gracecheung604 | write on time: Eclectic Menu at Sen, from the Chef of Lin's!

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Eclectic Menu at Sen, from the Chef of Lin's!

Last week, I attended a media dinner at Sen Bistro, brought to you by the owner and chef of Lin's. Although Lin's is most celebrated for their Xiao Long Baos, Chef RuLin Zhang is definitely trying something different here. The menu includes dishes like Celery & Dried Scallop Salad, Flambe Salmon, Braised Pork with Pumpkin. Oh, and they also have Sukiyaki, likely a homage to the location's previous occupant, Posh.  
cumin lamb When we arrived, the waitresses were passing around platters of Cumin Lamb Cubes. These had just the right amount of heat and the cumin flavour was well-infused into the lamb. The meaty morsels were tender and perfectly bite sized for an appetizer. 
spring rolls The other hors d'oevures was a Beef Curry Spring Roll...again part of a Southeast Asian flavour theme. The filling was moist and the skin was nice and crispy. I didn't get much of the curry flavour here, but it could be due to the spiciness of the lamb I already had.
IMG_2362 For the cold starter course, we had a selection of Pickled Lotus Roots, Shredded Chicken with a Spicy Peanut Sauce (which we hung onto like grim death for the rest of the meal, right +Rick Chung?) and a Celery and Dried Scallop Salad. All the dishes were really refreshing and prepped our palate for the other dishes to come.
IMG_2363 This is the Shredded Chicken with some cucumber, topped with a healthy dose of the peanut sauce. It's reminiscent of a sesame based shredded chicken dish I've had at other places. I found the chicken surprisingly moist despite the fact that it was mostly white meat.
IMG_2364 Do you know the dish most Chinese restaurants have, the Scallop with Vegetables Stir Fry? This is a clever rendition of the same thing, but instead of using fresh whole scallops, they use Conpoy and Celery, a dried cured version of scallops. The conpoy is rehydrated and stir fried with thinly sliced celery. Because conpoy has a much more pungent and salty flavour than scallops, this dish didn't need much in the terms of seasoning. The crunch of the celery was the highlight here. 
IMG_2365 We also got something called a Broad Bean and Sherchai (preserved vegetables) Mash...this was nice with the shredded vegetables, but the mash itself was a bit doughy. 
IMG_2367 So each of us, we tried a bit of everything and I have to say, I loved the colours on the plate. Fresh, vibrant and very appetizing. 
IMG_2370 First of our three Hot Appetizers was the Chicken, Enoki and Shitaake Soup. Served up individually instead of family style, these little bowlfuls had a clear broth with a good amount of chicken and mushrooms. What really stood out for me here was the light lemony note in the broth, which made me think of snake soup, where they add lemongrass.
IMG_2375 In more of a dim sum style, our next dish was the Lormi Xiaomai (Sticky Rice Dumpling). The sticky rice ahd good flavour and was quite tender but the dumpling skin was a bit too thick and made the dish much denser that expected. I ended up eating the sticky rice itself and leaving the shell alone. 
IMG_2376 Probably the best of the hot appies was this Salt & Pepper Deep Fried Tofu. This was spicy, crispy, and very well-seasoned. If you love bite sized fried goodness, you'll love this dish. The tofu is smooth and is a great contrast to the flavourful crispy skin. The little chillies will be perfect if you love heat! 
IMG_2384 Our first entree was the Flambe Salmon, yes, Flambe. The chef went around to each table and lit up each of the salmon with a blow torch. It was impressive to behold but impossible to photograph! If they knew they were going to torch the salmon, I think they should have served it skin-side up, because I do love a crispy sear on my skin. Alas, this was not to be. But the salmon it self was juicy and the king mushrooms were a meaty side dish. It certainly isn't what you would plan to order at a Chinese restaurant, but if you saw the table next to you having it, you might just want to give it a shot too.
buns and crepes After the excitement of the salmon, there was a bit of a lull as we were served some Steamed Buns and Fried Crepes. We knew the buns were to hold the upcoming Braised Pork so we debated on whether or not to dig into the Fried Crepes. I eventually gave in and tried them. As expected, they were a bit oily, but the flakiness was definitely present. I would have liked a bit of green onion or some other herb in this, but texturally, this was bang on. 
IMG_2397 This Braised Pork is the dish that we were waiting for to go into the steamed buns. There were slices of pumpkin here with the pork and the sauce was a rich soybean paste. This had a bit too much fat for me, but that is how it's supposed to be. I removed some of the fat and made myself a braised pork slider. This was good and saucy. Our buns were a touch too cool by now, but I expect that was a function of cooking for a large group. If you were dining in a small group, I would expect the buns and pork to land at the same time.  
IMG_2398 And for the second of our seafood dish, we got the Double Prawns Delight. On the left is the Wok Fried Prawns in a Garlic Chili Sauce and on the right, we have the Golden Honey Prawns. Although both were good, I would say that the Garlic Chili one was the winner, for two reasons, I like my prawns shell on, and I like my food spicy. The coating on the honey prawns was nice and light, and several other people preferred the shelled prawns too. I liked that we were served both though. 
IMG_2405 And now onto the desserts  The first is called Pumpkin Sticks. I had envisioned breaded pumpkin, deep fried with a sugary sauce, but what arrived was completely different. We had a pumpkin pudding with a filled mochi ball, and the stick? It was a Pocky stick. If you like pumpkin, you'll appreciate this dish. I liked the pocky and mochi better. 
IMG_2410These other Lormi-zhi (dough balls) were filled with a black bean paste that was just a bit too sweet for me. The texture of the skin was good though, I loved the chewiness of it.
All in all, I think we had a wide example of the dishes that Sen has to offer and despite some misses, I would head back to try their other dishes. They have Sukiyaki as well as Stone Hot Pot Rice, two things I really enjoy and have had a hard time finding good versions in the city.

Take Note:

  • Individual Hot Pot Lunch Set available
  • Lunch specials are $8.95 daily
  • Closed on Tuesdays
Sen Bistro on Urbanspoon

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