In my grade school years, many moons ago, my exposure to Chinese cuisine was whatever we had around places that were reachable by car. For mami and siopao, Ma Mon Luk was, of course, (and still is, but now there’s also Masuki) my go-to place. For authentic Chinese cuisine, it had to be Kowloon House and another Chinese restaurant in Cubao right beside the New Frontier theater. Hong Ning on Aurora Boulevard was also a winner. Later on, when my palate got more exposed, I realized that all these places I used to look up to were Filipinized Chinese restaurants. Kowloon House to our family was for special occasions, such as birthdays, graduations, or Sundays. Don’t get me wrong, many of their dishes have become comfort food and I still go there occasionally.
Most of my travels to Hong Kong were for shopping. Food was secondary because I really didn’t know where to find good food, until I traveled with my good friend Lito Tayag. We went there for work in the mid ’80s, when we were trying to pay for the equipment of the tomato paste plant we set up in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte. After our Hong Kong work, our treat was finding a good Chinese restaurant. It didn’t matter to Lito where it was located as long as it was good. We would frequent a back alley in Tsim Sha Tsui, where we would sit with strangers at one table and eat with wooden chops sticks (something we all would frown over today). We had to dip our chopsticks in the piping hot tea to kill any bacteria. I guess that was part of the fun. But as soon as we got our bowl of chopped roast goose over rice with the goose drippings and a slice of Chinese cabbage, the place and sanitation didn’t matter. We were in heaven.
In the evenings, we would go to fine dining Chinese restaurants. Slowly the standard of Chinese food, as well as expectations thereof, was going higher and higher. It was no longer easy to find good comparable Chinese food back home.
All this changed when huge hotels started opening their own high-end Chinese restaurants and the quality became on the same level as those of the Hong Kong restaurants.
Vancouver, they say, has the best Chinese cuisine outside of Hong Kong. San Sui Wah was the best in Vancouver. Their dim sum was also out of this world. I was a regular there when I lived in Canada.
My palate went to Hong Kong via Xiu, what, to me, is the best fine dining restaurant in the Philippines today, if you know what to order.
To me, the best Chinese restaurants today are at the Shangri-La. Another Chinese restaurant outside the hotel is Hai Shin Lou. Very good and authentic Chinese food.
A few years back, I was invited to an opening of a new restaurant along Connecticut in Greenhills. A short program was presented, one of those usual boring programs where all you’d be thinking about was when it would end and when they would start serving food. All that changed when they introduced eight chefs all from Hong Kong. My mouth dropped. I became more excited about the food. I have been to this place many times and I’d like to say, every single one of those times, I was impressed with the food. It also helps that my friends know what to order. This was my first exposure to Xiu fine Cantonese cuisine.
Recently, we started filming our show “Foodprints.” And since we can’t travel, we let our taste buds do the traveling. My palate went to Hong Kong via Xiu, what, to me, is the best fine dining restaurant in the Philippines today, if you know what to order. I decided that it was the best that evening I went there. The owner/manager Andrew Dee, Andy, suggested what I should eat and I also came up with the dishes that made such an impact to me, I never forgot them.
These are what I had that evening: Dim sum—siomai, sharksfin dumpling, and hagao. All the ingredients were fresh and perfectly cooked and I loved the texture and thinness of the wrapper. Perfect. They also make a delicious version of chicken feet. Then came the beef short ribs, melt-in-your-mouth tender and so, so good. It had a rich dark sauce, which was all new to me. First time I had this here. Then there was a simple-looking dish of prawns with XO sauce, which I didn’t think much of when I saw it. But when I tasted it, the prawns were perfectly done, the hint of spice from the XO hit a spot, and I just couldn’t stop praising the food. There were also French beans with wok fry scallops in truffle paste, which was not only healthy, the truffle aroma kicked it even higher while the plump scallops were perfectly done. Also a must. Andy told me he had a chef who just specialized in steaming. So his steamed lapu-lapu done the traditional way arrived, boneless and steamed to perfection. I wanted to focus on the head but I had to look presentable on TV. Finally, I had abalone fried rice with chicken. If you try this, you will faint. It’s that good. The barbeque pork is also highly recommended. They make the best version at Xiu. I didn’t have room for dessert, but the buchi in dark sesame paste is also a winner. If you go, ask Andy to suggest. I promise it will be a memorable experience.
Xiu practices all the safety protocols before allowing everyone to come in and enjoy a meal. Check it out!
Xiu is at 115 Connecticut Street, Greenhills in San Juan | (02) 8650 7189