Friday, April 11, 2014

Hong Kong: Cliftons

The seminar I attended in Hong Kong was held at a Cliftons training venue  right smack in the middle of Queen's Road Central. The venue provider also catered the three-day event, providing breakfast, lunch, and mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks. 

Before the seminar I wasn't at all happy that I will be provided most of my meals for the day. I envisioned lackluster Western dishes designed to please varying palates - in short, safe and oft-repeated standards. 

And that is what met me on my first day. Breakfast was sausages, eggs and some breads. I had indulged breakfast at my hotel, so I congratulated myself. I wasn't in Hong Kong to eat sausages. 

Lunch, however, was a revelation. There was a total turn-around, and it became hardcore Chinese. There were dishes that even came across as exotic, ones  I could never have come across no matter how hard I scoured the restaurant scene across Hong Kong. I would never have ordered them, for one, if they were available, since they were remotely unfamiliar. But here it came free with the tuition that the agency I work for had paid.  

And there was confirmation of the food's pedigree - my favorite classmate, the one who pointed me to Tim Ho Wan and who explained how to eat congee and soy milk for breakfast, declared that everything was "surprisingly good."

I didn't find everything that palatable, though. That dish above, for example, was labeled steamed angelo lufta and glass noodle in garlic. I'm sure there was some sort of mistranslation or misspelling there, for no matter how I researched I could not find what lufta or angelo are anywhere. But it's some kind of gourd, very much like sponge gourd or patola (which is spelled luffa), but not as slick, and very, very bitter. It has a different bitterness from, say, ampalaya, or even papait. The large slices further emphasized the bitterness, so needless to say I didn't enjoy it very much. 
This one is more familiar, called braised lo hon vegetables with bean curd. "Lo hon" is this revered vegetable mix called "Buddhist delight" because it is eaten by Buddhists, and is traditionally served in Chinese households for the first five days of the lunar or Chinese new year for self-purification practices. At Cliftons the vegetarian dish was mixed with glass noodles. 
Another vegetarian noodle dish, egg noodles with mushrooms. 
Smoked duck breast and peppered pastrami beef, which were very good eaten together with the vegetarian noodles. A bit irreverent, yes. I would have preferred those heavenly slices of duck with noodles in soup, though. 
I always enjoy the variations of Chinese rice, fried or otherwise. I had plenty to enjoy at Cliftons, like steamed rice topped with chicken a la king, or stir-fried yang chow style. 

No, liquid is not waste. Or is that, waste is not liquid? Or no liquid waste should be thrown here? This was a notice posted by the water dispenser. 
The cream soda is a popular carbonated drink in Hong Kong, said to taste like a mixture of milk and 7-Up. It tasted like shandy to me, and a can was a good way of helping me digest all that I ate as I got ready to end the day and start exploring Hong Kong, fueled and ready eat more.

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