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Digest Review: Madame Ching Is Chinese On The Surface, But With Fusion In The Soul

Review: Madame Ching Is Chinese On The Surface, But With Fusion In The Soul

Review: Madame Ching Is Chinese On The Surface, But With Fusion In The Soul
By Wilson Fok
June 22, 2018
Pirata Group’s newest restaurant plays rookie on Cantonese barbecue with minor success, and room to improve
Pirata Group's second Chinese-inspired eatery experiments on Chinese barbecue, a local staple. (Photo: Madame Ching)
Pirata Group's second Chinese-inspired eatery experiments on Chinese barbecue, a local staple. (Photo: Madame Ching)

The menu is a simple one-pager littered with snacks and small plates to start, while sharing mains, barbecued items and carbs load up the rest of Madame Ching’s offerings. It is worth noting that dishes are Chinese-based but often delivered with a twist—some brilliant and some not. We began our meal with General Son’s chicken, a twist on the classic General Tao’s chicken. Named after the head chef Son Pham, the crispy snack features hearty chunks of chicken thighs, deep-fried and coated with a sprinkle of Sichuan peppercorns, adding a numbing sensation while heat pierced through the palate from the bite-sized chicken.

Hamachi crudo seemed like an outsider from the menu. The soy sauce gelee and black vinegar tare were punchy, but overpowered the richness of the fish;  the micro cress of red shiso alone would have been enough.

Crispy pigeon, the restaurant's signature dish, is best for sharing. (Photo: Madame Ching)
Crispy pigeon, the restaurant's signature dish, is best for sharing. (Photo: Madame Ching)

The BBQ roast menu offers pork belly, barbecued pork (aka char siu, made with Iberico pork), baby back ribs and roasted duck. While it takes decades for chefs to master the skills to create a consistent offering of Chinese barbecue, Madame Ching recreates the form with mixed results.

Here, the barbecued Iberico pork looked right with a charred crust on the outside and meltingly tender flesh within, but one should not call it a char siu equivalent, as the crucial sweet honeyed glaze that makes the dish was unceremoniously missing, resulting in an over-seasoned pork dish. Crispy skin is how a successful roast duck is measured by, and Madame Ching’s version was far from it. The flesh was tough and a bit overcooked, although a prominent five-spice seasoning was on point. The skin was disappointingly flabby while the plum sauce was overpowered by spices. Crispy pigeon was hit-or-miss. The leg was tender but breast overcooked.

Sticky Canto onigiri bring lumps of glutinous rice into lumps and grilled on both side, bringing the contrast of crunch on the outside and chewy within. (Photo: Madame Ching)
Sticky Canto onigiri bring lumps of glutinous rice into lumps and grilled on both side, bringing the contrast of crunch on the outside and chewy within. (Photo: Madame Ching)

While the roasts need improving, the vegetables were better. The house-made pickled squash and cauliflower florets were perfectly tart to cut through richness from the meats, and brussels sprouts with roast jus was wonderful, thanks to meat drippings and roast jus cooking the tiny green buds, ridding of its natural bitterness. The sprouts were lightly charred and tender throughout.

Those who fancy carbs should try the sticky Canto onigiri, where lumps of glutinous rice were mixed with Chinese sausage and formed into patties and grilled on both sides, bringing the contrast of crunch on the outside and glutinous texture within. Desserts are yet to be listed on the menu, but we tried the steamed dark sugar sponge with Ovaltine custard, which was disappointing. Traditionally yeasted and feathery light, the steamed “Ma-Lai” sponge cake was a bit wet and fridge cold, and the Ovaltine custard was more like a pudding, too cloying to be a light accompaniment for the cake.

Madame Ching’s wine menu deserves mentioning. Most wines are available by the glass of tasting portions (150ml), carafes (500ml) and bottle (750ml) Cocktails are on the fruity side and guests can expect Asian, though little Chinese, influence on the mixologists’ creations on offer. The Beijing Lake blends a Sichuan peppercorn-laced mango shrub mixed with vermouth, tequila and soda for a fruity cocktail. The Sleepy Dragon is a tad sweet, combining coconut-infused Plantation 3-Stars rum with burnt orange, vanilla syrup and ginger beer. The creamy concoction is cooling and sweet, and an excellent cure to the heat from General Son’s chicken.

 

Madame Ching's petite bar welcomes guests with bar seats extending along the length side of the kitchen, offering a full view of the kitchen where chefs prepare Chinese barbecue. (Photo: Madame Ching)
Madame Ching's petite bar welcomes guests with bar seats extending along the length side of the kitchen, offering a full view of the kitchen where chefs prepare Chinese barbecue. (Photo: Madame Ching)

Service is speedy and attentive, although occasionally the service team had to squeeze between guests to serve them their orders while dishes were passed over their heads. At peak capacity, the service may seem a bit hectic but mostly manageable when orders are mixed. Many members of the team are familiar with the restaurant’s concepts and menu dishes.

Pirata Group’s second Chinese-inspired eatery is proof that the team is adventurous and ambitious to expand the scope into the local market by creating something out of familiar classics. Yet we feel there is much that needs tweaking, from the quality of its signature roasts to the direction the establishment is heading. The narrative is strong, but little of it is reflected once you enter the restaurant. We feel that Madame Ching has won the guests’ attention—whether it can win their hearts is something the team has yet to figure out.

A dinner for two including one beverage each amounts to HK$1,100 

Madame Ching

Restaurant, $$, Admiralty

How we rate
Each of our reviewers score restaurants based on four main criteria: setting, food, service, and drinks, taking into account more than 35 different points of reference including manners of staff, usefulness of the wine list, and whether or not the restaurant makes an effort to be environmentally aware. 5/5 indicates an exceptional experience; 4-4.5/5 is excellent; 3-3.5/5 is good to very good; and 2.5/5 or lower is average to below average. Before visiting a restaurant, the reviewers will book using a pseudonym and do not make themselves known to restaurant staff, in order to experience the venue as a regular guest—if this is not possible, or if we are recognised, we will indicate this in the review.

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Digest Madame Ching Pirata Group Chinese Barbecue Admiralty Star Street

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