Quite unusually, He Jiang – with its tagline of ‘A Tale of Two Rivers’ – presents a 50/50 mix of Sichuan fare from western China and Huaiyang cuisine from Jiangsu province in the east. Historically Hejiang, at the confluence of the Yangtze and Chishui rivers, was a commercial hub linking Chengdu (in Sichuan) and Yangzhou (Jiangsu). At this smart new restaurant the food of the former, known for the chilies and peppercorns that sometimes render it mouth-numbingly fiery, is represented by flavorsome but not overwhelming dishes which can be enjoyed side by side with the more vinegary and sweet tones of Huaiyang listings.
Before we get to the main course, so to speak, here’s a quick note about the ambience. The decor at He Jiang falls neatly between smart casual and formal modern cozy. Crisp cloths add a sense of occasion. Private rooms are more stripped down, allowing original contemporary paintings on canvas to shine.
In terms of representative dishes, the Sichuan-Huaiyang dichotomy is well demonstrated by trying one of the most robust Sichuan signatures: braised crab with homemade Sichuan sauce. Sweet local crab blends well with a soup-like sauce laced with domestic-style pickled vegetables, chilies and a few unnamed inclusions in this secret recipe. A small bowl of noodles was suggested as an accompaniment to mop up the sauce. We enjoyed it with a Huiyang main: braised pork with mushroom and hardboiled pigeon egg.
Slow-cooked, the meat was soft, the fungus still crunchy, the sauce mildly sweet – and all flavors were still perceptible after the potent crab. Starters at He Jiang deserve special mention for their refinement. Sliced pork served in a garlic and chili sauce is light on spice and rich in flavor, with the crunchy and refreshing cucumber slices an enjoyable contrast to the fattiness of the meat. Chicken in spicy Sichuan sauce allows the very fresh poached fowl flavor to shine through a deep red multi-layered sauce. For something simpler, try bean curd and conpoy soup with fat choi fungus.
Braised crab with homemade Sichuan sauce; Braised pork with mushroom and hardboiled pigeon egg
Cosmopolitan Hotel Hong Kong,
387-397 Queen’s Road East,
Wanchai, tel: 3167 7833