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Introduction to Hong Kong... Zuma, Caprice, and...?

I will be in Hong Kong for business for a few days in December for the first time. Being from New York City I've been to many world-class restaurants like Le Bernardin, WD-50, and Jean Georges, Nobu and Daniel. I would like to experience the best of the culinary world in Hong Kong, I definitely would like to try Zuma and Caprice -- as well as local Hong Kong cuisine. I've read mixed reviews about Amber and Pierre Gagnaire. There is a L'Atelier in NY, so I may pass on that unless it is highly recommended by someone. Would like to also go to Macau for a day.

I will be traveling solo, am open to meet fellow chow-hounders for dinner on Sunday. Looking forward to a culinary adventure :)

In town Sunday - Friday, with a day reserved for Macau. What do you think of Zuma and Caprice as my top picks? What are the top 3 restaurants or culinary experiences, in your opinion, that shouldn't be missed on a first trip to Hong Kong?

Thanks!

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  1. Zuma is comparable to Nobu, whilst Caprice is comparable to Jean George. If you have been to Nobu or JG in NYC, why bother? Why not take advantage of the current financial storm and go high end Chinese instead?! Mega discounts everywhere! Yan Toh Heen in the Intercontinental or T'ang Court in the Langham hotel are two good choices on the Kowloon side. On the HK side there's Lei Garden in the IFC mall, Lun King Heen in the Fourseasons or Golden Leaf in the Conrad. If $ is no object, feel free to give Fook Lam Moon or Forum a try. The braised dried abalone will set you back a bundle but its really yummy!!! If you really wanted western, I would save it for Galera a Robuchon in Macau. At least Michelin 2*. For a unique experience I would give Bo Innovation a try. A 'Chinese' El Buli if there's such a thing! Good Luck!

    PS: A number of fellow chowhounders also had rave reviews about Italian food at Causeway Bay's Da Domenico. Best Scampi/clam linguine east of Milan! Very expensive though! Be prepared to pay US$65 for a plate of pasta!

    7 Replies
    1. re: Charles Yu

      Zuma is comparable to Nobu, whilst Caprice is comparable to Jean George. If you have been to Nobu or JG in NYC, why bother? Why not take advantage of the current financial storm and go high end Chinese instead?! Mega discounts everywhere! Yan Toh Heen in the Intercontinental or T'ang Court in the Langham hotel are two good choices on the Kowloon side. On the HK side there's Lei Garden in the IFC mall, Lun King Heen in the Fourseasons or Golden Leaf in the Conrad. If $ is no object, feel free to give Fook Lam Moon or Forum a try. The braised dried abalone will set you back a bundle but its really yummy!!! If you really wanted western, I would save it for Galera a Robuchon in Macau. At least Michelin 2*. For a unique experience I would give Bo Innovation a try. A 'Chinese' El Buli if there's such a thing! Good Luck!

      PS: A number of fellow chowhounders also had rave reviews about Italian food at Causeway Bay's Da Domenico. Best Scampi/clam linguine east of Milan! Very expensive though! Be prepared to pay US$65 for a plate of pasta!

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      Charles Yu Nov 18, 2008 09:48PM

      Thanks for the insight Charles. I was thinking about balancing the trip with western style dining as well as food places that locals would go to whether it be street vendors or small mom & pop kind of establishments. I love shanghainese steamed buns!

      High end Chinese? Not really a believer, do the ingredients/ preparation/ creativity justify the cost? I will read up on Yan Toh Heen, T'ang Court, Lei Garden, Lun King Heen, and Golden Leaf. I'm not a huge fan of abalone, what is it like compared to the abalone in the States? Out of your suggestions, what are your top two?

      I will definitely check out Galera a Robuchon and Bo Innovation. I'm sure you've already heard that the new Michelin Guide for HK comes out in early December, I'm looking forward to what they have to say as well.

      1. re: babiemindy

        Go to Zuma, babiemindy. The last time I was in HK a few months ago, I dined at Nobu 3 times in one week (loved Nobu ever since I first dined in its London outlet over a decade ago). Then, one evening, a HK friend brought me to Zuma. I was blown away. Zuma's got a vibe which Nobu would kill to have. The cocktail list is enough to make you want to spend a week in there, and the food is great.

        I'm sure you'll like Caprice. I currently rate it as one of the 2 best French/Continental restaurants in HK - Amber is the other one. L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon would be rated behind these two, despite its stellar clientele & its reputation as a place to see & be seen. If you've been to other L'Ateliers in Paris, Tokyo, etc., you'll find its HK incarnation a bit underwhelming.

        I was going to recommend the quintessential HK dining experience at Yung Kee (for its roast goose) to you, but it's really not a place to eat alone. Firstly, you need to queue up for yonks, then you'll be surrounded by large groups of noisy diners, and you won't be able to order a good variety of dishes to try (braised garoupa tail & fin; roast pigeon, etc).

        One of HK's current top dining hotspots at the moment is Sevva atop Prince's Building which you might want to check out.

        1. re: klyeoh

          Just visited HK over the New Year's and had Zuma's for NYE dinner. Zuma has been done to death here so I'll just point out an interesting find while I was there. There was an off-menu dessert item that took me by surprise. Their molten chocolate cake is by far the the best I have eaten anywhere else. It was so good, I returned the next day just to have it for dessert. It was the single best dish I had over my 9 day trip there. After 3 meals a day for nine days, I believe that says a lot. They call it the 'Special Chocolate Cake' and I am not sure if they will stop serving it after this holiday period. HKD85 per serving. DO NOT SHARE... I regretted sharing mine and have to re-order.

          Other places I have tried over the nine days:

          1. Steamboat at Firewell 火井. Whitty Road, Sheung Wan - Repeater. I have it everytime I'm in HK. Ask for the cuttlefish paste and special grade beef.
          2. Hutong (I like it in spite of what others say) - Repeater
          3. Dragon Inn (Way off the beaten path) - Repeater. Buy your live seafood off the port nearby and have this restaurant cook them. Fish done 2-styles is great. They flash-fry the fillet and then quick braised it with celery. The bones and head is done in another style. The carcass was excellent.
          4. Press Room (Opp 123 Hollywood road) - Repeater, french cafe-style dining but pricey. Roasted pork belly with mash and the onion soup with baked Gruyere was heavenly
          5. Mak's - Repeater. Still find this the 2nd best wanton mee on the Island. Still looking for the best.
          6. Sam Dor Noodles - First time. Somewhere in Central. Braised brisket, imo better than Gau Gei.
          7. Hei Kee - Repeater. Great Chilli crab but not worth the price. A friend needed to have his fix.
          8. New Plum Garden Chiu Chow in Shenzhen. - 1st time. Not bad but not as good as Cheung Fatt in Kowloon City. Brinjal (aubergine) with minced pork and salted fish in claypot was awesome. The durian puffs were also surprisingly good (particularly since I am Singaporean)
          9. Cheung Fatt 创发 Chiu Chow - Repeater. Featured in No Reservations (some of his recommendations are good, REALLY!), its better than Sheung Hing imo. Braised Foie Gras was amazing.
          10. Dozens of hole in the wall.

          If some of you are planning to visit some of the less popular places above pls let me know, I will get you the address in English and contact number for reservation. Dragon Inn and Cheung Fatt are rather hard to find. I'm lucky that my partner lived in HK for a few years and we both speak cantonese, so that's a plus for navigation.

          Happy Chowing 2009!

        2. re: babiemindy

          >> High end Chinese? Not really a believer

          no offense, but.... ouch!

          HK & China is quite different from Singapore, for example, where hawker/street food rules. High end Cantonese/Shanghainese is definitely a different beast altogether, and that's NOT because of all the abalone/sharks' fin etc. (can be an acquired taste) - it's the finesse of the cuisine/chef's skills that differentiate fine Chinese from street food.

          My top picks would be T'ang Court (dinner) and Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons (dim sum lunch/brunch).

          However I do agree with those who mentioned that dining solo for high end Chinese might be difficult - cha chaan teng and noodle places would be a lot easier alone. There are plenty of threads about these places on this board - e.g. Mak's, Tsui Wah.

          Personally I think 'western' food in HK isn't that great on the global scale of things, and most 'western' restaurants have consistency issues, but Amber is brilliant (when the head chef is there). Caprice and Pierre have failed to wow me, esp considering the extortionate prices. Zuma, well, perhaps modern Japanese just isn't my thing - gimme Kenjo in Tsim Sha Tsui any day.

          Happy chowing!

        3. re: Charles Yu

          Charles, I think Chinese would be tough for a solo diner... you can just about order a small steamed fish and veggies and you're done. She needs dining companions for that, and even with 2 people it's tough. But I love Yan Toh Heen, Golden Leaf and Fook Lam Moon as per previous threads.

          Would be interested to know how people see Bo nowadays, since I stopped going a couple of years back.

          1. re: Peech

            I was actually thinking of a menu that might include a nice personal bowl of sharksfin or snake soup, an oyster sauce braised 16? head dried Japanese abalone, a plate of Chinese green and a plate of say, rose scented soya sauce free range chicken.

            1. re: Charles Yu

              Also, there is a tasting menu with like ( 6 -7 courses ? - abalone, shark fin, pigeon, sea cucumber ... ) at Ah Yat Abalone (Forum), it is around $2500 HKD last time I saw it, wonder if it has lower down the price of it (or if they still provide it). I don't think too many people are going there for the expensive food in this bad economy. And it will not be enjoyable to dine there alone in my opinion.

        4. If you like WD-50, then you have to try Bo Innovation. It is one of my fav in town and I have been to their new location once and it is still just as good. Think of this as Chinese fusion that actually tastes good.

          I like Nobu in the US but don't think the one in HK is any good (even when Nobu himself was serving us). Been several times and I didn't like any of the dishes aside from the desserts. Been to Zuma once and find it to be OK. And don't go to Roka, what a waste of time and money.

          For Chinese, I would go to Lun King Heen for dim sum and T'ang Court for dinner. Can't go wrong with these.

          If you want Japanese, I would go to Kenjo for sushi and Nadaman for kaiseki.

          20 Replies
          1. re: HKTraveler

            Bo Innovation sounds really interesting. WD-50 was a fun experience. Do you think I would need to make a reservation for 1 person there?

            I'd definitely like to try Chinese when I'm in town, though like Peech says, as a solo diner I won't be able to order many dishes.

            Thanks for all your suggestions so far, I am looking forward to my trip :)

            1. re: babiemindy

              Yes! Reservation is necessary!
              Telephone is : 2850 8371
              BTW, their website is www.boinnovation.com

              1. re: Charles Yu

                My wife and I ate at Bo Innovation 2 weeks ago and it was positively dreadful. I am sorry this Alvin violated the #1 rule of any restaurant. The food has to taste good! From the amuse bouche of 1000 year old egg with candied ginger until we walked out, every course was a complete miss. I was so looking forward to this meal and it failed in all respects.

                I don't want you to think my wife and I don’t have experience with molecular food either. In the past 2 years we have dined at the Tapas Molecular Bar in Tokyo; Alinea in Chicago; Arzak in San Sebastian and the Fat Duck in Bray. Alvin needs to stop smoking that cigar, take off those shades and taste his food. As far as we’re concerned, he couldn’t even wash the dishes in one of those restaurants.

                We didn’t want to be completely rude when we were in his restaurant last Monday night, but we asked for the check prior to the second main course of waggu beef right after his riff on sweet and sour pork using Spanish ham that was complete vapid. We just couldn’t take it any more.

                As we reached the elevator, his staff must have indicated to him that we that they sensed we didn’t like the meal and he came rushing over to us. We politely told him that we were tired from a flight that morning, but honestly it was the biggest waste of money I have ever spent on a meal in my whole life. If I could, I would dispute it with Amex.

                Look, there were plenty of people at the restaurant who seemed to be enjoying the food and the Michelin Guide just gave him two stars, but I want you to understand we thought it was just not good.

                On the other hand, Lung King Heen was excellent and so was Lei Garden in the IFC.

                1. re: Zunga

                  There is a positive review on Bo Innovation on today's edition of Asian Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB12309...

                  The author even wrote: "Compared with a meal I had at El Bulli four years ago, my recent dinner at Bo was actually more enjoyable, even if it was less scientifically inspired." This place seem to get either love or hate response...

                  1. re: FourSeasons

                    Agreed, Bo Innovation tends to elicit strong reactions from its diners. I think I fall into a grey area tilting towards the "love" end of the scale. Like Zunga, I've dined at other molecular gastronomy places, e.g. El Bulli, Fat Duck. That said, I should think that we'd have to regard Bo Innovation as a (very) poor Chinese cousin of El Bulli. But then, what Bo Innovation did was to revolutionize diners' take on Chinese cuisine. The first time I was at Bo Innovation (shortly after its name change from Bo Innoseki), I had my first taste of deconstructed "Lap Mei Fun". Traditionally Chinese steamed rice topped with waved meats & sausages, Bo Innovation's version was an ice-cream sundae - the cone was made from pressed, pulverized rice, and the ice-cream had a strong Chinese sausage/waxed meat flavour.

                    Another course I had was its durian fried rice. I love durians, never failing to have durian with glutinous rice & coconut creme whenever it's in season either in Bangkok or Singapore. But Bo Innovation's savoury fried rice, with durian pulp, was nothing I'd ever imagined possible.

                    I never looked at Chinese cuisine the same way ever since. Thanks, Bo!

                    1. re: klyeoh

                      FS, I just read the WSJ article...given the way he posed for the picture, do you actually think that he ego stopped growing? His remark about an 80%success rate does not strike me as self-deprecation... I don't think Ferran Adria would talk about a success rate that high...

                      Yes, what struck me initially about Bo during my first visit in 2004 was the "lap mei fan", which seems to be the dish that struck a cord with just about everyone who liked Bo. And the hairy crab souffle had the same effect. I was blown away and went back to Bo a few times just to have those dishes.

                      But what else has he done recently to wow people? If "lap mei fan" is the one dish that people keep mentioning, is he really that creative after all? Does the place merit repeat visits after the first one?

                      1. re: Peech

                        lap mei fan is featured in the $178 HKD set lunch, maybe I will just go for that on my visit this time around.

                        1. re: skylineR33

                          HK$178 for a set lunch at a Michelin 2* restaurant?! Wow! thats only Can$27!! A whole set lunch for less than the price of a Tim's Kitchen crab claw!!
                          Must be sign of the time!

                        2. re: Peech

                          I think it's the dream of every chef to come up with at least ONE dish in his career that he'll forever be remembered for: in the case of Auguste Escoffier, he had quite a few, including Peach Melba. In the case of La Tante Claire's Pierre Koffmann, it was Au Pied de cochon aux morilles, whereas for Le Moulin de Mougins' Roger Verge, it was Pigeonneau en croute de sel.

                          As for El Bulli's Ferran Adria, he first startled the culinary world years ago when he deconstructed the traditional Spanish omelette - his version is served in a martini glass: caramelised onions below, filled up with egg-yolk emulsion, then topped with potato-parmesan foam. He revolutionized Spanish cooking & the Iberians have never looked back ever since.

                          Maybe Alvin Leung will forever be remembered for his deconstructed lap mei fun. Hopefully, he'll inspire Chinese chefs to break out of the traditional mould.

                          1. re: klyeoh

                            The the best Chinese cuisine is technique-driven and ingredients-driven, not chef-driven. Bringing molecular gastronomy into China, which unfortunately some front-running chefs are doing is, IMHO, a travesty.

                            http://is.gd/fwMj

                            1. re: Xiao Yang

                              Apart from the traditional cooking techniques of braising, stewing, poaching, steaming, deep frying, roasting and double boiling, the 'stand out' part of great Chinese cuisine is the 'Wok-Hay' part of the 'stir-fry' equation. Most molecular cuisine I have savoured include dishes that are relatively 'docile?!' Foams, capsules, deconstructed ingredients many of which cooked sous vide..etc. Therefore, it will be fun and a real challenge to see 'Molecular Chinese dishes' that are serve piping hot with lots of Wok Hay!! Otherwise, might as well have some nouveau Cantonese dim sum in say, Lung King Heen instead!

                              1. re: Xiao Yang

                                Agreed - one should NOT do molecular gastronomy just for the sake of it. Pudong Shangri-La's Jade on 36, for e.g., which opened to loud acclaim just a couple of years back, had closed shop.

                                But Chinese chefs do need to continue innovating - something which they've always been willing to do anyway. E.g. some Chinese restaurant dishes like wasabi prawns, Peking duck skin on foie gras or even mango pudding/egg tarts, which are de rigeur nowadays, are fairly "new'"additions to the Chinese culinary world.

                                BTW, it's about time for Chinese restaurants to be chef-driven. Many a time, we go back to the same Chinese restaurant only to find a certain favorite dish served there had mysteriously changed - i.e. either standard had dropped, or some subtle/distinct differences in the technique. Then, we'd find out much later (and with great difficulty) from the restaurant management that the chefs had changed.

                                1. re: klyeoh

                                  Bringing back a previous thread. 'Tim's kitchen' of HK and Macau would definitely be a 'chef-driven' example! Original chef went to Macau resulting in a Michelin 2* whilst the sous in HK only garnered one.

                                  1. re: klyeoh

                                    Peking duck skin on foie gras is now de rigeur? Since when? I've only had it once in Singapore at the Fullerton, and thought it was a rip off...

                                    1. re: Peech

                                      The trend was started by HK-born, Toronto chef Susur Lee when he was chef de cuisine at Club Chinois, Orchard Parade Hotel in Singapore for a few years in the late 90s. Since then, it's been replicated by most of the other top restaurants in Singapore, especially those belonging to theTung Lok Group. Oops,come to think of it - it may be a common menu item in Singapore's Chinese restaurants, but not HK's ones. I've had that dish in Fu1088 in Shanghai, as well as the now-defunct Jade on 36.

                                      1. re: klyeoh

                                        Yes! Lee served that dish once in a while in his now closed Toronto restaurant - Susur as part of his chef tasting menu. Wonder whether he'll serve it in his new NYC restaurant?!

                                        1. re: klyeoh

                                          Hello klyeoh, speaking of dishes which're common to Singapore Cantonese but not in Hong Kong, how about "yee sung"/raw fish salad? I've "lo hei" in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur during Lunar New Year, cannot imagine Neq Year without yee sung, can you?, but don't think I saw the dish in Hong Kong/Macau - or am I wrong?

                                          1. re: M_Gomez

                                            lo hei is a Sing/Malaysian custom I believe...have never done it in HK

                            2. re: FourSeasons

                              I found I like the food I had at BO Innovation. For me, I do not have a single bad dish in there, the worst I had in there is a ok. I had mostly the classic dishes, so maybe the newer one does not work as good ??!

                              BTW, they have another way to present the Lap Mei Fan. I don't know when they make that change, but just point it out in case. It is no longer presented in a clay pot, it is present on a spoon. They use a machine to quickly frozen the rice cracker (wor bar) with the lap mei ice cream so the lai mei taste is more attached to the rice. Whereas before, the ice cream just sit on top of the rice cracker and present in a mini clay pot

                            3. re: Zunga

                              Zunga, Are you ethnically Chinese and grow up on Chinese food? If not, I would agree that the experience is not as enjoyable. As for me, I find his interpretation of various Chinese cuisines to be inventive and tasty.

                              BTW, if you think the Lei Garden in IFC is good, then the one in Wanchai would be at least one step ahead.