Last month, I was fortunate enough to give Chang'an a try, courtesy of the ChineseBites group. The meal was complimentary but all opinions are my own. The restaurant has taken over the scenic location of the old Stone Grill, with a great waterfront view. We started off with some Pita Bread, and it reminded me of an homage to traditional Western restaurants, where they start each meal with bread.It's definitely the first time I've been served bread as a starter in the Chinese restaurant. The Guo Kui Pita 鍋盔 itself was kind of plain but the bean spread, with just a punch of heat, made it much better. And I do like the spun sugar garnish! For the Appetizer Platter, we tried the following: Tossed Cilantro, Scallion & Red Peanut Salad 陕西大拌菜, Marinated Mushroom 迷你小香菇, Crispy Beef Tongue 脆皮牛舌 and Honey Grapefruit Spare Ribs 西柚蜜汁糖醋排.
Here are my three favourites. I've always loved cilantro and when it's the key ingredient in any dish, I'm sold. The mushrooms were so tiny but packed with flavour. The one thing I couldn't get enough of was the spare ribs. Sweet with a touch of citrus from the grapefruit, the acidity definitely tenderized the meat. What I didn't really enjoy was the tongue, it was too heavily breaded and the texture of the tongue was lost.
We then started on the first of our two courses of Chang’an Roasted Duck 長安炙鴨.
Our first glance of the Chang’an Roasted Duck 長安炙鴨 - doesn't that look so good? The skin looks crispy and juicy, and I couldn't wait to get my hands and mouth onto this!
We then started on the first of our two-course Chang’an Roasted Duck 長安炙鴨. The skin was served with sugar...something new to me. The blend of salty and sweet was interesting.
We also had the Chang’an Roasted Duck 長安炙鴨 meat with the traditional pairing of crepes and hoisin sauce. This was succulent and very satisfying. Another pairing was with pears and a homemade strawberry jam (sorry the pic got cut off on the right). The salty and sweet was again, intriguing, and I was glad to have tried it.
The Imperial Hot & Sour Soup 回坊酸辣湯 was probably named that because of the regal serving apparatus. The soup was definitely more hot than sour, but the consistency was nice and thick...the prawn in the middle of the urn was a pleasant surprise. I don't think I've ever had a Chinese Donut with soup before (congee yes, soup no), and it was unexpected. The donut itself was rather dense, but when you dunk it into the soup, it does soften up. It wasn't needed, but an interesting touch.
The presentation of the House Special Fried Chili Lobster 香辣龍蝦 is quite unique. I loved it. It was ornate and unique.
This is the actual House Special Fried Chili Lobster 香辣龍蝦 portion that we ate. There were fried cauliflower, lotus roots and what appears to be McCain's French Fries. The spicy flavours were pronounced and texture was light and tender. However, for a table of 10, the serving size was a bit light.
This was the Szechwan Peppercorn Sliced Beef 鮮椒木桶肥牛, served with enoki and tofu noodles. Rhe presentation reminded me of a traditional tofu dessert, but no...this was anything but sweet. We had a few more dishes to go! It was actually tongue numbing...but in a good way. I loved the spice and although the beef wasn't too tender, the enoki and tofu skin present were, and they absorbed the juices wonderfully.
This is the Chang’an Gourd Chicken 長安一品葫蘆雞 dish. Battered and deep-fried whole, the bird was super juicy. The carved it for us after presenting the bird as whole. Perhaps it was the batter, but in any case, even the usually drier white meat was tender. The flavour was a bit mild, so the serving of wok salt on the side was much appreciated and enhanced the dish greatly.
The Braised Sea Cucumber 長安蔥燒海參 was next. Just remember it by numbers...$50 (cost), 48 hours (braised) and 20 (spices used). The texture is gelatinous but with a slightly tougher outer layer. The sweet and salty blend of flavours works really well since the sea cucumber isn't rich in flavours on its own. However, not everyone is a fan of the texture, so I ended up eating an extra half from someone who didn't quite love it. Thanks, Sean!!
The next dish Sweet & Sour Lychee & Prawns 貴妃荔枝蝦球 were supposed to be sweet and sour but ended up being sweet and sweet. The sweetness of the lychees overpowered the sour flavours, and the crunchy honey-roasted cashews added additional sweetness.
The next up was the Qin Style Roast Lamb Leg 秦味烤羊腿. The leg was more like pulled pork but was a bit dry. The chunks were generous and since I love playing with my food, this was an easy sell for me. Oh, and take a close look at the crispy pockets! I love sesame seeds and they did not disappoint! The smokienss of the lamb was definitely intensified with the buns.
This is the Pork Belly Mini Sliders 老陝臘汁肉夾饃, the pork is stewed in slow heat in the aged sauce consisting of over 20 spices (20 seems to be a theme here) with clove, ginger and cooking wine. This is another take on "meat and bread". The meaty and fatty pork was shredded nicely and had good depth of flavour. I thought it was good, but the buns were a bit on the dry side. I like fluffly buns and these fell a little flat.
The next course was a Braised Whole Chili & Spring Onion Cod 蔥椒魚 was a nice and spicy! I loved the creaminess of the soup, and the spice of the whole chilies. Further adding to the freshness of the dish was the copious amounts of green onions, sure to brighten any dish. The fish was tender and sweet, and cooked perfectly, not mushy yet flaked easily with a gentle push.
This King Mushroom Casserole 石板菌菇 was interesting...simple and impactful. I find that most braised mushrooms are rather bland and watered down, due to the liquid coming out of the mushrooms themselves. However, this was not like that at all. The flavours were intense and the texture had a good chew to it still, no mushiness in the mushrooms!
This was the last savory dish I had, the 5 Spice Duck Ribs 椒鹽鴨架. The bones were crispy and crunchy, but unfortunately, there just wasn't enough meatiness to them. The spices were good, but I'd probably choose the other option of Noodle in Duck Soup the next time.
There were two other noodle dishes but there was no way I could eat and enjoy them. Photos and descriptions are posted below for your reference but no commentary from me, because I didn't really try them.
Biang Biang Noodles 油潑辣子麵
Three Sauce Noodle 三合一臊子扯麵
This was the dessert which finished our meal. Yellow Bean Cake, Red Bean Cake 豌豆黃, 紅豆年糕. Both were quite mild in flavour and not at all cake-like in texture...more like a stiff pudding.
Of all the dishes that we had, I would say that dessert is not the strong suit. Serving sizes are also a hit and miss, but the duck and sea cucumber were definitely highlights.