Sunday, March 11, 2012

seafood congee

There's a place called Blue Koi in Kansas City, a sort of upscale pan-Asian cuisine place. A friend introduced me to it a couple of years ago and I recently persuaded my husband to go back and try it with me. Yesterday was our third visit in as many months. It's a bit pricey by Chinese-cook standards but in my opinion, the freshness and well-designed quality of the food is well worth it.

The weekend special was seafood congee with shrimp rolls on the side, and oh my, was it good. Rich, flavorful, briny, perfectly textured except a couple pieces of chewy calamari. The shrimp and lobster and scallops were all melt-in your mouth tender, and there was a generous amount of fish in the mix. The shrimp rolls––minced shrimp rolled in narrow phyllo straws and flash-fried––were dipped in a hot/sweet sauce that complemented them perfectly. I'm actually not the world's biggest shrimp lover but the spices and seasonings in Southwest Asian cuisine really bring out its best qualities.

While lunching, we overheard the owner talking to a couple of young men at the next table. One guy apparently had little experience with Asian foods, asked a lot of questions and finally settled on soup with fried tofu in it, instead of plain tofu. The owner gently explained that fried tofu was not a good idea for soup, texture-wise. The patron sort of cluelessly insisted it was ok. The owner took their order and went away. A few minutes later the waiter came back and reiterated what the owner had tried to explain: tofu soaks up liquid; fried tofu would just get soggy and turn to glue in the soup. The patron graciously gave in.

I had to respect that––the house considering the textures and end-quality of its food, the gentle insistence, not that the patron was wrong, but the education, the assertion of, "Trust us, we'll give you the best dining experience."

My husband had the roast duck with a gentle sauce and a big bowl of rice. Normally this dish is served with a sort of pickled carrot salad and roast peanuts. The Sparring Partner asked for another vegetable instead, and got pickled cucumber––chilled, thinly sliced, lighty dressed in vinegar and sugar for a tangy-sweet flavor. It was very good with the rich duck.

"The food in this place is a lot higher-level than I thought it was," my husband said.

"I agree," I said. "It's a lot higher level than you thought it was."

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