I try Min Jiang

Saturday, October 11th , 2008

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Min Jiang is the new incarnation of the Tenth Floor. With much improved décor, the great view and a new chef from a top Singapore hotel the restaurant is aiming to lift the standard of Chinese food above the Gerrard Street norm. The dim sum certainly succeeded, and while not quite at the level of Hakkasan or Yauatcha they were pretty close, which is praise indeed. The Beijing duck was certainly served with all the theatre that goes with the traditional preparation, but I thought it was merely pleasant. Perhaps I was hoping too much after the remarkable version at Made in China in Beijing.
My travels meant that I did not have room in the blog last week to mention a couple of excellent  meals. First was a visit to Ambassade de l’Ile to try the tasting menu. Terrine of foie gras, chicken and artichoke was a two tone terrine where the foie gras tasted excellent but the artichoke did not really add much for me. This was served with a mache salad with a dressing of argani oil (7/10). Warm langoustine tartare with cream of risotto, Parmesan cheese and a port glaze was served in a cocktail glass and was simply stunning, the risotto perfect, the port glaze rich and intense, the langoustine flavour coming through well (9/10). Halibut slowly cooked in cream with haricot beans was timed well, with tender beans (7/10). Saddle of pork in a hay crust with grapes and raisins was shown whole before being carved by the side of the table. It had good flavour though for me it was cooked a fraction long (6/10). Cep veloute with steamed foie gras lardons was another really impressive dish, the soup having great intensity of mushroom flavour, and beautifully seasoned (9/10). 
Cheeses were fine, though not in such perfect condition as you see in France (7/10). A dessert of earl grey mousse and marinate cherries was adequate, but desserts continue to be the weakness here. Service was friendly though a little stretched tonight at times; the restaurant was completely full, which bodes well for it in these straitened financial times. What I like about this restaurant is that at each meal here I get at least one really superb dish. It does not deliver entirely consistently but I’d rather get excited every now and again than just go through an endless menu of pleasant but dull food, as so many top restaurants in London now deliver.
The dim sum at Hakkasan was of a very high standard indeed. Har gau (prawn dumplings) have very light dumplings and perfectly cooked prawns, while chive dumplings also had superb flavour. Gai lan was delicate and lightly steamed with garlic. Char sui buns have fluffy white pastry and sweet, spicy pork pieces inside. Another dumpling of crab and pork had a liquid vinegar centre, giving an interesting sweet and sour contrast. A restaurant that never seems to miss a beat.
The ownership change of Zafferano  that occurred late in 2007 initially seemed to have little effect, and the ship sailed on serenely. However it soon became clear that the new owners intended to milk the restaurant as a cash cow, the first sign of this being a steep increase in wine prices. The food did not initially suffer, but over three recent meals I have seen a slight but distinct drop in standards, including one dish that was actually fault (something that I had never encountered here). While I still think it is a terrific place, and the service is as smooth as ever, I am dropping their web site score by one point to reflect this change. Everything seems a little more processed, a little less spontaneous, and a little more expensive.
Just in case you have ever thought that the service in a restaurant could be better done by monkeys, a restaurateur in Japan agrees with you. Not only do the customers seem happy, but the waiters work for peanuts.