Hong Kong – Chinese restaurants in the New Territories

Posted in Cheung Chau, China, Hong Kong, Lamma, New Territories, Sok Kwu Wan, Tai Po, Tai Po Market, Yung Shue Wan with tags , , , , , on November 28, 2017 by gannet39

drWikipedia defines the New Territories as comprising “the mainland area north of the Boundary Street of Kowloon Peninsula and south of the Sham Chun River which is the border between Hong Kong and Mainland China, as well as over 200 outlying Islands including Lantau Island, Lamma Island, Cheung Chau, and Peng Chau in the territory of Hong Kong.”

Occasionally my job took me out of the city to more far flung areas such as the market town of Tai Po, forty five minutes due north of Mongkok on the MTR. Although its roots are much older, Tai Po was developed as a ‘new town’ in the 70s and now has a sizable population of 320,000.

After work I went to the market, which is about twenty minutes-walk from Tai Po Market station. Bourdain had eaten noodles here at Ping Kee (stall CFS12/11) but sadly I was too late to catch them open.

I carried on walking for another five minutes and eventually came to Tai Ming Lane Square which I presume is the town’s central square. Bourdain visited a famous (since 1957) roast goose restaurant here.

Yat Lok Barbeque Restaurant (Intermediate B+), Tai Ming Lane, Tai Po

It’s very hard to miss due to the neon signs and the roasted meats in the window. They also do Char Xiu (barbecued pork) and Xiu Yoke (roast pork) but it’s the Fung Kon (air-dried roast goose) that’s the most famous (they rear their own). You can also get combination plates of all three meats, but I was here for the goose.

In autumn 2017 a whole goose cost HK$460 whereas a half, which I went for, was HK$230, approximately £23. You can also get a quarter for HK$130 or HK$110 depending on the cut.

It was great, some of the best I’ve ever eaten (A). I also had some Choi Sum, a bowl of rice and a beer, all of which pressed the right buttons (B+).

My only regret was not asking for the greens to be cooked in the local oyster sauce which I have since learned is very good. Lee Kum Kee, whose founder invented the sauce, has its headquarters here.

The service was fine, but only the cashier (owner/manager?) could speak English, so I did a lot of pointing and showing of photos to get what I wanted. They also have a branch in Central which I’d like to visit next time.

Back in 2006 one of my best foodie experiences here was on the island of Cheung Chau which I understand to be the last actual working fishing village in HK (most seafood is imported). You can get there on a fast ferry in 35 minutes from Pier 5 in Central, or a slower one which takes 55 minutes.

After I finished work the British expat school owner (married to a local, so he knew his stuff) directed me to one of a row of seafood restaurants on Cheung Chau Family Walk (I think it was Hang Lok at 13 Pak She Praya Road) where I had two amazing fish dishes, the steamed fish with black beans, spring onion and ginger sticking in my mind most of all (A+). Fantastic food in a blissful setting by the waterside looking out to sea.

Also, in 2006 my friend Ethel and I took a ferry to Sok Kwu Wan village on Lamma Island (30/40 minutes to Sok Kwu Wan village from Central Pier 4) and did the nature walk over to the other side of the island to Yung Shue Wan and took the ferry back to Central from there (27 minutes).

The walk was very pleasant as it was a nice sunny day (take sunscreen and water). It took a couple of hours and we saw lots of butterflies and took in a few nice views along the way (photos lost sorry). We had a bite to eat in Yung Shue Wan while we were waiting for the ferry back. I don’t recall the name of the restaurant but I’m guessing it was Sampam Seafood. We had a nice view of the sea and the food was okay (B).

So, contrary to popular perception HK is not just a city, there are heaps of natural escapes just waiting to be explored.

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 – Chinese restaurants in Kowloon

Posted in China, Hong Kong, Kowloon, Mongkok, Prince Edward, Sham Shui Po with tags , , , , , , on November 23, 2017 by gannet39

I’ve put a lot of other Chinese restaurants into specific posts on dim sum, noodles and places with a view. However I’ve put the disparate places below together according to their geographical location in Kowloon. Here’s a quick index:

Tofu Dishes – Kung Wo Beancurd Factory (Elementary B+)
Traditional Desserts – Kwan Kee (Initial B)
Street Offal – Delicious Food (Initial B+)
Claypot Rice – Four Seasons (Elementary B)
Hakka Cuisine – Chuen Cheung Kui (Intermediate B)
Vegetarian Cuisine – M Garden (Intermediate B)
Peking Duck – Spring Deer (High Intermediate B)

They’re all on this Google map.

Aficionados, please don’t hang me for any comments you might feel are a bit negative, I’m still learning!

These first two places are accessed from MTR Sham Shui Po Station via Exit B2. The second place is on the street corner on your immediate right as you come up the stairs. The first place is also on the right, about half a block up Pei Ho Street.

Kung Wo Beancurd Factory (Elementary B+), G/F, 118 Pei Ho Street, Sham Shui Po

If it’s authenticity you’re after then this is the place! Mentioned in ‘1001 Restaurants You Must Experience Before You Die’, it’s well off the tourist track in Sham Shui Po, just to the north west of Mongkok, but definitely worth the trek for tofu lovers like myself.

Pei Ho Street has a busy street market so the front of the business sells directly to passing trade. You can also sit inside and eat.

From top right, I had the Deep Fried Tofu (B+), Curry Fish Ball (B), Deep Fried Golden Fish & Soya Cake (B) and the Tofu Pudding (B+).

I enjoyed the Deep Fried Tofu the most.

The cubes of tofu are topped with fish paste before frying.

I like it with a bit of sweet chilli sauce.

I also really enjoyed the Tofu Pudding (tofu fa) for which they are famous.

In HK it’s usually served while it’s still warm with a bit of sugar or ginger syrup on the top.

Room for a bit more pudding? Then head back towards the station to this place…

Kwan Kee Store (Initial B), Shop 10, 115-117 Fuk Wah Street, Sham Shui Po

This little corner shop is famous for Bowl Pudding (put chai ko) which they’ve been making since the 60s.

The puddings are made with glutinous rice flour, wheat starch and sugar, sometimes with the addition of red beans, and then steamed. I arrived a bit late in the evening so they only had the bean version left (B).

Back down to Mongkok for the next one…

Delicious Food (Initial B+), Shop 10, G/F, 30-32 Nullah Road, Prince Edward

Hong Kong is famous for its street food and this stall has a very good reputation.

In particular it’s a good spot to try Fried Pig Intestine.

I quite liked the contrast of the crunchy outside with the softer interior (B). Mustard, hoisin or plum sauce are good condiments to have with it.

I also tried their Stinky Tofu (left and right in the foreground in the pic below), another classic HK street food for which this stall is famous. The tofu is fermented in a brine of milk, vegetables, meat and/or seafood juices for several weeks, and then deep fried. As you can imagine the aroma is quite pungent but it tastes better (B) than it smells!

Four Seasons Claypot Rice (Elementary B), 50-52 Arthur St, Yau Ma Tei

Another famous Hong Kong food you should try is Claypot Rice. This place near Temple Street night market has such a good rep for it that it evolved from a street stall into an indoor restaurant. There’s nothing fancy about it, in fact the interior walls all appear to be shower curtains. It’s very popular so to avoid the long queues either arrive early at 5pm or late at 9pm.

I began with a couple of deep-fried Oyster Cakes, another much-favoured local delicacy (B).

When the hotpot arrives on the table, you should pour a bit of soya sauce on it, replace the lid and wait 3 or 4 minutes.

Then take out the toppings and give it a good stir.

I opted for the Sausage & Chicken Rice. I really liked the chicken and the rice (B+) but I couldn’t handle the sausage which to me had a very strong, almost chemical taste (D). I did try Chinese sausages in other places later and found them more palatable though so maybe I just don’t like the ones here. More research is needed.

Chuen Cheung Kui Restaurant (High Intermediate B), 33 Nelson Street, on the corner with Yim Po Fong Street, Mongkok

This is a very popular Hakka restaurant near the Royal Plaza Hotel. It’s one of those big Chinese restaurants with lots of round tables. There were a fair few people waiting when I went but I got in quite quickly as a lone diner, even got my own table.

The Hakka are a sub-group of the Han Chinese who are some of the earliest immigrants to the region. Hakka cuisine is characterized by an emphasis on texture and very simple flavouring. I tried a couple of Hakka classics here.

The Deep-Fried Fresh Milk was interesting (B).

And the Salt-Baked Chicken was quite nice too (B).

I would have liked to try more dishes but, with a plate of stir-fried greens, this was more than enough. Enlist some help when you come here if you can.

M Garden Vegetarian Restaurant (Intermediate B), 2/F, Omega Plaza, 32-34A, Dundas Street, Mongkok

I came here with my friend Kelvin who is a vegetarian. He’d been finding it quite hard to eat well on the mainland so I brought him to this popular spot for a tofu and vegetable feast. Generally veggie restaurants are quite hard to find in China but they do exist, mainly to service the large Buddhist community. The Happy Cow website is a good resource for finding them.

We tried quite a few things, some better than others. We really liked the ‘Deep-Fried Eggplant with Teriyaki Sauce’ which had just as much depth of flavour as any meat dish (A).

We coveted what the French couple on the next table were eating and ordered it ourselves by pointing as we couldn’t find it on the menu (show them my photo if you want to order it). I think it’s deep-fried tofu, although the translation mentions mung beans. This was our favourite (A+).

The ‘Golden-Fried Tofu’ was okay (B).

However the ‘Beijing Style Smoked Vegetarian Goose’ looked good but didn’t really cut it (C).

Kelvin liked the ‘Black Truffle Scramble’ (sautéed fresh milk with egg white and Italian black truffle), more than I did (C-). Truffles are always good but the marriage with broccoli didn’t work for me, especially visually. It does taste better than it looks though.

So some choices were a bit hit and miss but there are definitely some great dishes to be discovered here.

From November 2006:

Spring Deer (High Intermediate B), 1/F, 42 Mody Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Open 12-3pm and 6-11pm

Perhaps the most famous Peking duck restaurant in town, you have to reserve well in advance but may still have to wait a while, 30 mins in our case. The service is offhand, verging on the downright rude, in classic Chinese restaurant style (think Wong Kei, Soho) but the duck is very crispy.

Even more Chinese restaurants on Hong Kong Island next!

Hong Kong – Western comfort food

Posted in China, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Island, Jordan, Kowloon, Mongkok, North Point, Yau Ma Tei with tags , , , , , , on November 21, 2017 by gannet39

 

Generally I tried to make a point of avoiding Western food during my visits to HK although there are undoubtedly many fantastic, and very expensive, French and Italian restaurants here. So by ‘Western comfort food’ what I generally mean is Hong Kongified desserts, sweets and bakery items, along with the odd baked potato.

Many of these places are what is called a ‘cha chaan teng’, literally a tea restaurant. You’ll find everywhere mentioned on this Google map here.

Hong Lin (Intermediate B), 143-145 Tung Choi St, Mongkok

The Pineapple Bun or ‘bo lo bao’ (corrupted to ‘polo bun’) is a Hong Kong institution, so much so that in 2014, the local Government listed the pineapple bun as ‘a part of Hong Kong’s intangible cultural heritage’. Hong Lin is one of a few cafes that is famous for its buns.

I had mine with butter which is known as ‘bo lo yaa’. The bun is the perfect complement to milk tea, a British influence originally but now a much stronger brew made with Black & White full fat evaporated milk. It wasn’t a looker but it was very tasty (B).

If you’re brave you could try their Yuenyeung, a hot or cold drink made with three parts coffee to seven parts milk tea.

Kam Wah Cafe (Intermediate B), 47 Bute Street, Mongkok

This place is also famous for its pineapple buns however I came to try their French Toast at the urging of my friend Dominque who has local ties. French toast is another sweet treat beloved by Hong Kongers and according to Foursquare, this is one of the best places to try it. I wouldn’t disagree (B+).

Australia Dairy Company (Intermediate B), 47 Parkes St, Jordan, en.wikipedia.org

Another legendary place, established in 1970 by a local man who had worked on a farm in Australia in the 40s, hence the name.

Service is famously unrefined (brusque but efficient for me) but people put up with it for the sake of their renowned Milk Puddings which are stacked up in the window sills (A).

Their scrambled eggs are also famous (A) even if the soft white bread they are served on was a bit too retro for me (B-). Iced milk tea makes a nice change (B).

Kee Tsui Cake Shop (Initial B), G/F, 135 Fa Yuen Street, Mongkok, open 7:30am to 8pm

This dispenser of baked goods is actually a stall rather than a shop as such.

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For thirty years it has been a local institution and has even garnered a Michelin recommendation.

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Personally I don’t see what all the fuss is about. I tried the ‘Baby Chicken Cakes’ but found them quite dry and uninteresting (C+).

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I enjoyed the  ‘Wife Cakes’ more (made with a filling of winter melon, almond paste, ground sesame, and five spice powder) but still wasn’t completely wowed (B-).

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Next time I might try the glutinous rice cakes with red bean paste or the Egg Tarts.

For American style cookies, a very famous company with branches all over HK is Jenny Bakery. I can also recommend their main competitor, Mrs Fields Cookies, which has outlets in many of the MTR station.

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Their Sugar Butter and Chocolate Chip cookies are dangerously moreish.

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Lee Keung Kee North Point Mini Egg Cakes (Initial B+), 492 King’s Road, North Point, open 10am to 11pm

Another sweet snack much beloved by locals is the Egg Waffle, or mini egg cake, known locally as ‘gai daan tsai’.

This place in North Point has the rep for making some of the best as the many press clippings covering its walls show. It’s just a hole in the wall but easy to find as there’s usually a queue outside.

There are now eight branches but it’s this one that attracts all the attention.

I enjoyed mine but it’s not something I’d get religious about. The exterior was nice and crunchy but I thought it was a bit too dry on the inside (B+).

Tsui Wah (Intermediate B), 41 Pitt St, Yau Ma Tei, www.tsuiwah.com

Tsui Wah is the Hong Kong version of an American diner, described by some as ‘the Denny’s of Hong Kong’.

Established in 1967, they have now over thirty locations (some open for 24 hours).

Despite being a chain, each branch has its own character.

I particularly like the 70s retro stylings of the Yau Ma Tei branch.

My own house is also filled with moulded plastics from past decades so I feel quite at home here.

You can get a pineapple bun and milk tea here too but the extensive menu has a varied and reasonably priced choice of fusion dishes from Cantonese, Western and other Asian cuisines.

I had the Indonesian dish Nasi Goreng which wasn’t a pretty sight but it pressed all my comfort food buttons.

Tsui Wah is not fancy in the slightest, but it’s defintitely an experience, as recommended by Frommers, Where Chefs Eat and Anthony Bourdain amongst others.

3 Potatoes (Initial A), 30 Nullah Rd and Tung Choi Street, Mongkok, www.facebook.com

A Michelin-recommended Baked Potato stall! Michelin have only recently arrived in HK and they are sensitive to the charge of being elitist so they have gone out of the their way to suggest more accessible eateries such as this.

I had the sour cream and cheese baked potato which was great (B+) but it’s just a potato at the end of the day.

If you find this a bit too bland, the more daring among you can pop around the corner to Delicious Food for a slice of grilled pig intestine on a stick (see next post).

Hong Kong – food with a view

Posted in China, Hong Kong, Kowloon, Tsim Sha Tsui, Yau Ma Tei with tags , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2017 by gannet39

I love hilly cities, and Hong Kong has some stunning vistas. I went to several places just to catch the view and this post is just for them. They’re all on this map.

The tallest building in Hong Kong is the International Commerce Centre (ICC), in Yau Ma Tei with 118 floors making it 490 meters high. Built in 2010 it’s the tenth highest building in the world.

Its position at the western entrance to Victoria Harbour means that it has fantastic views over most of Kowloon and over to Hong Kong Island. It was a bit hazy on the day I went but you could still see a lot.

Immediately over the water from it is the second highest building, the International Finance Centre (IFC), which you can just about see on this photo.

It’s mainly an office block but there’s a very posh shopping mall (Armani, Chanel, De Beers etc) at the bottom and some bars and restaurants at the top. I went to this place on floor 101…

Dragon Seal (Advanced B+), Shop C, 101/F, International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road West, Yau Ma Tei, www.dragonsealhk.com

A very posh restaurant that I probably couldn’t afford or get into in the evenings, but they did a relatively cheap set menu for lunch (HK$440 including the service charge, around £43).

I was seated in the bar area rather than the main restaurant but I still had a pretty good view out over the harbour. It must look even more amazing at night.

I kicked off with a well-made mojito.

I remember the food generally being very nice (B/B+) but I didn’t grade the dishes sorry.

‘Steamed Pork Dumpling with Sliced Abalone’, ‘Turnip Cake with Dry Shrimps & Preserved Sausages’ and ‘Deep Fried Taro Cubes’.

‘Shredded Bamboo Shoot in Sichuan Style’.

‘Winter Melon Ball with Hawthorn Sauce’.

‘Roasted Crispy Pork Belly’.

‘Double Boiled “Dragon Seal” Soup’.

‘Grilled King Fish Fillet with Herbs’.

‘Stewed Vegetable with Fresh Bean Curd’, the veg being pak choi (loved this).

‘Fried Rice with Minced Wagyu Beef’.

The food was lovely visually, and the flavours were pretty good overall, but not amazing.

A visit to the loo provided some great views from the other side of the building. Click to enlarge.

 

You can see videos here and here.

After lunch I was planning to go to the Ozone Bar www.ritzcarlton.com, on floor 118 which is technically the highest bar in the world, but discovered it wasn’t open until 5pm.

I could also have gone to Sky100, the viewing deck on the hundredth floor, but forking out around £16 for a similar view to the one I’d just had in Dragon Seal one floor above didn’t appeal once I did the math. Admission to Sky100 costs more than a drink at Ozone, and Ozone is eighteen floors higher.

It’s a shame that you can’t have similar experiences over the harbour at the International Finance Centre (IFC), but it’s almost entirely given over to offices although when writing this (ie too late) I discovered the 55th floor is open to the public.

The IFC complex is actually two towers (known as 1IFC and 2IFC), a hotel and a shopping mall. 2IFC is the taller tower of the two and it’s my favourite skyscraper in HK.

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I just love its sleek lines.

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If you take the lift up to the roof of the IFC Mall you’ll find a few bars and restaurants that have great views over the harbor, and of 2IFC towering above you.

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Here’s another posh restaurant with a great view of the harbour…

Above & Beyond (Advanced B+), 28/F, Hotel Icon, 17 Science Museum Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East, www.hotel-icon.com

This Conran designed restaurant gets an entry in ‘1001 Restaurants You Must Experience Before You Die’ which praises the food (Cantonese classics) very highly.

I was mainly here for the views though. Click to enlarge.

 

 

To keep costs down again I went for lunch and had the set menu for HK$298, about £29. Also again, I didn’t grade it, but it was very good (B+/A).

I began with ‘Honey-glazed Barbecued Kagoshima Pork’.

And followed on with ‘Steamed Pork Dumplings with Porcini’ and ‘Steamed Mushroom Dumpling with Bamboo Piths’.

‘Baked Whole Abalone Tart with Diced Chicken’.

‘Braised Fish Maw Soup with Shredded Sea Cucumber, Mushroom and Bamboo Shoots’.

‘Steamed Garoupa Fillet with Yunnan Ham and Shredded Mushrooms’.

‘Wok-fried Seasonal Vegetables with Garlic’.

‘Fried Rice wrapped in Lotus Leaf’.

And a nice healthy dessert, the name of which I don’t recall, sorry.

The cocktails are good here too.

All the food was great. I just wish I was rich enough to explore their à la carte offerings which must be amazing.

This last place is a restaurant but you can treat it as a bar as most people do.

Eyebar (Intermediate B+),63 Nathan Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, www.elite-concepts.com

I haven’t heard anything about the food except that they do free bar bites during their ‘Sunset Hour’ (6-9pm) when it’s also 30% off Martinis.

You’ll need to arrive earlier than that to snag the better seats on the bar terrace. They all have stunning views of lower Kowloon and Hong Kong island on the other side of Vicotria Harbour.

Click to enlarge.

 

You get a great view of a residential skyscraper nearby called ‘The Masterpiece’. I would kill for one of those apartments!

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The view looking up at The Masterpiece is quite impressive too.

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Felix Restaurant (Advanced B?), 28/F, The Peninsula, Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

This very posh hotel restaurant is apparently the place to watch fireworks on NYE. I went in 2012 for a pricey drink at the bar and the view at night is stunning. The Starck designed loos also have fantastic views of the downtown cityscape.

More about architecture in later posts.

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.

Hong Kong – Dim Sum hotspots

Posted in Central, China, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Island, Jordan, Kowloon, North Point, Sham Shui Po with tags , , , on November 19, 2017 by gannet39

I visited Hong Kong for work for the second time in Autumn of 2016 and stayed for three weeks, which gave me time to eat in quite a few places…

Dim Sum are small snack-sized portions of food. Most commonly these are steamed or fried dumplings and buns, with meat or seafood fillings, but can also include steamed green veg, roasted meats and soups and desserts such as custard tarts. Eating dim sum is a Cantonese tradition, originating in Guanzhou, which overlaps with the older Silk Road tradition of Yum Cha (tea drinking). Typically the occasion is a shared family brunch at the weekend although nowadays dim sum can be eaten at any time, and often as takeout.

The ideal number of people to eat dim sum is four, as many portions have four items. In restaurants they were traditionally served from trolleys pushed around the tables but in more modern, often smaller places, food choices are made via a tick box menu. There will also be a wide range of teas to choose from which will often include Green, Black, Chrysanthemum, Oolong and scented teas like Jasmine. Alcohol is rarely served.

In Hong Kong yum cha is very popular and there’s a big dim sum restaurant scene. Here are five excellent places I’ve been to. They’re all different, and I like them all for different reasons. The first three are all innovative newcomers, the fourth is an ancient institution and the last is a big posh palace with a view of the harbour. My Google map is here.

The first two places are two branches of the same company, Tim Ho Wan, which now has 45 branches worldwide. The Sham Shui Po, North Point and Tai Kok Tsui branches all have one Michelin star. Tim Ho Wan get props from sources I respect like Anthony Bourdain, Where Chefs Eat and Eat Like A Girl. In fact in 2009 they got international accolades for being the world’s cheapest Michelin star meal. Expect queues at peak times.

Tim Ho Wan – Sham Shui Po (Intermediate A), G/F, 9-11 Fuk Wing Street, Tong Mi, timhowan.com.hk

This was my first experience of dim sum in HK. I was attracted by the rep and this particular branch because it’s a short taxi ride from the Royal Plaza Hotel where I was staying. I was expecting a queue but was seated straight away, although I had a family join my table soon afterwards.

One of my favourite Cantonese food items are Chāshāo Bāo 叉燒包, Barbecue Pork-filled Buns, which come in two forms; steamed, white and fluffy or baked, golden and glazed. At Tim Ho Wan they serve the latter, (Chāshāo Cān Bāo 叉燒餐包) with a sugary glaze, which has made them the most famous item on the menu (A+).

I also love their Shāomài 燒賣, Steamed Pork Dumplings with Shrimp (A).

The Steamed Spareribs (Páigǔ 排骨), served here with Black Beans (Dòuchǐ 豆豉), are very good (B+).

Luóbo Gāo 蘿蔔糕, Pan-fried Turnip Cake, is another favourite of mine, made more flavoursome here by the inclusion of dried shrimp (A).

Chángfěn 腸粉, Rice Rolls, can be eaten plain but the ones on the menu here are stuffed with BBQ pork (A).

Tim Ho Wan – North Point (Intermediate A), Shop B, C, & D, G/F, Seaview Building, 2 Wharf Road, North Point, timhowan.com.hk

Another branch, also with its own Michelin star. I walked straight in without queueing. The menu is a couple of dishes longer and the desserts are different. I tried a few different things this time.

Phoenix Claws (Fèngzhuǎ 鳳爪) is the euphemistic name for chicken feet which have been deep fried, boiled and then steamed. Often, as here, they are served with black beans. I’m slowly learning to appreciate them, but I’m not completely there yet (B).

The Wontons in Chilli Sauce were pretty good (B+).

The Pan-fried Green Pepper with Mixed Fish and Pork was a new dim sum to me (B+).

I also enjoyed the Steamed Rice with Chicken and Chinese Sausage (B+). It had two kinds of sausage, one with blood and the other without, both of which were less challenging than the ones I’d have with my claypot rice at another restaurant.

DimDimSum (Intermediate A), G/F, Man King Building, 26-28 Man Wui St, Jordan, www.facebook.com

In 2011 this restaurant won the Time Out Food & Drink award for the best dim sum in HK and in 2012 they were listed by Newsweek as one of the 101 Best Places to Eat in the World. I knew of them via the 2013 edition of Where Chefs Eat. The location is slightly off the beaten track in Jordan but it’s worth the walk from the station.

They have a rep for innovative, unusual dim sum and I was immediately drawn by their Steamed Rice Rolls with Black Truffles and Mixed Mushrooms (A).

That didn’t stop me ordering perhaps the most common dim sum of all, Har Gow 蝦餃, translucent steamed prawn dumplings, which I adore (A).

I liked their Chicken Feet and Spareribs on Steamed Rice because the smaller portion means all the feet get eaten when ordered by timid Westerners like me (B+).

They are well known for their cute Pineapple Buns with Custard Filling (A) which feature in the savoury section of the menu for some reason.

Where Chefs Eat recommends the house specials like Pan-fried Tofu Skin with Chicken and Cumin, or the fried ‘9 Dishes’ with Pig’s Blood and XO Sauce, Steamed Tripe with Black Pepper Sauce, and for dessert, the Sesame Seed Balls but many of these weren’t on the menu when I went. So, make sure you ask what specials are on that day.

Overall, excellent food and very reasonably priced. I urge you to go.

Luk Yu Tea House (Intermediate B+), 24-26 Stanley Street, Central, www.lukyuteahouse.com

This venerable institution was established in 1933 but moved to its present location in 1976.

It doesn’t seem to have changed much since then.

The décor has an Art Deco feel with wooden booths, ceiling fans, and stained-glass windows.

They get props from the Eat Like A Girl blog and in Where Chefs Eat they are described as one of the best places in HK for dim sum. They also get extra points from me for serving beer.

The menu is also very retro and included many hard-to-find items, and there’s nothing bite-sized about their portions. Take for example the Steamed Jumbo Sized Chicken Bun (B) which could easily have fed four.

I also found the ‘Steamed Shumai topped with Pork Liver Slice’ to be quite unsubtle in their presentation, but the flavours were good (B).

My favourite was the Lo Mai Gai 糯米雞 or Steamed Fried Rice with Shrimp wrapped in Lotus Leaf (B+).

Finally some Egg Tarts to finish (B).

The service has a reputation for being notoriously rude but I have no complaints about my chap who was friendly and attentive.

So not the best or the most reasonably priced food, you’re effectively paying for the history and tradition, but it’s still a good experience that I would recommend. In 2002 a businessman was assassinated by the Triads in here but don’t let that put you off, they’re not after you, are they?

Maxim’s Palace (Advanced A-), 2/F, Low Block, City Hall, Central, www.maxims.com.hk

This is a modern place that observes tradition. The location on the second floor of the City Hall building has a good view of the harbour…

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…and the opulent surroundings merit the palace moniker.

The dim sum are old school and served off trolleys. This was my last day of eating dim sum and I was in the mood for dumplings…

I had the Har Gow 蝦餃 steamed prawn dumplings once more because I love them so much (A).

And of course the Chāshāo Bāo叉燒包, steamed BBQ pork buns again (A), along with the Steamed Ribs with Black Bean Sauce (B+).

Also the Chángfěn 腸粉 Steamed Rice Rolls with Shrimps were good (A).

The only dim sum I had here that aren’t mentioned above were the Xiǎolóngbāo (饺子). Also known as Shanghai dumplings due to their place of origin, these are pork-filled ‘soup dumplings’ (they can contain seafood but not usually) which flood your mouth with juicy rich broth when you bite into them (A). Here, the hole in the top allows you to top them up with blended vinegar and soya sauce.

My only gripe was that I was rather abruptly hassled to pay the bill while I was still eating which earned them a minus mark but otherwise it was a great experience.

Obviously as a single diner, the amount of different dim sum I can try at any one time has its limits so apologies if I haven’t covered a more comprehensive range of dim sum, there are many more. Hopefully though I’ve given you a good range of the best things to try. Go with a gang if you can.

Noodles next! 🙂

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