So what do you do when you’re craving for dishes like deep-fried pigeon, honey-glazed char siu, double-boiled black chicken soup, or the infamous Buddha jumps over the wall? You make a beeline for Harbor City in Hong Kong. But when you’re in the Philippines? You go to Greenhills, for XIÙ Fine Cantonese Dining, of course.
The latest restaurant venture of HTCG Premium Food Concepts – the same group that brought us Lugang Café, Tuan Tuan, and The Dessert Kitchen – XIÙ, which means ‘elegant’ in Cantonese, reflects the posh Hong Kong Chinese aesthetic, with Imperial guardian lions guarding the entrance to the restaurant and little brass dragons peeking out of the shrubbery. Parking can be difficult in the area (and at times, near impossible), but the restaurant has ample enough parking space across the street to accommodate big groups of diners.
The three-storey restaurant really is quite impressive. Walking in, one can appreciate the delicate leaf chandelier that drops down from the second floor, looking almost like a hotel lobby, with tanks of fresh seafood on display to one side reminding you that it is, in fact, a restaurant, all fresh for the picking. Casual sophistication comes to mind when looking around the ground floor, with portraits and lamps up on the wall and buffet tables on either side, which almost makes you feel like you’re in someone’s dining room – if that someone was Chinese royalty. Or one of the over-the-top moms in Crazy Rich Asians.
And the food? Well, obviously, the food is the best part!
Start your meal with a bright Pumpkin and Seafood Thick Soup, which is exactly what it says it is. The heavy soup looks quite different from the usual green and white seafood version you get at most Chinese restaurants, and is filled with treasures from the sea like shrimp, abalone, and (I think) conpoy, which weirdly enough, compliments the mildly sweet pumpkin soup base. This was absolutely delicious, I had to have seconds.
The Deep Fried Diced Bean Curd In Spicy Salt was so simple, but fantastically executed, the Hong Kong Chinese chefs in the kitchen have turned it into an art form. Cubes of delicate bean curd are coated in crispy batter and deep-fried until golden brown, creating a lovely outer shell tossed in garlic with one bite revealing the soft yet firm piece of tofu inside.
Another favorite at the table was the Steamed Elephant Clams with Garlic and Vermicelli. The shellfish is sourced locally, and are usually quite big (in case of smaller-sized supplier deliveries, XIÙ compensates by adding more to your platter) and are steamed before being served vermicelli noodles doused with a light soy and lots of garlic. Lots. Scoop up a shell and delicately detach the meat from its shell, before slurping everything down in one go, the garlic clinging to the sides of your mouth and the glorious finger-shaped clam having just the right chew, titillating tastebuds, your brain begging you for another hit, another high. So naturally, I oblige.
I can appreciate how the Chinese like to really flavor each and every dish, but I especially like how Cantonese cooking knows how to create just the right balance of flavors, it isn’t all that overwhelming. Take, XIÙ’s Lettuce with Shrimp Paste In Clay Pot, for example. Fresh, crispy lettuce leaves are tossed in with a bagoong-like paste diluted in a lighter sauce, offering a mildly salty taste without one having to reach for a glass of water with each bite. When paired with other sweeter dishes, this was pretty tasty.
Out of everything I had that afternoon, I am obsessed over XIÙ’s Sweet and Sour Pork! Sure, you have all the components that make the dish great – that balance of sugar and vinegar that gives it it’s signature taste – but the best part about it is that thick, crispy outer coating that makes an audible crunch when bitten into. Inside is a pink, juicy cut of pork, so tender you can cut it with a spoon.
The Yangzhou Fried Rice is already a meal on its own, with big pieces of shrimp tossed in with salty Chinese ham, eggs, and spring onions – all of the different flavors working together to create a filling, harmonious dish. Enjoy your rice as is or pair it with the other dishes, it’s all good.
Another surprising dish at XIÙ is their Black Bean Chicken In Clay Pot. What I assumed would be a salty dish (similar to what I’ve had at other Chinese restaurants) was surprisingly well-balanced, with the chicken perfectly cooked through, made even more tender with the addition of black vinegar.
For dessert, their Mango Pudding doesn’t disappoint. A cross between an almond jelly and mango sago (who doesn’t love a thick, goopy mango sago?), this is the best of both worlds, with the silky smooth jelly base and sweet mango topping cleaning my palate of the salty, savory dishes I had tucked into with so much enthusiasm.
For big gatherings, like birthdays, engagement parties, and other special occasions, XIÙ’s second floor can practically be a mini ballroom, with the same classy set up, luxe leather chairs, and privacy for guests to relax and enjoy the celebration without worrying about bothering the other customers.
All the dishes I mentioned above are part of a special menu carefully crafted for you and your party of six (or even eight – seriously, that’s a lot of food) by Cantonese Chef de Cuisine David Cheung. Get this Fine Dining 8-Course Set Menu for 6 at Deal Grocer for Php 3,000 instead of Php 4,500. #DesignYourSummer and celebrate Easter with the family at XIÙ! Coupons are going fast, so you might as well get yours before they sell out. I know I am!
XIÙ Fine Cantonese Dining is located at 15 Connecticut Street, Greenhills, San Juan and is opendaily from 11am to 2pm and 6pm to 10pm. For inquiries and reservations, please call +63 2 650 7189 or +63 947 707 0228.