When we think of Chinese food, we usually picture it as regular, no-fuss dishes that are mostly stir-fried, steamed or eaten out of the box (with chopsticks, of course!). I can’t say the same with my dining experience at Hong of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel a couple of days ago. While we have been treated to a special visit there before by one of their previous chefs, I have yet to be a paying customer until that night. Technically, it was my aunt who was paying…nevertheless, you get my drift. 🙂
Hong is located on the 2nd floor, offering a splendid view of The Rtiz’ stately swimming pool. We arrived just a little after 7pm so we were able to be seated at what I thought was the best seat in the house which was near the balcony overlooking the pool. Speaking of seating, Hong has colossal chairs that are plush and ultra-comfy. If you get too full (which happened to us) you just might find yourself invited by this chair for a quick post-meal nap.
We were settled in our seats as we placed our orders for the starters. While waiting, the waiter offered for us to try their special drink of the night (which wasn’t on the menu) called The Illusion. Intrigued, I agreed and was happy to see that it was pink! It’s made from fresh lychee juice, soda water and mint. I really liked it except for the part when parts of the fresh lychee would get stuck in my straw. Although I must say that they did give me a long spoon too when they served it so I suppose that was its’ purpose.
While waiting, my aunt and mom thoroughly enjoyed the basket of fish crackers with so much delight that even though the other orders came, they didn’t want the waiter to take it away. I teased them, “Did we just go here to eat fish crackers? We could have just gotten that from any Asian store.” I guess they’re not as good if they’re not from The Ritz-Carlton. :p
Our starters eventually arrived to our great excitement because we intentionally did not eat lunch knowing that my aunt was bring us here that night. First up was their version of the dim sum platter. It had Har Gao, Chicken and Shrimp Siew Mai, Szechuan and seafood dumplings. I love dumplings and find their preparation to be standard no matter where I get them (except maybe for the homemade ones) and this in particular was no exemption. If you’re looking for a friendly face in the menu, the dumplings are the way to go.
I wish I could do this appetizer more justice because the presentation was pure artistry and I loved the balance of the elements on the plate. This platter could be considered for the adventurous eaters as I ordered it for the words “jellyfish” and octopus” as narrated in the menu. I never had jellyfish or baby octopus before so it was my “something that scares me” for the day. Interestingly enough, the baby octopus tasted much like a squid, only tougher. Meanwhile the jellyfish was not as scary as I had envisioned it maybe because of the presentation. They’re on the left-most part of the photo there and the jellyfish was julienned thin enough to go along with the pickled vegetables. You would hardly notice it if it weren’t for it’s distinct salty taste.
The true winner of the starters for us was their Crispy Calamari. It was crispy on the outside and richly succulent on the inside. You’d know it was prepared to perfection compared to other calamari dishes in the casual dining restaurants. I would order this plate again in a heartbeat, no question!
For our main dishes, we tried to stay away from the normal beef or chicken selection knowing that these are all too common dishes that we probably could replicate at home. We ended up opting for the ones we can’t always find and have.
Such expensive scallops! This dish also contained asparagus, shimeji mushrooms and “XO sauce” which is a spicy seafood sauce that is commonly used in the Guangdong province of China, hence the name. The scallops were well-cooked (not overdone) and the sauce was only mildly spicy.
We also tried the Stuffed Chilli Crab, which I think a lot of Filipinos know how to cook but are just too tired to do all the manual labor behind it (us included). The meat was very tender and the spices were just enough to give us a kick. The rich sauce on top did help address to balance the flavor of the dish. I did find it the crabs a bit small though.
For a touch veggies, we ordered the mixed vegetables with a variety of mushrooms. There was broccoli, cauliflower, turnips and shitake, shimeji and cloud ear mushrooms in the mix. Probably a bit over salty for my liking, but if coupled with rice I’d say that could ease it off.
Last would probably be the most expensive Yang Chow Fried Rice I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, if you’re expecting it to knock your socks off, don’t. I thought it was just okay and in my experience, I’ve had better. This bowl is good enough for 2 people.
Moving on to dessert, (and the fish cracker basket still on the table, constantly refilled as requested by my aunt) it was then that I believe that the menu truly spoke for itself as the dessert section was titled, “Sweet Endings At Hong.” For me, our evening ended at a high note thanks to the dessert dishes. Specifically, because of this:
I have had countless fried banana desserts in my day and I was not expecting this to blow me away, but as humble as it looks, its’ taste was elevated by that hands-down amazing jackfruit ice cream that was a great compliment to the crunchy banana. Also flavor-wise, I thought it was a wonderful combination that represented the Asian experience: sweet and exotic.
This was a notable trio with homemade green tea, mango and spiced-vanilla ice cream. It was nothing overly sweet and interestingly light. Thumbs up for this too!
I am a special connoisseur of all things chocolate fondant so as much as this isn’t originally a Chinese dish, I tried it on for size. Presentation was again, impressive and certainly thought of. It was topped with a light and crispy nut brittle and the Asian-spiced ice cream on top. I liked the ice cream and the brittle but unfortunately, it wasn’t the chocolate fondant I was expecting. There was no gooey chocolate oozing out of the cake as I opened it and looks like the cake was over the standard 12 minutes that a fondant should take to cook and it baked all the way true. Oh, my broken heart.
To soothe me, I ended up sipping some mildly aromatic green tea and enjoyed the rest of the night’s conversations.
I thought our night was finally done but the waiter came by once again and brought us fortune cookies! Now I felt giddy because I have never ever had one before and had only seen it in the movies! I was so excited to crack mine up and find the fortune in stored for me.
Overall, I thought that Hong had a unique and intricate starter and dessert menu and had impeccable service. Having said that, there are also a lot of other Chinese restaurants out there that can probably satisfy your tastebuds for less the price tags shown here. The dining area has a very aristocratic feel to it, which I’d say matched their theme. Granted that you decide to dine in The Ritz-Carlton, you already know that it comes with the name, the prestige and the mere experience of being in a world-renowned, five-star hotel. My take on it is do so on special occasions and when you do, enjoy every minute of it!
Hong, The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh
Open only from 7PM to 12AM.