On Chinese Food & History at The Oakroom Manila, 8 Evenings of Exquisite Hangzhou Cuisine with Chef Jonathan Wang!

Yesterday, I had one of the best dining experiences ever at The Oakroom in Ortigas! Executive Chef Jonathan Wang gave us a sampling of the upcoming Hangzhou Cuisine (8-Day Only) Dinner Buffet at the Oakwood Premier Joy-Nostalg CenterThis particular Chinese buffet will start today Wednesday until October 24, 2012 only! What made this event interesting was that I got to be a translator for the day! I knew I could use my Mandarin skills in Manila haha. Without the language barrier, Chef Wang and I were able to communicate very well. He was able to explain and tell me more stories about the food we had and I was free to ask so many questions that popped in my head. It was such a wonderful glimpse of the history and the present way of life in Hangzhou, China.


A brief introduction of my food preference: I’m a proud Chinoy and I grew up eating lots of Chinese food (Gloria Maris for the most of my adult life) in Manila. I seldom crave for Chinese food because I know I'll have it a number of times in a year and we have it at almost every celebration. Some of my favorites include Birthday noodles and the usual 8 to 10 course meal in Gloria Maris =) The fattest I’ve been was when I studied in Beijing, China for a year haha. China has different cuisines on its own so Hangzhou food is one of those I got to try during my China trips. I like Szechuan food =) All I can say is that the Chinese food we have here in Manila is just the tip of the iceberg and it is suited to our taste and less greasy. It’s an opportune time that our friends from Oakroom provided me with this chance to appreciate even just a small part of the wide food selection that is considered Chinese cuisine.


Let me tell you that we had 8 dishes for appetizer and 12 dishes for the main course. I like the fact that we were served at a round table (it’s very Chinese and the food is meant for sharing). You’ll get these dishes and more (all mixed and rotated – around 10 dishes per day) in a dinner buffet-style for 8 days at the Oakroom.


Here are a few of the appetizers (*- my favorites):

Boiled Pork with Garlic and Black Bean Sauce – It has the same sauce and veggies used in Peking duck dishes here.


Marinated Duck Hangzhou Style – Chef Wang made this himself and brought lots of it here in Manila for this buffet. Doing this dish requires around a month’s worth of preparation from the marinating to the drying. It’s salty and flavorful.


Deep-Fried Crispy Fish* – It’s sweet and sour at the same time. My simple request is to make it boneless and it’s perfect haha. 


Boiled Chicken in Yellow Wine* - The wine is light and the chicken is full of flavor. I don’t normally eat just boiled chicken but this one was a winner.


Slow-Cooked Stuffed Lotus Root in Sticky Rice – It’s rich and sweet. I ate this same dish cold in Beijing, only this one was less rich. Chef said that there are plenty of lotus roots in Hangzhou and he found it hard to find some here in Manila.


Baby Cucumber in Sweet Bean Sauce* - This dish was simple yet very refreshing. I would eat this after the Marinated Duck.


Marinated White Radish Skin* - This is my favorite of them all. It’s very crunchy, marinated well, not bitter, sour and sweet =)


Here are a few of the main courses (*- my favorites):

Classical Fish Soup – It’s a sour soup (think hot & sour soup but not hot). Chef Wang told us about the story of a couple who owned this fish soup restaurant. The emperor of the Song Dynasty tried this dish and loved it so he showered this couple with gifts and the dish was named 宋嫂鱼羹. If you can understand Chinese, then you get the origin of this dish name. Normally, Hangzhou fish from the West Lake is used in this dish but since it is not available here, our local fish will be used for the buffet.


Sauteed Shrimp in ‘Long Jing’ Tea* - I love this dish every time it was served in my China trips. For this dish, our local small shrimp was used. You get the same great flavor with Chef Wang’s version, it’s just that the Hangzhou shrimp used in the original dish is smaller, translucent/white (like white jade) and more tender. 


Chef Wang told us another story about another emperor coming to Hangzhou at the right time when the ‘Long Jing’ Tea leaves had the best flavor (just before the 清明节 or Tomb-Sweeping Day in April every year, he says any tea produced after doesn't taste that good). This emperor saw his chef sautéing shrimps and threw the ‘Long Jing’ tea in the mix. It turned out really, really good and thus, got its name 龙井虾仁. We got to drink this perfect 'Long Jing' tea that Chef Wang brought from Hangzhou and I recognized the wonderful taste from my trips. Now I know the tea name to look for - 龙井茶 haha.


Braised Pork ‘Dong Po’ Style – I agree with the chef – it looks fat but you won’t get “suya” easily. Chef Wang said this dish will most likely be enjoyed by men more than women (most probably because it looks fatty). Su Dong Bo 苏东坡 is a popular Chinese poet who worked as a Hangzhou official in his time. He was active in the rehabilitation of the West Lake and when it was finished, the people gifted him with lots of pork and yellow wine. Not knowing what to do with them, he instructed his chef to make his favorite dish and so it was named. =) The 五花肉(wuhuarou, the one for Korean Samgyeupsal) part of pork was used in this dish.


Wok-Fried Crab in Salted Egg Yolk* - This was one of my favorites. Don’t hesitate to eat it with your hands because this is how folks eat them at Hangzhou hehe. 


Chef said that the crabs they use back home have a thinner shell so the flavor will really seep in. Nevertheless, I love our very own fat crabs used in this dish!


Braised Duck in Rich Soup* - It looks plain but don't be fooled. I’m glad I didn’t miss this! 


It’s the perfect soup for a rainy day. I don’t eat duck but you can make me eat this any time =) Chef Wang shredded the lean duck meat for us hehe. For this dish, Chef Wang searched the metro for a 3-year-old duck (and found the last 2 in Manila haha, he chose this for the very lean meat and these old ducks are not oily). He made this for around 6 hours!


Deep-Fried Rice Crispy with Shrimp Sauce* - It’s like sweet Kropek but not really haha. I like this Rice Crispy with a bit of the sauce and crumbs from the next dish below.


Pan-Fried Stuffed Eggplant* - We all loved the crumbs on top. I loved that perfect eggplant with stuffing too. Dunno what's in it but it's good haha.


Pumpkin Dumpling Soup* - I loved everything about this soup! Hehe. I was looking for the pumpkin and Chef Wang told me that they rolled our local pumpkin into the dumpling dough. Normally, it would be very visible because the pumpkins in Hangzhou are sweet and bright orange.


The last few dishes that came out were really good. If only I were not too full… It was close to a 3-hour dining experience filled with so much good food and lovely conversations in Chinese. That’s the same time you get for the actual dinner buffet. Haha. Super worth it for a buffet, right? 


Chef Wang told us that almost all of the dishes have its own story and that this buffet will not be complete without learning about the history of Hangzhou. Why not take this opportunity and eat at Oakroom, know your food, know your chef and know more about China instead of just plain eating? For me having someone to talk to in Mandarin about China's food and history without getting lost in translation was one of the best parts =) 

I'm including the menu here if ever the road takes you to Hangzhou, China =)


Just go ahead, click this then view in its original size.


Thanks for coming to Manila and giving us a taste of Hangzhou, 汪哥! You are truly a Master Chef!


Dinner Details:
October 18 to October 25, 2012 only from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.! The buffet changes over eight nights!
Priced at P1200 nett.


Restaurant Details:
6th Floor, Oakwood Premier Joy~Nostalg Center Manila
17 ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig
Open Mondays to Sundays
719-1160 (direct line) / 637-7888 ext. 8604