which was a perfect marriage of flavour and texture, a side of kai lan cooked in garlic, and a pudding of black sesame balls coated in peanut crumbs on a bed of caramel brittle and peanut ice-cream.

Min Jiang is definitely a 'special treat' kind of place where one impresses visitors, whether they're newcomers to Chinese cuisine or visiting Chinese craving a taste of home in luxurious yet understated surroundings. I for one, have recommended Min Jiang to my exacting Malaysian Chinese family (including my sister-in-law who is native Chinese) for when they visit London in Winter. That is the mark of an authentic Chinese restaurant - when a fussy, well-travelled expat recommends the place to their fussy, travelling family who know what they like.


10th floor, Royal Garden Hotel
2-24 Kensington High St, London W8 4PT

Our meal at Min Jiang was complimentary.

No comments:

Post a Comment