Chef Alex Chen Pop Up Dinner at Longtail Kitchen
Yup. It’s time to crank up the old blog. After two and a half years, it’s time to dive back into the pool. I’ve returned to my old stomping grounds and it seems to have come alive with a variety of interesting and inspiring venues. New Westminster looks to have been revitalized and I can’t wait to check out what’s new and visit some of the better, long-standing spaces I have neglected.
Longtail Kitchen is a cozy resto of about twenty seats located in the Quay at New West. I’ve yet to dig in to their mainly Thai menu but from the word on the street and this wall of deliciousness, I know I will soon.
Every so often Chef An opens his space for an interesting variety of dining experiences.
This past Saturday, Chef Alex Chen put together a five-course Malaysian feast. His bio states that “He enjoys re-creating dishes from his childhood that were cooked by his mother”. Judging from this night’s menu, it appears Chef Chen was paying full attention to his Mom’s repertoire.
Although being a small space, the folks at Longtail made the most of utilizing it. Two long tables sat the crowd quite comfortably. The close proximity made for quick introductions and good conversation. I was seated next to Chef Chen’s wife and their two wonderful little kids. When their daughter was asked what her favorite food was, she responded immediately, “Steak!”. Awesome.
Another great part of the set-up was this.
I’m guessing Kecap Manis and Bird’s Eye Chile. There was most probably other ingredient involved, I’m sure because this was freakingly delicious…sweet with a nice punch. It elevated the first course nicely.
Malaysian Chicken Satay. Yes, it’s a typical, standard starting point to any good Malaysian meal. But the quality here set the tone for what was to come. Four perfectly grilled skewers of juicy thigh meat dipped in a lightly curried peanut sauce with chunks of pineapple, sweet onion and cucumber. A great plate. A quick dip into the chile/sweet soy mix made this exceptional.
Bak Ku Teh Classic Pork Rib Tea Soup. At first glance, this looked to be a simple, garden-variety soup. At first sip, I knew that I was far off base. The clean pork broth teems with aromatics. It pops with star anise…a hint of cinnamon and clove. Puffy fried tofu explode with all the stock’s myriad flavors. The fatty pork slides from it’s bone, tender and succulent. A first-rate bowl. But then you add these…
Chinese Donut. Crunchy fried dough…Asian croutons, you might say. A perfect textural counterpoint to a very well-made soup.
When the next course hit the table, I was a bit surprised. Another soup? Why not?! As everything was hitting the marks so far, it mattered very little.
At this point, I ventured over to the open kitchen to scope out what was on queue. What a beautiful sight it was!
Hawker Style Shrimp Noodles. I had thought this would be a fried noodle dish. I hadn’t imagined being hit with this. This is an amazingly well-developed bowl. Another deeply layered broth. Rich with a seafood stock yet not fishy. Brimming with flavor yet so subtle. Two gigantic prawns with ultra-tender pork and a creamy hard-boiled egg swimming in just enough spice. Just enough depth. Noodles chewy. Executed beautifully.
As we hit capacity, Round 4.
Hainanese Style Poached Chicken. Another classic plate. This can be hit or miss. Sometimes dry. Sometimes gummy. Sometimes just plain boring. This time we have a major hit. Tender, juicy and riddled with everything Hainanese Chicken is famous for. Big hits of ginger from the dip, a whack of sesame, crunchy cukes and a nice mince of onion alongside. Unfortunately, most of us were stuffed and to-go containers were high on demand. Fortunately, this made an excellent lunch Sunday morning!
Glutinous Rice with Pandan Leaf and Coconut Custard. Although delicious, this was a tad heavy after four sensational courses.
I cannot say enough about Chef Chen’s execution and the delivery of his menu. It was an exceptional display of high-quality ingredient and development of flavor. He has done his mother proud.