Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Northern Exposure: A Taste of Authentic Northern Chinese Flavors at City of Dreams Manila's New Jing Ting Restaurant

The rustic and hearty flavors of China's famed northern region comes to City of Dreams Manila at Jing Ting Restaurant with its signature selections of authentic hand-pulled noodles, buns and dumplings.  

Rich, bold, and savory, authentic Northern Chinese cuisine comprises mostly of meat dishes with wheat-based dumplings, soft buns and hand-pulled noodles spiced and seasoned with garlic, coriander, leeks, salt, and vinegar for upfront flavors. Braised, steamed, boiled, stewed, steamed, roasted, glazed, deep-fried, and stir-fried, Jing Ting Restaurant offers diners another taste of China, comfortingly familiar yet refreshingly different. The rugged terrain of the north is reflected in its hearty cuisine, recreated at the new Jing Ting Restaurant of City of Dreams Manila.

At the helm of the new Jing Ting Restaurant is Chef de Cuisine Yang Chen Fei (L), fondly called Chef Allan, with over fifteen years of culinary experience and expertise on Northern Chinese cuisine. Behind the glass walls of Jing Ting's open kitchen, Chef Allan masterfully prepares hand-pulled noodles as the appetizer is served.

Lightly crunchy and richly seasoned, the Crispy Five Spices Eggplant (P 198) opens up the palate with its complex flavors, definitely not your usual eggplant dish. Later, a duo of Jing Ting's signature dumplings were served. More than rice, wheat forms the culinary backbone of China's northern region paired with savory meats, transformed into dumplings and hand-pulled noodles. Chef Allan's mastery can be witnessed up close behind the open kitchen, as he prepares a bowl of hand-pulled noodles in just under two minutes with swift motions like a choreographed dance performance as well as over 600 dumplings in an hour.  

The new restaurant's name draws inspiration from the Northern Chinese "Hutongs," translated as "little house" or "resting place." The elegant interiors of Jing Ting reflects the traditional brick and grey-tiled walls of narrow lanes where the community would gather and congregate. It's this communal theme that permeates throughout Jing Ting, with its traditional old-world charm and authentic Northern Chinese flavors as the key focal points in a memorable dining experience. The Beijing Pork "Jiao Zi" Dumpling (P 378 Small Bowl with 8 pcs/P 1,260 Big Bowl with 30 pcs) is the perfect introduction to Northern Chinese flavors, with the soft yet mildly chewy dough adding both texture and bite, followed by the savory richness of the seasoned pork filling. The special sauce with spices and chili completes the flavors.

The northern region of China is a crossroads of sorts, infusing various influences from the classic flavors of Beijing's imperial kitchens to the savory beef and dairy dishes from Inner Mongolia, the bold notes of roasted meats marinated with a rich blend of spices from the predominantly Muslim northwest and the fresh and vibrant flavors of Korean cuisine from the northeast. The Poached Pork and Kimchi "Jiao Zi" Dumpling (P 378 Small Bowl with 8 pcs/P 1,260 Big Bowl with 30 pcs) is one such dish highlighting the fusion of flavors, with the familiar and spicy notes of traditional kimchi tempering the richness of the seasoned pork filling for balanced yet complex flavors. Biting into the soft dough of the delicately steamed dumpling is unlike the usual and common dim sum, there's a distinct firmness and chewiness for that unique textural contrast yet light and soft as a cloud. Right away, you just know that the finest and freshest ingredients are used in each dish at Jing Ting Restaurant, made from scratch daily and prepared in the classic method.     

Wheat is a staple crop of Northern China, and its cuisine is shaped by the geography and produce of the region. You'll find an abundance of hand-pulled noodles, soft dumplings, steamed and stuffed buns and pancakes in a typical Northern Chinese meal. And hand-pulled noodles are created daily and a la minute at Jing Ting Restaurant. None of the noodles are prepared in advance, each dish is prepared as its ordered for freshness. Our next course of Jing Ting Restaurant's signature noodle dishes is prepared by Chef Allan... he carefully worked out the dough with gentle yet firm strokes, techniques he mastered from long years in the kitchens of various five-star hotels and a stint under the famous Master Chef Cheng Hui, the chef of China's former President Hu Jintao. Just watching Chef Allan spin his magic on the noodles is an experience in itself.

Rapid motions and swift movements followed by slow yet deliberate gestures combine in a visual flurry, and after just a few minutes, the hand-pulled noodles are ready. Just like that. Chef Allan gives the noodles a final stretch and pull for the next course of signature dishes. 

For our special sampling of Jing Ting Restaurant's noodle dishes, we were served half portions allowing us to taste and experience a wide range of Chef Allan's culinary specialties. Traditional cuisine from the north is quite filling, and the half portions ensured we get to try a little of everything at Jing Ting Restaurant.

The Poached Hand-Pulled Noodles with Mushroom and Pork (P 298) combines the rich and savory notes of spiced and seasoned pork with the nutty and earthy hints of mushrooms capped by the soft yet firm hand-pulled noodles. The freshly prepared noodles deliver a light and springy feel, that delectable bounce that makes it so comforting. You won't find soggy noodles here at Jing Ting Restaurant. It's this texture that makes it a perfect base for the savory ingredients like pork and mushrooms draped in a thick and spicy sauce. The intense notes of the spices deliver pronounced yet soothing heat without overpowering the palate. The heat lingers, as you go for another bite. This one's a personal favorite.

The Hand-Pulled Noodles in Clear Chicken Broth (P 368) is another comforting noodle dish. The fresh and clean flavors of the chicken soup are kicked up by the fresh herbs and perfectly rounded out by the richness of the chicken. It's the kind of noodle soup that's guaranteed to make you feel so much better, just like what they say about chicken soup. But the hand-pulled noodles really make this dish so much more special with its firm texture. 

The Hand-Pulled Noodles with Stewed Pork Ribs Soup (P 388) combines the rich flavors of pork with its mild sweetness in an intensely flavored broth. The fork-tender pork rib, stewed for hours, almost melts in your mouth lining your palate with its deep and savory richness. Each bite is followed by the subtle yet distinct hints of spices, capped by the fresh hand-pulled noodles. There's just nothing as comforting as a bowl of freshly-pulled noodles. And you can have your noodle fix at Jing Ting Restaurant daily, starting as early as 10:00 am all the way to 4:00 am.  

The confluence of rich flavors continue at Jing Ting Restaurant with a pair of impressive meat dishes starting with the "Genghis Khan" Roasted Prime Beef Short Ribs (P 1,380). The hefty slab of beef is delicately carved from the bone and sliced before serving.

Intensely spiced and seasoned and perfectly roasted, the "Genghis Khan" Roasted Prime Beef Short Ribs is unbelievably fork-tender, you really don't need a knife to slice it. Simply pick up a piece with your chopsticks and take a bite. So tender, each bite delivers bold, beefy notes followed by the complex hints from the rich spice blend. Squeeze some calamansi for that added zesty and citrus note to cut the natural richness of the beef, and dip it in some cumin for even more flavor. The Mongol hordes have brought their love for savory roasts and grilled meats to the northern region, and Chef Allan perfectly executes yet another regional classic with this dish. Another personal favorite.

The Xinjiang Style Spicy Lamb Skewer with Cumin Spices (P 768) is another must-try dish at Jing Ting Restaurant. The flavors are mild and delicate, without the usual gamey hints associated with lamb. Instead, you get clean and juicy flavors with smoky notes punctuated by the sharp hints of fresh chili and cumin.

The delectable Pork Pastry with Sesame and Peanuts rounded out our tasty preview of Jing Ting Restaurant's signature dishes. Light and crisp with a savory pork filling capped by the subtle notes of the peanuts and sesame, the dish perfectly balances both bold and delicate notes in a seamless blend. Other dishes like the Pan-Fried Grains and Bacon Roll and the Pan-Fried Pork Bun with Onion and Sesame are just some other unique flavors from the rugged terrain of the north. 

Cap your feast at Jing Ting Restaurant with the sweet and refreshing Chilled Sweetened Eight Treasure with Shaved Ice (P 178), an indulgent combo of red beans and fresh fruits...

...or the equally tempting Steamed Molten Salted Egg Yolk Custard Bun (P 288) with soft buns flavored with burnt bamboo ash for its distinctive color filled with the familiar notes of sweetened salted yolk. From starters to mains and desserts, Chef Allan shares his expertise and mastery on regional Northern Chinese flavors at Jing Ting Restaurant, allowing us to taste and experience another unique layer in the rich culinary tapestry and heritage of Chinese Cuisine. Jing Ting Restaurant is definitely a welcome addition to City of Dreams Manila's impressive portfolio of authentic Chinese cuisine, including the elegant Crystal Dragon (for more on Crystal Dragon, see my earlier posts Authentic Cantonese Flavors with an Elegant Spin at Crystal Dragon and #CNYatCOD: Chinese New Year at City of Dreams Manila's Crystal Dragon), casual dining at Noodl8 and Red Ginger (check out my previous post at A Taste of Royal Thai Cuisine at Red Ginger), Crystal Lounge, Li Ying Hin, Li Ying Lounge, and the exclusive member-only Signature Club. Hand-pulled noodles, fresh dumplings, and the Genghis Khan, just some of the must-try authentic Northern Chinese dishes with affordable prices, it's another winning combination at City of Dreams Manila.

Jing Ting Restaurant is located at the Upper Ground Floor of the retail area at City of Dreams Manila, Asean Avenue corner Roxas Boulevard, Entertainment City, Paranaque City or call 632-800-8080 for more information and inquiries.

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