Archive for the Causeway Bay Category

Hong Kong – Hong Kong Island – Modern Architecture

Posted in Causeway Bay, Central, China, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Island, Sheung Wan with tags on December 8, 2017 by gannet39

The skyscrapers of Central are one of the must sees of any trip to HK, not that you can really miss them. The night time view is particularly impressive.

The Kowloon scrapers are quite imposing too, but they are less tightly packed. I’ve given them their own post called ‘Food with a View’. In the post I recommend Eye Bar as a great spot to view the Central buildings at night.

One thing you may hear about is the Symphony of Lights, a daily light show at 8pm each evening where the scrapers on both sides flash their lights in time to music.

The best places to watch the show are from the promenade outside Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai or the Avenue of Stars on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, or you could do what I did and catch a special sightseeing ferry across Victoria Harbour from the Star Ferry pier in Tsim Sha Tsui.

The Symphony of Lights Harbour Cruise cost HK$205 in 2017. More info here.

Sadly though I have to say I was less than impressed by the experience. The music was tinny and failed to move me in any way, and the lights on each skyscraper seemed to be doing their own thing rather than linking up. You do get a good view of the buildings though. Video here.

My favourite skyscraper as I mentioned before is the ICT (more pics in the ‘Food with a View’ post).

How well you can see everything depends on how lucky you are with the weather.

You can count on a few pea-soupers every now and then, although this can sometimes add to the atmosphere.

These pics are of The Center, which is the fifth highest building in HK.

Not sure where in Central I took this random shot.

Elsewhere, the flashing lights on this skyscraper in Causeway Bay were quite fun. Video here.

These residential buildings are in Sheung Wan, near Man Mo temple.

I stumbled across a couple of older buildings in Central that I liked.

Please also see my previous post on Innovation Tower which is a very special building indeed.

And that was Hong Kong! Off to catch the ferry to Macau next…

Hong Kong – out and about on Hong Kong Island

Posted in Causeway Bay, Central, China, Happy Valley, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Island with tags , on December 6, 2017 by gannet39

Please see my other posts on Architecture, Markets , Bars and Restaurants (Chinese, Asian, Noodles, Dim Sum) for more places to check out on Hong Kong Island. Here’s some more stuff to do that doesn’t fit into any of the other posts. Everywhere mentioned is on this Google map.

Each time I’ve been to HK one of the highlights has been a visit to Happy Valley racecourse. The course is set against a magnificent backdrop of tall buildings which must themselves have a fantastic view of the races and the impressive grandstand.

I like to go down to the paddock to choose my horses. Video here.

In 2006 I picked several winners and went home buzzing with a few hundred dollars. No such luck in 2016 when every nag I bet on lost by several lengths. Not a single horse came in for me and I soon lost all my allotted budget of a few hundred dollars (I’m no big timer). Video here.

But you can always console yourself with snacks and beer.

Another fun thing to do is take a ride on the trams. Video here.

It’s only $2.30 (exact change only) and they also accept Octopus cards. You get on at the back and then pay at the front when you’re getting off.

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There are special 1930s open top sightseeing trams and you can even hire a party tram!

 

A walk down Hollywood Road provides a few sights. Frommer’s self-guided walking tours are quite informative if you want to know more about the places you are passing.

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It might not look it but this guy is actually going backwards.

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Push carts are definitely still a thing here.

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Towards the end at 124-126 Hollywood Road is Man Mo Temple (open daily from 8am to 6pm) which pays tribute to ‘Man’, the God of Literature and ‘Mo’ the God of War. Built in the 1840s it’s Hong Kong’s oldest temple. Click on the pics for a full screen slideshow.

Video here.

This fun automaton was outside when I was there.

Video here.

There’s a smaller shrine on the stairs at the top of Peel Street.

The huge incense coils are purchased by people who want their wishes to be granted. They can take as long as three weeks to burn.

Of course The Peak is a must do. I went up in 2006 but have lost the photos sorry. I recommend taking the funicular up and then doing the Peak Circular Walk on the way down.

Next time I go I’d like to walk the Dragon’s Back in Shek O country park.

Architecture next!

Hong Kong – Asian restaurants

Posted in Causeway Bay, China, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, Sheung Wan, Tai Ping Shan, Tsim Sha Tsui with tags , , , , , on November 29, 2017 by gannet39

Here are my thoughts on the Japanese, Korean and Thai restaurants I’ve been to in Hong Kong. They’re all on this Google map.

JAPANESE RESTAURANTS

Yardbird (High Intermediate A-) 33 Bridges St, Tai Ping Shan, www.yardbirdrestaurant.com

This hipster Japanese-style yakitori and cocktail joint was the talk of the town when I was in HK in 2017. It took me two attempts to get in as they are very popular and it’s not possible to reserve so I went early one evening and got told to come back in half an hour. After a drink up the road and another short wait, I finally managed to get a seat at the bar.

As usual I began with some Edamame (steamed fresh soya beans) while I read the menu (A).

The friendly bartenders plied me with Sake (rice wine), Shōchū (stronger rice wine) and Umeshu (shōchū steeped sour plum and sugar rice wine), the last of which I’d never fully appreciated until I came here, despite having lived in Japan for a few years.

The grading kind of went out of the window as I got to taste a fair few varieties, all good (A/B).

The best was the house shōchū which I just couldn’t get enough of. They’d been experimenting with steeping the plums for longer and longer periods and the results were excellent (A+).

Yakitori are chicken parts on skewers that are grilled on a small barbeque. I had the Liver with sansho and tare dipping sauce (B) and the Meatball with tare and egg yolk (A).

I enjoyed the Cucumber Salad with sesame, miso and pine nuts B+).

And I loved the Scotch Egg with cabbage, tonkatsu sauce and Kewpie mayonnaise (A).

The Rice Cakes with furikake seasoning and sesame were good too (A).

Everything was excellent and I loved it, but it’s really expensive! I waxed over HK$1,000 in here so not somewhere you could go every day of the week, unlike this next place I went to in 2006 which also does great Japanese food.

Kyozasa (Intermediate A), 20 Ashley Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Open 12-2.30pm and 6-12pm

This is a very authentic Izakaya, the nearest equivalent to a pub in Japan, except that it serves a very wide variety of foods. This was just like going back to Japan for me; all the food was excellent and absolutely the real thing.

My friend Ethel and I started with edamame followed by sukiyaki (beef simmered in sweet sauce and dipped in raw egg), grilled fish, miso soup, sushi and sashimi and finishing with sake onigiri (salmon in balls of warm rice). Absolute heaven.

Ronin (Advanced B+), 8 On Wo Lane, G/F, Sheung Wan www.roninhk.com

This is the sister business of trendy Yardbird above. It’s a speakeasy type of affair with an unmarked door and no sign, so it took me a couple of attempts to find it. It’s not as busy as Yardbird, which is a good thing as it’s smaller with seats at a single long bar.

The food is very good apparently, they do a tasting menu, but I’d already eaten and was only here to feed my newly attained shōchū addiction.

They have the same house shōchū as in Yardbird, but it’s even more expensive here. I had three Chikusen Junmai; a handmade umeshu using junmaishu (premium sake with no added alcohol), which cost me HK$630. I loved every droplet (A+) but it was hard to justify spending that amount.

A great place, but sadly one for people who get paid a lot more than I do.

I’ve also been to a couple of Ramen shops, Yokozuna Japanese Noodle Shop and Ippei-an Ramen, reviews for which you’ll find in my post on famous noodle shops in HK.

KOREAN RESTAURANTS

I’m a massive fan of Korean food and I can’t get it in my home town, so I filled my boots while I was here. Hong Kong has a big Korean community and their restaurants and other businesses are centered around Kimberley Street, and the streets around it, in Tsim Sha Tsui.

The area is called Korea Town but that makes it sound more exciting than it is. By day scrap dealing seems to be the main activity on Kimberley Street.

 

Chung Gye Chon (Intermediate C+), 1J Kimberley Street, Tsim Sha Tsui

I came to this place on the off chance, after wandering around Korea town with nowhere in particular in mind. I’d just tried to get in to another very popular Korean place a few doors down but it was packed out. Know where you’re going and arrive early is the lesson.

As usual, the meal started with Panch’an (or Banchan); a host of little vegetable dishes. These included classics such as Kimchi (fermented napa cabbage), Kongnamul (cold boiled bean sprouts with sesame oil) Sigeumchi Namul (lightly parboiled spinach dressed with sesame oil, garlic, and soy sauce), Gaji Namul (boiled aubergine), Musaengchae or Muchae (julienned white radish in a sweet vinegar sauce), and Oi Sobagi (cucumber kimchi, stuffed with chili, spring onions and buchu (Asian chives)), plus a couple of others I didn’t recognize.

For my main I had Beef Bibimbap, another favourite. Literally meaning ‘mixed rice’, bibimbap is warm white rice topped with more Namul (sautéed and seasoned vegetables), Gochujang (chili pepper paste), soy sauce, or Doenjang (a fermented soybean paste), and typically Bulgogi (marinated and grilled sliced beef). It’s usually served in a hot stone or metal bowl with a raw egg and the whole dish is stirred together thoroughly just before eating. It was okay here but not amazing (B).

To drink I tried OB Premier Pilsner, a Korean beer masquerading as a German pilsner which, just like all the other Korean beers I’ve ever tried, is absolute piss water (C-). Shame they can’t sort this out.

The service was fine but I found the dining room to be very smoky and unattractive. The food here is okay but there are better places to be found. The search continues…

Mr. Korea BBQ (Intermediate B), 1/F, Surson Comm. Bldg., 140-142 Austin Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, www.mrkoreabbq.com

I love Korean BBQ restaurants and according to Time Out, this is one of the best ones. It’s quite modern with individual smoke vents for each circular table grill. Once again, the Panch’an was the first thing to arrive.

As it was relatively quiet I got excellent personal service from the waitress who sat and chatted with me while she grilled the food. She taught me that you should start with the fatty meat to oil the grill, and also that it’s quite okay to grill the Kimchi as well.

The food was good (B/B+) but the draught beer was completely flat and I sent it back (D). I later switched to Soju (Korean shōchū) but that wasn’t much better (too sweet, C-).

The final bill came to HK$583. So, an okay place, but I know it can be better. More research required.

Edition (Intermediate B), 37 Peel St, Central, edition37peel.wix.com

This is a Korean-American gastropub that serves fusion bar snacks from both countries.

I had the Bulgogi Sliced Beef Steak Slider with onion, garlic and jalapenos, and the Kimchi Fries with mozzarella and the spicy house sauce, and another side of Kimchi for good measure (all B).

Lots of soju drinks here as you’d imagine, many of which have been infused with fruits in-house. I had the Soju Margarita which was nice (B).

With a bottle of Tsing Tao the bill came to HK$358.

A cosy, unpretentious place with a friendly welcome.

THAI RESTAURANTS

I didn’t get to as many Thai places as I’d like to although there is a large community of Thais in HK. According to my friend Tom, Kowloon City is the area to go to but I didn’t have time. However I did go to this place in Causeway Bay for lunch…

Thai Shing (Low Intermediate B), G/F, Tang Fai Building, 36 Tung Lung Street, Causeway Bay

I came here as it was just around the block from where I’m working, but it got on my map due to its inclusion in CNN’s list of ‘ 40 dishes we can’t live without’.

The dish in question is the Shrimp Sashimi; raw prawns served with raw garlic and chilli on a bed of ice. It was a first for me, but I can’t say I was that impressed (B) as they don’t taste of much. I’m sure other things on the menu are good though.

I’ve since discovered that there is an excellent ramen shop called Kanada-ya right next door at 36 Tung Lung Street. One for next time…

So that’s it for the food. Bars and boozing next!

Hong Kong – Chinese restaurants on Hong Kong Island

Posted in Causeway Bay, Central, China, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Island, North Point, Sheung Wan with tags , , , , , on November 27, 2017 by gannet39

Continuing my reviews of Chinese restaurants (see previous posts for Dim Sum, Noodles, Western Comfort Food, Food with a View and Kowloon restaurants) here’s my experience of eating on Hong Kong island. Google map here.

A brief index:

Hipster Fusion Buns – Little Bao (Intermediate A).
Chili Crab – Under Bridge Spicy Crab (High Intermediate A).
Cheap Eats – Tung Po (High Elementary B).
Posh Cantonese – The Chairman (Advanced B).
Chiu Chow Cuisine – Leung Hing Restaurant (Intermediate B).
Roast Goose – Yung Kee (Intermediate C).

Little Bao (Intermediate A), 66 Staunton St, Central, www.little-bao.com

I love Little Bao, it’s the kind of place I’d like to open. When I was in town in Autumn 2016 it was the buzz name on everyone’s lips, along with Yardbird, another hipster joint just down the road.

As you can imagine it’s very popular and quite difficult to get in (no reservations allowed). I managed to on the second attempt by arriving early and putting my name on the waiting list. The greeter took my number and called me 40 minutes later when a table was free. Fortunately there are plenty of bars further along the street where you can kill time (see my coming post on Bars).

The restaurant is open plan with diners sitting at an L-shaped bar right in front of the chefs so you can get a birds eye view of all the action. Video here.

Little Bao is actually a fusion joint. It takes the burger concept and gives it a twist by using steamed Chinese baos instead of burger buns. There are three versions; pork belly, Szechuan chicken, fish tempura and vegetarian. I tried the first two (they’re quite small) and loved them both (A+/A).

I had the Truffle Fries as a side; Shiitake tempeh with truffle mayo and pickled daikon, also great (A).

They make decent cocktails too. I had a Punch Sai Gua (gin, watermelon, cucumber, cinnamon and lemon) and Chris’ Lemonade (42 Below Vodka, Chrysanthemum, honey, rhubarb bitters), both scoring B+.

To finish, the LB Ice Cream Bao was delightfully delinquent.

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A deep-fried steamed bun sandwiching green tea ice cream and drizzled with condensed milk, which was killer obviously (A+).

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The bill came to HK$541 for six items which isn’t too bad. Lots more to try on the menu. Wish I could go back!

Under Bridge Spicy Crab (High Intermediate A), Shop 6-9, G/F, 421-425 Lockhart Road, www.underspicycrab.com

Before the 1990s Hong Kong’s typhoon shelters (protective harbours for boats during rough seas) were home to a large community of fishermen and boat people who over time developed their own distinctive culture and cuisine. Since then these communities have slowly declined, along with the fishing industry, and their descendants have moved onshore, some of them opening food stalls which developed into restaurants like this.

This particular restaurant, under the Canal Road flyover, gets an entry in Where Chefs Eat and a slot on one of Anthony Bourdain’s programmes. They are open till 6am but I went around 9pm and I got a table without any problems, despite it being quite busy.

I kicked off with a big plate of Steamed Clams with Chilli and Black Bean Sauce which were great (A).

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The iconic dish of typhoon shelter cuisine is Typhoon Shelter Crab and it’s the signature dish here (on the menu as Under Bridge Spicy Crab). If you order it your victim will be brought to the table for inspection before being dispatched to the kitchen for deep frying.

The house recipe is secret but it certainly contains lots of fried garlic and chilli peppers, which are offered at six levels of spiciness from ‘no spice’ to ‘super spicy’. I went for ‘medium spicy’ although with hindsight I think I could have handled ‘very spicy’. I loved it (A).

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Although it was a bit expensive (this varies by season) I really enjoyed the food and would happily go back, preferably in a group. One useful comment on TripAdvisor has these two caveats: “First, if you are in Hong Kong in the fall you may want to consider a hairy crab restaurant [as they’re in season] and second if you plan to visit an outer island or a seafood oriented cooked food centre like Mui Wo the better value and equally delicious meal is a salt and pepper crab. The salt and pepper dish uses smaller crabs, so less meat, but I thought the meat was sweeter and the seasoning a better compliment”.

The restaurant also offers the option of dining on an actual boat, which is what Bourdain did, but it costs around HK$2,000 and you need a minimum of six people.

Tung Po (High Elementary B), 2/F Java Road Municipal Services Building, 99 Java Rd, North Point, Hong Kong

This is one of a few inexpensive, no-frills restaurants in the cooked food centre on the top floor of the market building on Java Road.

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It’s very popular and attracts big groups of diners who create quite a raucous atmosphere.

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I started with the Deep-Fried Tofu which was pretty average (C).

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The Chinese Cabbage with Garlic was okay (B).

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Bourdain really liked the Black Squid Ink Spaghetti which he described as “amazing.” I thought it was good (B) but nothing I’d make a TV programme about.

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Your beer drinking custom is touted for by beer girls promoting the Carlsberg and Blue Girl brands. Unfortunately I’m a fan of neither (C).

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So not the greatest culinary experience but the atmosphere is great, which makes this a good place to come with a gang for a fun, cheap night out.

Sing Kee (Initial B), 9-10 Stanley Street, Central

Another quintiessential experience is eating at a Dai Pai Dong;  an outdoor food stall that serves ‘wok hei‘ dishes.

Sing Kee is a famous dai pai dong in central which I stumbled across one night. The food was okay (B) but the atmosphere is what made the experience special (A).

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The Chairman (Advanced B), 18 Kau U Fong, Central, www.thechairmangroup.com

This is a high-end place in fashionable NoHo (north of Hollywood Rd) which specialises in local, seasonal Cantonese cuisine. It comes recommended by 1001 Restaurants You Must Experience Before You Die and Where Chefs Eat. It’s best to reserve; I got in for lunch on the second attempt.

I wanted to have their most famous dish of Steamed Flower Crab but couldn’t justify the expense at the time, so I went for the set ‘Executive Menu’ instead where you can choose three (HK$198) or four (HK$218) dishes from quite a wide selection for each course.

I’m always up for trying new things so I began with Smoked Baby Pigeon with Longjing Tea and Chrysanthemum (B).

I quite enjoyed the Sichuan Style Shredded Pig’s Ear & Tripe Salad with Freshly Sliced Guava (B+).

The Tea Smoked Duck with Tamarind and Dark Sugar was interesting (B).

Finally, Osmanthus & Wolfberry Ice-cream (B+). Osmanthus is a flowering plant with a scent and flavour reminiscent of peach and apricot which is often used in tea. Wolfberry, also known as Goji berry, is similarly used in teas, and many other dishes, primarily for its (fictitious) health qualities.

An interesting experience but not mind-blowing. It would probably be much better if you’re prepared to spend more. This is a good place for business lunches on expense accounts.

Here are some short reviews of good mid-range restaurants I went to in November 2006:

Leung Hing (Intermediate B), 32 Bonham Strand West, Sheung Wan, Open 7.30am-11pm

A very local back street place specialising in Chiu Chow (or Teochew) food, a regional cuisine from the north east of China, known for its shellfish and vegetarian food, and with a reputation for being very healthy. I had the seafood noodles which were excellent and very reasonable. Just wish I’d been hungrier so I could have tried more dishes.

Yung Kee (Intermediate C), 32-40 Wellington St, Central, Open 11am-11.30pm

A famous Cantonese institution known since 1942 for its roast goose (they farm their own) and dim sum (served 2-5pm). We found it difficult to get in and had to wait a while, maybe reserve if you can. Sadly our choices were ill-informed and we didn’t enjoy it very much, but that’s not to say it can’t be good. Next time I will get the goose rather than the thousand-year-eggs!

More far flung Chinese restaurants next!

Hong Kong – famous noodle shops

Posted in Causeway Bay, China, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, Mongkok, Sheung Wan, Tsim Sha Tsui, Yau Ma Tei with tags , , , , , , on November 20, 2017 by gannet39

I visited Hong Kong for the second time in Autumn of 2016. People who know me well know that I’m a hopeless noodle addict, and I’d probably choose a noodle soup over any other meal. Imagine then how excited I was at the thought of trying all the possibilities in Hong Kong, not only the indigenous noodle dishes but all those from other Asian cuisines as well.

Below are a few of my favourites. You can find them on this Google map.

Probably the most famous and commonly available Chinese noodle soup is Beef Noodle Soup. In Hong Kong some restaurants distinguish between Beef Noodles (牛肉麵) which are made with slices of beef or beef shank, and Beef Brisket Noodles (牛腩麵) which contains only brisket. I’m all about the brisket.

Muscle Man Noodle Shop (Elementary A), G/F, 104 Hak Po Street, Mongkok

A great noodle shop near the Royal Plaza Hotel. The guy who owns it is obviously a bit of a character! There are lots of pics of him with various celebrities on the walls.

Anthony Bourdain came here for one of his shows and loved the Beef Brisket Noodles. I agree, they’re great (A). I need to come back to try the wontons.

Kau Kee (Elementary A), G/F, 21 Gough Street, Sheung Wan

This is probably the most famous place for Beef Brisket Noodles in Hong Kong. I read about it in ‘Where Chef’s Eat’ and ‘1001 Restaurants You Must Experience Before You Die’.

It’s opposite this funny little place on the steps. Next to it you’ll see the permanent queue along the street. I went after the lunch time peak and waited about twenty minutes.

It was definitely worth the wait . The brisket might look tough but it’s been stewed for hours till it’s really tender. Great flavours (A). They have a curry flavour option as well which would be interesting to try.

The next local bowl to try is Wonton Noodle Soup. In Cantonese cuisine wontons are filled with minced pork and shrimp and served with noodles in a soup typically made from boiled shrimp shells, pork bones and dried flounder.

Here are two of the most famous places…

Mak An Kee, also known as Mak’s Noodle (Elementary A), 19 Lock Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui

Mak’s are probably the most famous purveyors of wontons in Hong Kong. They are a small chain with many imitators due to feuds in the family. I went to their Jordan branch for a late morning snack and was seated pretty much straight away.

I had the wonton noodle soup which was sublime (A+). Their unique wontons contain half a shrimp tail in a paste of egg and powdered dai di (flounder), while the broth is made from dried shrimp, flounder and pork bone. The only downside is the portions are tiny and more expensive than elsewhere, but then they are the best.

These guys are pretty good at wontons too though…

Ho Hung Kee (Intermediate A), 12F, Hysan Place, 500 Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay m.facebook.com

Another famous wonton institution, with a Michelin star, on the top floor of a shopping centre. I had the good fortune to be working nearby so I came for lunch a couple of times. It’s so busy they have a greeter on the front door issuing tickets. Fortunately as a solitary diner I got in fairly quickly.

Shrimp wontons, the house special, come in two ways; in a soup…

… or dry, in this case with some bok choi and hoisin dipping sauce. I tried both over two visits and they are excellent (A). There’s lots of other good looking stuff on the menu.

While beef brisket and wonton soups are wonderful, my first noodle love is still Japanese Ramen, which is widely available in cosmopolitan Hong Kong…

Yokozuna Japanese Noodle Shop (Elementary A), G/F, Yun Kai Bldg, 466-472 Nathan Rd, Yau Ma Tei yokozuna.com.hk

A local ramen institution, since 1987. They are named after a famous sumo wrestler which is making quite a statement. Time Out would have you try their Yokohama curry ramen, with tomato, bacon and parmesan cheese but I’m a stickler for tradition and went with their Kyushu Ramen, a classic style made with Tonkotsu pork bone broth. And a rack of gyoza on the side. So, so good (A).

Ippei-an Ramen (Elementary B+), 132 Nathan Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, www.ippeian.com

A small citywide ramen chain that began in 1984. They too are famous for their Tonkotsu soup which is my favourite style. I had the classic Soya Sauce Ramen which was great (A).

So top marks all round! Hong Kong is heaven for noodle lovers.

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