Are you in search of the perfect restaurant for Chinese takeout on Christmas Day? Look no further than newly-opened Hai House located at 150 Worth Ave. at the Esplanade in Palm Beach.
Here, you can't go wrong with the traditional Chinese Peking duck. This modern take on an upscale Chinese-American restaurant offers the essential Chinese dish — also its most laborious — daily, a three-day preparation process that ends with a perfect meal for two.
It starts by separating skin from flesh to dry, what will later be presented as a side dish upon serving. Next, the duck cavity is the filled with Chinese five spice — a robust, sweet, and spicy seasoning mix often used in Chinese cooking along with ginger and scallions — then sutured together and rubbed in malt sugar and honey.
From there, it's set to dry another 24 hours before being slow-roasted just before serving, rendering it to melt-in-your-mouth perfection. When it arrives at your table, it's presented de-boned with crispy skin on the side along with a pile of doughy steamed buns, sliced cucumber, the house hoisin sauce, and chopped scallions.
The brainchild of Manny Bornia, founder of Collab Hospitality and Think.Shop, the branding agency overseeing the rebranding of the Island's historic shopping center, the new eatery is a decidedly modern, forward-thinking establishment for the Palm Beach area.
That's due in part to the efforts of executive chef James Strine. With a career spanning nearly two decades, Strine — who held the title of executive chef for Palm Beach's Buccan, Grato, and Café Boulud before Hai House — has honed classic French technique to create beautiful, bold dishes with a focus on seasonality, no matter the concept.
Now, he's reimagining Chinese fare for American palates with Hai House, where you'll find everything from dim sum and Peking duck to classic Chinese-American like General Tso's chicken favorites, all served alongside authentic Chinese beer and teas.
"Hai House is everything we believe the Island wants," said Bornia. "It’s the comfort Chinese food we all enjoy. [We've taken] that familiar cuisine and elevated it."
To bring Hai House to life, Bornia says he conducted data research through his delivery service, Cravy, offering data that showed approximately 2,000 inquiries per month were for Chinese food. In addition, a visioning session with influencers and tastemakers on the Island confirmed those same sentiments.
At Hai House, guests can begin their evening with complimentary tea service and a bowl of crispy noodles. From there, shareable starters include salt and pepper squid with fried garlic and ginger; char sui ribs, chicken satay, and scallion pancakes plated along with thin-sliced Asian pear.
Follow it up with the chef's favorites: Strine’s signature house specialties include whole crispy snapper, Mongolian beef and broccoli with dry-aged prime NY strip steak, and that Peking duck. The menu also offers a variety of vegetarian options, like wok-fired Chinese long beans, sweet potato noodles, mushroom chow fun, char sui cauliflower, and crispy Cantonese eggplant.
If you love dim sum, a daily menu offers dishes ranging from dumplings, steamed shrimp with pork shumai, and steamed pork buns, to modern favorites like edamame, tofu dumplings, and pork and ginger potstickers. Soon, an in-dining room prep table will allow guests to watch as they're made center stage. Until then, enjoy Bornia's favorite: chicken soup dumplings that begin with a rich chicken stock consommé that sets like Jello when cold. From there it's spiked with sesame soy sauce, ginger, and aromatic herbs before it's wrapped in a flour dough and steamed. As they steam, the soup melts and the filling cooks, essentially creating a rich, flavorful “soup in a pouch.”
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Chinese-American food fans can still find classic favorites like General Tso’s or honey garlic, moo shu, and sweet and sour served with a choice of chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, tofu, and lobster. Strine especially loves the egg drop soup, primarily for its simplicity, while the crispy seaweed has already become a crowd favorite, prepared in a traditional manner (with baby kale in place of cabbage) along with crispy garlic shallots and sesame.
One dish you don't want to miss: the Mongolian beef, prepared as a full steak dish at Hai House, says Bornia. Guests will be surprised when a 10-ounce, dry-aged, New York strip arrives at the table, served with crispy wok-fried Chinese broccoli flavored with toasted garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, and black pepper.
"American-Chinese is the comfortable-yet-flavorful menu of dishes that everyone in our country grew up on," said Bornia. "Hai House is our interpretation of that cuisine. We introduce new flavor combinations and unique takes on some traditional American-Chinese dishes, while still preserving to their time-honored appeal."
Hai House. 150 Worth Ave., Palm Beach; 561-766-1075; haihousepb.com.