I have collated pictures from the No. 56 Restaurant which I possess, and have decided to do a final review on the menus on offer at this restaurant.
My last review post on this restaurant was not completely optimistic, with all the criticisms on the oiliness of their deep-fried menus: http://obsessivenutritioncompulsive.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/no-56-restaurant-%e9%ab%98%e7%ac%ac%e8%a1%9756%e5%8f%b7-cantonesehong-kong-style-cuisine-in-shandong-northern-chinese-province/ When in fact, Chinese food is not all about using tons of oil, another quintessential in Chinese cuisine is the utilization of abundance of multicoloured vegetables in dishes.
There are a number of dishes in Chinese cuisine where meat is actually not the main star! This is uncommon in many cuisines around the world.
These pictures were from the second time my dad and I went to the No. 56 Restaurant:
The taste: the mushroom had a rubbery texture (in a good way) which was very similar to what you get with orengi mushrooms. The entwined flavours of garlic slices and oyster sauce, with perhaps a bit of sesame oil and soy sauce was just at the perfect amount. However, the lack of variety in mushroom types made the dish slightly boring, although they did put in a few pieces of shiitake, so they can call it a ‘mushroom medley’.
The awesome thing about Chinese restaurants in China is the fact that their vegetable dishes would always come served filled to the brim with veggies. I don’t know what had started this ‘Large servings Revolution’ with Chinese restaurants, but this trend definitely goes well with vegetables-lovers. All the veggies you can eat! I was in heaven!
(Thai restaurants seem to have not gotten the memo. The serving sizes becomes smaller and smaller by years.)
As for the other types of dishes? You will have to wait and see!
My dad had ordered this dish, all excited about trying a famous Hong kong specialty – Honey roasted BBQ pork (who wouldn’t want to get a taste of some Hong-kong flavours? Regardless in what location), only to be met with disappointment… The pork was more than 50% fat even though traditionally, tenderloins are used in making BBQ pork, and they are supposed to be the relatively lean cut of the pig. And the texture was simply strange, almost like Chinese ham, which is a sweeter but more horrifying version of the American SPAM, the taste was the worse – all fat with tinges of sickening sweetness.
This vegetable stir-fry was sure, slightly over-oiled, but it was still a very delicious and healthy combination: Lotus roots, with its abundance of vital minerals, gingko nuts for memory, lily bulbs 百合 which are good for… (I’ll get back to you on this one. It’s one of the popular healthfoods for Chinese people), green sugar-snap peas for sweet flavors, mushrooms, and some iron-filled cashew nuts.
Some of the ingredients in this stir-fry are actually what Chinese people use in making their healthy ‘dessert soup’. Similar to the ones I have talked about in this post: http://obsessivenutritioncompulsive.wordpress.com/2014/01/04/chinatown-yaowarat-bangkok-style/
And onto the lily bulbs. They are basically located within the most inner layer of the lily flower. In Chinese medicine, they are considered a beneficial herb, being rich in vitamins and minerals, it also has a “cooling” effect (which to those unfamiliar with Chinese/Asian medicine… It’s gonna be a long and complicated talk…). This herb is nutritious and has the quality of producing a feeling of calmness (helping you sleep) and relieving mild coughs.
And it tastes great! It is filled with protein and starch – kind of like chestnuts, but have a nutty flavour to it.
On a different occasion, we made another visit to this restaurant:
Different restaurants have variations on this fish head dish (I myself, am yet to try the authentic version in Hunan), but all would consist of the main components of: huge river fish head split into two sides, mounds of chillies piled on top.
I have already mentioned Sichuan’s obsession with pouring scoops of chillies on their food in my last review on this restaurant, but now we are also encountering a similar chilli action with Hunan dishes, as shown here. The main difference between the cuisines of these two spicy-eaters’ regions, is the fact that Sichuan people prefer to numb their entire mouth with peppercorns while eating meals, whereas Hunan people tend to take it easy on the “麻” or numbing element in Chinese cooking.
On yet another occasion, the same fish head dish was ordered, but at a different restaurant, and it had actually tasted better. As for the Hunan fish-head pictured here, I must say everytime I had it, the fish head would be just a tad bit too fishy for my liking (I’ve had this dish about three times).
It must the differences between fish head sources for those the two restaurants. The garlic and chillies were of little use in covering up the fishy taste. Nevertheless, it was still fish head with its goopey and jelly-like wonderfulness. The chillies were surprisingly not spicy at all (maybe only for a Thai person?) and went well with fermented black beans, which were then all eaten alongside meaty parts of the fish head. They also put a whole lot of thin vermicelli at the bottom which by the time we get to them, had soaked up all the goodness of the spicy soup and fish flavours.
We also ordered a roasted duck. And sorry for the not-so appetizing image. And now you understand that the meat-eaters in China are really dedicated to the cause. Not even graphical dead animal-moulded images can deter their sense of will.
The taste: same as roasted goose, but blander and less oily.
I’ve seen this aesthetics element in Chinese cuisine a couple of times now, where the cook will put pieces of the food in question back together after having cooked it i.e. with the braised pumpkin I had at Maojia restaurant (this review is coming up). With vegetables it’s pretty intriguing to look at, but with animals… I hope they don’t come up with too many variations on that..
Broccoli’s Chinese name once transliterated is actually something along the lines of “Western flower” which I had found quite interesting.
The taste: Basic minced garlic stir-fry seasoned with a bit of soy sauce and given the distinctive Chinese gooey texture with some tapioca flour and water.
In fact, I only called it “Hainan style chicken” because it had looked and tasted similar to the dish. But without having known the name on the menu, I have no idea whether that was an accurate description. The chicken was slightly bland. I imagine it would have been made in a similar way as Hainan chicken which is basically just boiling the chicken whole in broth, then air-drying before chopping up into desired portions.
However, the sauce eaten with this chicken was beyond awesome. It was a perfect combination of minced ginger and Chinese vinegar with soy sauce, a bit of oil and a secret ingredient that had made the sauce spicy but not in a chilli way.
And this is the end of my review on the Cantonese-style No. 56 restaurant, which when I do return to Jinan, Shandong in China, I probably would unavoidably make yet another re-visit. Why? From the words of locals – “The food is alright, it’s just the best quality dine-in restaurant around here.”