Considering it is across the highway from Hong Kong Palace, XO Taste is a striking contrast in Chinese food. The former restaurant has cast its lot with Sichuan cuisine and the associated flavor profile, while XO Taste is more about the kindler, gentler side of Chinese cooking in its subtler, more muted tones. I am not 100% sure if seasoning is not available in that part of the country or not – but certainly going from Sichuan to Cantonese is a lot like turning down the blinds.
This is not to say that XO Taste is bad. Indeed the live seafood and meat stations (where you see the pigs and ducks hanging about) looked truly impressive. We sat down for a meal which started with a roasted pork soup. This was a noodle soup, with sliced pork in that iconically chinese sparerib way, with the pink exterior. The pork was well done and the mild broth had a lovely flavor which was downright quaffable. The noodles in the soup were a bit on the short of al dente side, but it was not a fatal error.
The entree we ordered was a seafood and eggplant casserole which was also well made. The eggplant was cooked well and permeated throughout. The seafood was well cooked and – thankfully – the shrimp was not overcooked (an increasing rarity in these times). The chinese watercress we ordered was also quite good – providing that fresh contrast and crunch to go with the softer tendency of the casserole. Indeed the authenticity and flavors were there.
However, it might just my tastes and the nature of Cantonese in general. XO Taste clearly warrants more comparison with the various Full Kee extrusions than with the Sichuan places I know and love. The meal we had was good, and not a screaming ethnic restaurant bargain. There is nothing to complain about, aside from the fact that there was nothing to say wow and get all weak kneed over. XO Taste is good, but with a crackling vibrant personality like Hong Kong Palace living so near, it feels like a stodgy and boring. There is a lot to admire about XO Taste, but like the Full Kees not a whole lot to inspire my affection.