Foodblogger Feast at Kalvin’s “Szechuen”
About a month ago, in the midst of a whole bunch of stupidity, Kevin from 604foodtography, suggested a big ol’ chowdown at Kalvin’s Restaurant. Within a day or so, thirteen of us responded with a resounding “Hell, yeah!“. From a rather depressing, unfortunate day, the focus was returned to where it should always be in the food blogging community…on the food! After all, that’s what we’re only here for…right?
Other bloggers at this night’s feast included:
- Sherman from Sherman’s Food Adventures
- Ben & Suanne from Chowtimes
- Angie from Sea Salt With Food
- Jessica from Yum-O-Rama
- Ed from Ed Eats
- Diana from Foodology
- Russell from The Daily Slif
Strange thing about Kalvin’s…the awning says “Kalvin’s Szechuen Restaurant” so I was all geared up for a fiery, chile-laden feast. Turns out they put up mostly Taiwanese fare. No problem…I’m game for anything! There were a few spicy dishes and some interesting Taiwanese I’d not yet tried.
This’d be one of those dishes I’d put in the “I’ll-try-it-one-time” category. The Fondue Spicy Pork with Organ Stew was actually quite tasty if you can get your head around the intestine part. It’s obviously a cultural thing that I’ve yet to adapt to. Texturally, it was fine. No excessive chewiness…not rubbery at all. For me, it’s all about the funky aroma. There’s a load of foods I love that give off strange, unique smells. It’s just that when the smell originates from that part of the animal, it can be difficult to adjust to.
The Pork & Ton Choy in BBQ Sauce also had a unique flavor to it. If you close your eyes, you’d swear you were eating a seafood dish. That was due, according to Kevin, to the use of a satay sauce or, as I later found out, it can be called “Shacha sauce“. It’s a much different flavor to most satay sauces due to the addition of brill fish and dried shrimp. The ton choy itself was nicely cooked giving the dish a well needed fresh, crisp element.
The Five-Spice Beef in Chinese Pancake was on the mediocre side of the scale. The onion pancake a bit thick…slightly under-fried. All the other parts worked quite well. The beef was nice and tender, a good slather of hoisin and the right amount of scallion. You know, actually, these were better than mediocre…
One dish I’d really been looking forward to trying here was the Deep Fried Pork in Red Fermented Sauce. This was a really great dish. I was expecting a bit more of a flavor punch from the fermented bean but that was made up for by the perfectly crisp texture and juicy, streaky pork.
Red fermented bean curd (traditional Chinese: 紅豆腐乳/南乳; pinyin: hóng dòufu rǔ/nán rǔ), incorporates red yeast rice (cultivated with Monascus purpureus) with the brining liquor for a deep-red color, thickened flavor and a distinctive flavor and aroma. This variety may also contain chili. A popular derivative of this variety has an appearance of ketchup and is seasoned with rose essence, caramel and natural sugar.
The last time I’d experienced Spicy Pork Ear was at Alvin Garden. Their version was of the mouth-numbing Hunan variety. Kalvin’s is a much more tame yet very flavorful Taiwanese style. Served cold, these ultra-thin slices are bathed in soy and five-spice. I’m not huge on the gelatinous thing but the cartilage offset it with a good, crunchy bite. Tasty critters, these.
A big favorite today was the Chicken with Three Spice. Its also known as Three Cup Chicken or Sanbeiji. Garlic and ginger are fried in sesame oil. Chicken is added for a quick turn then its doused in equal parts Shaoxing wine, sesame oil and soy sauce. After a short simmer basil leaves are added and its all presented in an earthenware pot. An excellent dish, authentically prepared.
One of the more “standard” dishes on today’s table was the Shredded Beef with Green Onion. We’d asked the server to round out our bill to $250. We think this plate was added, along with one or two others, to achieve that total. The beef had a quite soft texture from the magic of baking soda. The scallions could’ve been down-sized a tad. Good plate all round, nonetheless.
Cold Bamboo Shoot Salad w/Mayonnaise. Not being a big fan of bamboo (at least the canned, sliced, funky tasting variety) I was a tad hesitant when this plate hit the table. Big hunks of bamboo slathered in mayonnaise? WTF? How does a combo like this ever see the light of day? I guess that’s the beauty of unorthodox match-ups. This, in some weird way, works great. The cool and crunchy bamboo mixed with the slight salty creaminess of the mayo combines for a nice explosion of flavors and textures.
Another exceptional plate is the Diced Chicken & Peanut w/Chili Pepper. This’d be your basic Kung Pao Chicken. This plate however is not basic, it’s outstanding. Not too heavy on the soy, a good load of garlic, lots of nuttiness and a solid chili whack.
When the Prawn & Pineapple w/Mayonnaise hit the table, I knew not to go to at them too heavily. One or two of these rich, little critters is enough. They look fairly light but indulging too much can weigh one down. They had the requisite snappiness after a light swim in the fryer but for some reason the mayo bath seems to double their weight. Great stuff. Moderation is key here, though.
The String Bean w/Minced Pork weren’t bad…just a little over-fried. Good thing there was an ample amount of pork to keep things moist. A dollop of chili oil gave these a step up.
A good example of “Almost Damn Good” was the Crispy Salty Peppery Chicken. A couple extra twists on the pepper grinder and a bigger pinch of fried basil would’ve worked well here.
The Xiǎolóngbāo didn’t quite hit the mark. A bit thick on the wrap and a bit short on the flavor.
Due to the massive amounts of dishes spinning around the lazy susan, I missed out on sampling a couple of plates, therefore no opinionating is warranted.
Shredded Fish with Yellow Chives.
Eggplant with Shredded Pork.
Because of a rather long prep time, the Chicken with Sesame Oil & Wine in Hot Pot came last…definitely not least. Well worth the wait.
A broth this deep and complex is gonna take awhile. The chicken bones sacrificed every last drop of flavor they could muster for this intense bowl. A strong infusion of sesame overrode the Shaoxing wine just enough. The slightly pan-fried meat was just tender enough to fall away without a struggle. Out of a boatload of great dishes, this, the Three Cup Chicken and the Kung Pao were my top three.
A meal like this is the bonus part of food-blogging. Meeting up with fellow food fanatics for an out-sized, fantastic feast can’t be beat.