I returned to Min Jiang in Kensington for dinner the other week, this time by invitation to try their Beijing duck and to learn about Chinese dining etiquette along with a few other bloggers. This was a first for Min Jiang – they’d not performed any blogger outreach previously, mainly depending on word of mouth. I did ask why they’d suddenly chosen to do this and they replied that they just wanted to remind everyone that they were still there and doing quite well. Indeed, the restaurant was packed on the Tuesday night that we dined.
We started at the bar with drinks (I went with a refreshing nonalcoholic cocktail of jasmine tea, lychee juice and soda called a Jasmine Sling) and appetisers. In the distance, we could see fireworks
The Bi Feng Tang Soft Shell Crab with Garlic and Chili was fabulously fried soft shell crab with a sticky glaze and plenty of fried garlic and chili on top. It’s dangerously moreish and quite nice with drinks.
A Steamed Dim Sum Platter was also brought over – their green vegetable dumpling was, I thought, better than the gloopier version at Pearl Liang. I still feel funny eating dim sum in the evening though!
We then moved into the dining area for their Beijing Duck (legendary and wood-fired according to their menu). As soon as we sat down, a chef immediately brought over the duck on a trolley and started carving it up.
While that was going on, we were distracted a bit by the appearance of moutai, an extremely strong Chinese liquor that… well, I don’t like it. We each had a bit of a taste and were warmed from head to toe (shh…I broke the rules and only had a sip… I’m not good with alcohol).
I was more focused on the duck. Slices of the just the duck skin was first presented to us and just like in Beijing, we dipped this crispy skin into fine granulated sugar.
The chef continued slicing the rest of the duck skin and meat and incredibly thin homemade pancakes were brought out to wrap these up. The condiments available were traditional (sweet sauce with shredded leek and cucumber) and the modern Min Jiang style (garlic paste with radish and tientsin cabbage). No photos of my wrapped pancakes as I was too busy eating them! The duck was excellent.
After the duck was cleared, two duck dishes made their way to our table – these were made with the rest of the meat picked off our duck carcasses and one is included in the price of each half or whole duck. Spicy Minced Duck with a Lettuce Wrap made good use of the leftover meat.
Individual servings of Fried Rice with Diced Duck (the second leftover duck dish) were also placed in front of us. I thought this was a bit bland though it went well with the main courses that were to follow.
Those main courses were placed all together on the lazy susan in the middle of our table and were shared family style. Alaskan Black Cod Fillet Roasted in Sha Cha Sauce was beautifully flakey with the savoury sauce served on the side. I’ve never really figured out what’s in sha cha sauce as every version I’ve tried seems to be very different – still, this was pleasant enough.
Clay Pot Sanpei with Corn fed Chicken was Min Jiang’s version of the Taiwanese three cup chicken. I was impressed by the balanced flavours in this and loved the hint of heat imparted by the dried chillies.
Diced Rib Eye of Beef with Black Pepper Sauce was punchy with its pepper heat but the dish didn’t stand out for me.
A vegetable is always included in a proper formal Chinese meal. This time, it was tender Baby Pak Choi Stir Fried in a Garlic Sauce.
Two desserts were brought out though I’ll admit that most of us just managed to pick at them. Their Black Sesame Paste Dumpling coated in Peanut Crumbs was a dessert I had tried previously and it remained excellent.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t particularly taken by the Min Jiang Sichuan Pancake with Cornish Vanilla Ice Cream, a slightly hard pancake filled with red bean paste.
Of course, all this would come at a pretty penny if dining on your dime. From my calculations, I think the meal that night would have cost each of us £35-45 per head for just the food – of course, if you’re looking for a place to treat yourself, you can’t go wrong here. Of everything I’ve already tried, I’d probably recommend going for lunch for duck and dim sum and perhaps some noodles too; it’s also the best time to get a great view over Kensington Gardens.
As for the Chinese dining etiquette, it was interesting to learn how to dine at a business dinner, how to toast with moutai, even how a woman should drink (though I’m ignoring all that I heard of that). And if you order the duck there (ordering in advance is recommended), a lesson in how to wrap duck pancakes is included.
Royal Garden Hotel
2-24 Kensington High Street
London W8 4PT