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Jul 17, 2009 09:41 PM

Help Me Appreciate Hong Kong

I'm new around here, so I'm hoping not to make any enemies with this post, but I'm really curious to get some recommendations. I currently spend most of my time in Beijing, though I previously lived in Shenzhen and would make almost weekly trips to Hong Kong, I do travel to HK on a regular basis and will be there in a week and am looking for some ideas as to where to eat. I know, this is a question that has been answered here countless times before, but I have a major caveat to that...

For typical Cantonese foods like dim sum, congee, and seafood, I have places I enjoy in Shenzhen that are excellent (for more tastes, as good as some of the touted HK spots) and almost always cost a lot less.

So what I'm looking for is unique HK experiences/things I can't find on the mainland, like innovative/modern Chinese preparations and good foreign food, though I'd prefer not dropping a major wad unless its worth it (thus I have concerns about Bo). I'd also be into an old school cha can ting that still delivers (and preferably in Central or Causeway Bay) or a good chili or typhoon shelter crab.

Finally, with my mention of "foreign" food, specifically wondering about any Indian recs (not a fan of the Chungking Mansion experience) and if anybody's been to Yorkshire Pudding? I've heard mixed things about it, but would love a decent English pub meal...

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  1. I have no help other than to echo your thoughts. My impression based on a couple of visits is that Hong Kong is, culinarily, pretty lacking for those acccustomed to eating (and treating) on the mainland and to whom international cuisines are not a novelty. Surely there must be more delicious and good value places in Hong Kong for us than congee and cha can tings : )

    1. There has been a lot written about the dining scene in Hong Kong in past years. Suggest you read the old threads or use the search function first. If you want to look for "foreign food" like Indian recs and English pub, maybe you need to check out magazines like Timeout for expats. Chowhound caters more for serious foodies than expats.

      And for those who think HKG is about congee and cha chan ting, perhaps need to do more research. It is like saying US food scene is limited to just hamburger and steak houses.

      17 Replies
      1. re: FourSeasons

        sorry, I did a quick search and saw lots of different topics discussed, including a lengthy thread about the "best burger in HK", so I though the serious foodies I'd find on here appreciated all different foods, including good Indian and a well made fish & chips or steak & Guinness pie. Or perhaps dining out, may have at one time or another stopped in at Yorkshire Pudding or a similar spot.

        I searched and failed to find anything recent on innovative/modern Chinese food in HK, reviews of Bo are dated and seem to be very mixed (which is in line with what I've heard). At the same time, restaurant quality and service can change with time, just look at how in my opinion, Pierre has improved and Felix has slipped.

        1. re: modernleifeng

          First, Shenzhen is a decent place for Cantonese cuisine but not in the top league, and certainly no comparison vs Hong Kong. Guangzhou is a much better choice for Cantonese food in Mainland. Second, there are many "unique HKG experience" that you cannot find in Mainland but certainly Indian food, fish & Chips are available in Mainland and not "unique" at all.

          I am providing a few older threads, perhaps you can search the unique experience there (but they are definitely not "foreign food"):

          1. re: FourSeasons

            Thanks for your attempts to help FourSeasons. It appears more and more that pepper mill is right...

            1. re: modernleifeng

              Appear more and more right for people who have not much clue...

              1. re: FourSeasons

                well, here's hoping that unlike countless previous trips to HK, this one will be enlightening...

              2. re: modernleifeng

                There are many recomendations in the referenced threads in FourSeason's post. I hope you will have an open mind to try them out, it is the only way you can appreciate food/things/experience in a city.

                1. re: skylineR33

                  My comments were based on three years following this board and trying out places during a couple of trips to Hong Kong. If you are used to eating excellent versions of things like dim sum, noodle dishes, roast meats, and more upscale Cantonese on the mainland this really raises your expectations when you are forking out HK prices, which even very good dishes do not fulfill.

                  Will probably be back in HK later this year, and am really looking forward to congee (I can eat congee in Chengdu, but haven't found any nearly as good as in HK) and cha can tings. Oh yeah, and egg tarts. Maybe seeking out vietnamese, since it is nonexistent here in the Wild West. I would love to know about native HK food that is either unique there or tastes far better than the same dish on the mainland.

                  1. re: pepper_mil

                    To each his own. Perhaps we have different taste bud, I am not a fan of congee or cha chan teng. I have tried and told about some good stuffs in Guangzhou, but you and modernleifeng are the only ones who ever said that other Mainland cities are as good in Cantonese food as Hong Kong. (of course, it is cheaper in China) Frankly, I have big doubt but it does not matter. Perhaps you can click the sites I posted above for further recommendation...

                    P.S: actually for upscale refined Cantonese food, it is not cheap to eat in China, at least Beijing and Shanghai. Those are the places where government officials and high post businesspeople entertain, so price is never cheap. I am not sure about Chengdu but I have never heard much good thing about Cantonese food there either. As u know, Si chuan natives and Cantonese natives have entirely different taste focus on the "ma la" and the other focus more on freshness of ingredients.

                    1. re: pepper_mil

                      Same here. First time ever hear people say cantonese food in mainland is as good as the ones in Hong Kong, well to each their own, probably as Fourseason said, we have different taste bud. I do agree it is in general cheaper to eat in mainland, that's about it.

                      The referenced threads in Fourseasons's post are pretty recent, maybe you can get better recommendation there or you have already tried them all (from hole in the hall eateries which provides Cheung Fun, wonton noodle, beef brisket noodle, clay pot rice, snake soup, Tofu fa, chicken pie, mango sago pomelo dessert, roasted pigeon to private kitchen dinner, cheap to upscale chiu chow, shun tak cuisine, fresh live seafood in the the nearby island, to michelin star in world class level french restaurant, cantonese and nouveau cantonese fusion .......etc), but still not satisfy ?

                      1. re: skylineR33

                        I think a lot of it is taste buds. In Shenzhen, I'd get wonton noodle or beef brisket noodle from time to time, they were just okay, then went to Hong Kong and friends took me to a few spots that were the "best" (and were talked about in one of those threads), it was a great bowl of noodles, but nothing THAT impressive. I'd still prefer Lanzhou la mian over egg noodles any day. The fresh seafood I had at places in HK wasn't that much better than what I had in Shenzhen, the fish was caught from the same places, and in SZ its a lot cheaper. I love Chaozhou seafood congee, but there are spots in Shenzhen I've enjoyed as much or more than what I've had in HK. The private kitchen experience is kind of cool, but haven't found one to rave about, Gong Guan was a little disappointing. I'm interested in trying Da Ping Hao for myself, though friends have said its good for HK, but not for real fans of Sichuan food.

                        I'd love to try some of the world class restaurants, though before I drop that kind of wad, I want to get a few more opinions. Been to Felix and Pierre and enjoyed Pierre, went to Rubuchon's L'Atelier in Paris and Galera in Macau, so it will be awhile before I'll try the HK outpost. I'd love a midpriced, excellent European spot, these are severely lacking, even in Beijing and Shanghai, is Chez Les Copain that spot?

                        I'm very interested in the nouveau cantonese fusion. As I've said before on this thread, I'm interested in trying Bo Innovation, but the mixed reviews have me concerned, though I'm of the mind to just go anyways.

                        1. re: modernleifeng

                          I have also tried seafood in Shenzhen, whereas I found it cheaper, the taste is just not as good as those in HK. Lanzhou la mian is a different noodle than wonton noodle, if you prefer it more, it is more like a personal preference. For congee, there are quite a few recommendation in the referenced thread, give them a try. There are many private kitchen in HK, not sure which one you have tried, some good one (like Tim's Kitchen) has moved to a restaurant, have you tried that one ? Da Ping Hao, as Fourseason said, some people like it and some don't, I guess it is the same any restaurants, there is no place which get 100% positive reviews. Same as BO, it is not traditional, some people don't like it and some people rave about it.

                          1. re: skylineR33

                            Haha, at the end of the day, perhaps that's the issue. As foodies we love what we love and from my experience with Chinese foodies, more than any others, 10 people will have 10 different opinions and the BEST spot for every dish. I think its much harder to find "consensus" wonderful spots and a lot depends on what you're typically exposed to.

                            Anyways, I guess I've got some good ideas for this trip (and probably the next one in another month or so as well).

                            1. re: modernleifeng

                              I am getting a better understanding of what you want as you post more comments. I agree completely in your last post. Even Chinese themselves disagree on what is good; I know many Shanghainese who cannot stand Si chuan dishes, and many Si chuan natives who dislike both Beijing and Shanghai cuisine. I believe your preference of Lanzhou la mien over wonton noodle is due to the stronger favor; some people tend to feel that Cantonese food is bland because of their emphasis on the natural ingredient.

                              Anyway, coming back to your request for "foreign food" and "modern Cantonese", let me provide a few choices. I have never tried Indian food in HK because I live in Singapore, which I think has better Indian dining scene and I am not a fan of English pub meal so not able to recommend both categories.

                              For fine dining, Pierre and Felix have received poor review in Chowhound. Since you want to avoid Robuchon, I would recommend instead Caprice at Four Seasons Hotel. I have been there once and it was an excellent meal. Some here love Amber though I have not tried it before. For Italian, I love Da Domenico but many think (and I agree) it is way too expensive. For Japanese, I have heard many good things about Sushi Imamura.

                              For modern Dim Sum, you may want to try Golden Leaf at Conrad Hotel. My favorite Dim Sum is Fu Sing, but again you don't want the traditional ones. The crab roe xiao long bao that is only available in hairy crab season ar Fu Sing will triumph any XLB place in Shanghai, in my opinion. For Cantonese cuisine with some modern interpretation (but certainly not as radical as BO), you may want to check out Tim's Kitchen (only go there for dinner; lunch review is mediocre). I have only tried its Macau branch and I thought it is in the top league. Another one you may consider is Lei Garden IFC; they have some modern interpretation of Cantonese dishes that I like too. Unlike your experience, I did not like the Chiu Chow food that I had in Guangzhou, so I would recommend Pak Loh if you are in the mood for Chiu Chow. I prefer Da Ping Huo over the Si chuan places I had in Beijing/Shanghai but I can understand if your friends who are used to Mainland taste may feel otherwise. The chef at DPH has cut down the "ma la" taste and the greasiness that is common with Si chuan dishes in Mainland, so they may feel it is not the real thing. For me, I feel they have actually refined it. So two different perspectives.

                              Again, I think it is a good idea to read the past threads. I think I have selected some of the better ones for your reading.

                              1. re: FourSeasons

                                I am adding two more recommendations for "modern Cantonese". Private kitchen Yin Yang is getting rave review. Another one I like is Chung's Cuisine at Times Square but I have not been back for 3 years so hopefully the standard is still consistent.

                                1. re: FourSeasons

                                  Thanks for the help, sorry I wasn't specific enough to begin with...

                          2. re: modernleifeng

                            If you don't mind splashing, try Gaddi's or Petrus at Peninsula and Shangri-la respectively for the best classic French food in Hong Kong.

                            Slightly (but not all that much) cheaper French is Cepage at Star Street. (Have not been, heard rave reviews - am a frequet patron at its big sister Les Amis in Singapore)

                            Cheaper still (about $500-700 a head) is Cafe des Artistes - this USED to be an excellent restaurant, but the last time I went there was 3 years ago.

                            For Italian, you've come a year and a bit too late, and half a year too early - what I reckon is/was Hong Kong's best Italian (Toscana at the Ritz-Carlton) closed down and will reopen in the ICC some time in 2010. Come back again in 2010, or ...

                            Aspasia at Luxe Manor has had good reviews, though I have never been. Nicholini's has magnificent decor and excellent food and service.

                            Grissini is slightly cheaper than the above, but nothing out of the extraordinary.

                            Alternatively, for about HK$300-HK$600 a person (including drinks), head to Elgin Street in Soho to dine at Cecconi's - not the greatest Italian restaurant in the world, or even in Hong Kong, but for that money you get a very good authentic meal with excellent service.

                            1. re: chinmoy.lad

                              the restaurant situation has changed quite a bit this year, and cafe des artistes is no more - it's now union j, opened by ex-chefs of jean-georges in shanghai. i've not been but it's had pretty good reviews. the chef at aspasia has left and opened the drawing room at jia hotel in causeway bay, in conjunction with umberto bombana, previously of toscana at ritz-carlton - it's very good, but not traditional italian. i reckon the pastas are pretty other-worldy.

            2. i thot of helping but after reading the long thread...i paused cuz it's so "1 man's meat is another man's poison". each individual has different level of taste preference & ratings. a general question about where to find or recommendations is alright, but to "help appreciate" food is too far out, appreciating culinary is very personal without measureable matrix...juz like with wine or beauty.

              1. You've probably heard this before, but Indian food outside of India is quite poor.

                Hong Kong in particular doesn't do great Indian - Bronto in Tsim Sha Tsui is a fair fast food place (bit expensive for fast food though). Viceroy, Gaylord's and Jashan are popular amongst the locals, expatriates and Indian NRIs, despite the high prices, average food and poor service. I'd suggest staying clear, but if it keeps drawing in customers, it must be doing something right I suppose?

                1. don't bother with yorkshire pudding - for good pub grub, try the chinnery at the mandarin oriental (fancy i know but really doesn't cost much more than YP) or the pub at the pawn (not the restaurant).

                  chungking is a mixed bag - one place that gets very good reviews is the delhi club, though i've not been myself. i can't say i've had any indian in HK worth mentioning...

                  gaddi's and cepage both do great deals at lunch, for about HK$300-400/head (incl. wine at gaddi's) - very decent in HK terms and considering these are the town's top tables.

                  SZ and guangdong offer plenty in terms of cantonese/hakka/chiu chow food, and price-wise cannot be beat - but the standard of living is completely different, so it's kind of like comparing apples with oranges. anyway - one thing you can't find in china is a decent HK style milk tea, an egg tart and toast with condensed milk, for which the easy answer would be kam fung in wan chai, or honolulu (branches around town). other things semi-unique to HK is food from "wai chuen" (walled villages) and the northern territories. often you have to be part of the walled villages to take part in their celebrations (and eat their food - most typical is "poon choi", or literally, dishes in basins), but tai wing wah does some very traditional canto/HK dishes that hardly exist in china anymore, as the some traditions/cooking techniques practically died out during the cultural revolution, such as rice with lard and top quality soy sauce (sounds disgusting, but think potato mash with its weight in butter). tai wing wah's original branch is way out in yuen long, but they have a new-ish branch in kowloon bay. tim's kitchen, as some others mentioned, also does some great old-school canto that is hard to find in china (though arguably it's getting increasingly easy as HK 'hits' are being replicated in the mainland), such as braised pomelo skin and 'eight-treasure duck (duck stuffed with glutinous rice and all sorts of other things!)

                  i don't think HK is the "food paradise" it's promoted to be, but if you dig deep, good things await.