You think hotpot in China could not any more innovative than to improve on their service, think again.
I was in tropical Xiamen for a convention and being an island like Singapore, Xiamen City has an abundance of great seafood from the Straits of Taiwan. So naturally one of the itinerary was to have a seafood hotpot meal with the participants. And where else than the closest point to Taiwan.
Just a bit background of Xiamen. It was called Amoy in the past, and a large part of the Chinese diaspora came from this place. Also, it is the closest city to Taiwan – there was a shuttle ferry from Xiamen (right here in this port at Wuyuan Bay) to Jinmen in Taiwan before the pandemic and it only took 30 min to go from Mainland to Taiwan in an arrangement called 小三通.
And along the Wuyuan Bay 五缘湾 are holiday homes, international hotels and sailing clubs that only sprung up in the last 20 years. Remember that China and Taiwan were in a state of civil war right up to 1976 – there were often bombardments and hostility across the Straits of Taiwan. The restaurant that we were going that day was Fishman Restaurant 海钓船深海鱼餐厅. The correct translation of the name should be Fishing Boat Deep Sea Fish Restaurant.
The interior of the restaurant is one of the ocean and nautical theme. From the ceiling installations of schools of fish swimming, to the huge boat in the middle of the seafood gallery, to the nautical uniforms of the staff, you are constantly reminded that this is a seafood restaurant.
The owner of the restaurant, Mr Chen Xiaopei is an avid angler, and he loves deep sea fishing. The fight of fish and man, Mr Chen said in the video that played in a loop on the TV screens in the restaurant, was why he loved deep sea fishing and something river angling would not provide because of the size of the catch around the South China Sea.
Chen still goes out occasionally with his buddies to line-catch all the fish that are served in his three restaurants around Xiamen. However, he also has a team that goes out daily to ensure the supply of ingredients, in additional to farmed seafood that are served in his restaurant.
I wasn’t sure about line caught fish from the ocean was good enough for sashimi. The Japanese use fishing vessels that have instant freezing facility on board, as well as their special way of letting the blood out using a needle down the spines of those fishes. This ensure the fish is sashimi-quality. Hence, not all the wild-caught fishes are sashimi-grade. You know when the plate comes with wasabi.
The dinner consisted of two parts, the hotpot and the kitchen prepped dishes.
Everybody had a small personal hotpot to cook your own seafood. While we waited for the water to start boiling, the “art exhibition” began.
First up, sashimi. There’s foie gras marinated with red wine, braised abalone and greater amberjack (章红 in Chinese or kanpachi in Japanese) sashimi plated to look like a crane. Kanpachi was quite safe to be prepared as sashimi as they do not have parasites in nature, so I tried some (remember what I said about Japanese sashimi?) I was not entirely impressed by the sashimi, as it was not just making sure the fish was fresh – how the fish was prepared and served played a huge part of the sashimi experience.
Next up, the ingredients for the hotpot – wild-caught coral grouper 东星斑 plated like a phoenix. This is a really expensive fish and sought after as a hotpot ingredient because of the firm yet tender flesh.
Next up, wild-caught grouper 石斑. This fish can grow very big, and when they get to a certain size, they are upgraded into giant grouper 龙趸. The grouper was served in three parts – the meat sliced for hotpot, fish balls and bone-in for one to enjoy the collagen along the bones.
The perennial favourite of hotpot is short ribs – thinly sliced beef with nice marbling.
And finally, vegetables.
The Hot Dishes
As we were enjoying the hotpot, the cooked dishes came one after another. This is so typical of a Chinese banquet – there’s always too much food. Most of the dishes were of Hokkien origin. Nothing really stood out.
Dinner here is guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience, with the marina as the background, the setting sun and beautiful lightings around the bay area. However, while the fish was fresh, the cooking was subpar. So I would just stick to the hotpot. Also evening in Xiamen can still be quite humid and warm, so I recommend to stay in the air-conditioned comforts indoor.
Fishman Restaurant 海钓船深海鱼餐厅
Tel : +86 (0592) 2231111, +86 13859901111
Date Visited : Jul 2021