In Hong Kong for 10 days.... help :)
My wife is going to HK for ten days for business, which means i get to go to HK for ten days for leisure! However, I have never traveled to HK (or any part of Asia) and I am a little intimidated by the language/custom barrier.
While I will be going out to dinner with my wife and her co-workers at night, I will be left to my own devices for probably 7-8 out of the 10 days we are there.
My question is this, I cannot speak or read any Chinese and to be honest I am not really all that familiar with authentic Chinese food. How the hell am I going to order in these restaurants? Are any of the menus in English also? I def am not interested in Americanized food or any sort of McCrappos. I really want to stretch my palate and comfort zone while I am there. How hard is this going to be?
Don't worry. I'm currently in Hong Kong for what I think is my 12th trip. I don't speak or read a word of Chinese (except that I know how to specify my favorite green veggie by saying "dao mieu"), and I eat very, very well when I'm here. Just read the board, note both the restaurants and the recommended dishes at those restaurants, and start eating.
Lots and lots of places have English menus, even many of the wonderful holes in the wall. No one will expect you to speak Cantonese, and you can always point at what's on other tables if you find yourself in a hole in the wall with no English menu. I once ordered beef tendon soup noodles in a little place in Mong Kok by mooing and pointing to my Achilles tendon. But I could get them at Wing Wah at 93 Hennessey in Wan Chai by ordering from the English menu.
Hong Kong is an intense place, and can be overwhelming at first. But the restaurants want your business, service is businesslike and accommodating, if sometimes brusque, and I really don't think you'll have any problems (be warned that most taxi drivers speak little or no English, though -- get your hotel to write your destination in Chinese, and bring a card with you for the return trip).
Any place that looks even a little upscale, that's between Jordan and Tsim Sha Tsui, or Causeway Bay and Central, will almost certainly have an English menu. So you could start with that. But there are many rewards to be had at the holes-in-the-wall, and little to be lost by just diving in and making your way as best you can.
If you want to stick to the real deal, be aware that the expat-focused places starting with Hollywood road and up the hill from there, on Hong Kong island tend to be less authentic and more expensive. I come here basically to eat, and I rarely venture into that area.
I think you'll have fun in Hong Kong. I always do.
Relax: it's going to be easy...HK is a very very easy city to navigate and menus in most places will have English or pictures...occassionally they won't, but it's really not a problem as there is usually an English/Cantonese speaker around to translate for you in you ask nicely...
in terms of exploring authentic Chinese food, you should tell the board here what some of your likes/dislikes are in terms of the Chinese food you have eaten in the past, and people will suggest options to broaden your palate...in addition to the Cantonese places (including everything from HK diner food to congee to dimsum to bbq meats to noodles to high end Guangdong seafood), you can get a lot of regional Chinese food, like Sichuan, or Chiu Chow, a favorite here...
Discovering Chiu Chow cuisine was one of the joys of my visits to HK...it includes a lot of dishes you won't find in N.America...it'd be a fine option for a group dinner one night...
I'd start by browsing this board and doing a search under something like "first trip HK" and you'll find dozens of suggestions...cross-reference w/ a guide book and map if you like...then post followup questions when you narrow down your choices...
Hope that helps...have a great trip...
boy are you going to have fun.
hong kong has excellent mass transit so get an octopus card (good for trams, buses, ferries and so much more) first thing.
hong kong is less chinese and more cosmopolitan. english is widely spoken so don't be afraid to go anywhere.
don't reject western food out of hand. i have a few favorite english, french, spanish places that i call home. hong kong understands cocktails and wine.
check out lamma island. take the ferry, walk the trail that crosses the spine of the island, feast on seafood you pick from a tank. have the restaurant send you home on their boat.
there's so much more.
re: steve h.
Just came back from HK so here's my take. I agree with trying Chiu Chow food, it's simple food but tasty. House of Jasmine is my favorite of all places on this trip. It's in Harbour City (by Gateway). It's expensive but if you want to splurge on one meal this is the one. We ordered their BB roasted pig, lobster pasta, fish on rice crispies, crab soup, beef salad and peashoots. All were very tasty. After dinner we sat outside on their patio which had a great view of HK harbour. The mocktails we had were definitely delicious, I had the rose and guava with soda, yum.
On Canton, there's a place called "under the bridge", it's a flower market and if you walk further in there are various places to eat, one of them is the famous meat ball noodles. Personally I enjoyed it but didn't find it amazing. It's probably due to the location that attracts clients. It's very hot and stuffy in there and someone dirty since it is under a bridge.
Tsui Wah for cha chan teen type food. Great curry. Their bread/buns are really fresh and tasty too. Espcially their "piglet buns" it's bread covered with butter and condense milk.
Beautiful Shanghai at Mega Box for xiao long boas.
Hui Lau Shan for fresh fruit drinks especially their mango and coconut drink.
No.9 "gow gay" for their brisket noodles. Very small place but tasty noodles, small portions so you'll need to order two =)
La Fleur, great french bread, fresh oysters. Duck confit and risotto were very good.
We went to many other places during our 12 day stay and food every where were good. I find that most times, the low key places were a favorite without all the fuss. Don't be afraid to try new things. Food in HK is relatively cheap, I say that b/c of our Cdn and US exchange but if you're not fussy about going to a fancy spancy place, it's not pricey to eat there.
re: gourmet wife
You can try openrice.com ... oh ... just realized that you don't know Chinese .
Hmm.. you can still go to the site and look at the pictures :-) .
I'd say spend most of time on the Kowloon side, especially Monkok and TST. And in my opinion, unless you go into the mainland, HK itself takes very short time for sight seeking purposes. So you can pretty much concentrate all your time on eating.
For restaurants, I'd recommend a visit to Yung Kee (http://www.yungkee.com.hk/) . You will understand why it's called "flying goose" . Dim sum, well, there are just too many but if you really want to venture - try one of the many "street markets" (not really on the streets but in a designated building, usually with wet market on the lower floors and food stalls on the top) and see if you can really manage to order with sign language. :-) This is the place where 70% of customers are old people and they carried their bird cages to the table. Food, so so, but it's heck of "only in the movies" experience.
Behind the vendors in night markets there are many many small eateries that serve real good food. One of them is "Australia Milk company" on temple street. Recommending this to you would be almost like a prank - I always want to know if they are willing to slow down their famous super fast order process for tourists (who don't speak Cantonese). You can watch from outside first and see if you get intimidated. :-
)Char Chan Tin is also a must. There is nothing painting a better picture of HK culture than Char Shan Tin. What's left? oh... the noodles. You will find the western concept of al dente is ... well, Cantonese are absolutely much more obsessed with the chewy-ness of their noodles. For that, you have to break the Kowloon side rule (since you already did for Yung Kee) and go to Shan Wan. Mak's Noodle (http://www.openrice.com/restaurant/sr...) or just across Yung Kee - Won Ji Kee. Yung Kee makes great wonton mee too. Gao Gey is also definitely one of the best for beef brisket.
And this, is the best place to get the best char siu, the most fascinating way Cantonese roast their pork - http://www.openrice.com/restaurant/sr... , if language barrier really deters you - a very close second in my opinion is Dynasty restaurant in Renaissance, Kowloon side.
Have a good trip and let us know if you can still swallow the US version of Chinese food after you are back :-) .