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Published July 29th 2015
Innovative, Authentic and Impossible to Resist
I was honoured to be invited to a very special media event at the Man Tong Kitchen - Crown Casino's Premium Authentic Chinese Restaurant. This was a unique opportunity to sample some of the chef's special winter warmers with a dozen food critics and bloggers.
Looks great and tastes even better
Chef Tony Chen created a special selection of dishes from the menu. The Man Tong Kitchen offers a selection of secret tastes from diverse provinces across China. It is run by the team behind the highly acclaimed Hulong dumpling bar. It is a vibrant restaurant with large red lanterns hung overhead signifying good fortune.
We were lucky enough to enjoy a Private room. Last time I was there I peered enviously into this elite room normally reserved for VIPs. This is divided off from the main restaurant area with stunning lucky red doors. I felt like a very special guest. Each time a waiter entered the room they knocked first.
This is a style I could get used to!
Eric, the food and wine director, and Billy, the general manager, gave us a warm welcome. Eric explained that Man tong means full house and that it is a Chinese tradition to bring people together to enjoy food. The idea of Man tong is that it's better to have too much food than not enough. With thirteen samples there was no fear of that!
Brett Baker from Moet Hennessy introduced us to the Cloudy Bay range of wines that accompanied the meals. He challenged us to be experimental. This was true to the spirit of the night.
Tiny but lethal!
On arrival we were given a very small glass of Chinese wine. It's 52% alcohol but smelt like nail polish remover to me. Most diners skulled the sample, much to the surprise of Eric.
The banquet included:
Signature Entree platter: Xiao Long Bao, Wonton with Chili oil, Chopsticks spring rolls
Coral trout with sweet and sour sauce
Sizzling king prawns in XO sauce
Braised pork belly in soy sauce
Crispy boneless chicken with dried chili
Fried rice with scallops
Double skin milk with pastry bag
Seasonal fresh fruit platter
Alternatives were offered to vegetarians and vegans where necessary.
Wantons with chili sauce and the famous dumplings
First came the wontons with chili oil, which were absolutely delicious and set the standard for the night. They featured wasabi but were not too hot. My partner for the night described them as a pocket of kaboom.
Of course Man Tong are famous for their trendsetting dumplings. You can watch them all being handmade from the front of the shop. Simply pinch the top off and pour in the vinegar, which turns the meat into a soup like consistency. These are divine and I could eat them all night. They have good reason to be proud of those irresistible dumplings.
Hot and sour soup - a meal in itself
Hot and vegetable sour soup ($11) was my favorite of the night. This was rich, spicy and full of super thin shredded vegetables cooked to perfection. It had a bit of a kick, was absolutely delicious and was unlike anything I have ever tasted. The corn soup was very nice and very large. There was something about it that sets it aside from other similar dishes elsewhere.
A vegan's delight
A wafer thin Peking duck pancake, which didn't look much on the plate but was filled with very tasty tender duck. The sauce was tasty but did not detract from the duck (8 pieces for $45). Like many of the dishes, this was presented very simply on the plate because the product says it all. I'd love to know the secret of preparation.
Surf and turf
The combination of Wagnu beef ($90 for 100g) and prawns (surf and turf) on the one plate raised a few eyebrows but no body complained about the taste. There were several glowing references made about the prawns. They were served with a solitary crunchy snow pea.
A whole Coral trout was served with a sweet and sour sauce. Everyone was raving about the succulent fish. The Pork followed and was also tender and tasty but potentially nearly overshadowed by the garnish of delicious deep fried peanuts, spring onions and chili.
It was a shame to eat it
A lightly battered succulent Fried Chicken was also a bit of a pleasant surprise even though we were filling up fast.
It might sound strange to say but a plate of garlic beans was possibly close to the best taste of the night. It was simple, perfectly cooked and absolutely delectable. The non-vegetarians on either side of me sampled my beans and made similar positive comments.
I do not normally eat fried rice ($25) at any other Chinese restaurant but knew that this one would be predictably light and fluffy. I loved it last time and loved it equally again. This is a must try. It will change your mind about fried rice if you normally don't indulge.
Unrivalled fried rice
I was surprised to see a banana fritter on their menu but this is not the typical fritter bought from the local fish n chip shop in your childhood era. It was a light battered banana served with creamy top quality ice-cream $12).
The dessert – double skin milk with pastry bag was a quirky variation on custard with a decorative light pastry cap. The pastry covering the dish was subtly sweet. The warm custard inside was also not overly sweet but just the way I like it and a perfect finale.
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I'm not going to rub it in but you cannot be privy to the very special menu that we were but you can select some for yourself or choose from their other banquets. Banquets start from $58 head. Click here for their menus and prices.
If I had to sum up the Man Tong Kitchen (food, wine and service) in two words I'd say Class and Style. You'd have to be pretty fussy to be disappointed.