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Mar 27, 2007 06:43 AM

Report of 3 Dim Sum Places in Hong Kong

Hello. Just returned from a terrific feasting vacation from Hong Kong. We had dim sum three times there -- Maxim's, Four Seasons, Tao Heung.

Maxim's seems to be the board favorite. We went to the one at City Hall. Quite a bustling environment! Maxim's offered cart dim sum. Their offerings were quite varied. We had quite a sampling, including items we haven't encountered before in our hometown of New York. Here is what we had:

hau gau
steamed shitake and mushroom dumplings
steamed vegetable dumplings
shu mai
choy sum
green squash stuffed with pork and shrimp
dumpling soup
shrimp rice roll
steamed beef short ribs in black pepper sauce
turnip cakes

The standouts were the steamed vegetable dumplings, green squash stuffed with pork and shrimp and the steamed beef short ribs in black pepper sauce, probably because I haven't seen these versions in New York. The steamed vegetable dumplings were filled with fresh sauteed greens that were filled with flavor. The turnip cakes were good (probably because they were freshly made -- I was lucky enough to sit by the kitchen). Everything I had here was much more flavorful than what I would get in New York. I was one happy camper.

The next day, we had high-end dim sum at the Four Seasons. It was a beautiful location. We were lucky enough to secure a window-side table. This is what we had:

scallop, shitake mushroom, and carrot and green bean wrapped with noodles
rice roll with greens and shrimp
curried vegetables in flaky dough
shanghai style soup dumpling with pork and dried scallop
scallop and shrimp dupling served in green noodle cup
fried rice with sausage, taro, shrimp paste
petit-fours -- crisp cookie with sesame seeds and green tea jelly

My favorites were the rice roll and the scallp and shrimp dumpling served in a green pasta cup. Everything was exquistitely prepared, made fresh to order. All the seafood was properly cooked, crisp in their pasta. The rice noodles in the rice roll was thin and non-gummy. It was perfect, the way rice noodles should be. The fried rice was incredibly tasty and full of briny flavor. I loved the bits of taro in the rice (then again, one of my favorite dishes growing up was omu rice where my mom would put cubes of potato with the rice). I love the starch on starch combo. My least favorite was the shanghai dumpling -- not enough soup and flavor for me. I've had much better versions in New York. But the Four Seasons wasn't a Shanghainese restaurant. The service was terrific, probably a bit too stuffy for my taste. I asked them to bring out the dim sum one by one so I can savor it while it's piping hot. They cleared our plate after each course (something I had never experienced during dim sum). The fried rice was presented to us tableside. One of the waiters was painfully trying to ask us what we plan to see while we're in Hong Kong (English wasn't his strong suit). The Four Seasons probably trains its waiters to make small talk with all the restaurant patrons.

We were then lucky enough to have been tipped off to this very non-descript, non touristy place by our hotel concierge called Tao Heung (pronounced "Doo Hung" in Cantonese). The concierge informed us that Maxim's reached its peak a few years ago, and that this is the place for dim sum in Hong Kong these days. It's on the Kowloon side, on the third floor of the Silvercord Mall. You need to be careful because there are three Chinese restaurants on that floor -- one is a seafood place, another is a fusion place and the third is Tao Heung. There is no English signage. We had to ask the woman at the front if we've reached the right place. Nary a tourist in sight, this was quite bustling with a huge line of locals waiting for a table on Sunday morning.

There were no carts at Tao Heung. Everything was made to order. Luckily, they had an English menu with numbers. We then were presented with an order sheet in Chinese. Luckily, I was able to order by the number. We then ordered:

shu mai
squid in chili and ginger sauce
dumplings chui chao style (filled with veggies and peanuts)
hao gao (shrimp dumplings tao heung style)
shrimp and chive rice rolls
deep-fried pork dumplings
pig tripe
beef tendon boiled in spices
pork knuckle and egg in soy sauce

The shu mai and the hao gao were definitely better here than at Maxim's, probably because they were made to order. While I almost never order fried items at dim sum because they have been sitting around for a while, I ordered the deep-fried glutinous pork dumplings here. They were absolutely delicious. I love this dish, but only like it when it's piping hot. The squid in cihli and ginger sauce was so flavorful. I only wish the squid was more fresh.

While I prefer the carts (so I can see what I'm getting), I definitely like ordering my dim sum to order because of the freshness. If I saw these dishes at Tao Heung beforehand, I probably would not have ordered them. The beef tendon was good, but we were presented with such a huge plate that we only ate about 20% of it. The pork knuckle was also not my thing, served in a sauce of dark soy sauce and extra molasses. It was too sweet and cloying for my taste. The pig tripe was also not my thing as well. And these three were not made to order as we were presented these dishes within 10 minutes of ordering.

Tao Heung is a definitely find. I couldn't find much info on them online, but I am very grateful to the concierge for his help. Tao Hueng is also costs less than Maxim's. If you know what you're getting, there's nothing like getting dim sum fresh to order.

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  1. Great report, this one's a keeper! Slight digression, but what's your favorite New York spot for traditional dim sum?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Gary Soup

      Compared to Hong Kong and San Francisco, New York is really lacking in terms of dim sum restaurants. But if I had to choose, I would say Golden Bridge for the quality and Harmony Palace for the selection. These are cart restaurants, and the key is to secure a table by the kitchen. I never thought too much of Jing Fong and Golden Unicorn. And I haven't tried Ping's yet.

    2. Excellent report! I used to live in NYC and really thought the dim sum there wasn't that great, not even worth mentioning tbh.
      I'm curious as to where else you dined during your trip, hope you can add another report soon!

      1. Tao Heung is a chain of restaurants with several locations in Hong Kong and Guangzhou. I have only been to Tao Heung in the evening for Hot Pot (excellent food quality & service).

        1. The next time you are in HK, get thee to the China Club for dim sum on the weekend. Yes, it's members only, but a concierge from a good hotel can get you in and they do take Amex or cash. Not only is the food superb - it is, IMHO, the best buffet for any cuisine in the world - but the restaurant is amazingly beautiful (think 1920s Hong Kong). Make sure you tell the concierge that you want the buffet.

          1 Reply
          1. re: pinpei

            We actually had the chance to eat there last month (thanks to family), and I was both amazed and disappointed at the same time. The food for the most part is great (the dim sum there is the worst part actually, for the most part), considering that it is a buffet and such luxuries as made-to-order jook with live prawns is worth the trip alone. Unlimited* portions of lobster noodles, crab, live fish, abalone, geoduck and more also make this sound like heaven.

            But I put that * for a reason because it's a flawed concept. The dishes aforementioned are made in limited batches, and what tends to happen is that people will flock to the said dish, and usually the first 2-3 people will clear it out entirely. You have no idea when that dish will reappear because they rotate dishes, so it turns into a game of chance and monitoring when the good stuff comes out.

            So it's a great place in theory, but for the equivalent of $50 USD per head and the fact that you have to fight for your food, I'd take the Shangri-La buffet instead. It's more of a blend of Western and Chinese cuisine, but it's a much more pleasant experience, especially if you're there early. We enjoyed ample amounts of roasted suckling pig there, decent sashimi for a buffet (all the usuals plus boston amaebi), and a lot more other made-to-order stuff.

          2. Great report - This will help with our October visit. Tao Heung sounds good.