Beijing, Shanghai & Hong Kong. What are the essentials?
Hey guys, I'm going to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong in mid August and I really wanted to know what the essential, must try restaurants are. This is my first time in China and I want to leave feeling like I have an understanding of the range and variety of food that China has to offer. I have a few ideas for where i might like to go but really, i feel quite clueless, there's just so much. For Beijing, I was thinking Dadong for Peking Duck and I've been hearing great things about Three Guizhou Men. Has anyone tried Fu Jia Lou or Noodle Loft? I might want to try those out too. For Shanghai, I was thinking Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant for it's xiaolongbao but other than that, i really want to try some traditional Shanghai cuisine, any recommendations? In Hong Kong, i really want the tradional dim sum experience so I was thinking City Hall Maxim's Palace. For an introduction to Cantonese i was thinking Yung Kee. Any recommendations for stalls in the Temple Street Night Market?
Hong Kong - for dim sum I'd suggest two - for posh go to Dynasty in the Renaissance Harbour View in Wanchai, for more casual go to Tim Ho Wun in Mongkok (the owner here was the dim sum chef at 4 Seasons' Lung King Heen when they were awarded 3 Michelin stars). It is pretty close to Temple Street night market - which in all honesty is an horrific place. Full of tatt and hot as hell in the middle of August. I'd go to fish street (Tung Choi Street in Prince Edward, down the road from Mongkok) over here any day of the week, much more interesting and open til about 10pm too.
In HK though I think the best restaurant to get excited about is Bo Innovation in Wanchai. I don't go a bundle on Cantonese cuisine, it's a bit too subtle for me. I prefer mainland food - for that I would definitely give Peking Garden in Central a go. For seafood I'd take a ferry to Cheng Chau and eat at any of the restaurants along the waterfront. Much better value than Lamma island, Lei Yu Mun etc. There are some great Japanese restaurants in HK too - my favourite is Kiyotaki in NoHo, Central, or June in Tin Hau. Take a look at my blog for some further ideas. http://causticcandy.com/
I know nothing about Beijing or Shanghai but Hong Kong must eats to me include:
Won Ton Noodles (雲吞麵 pronounced "Won Ton Meen")
Mak's Noodles (77 Wellington St in Central)
Tasty's (21 King Kwong St in Happy Valley
Tsim Chai Noodles (98 Wellington St in Central
Mak's Noodles is my choice for best won ton noodles in Hong Kong. I personally don't think they blow me away but they are the best of the bunch I have tried. Some people may also argue that the broth of Tasty's is better and that's somewhat of a valid argument. For more non-traditional won ton noodles Tsim Chai Noodles is also highly regarded. The reason they are non-traditional is because the won tons are as big as golf balls...haha.
Egg Tarts (蛋撻 pronounced "Dan Tat")
Tai Cheong Bakery (35 Lydnhurst Terrace in Central)
Sun Wah Cafe (344 Castle Peak Road in Cheong Sha Wan
Kee Tsui Cake Shop (135 Fa Yuen Street in Mong Kok
For most out-of-towners the usual go-to spot is Tai Cheong Bakery. They are well-known mainly because they were the favorite egg tart place for former governor Chris Patten. They serve very good 'western' style egg tart here (crust is similar to pie crust). Most places in HK now serve this kind of egg tart (one is not necessarily better than the other...just personal preference). For more traditional style egg tart (crust has flaky layers) my choice is a little out of the way in Cheung Sha Wan called Sun Wah Cafe. If you want to kill 2 birds with one stone (by also visiting a old-school Chinese bakery) maybe you could check out Kee Tsui Cake Shop in Mong Kok. Definitely not the average bakery you see everyday (even for a Hong Kong person) and they serve very tasty traditional style egg tarts as well. if you are there also try their "cow's ear" cookies (it's only called that because it is shaped like an ear...kind of like how orecchiette is called ear shaped pasta).
Congee (粥 pronounced "Juk")
Sang Kee Congee Shop (7-9 Burd St in Sheung Wan)
Rice porridge is pretty much to Hong Kong as hamburgers is to the US. Not really sure if this your thing but rice porridge flavored with meat/fish can be super tasty. For example my choice would be an old school place called Sang Kee. Their specialty is their fresh beef congee or their dace fish ball (similar to carp) congee. Tasty's which I mentioned earlier for wonton noodles also has pretty decent congee.
Roast Pork (叉燒 pronounced "Cha Siu")
再興燒臘飯店 (has no English name but pronounced "Joi Hing Siu Lap Fan Dim") (265-267 Hennessy Road in Wanchai)
Their simple roast pork over rice IMHO is the best in town. The plate will cost you about $22 (about US$3)
Roast Goose (燒鵝 pronounced "Siu Or")
Yung Kee (32-40 Wellington St in Central)
A bit touristy but I actually go to Yung Kee pretty much every Sunday since my parents go to church and it isn't too far away. Their roast goose is pretty damn good (although I remember being better when I was younger). The place is clean and tourist friendly. If you are adventurous you should give their 1000 year old eggs (a type of preserved eggs) a try. It might taste and look a little weird at first but with a few slices of ginger on top it's actually quite tasty IMHO.
Hope this helps!
On my last trip to Beijing, I had meals at both Da Dong and Noole Loft. Here's a link to the thread. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/432509
I've got amazing pictures from Noodle Loft - will try to find and post them.
I'm heading to Shanghai the first week of September for work, staying in the Pudong area, so I'm eager for replies to your post.
Thanks so much for the reply! Would you happen to know of any cheaper restaurants in Shanghai serving authentic Shanghai cuisine? Something super tradional, but still tourist-friendly? I've heard great things about the Sichuan representative office restaurant in Beijing, what do you recomend there? I'm really interested in trying Xinjiang food, is Afunti's show worth the mediocre food? Also, at Dadong, besides roast duck, what do you reccomend?
I'm not an expert on Shanghainese offerings in Shanghai, so I'd defer to others, though I'd add Jesse Restaurant in Xujiahui as another good spot that is cheaper than the other two.
I've eaten at the Sichuan rep office countless times, I don't say this often, but there are very few misses on the menu, so you can feel comfortable ordering whatever you find interesting that day.
Afunti's fun, you have your meal at large communal tables in most cases, then there's a show based (somewhat) on Uyghir/Xinjiang culture and then the place turns into a disco where the tables are all cleared off and you can get up and dance on them. In most cases, I'd probably choose Crescent Moon, but if you have a large group or youngsters, I'd consider Afunti.
Da Dong's really about the duck, more than anything, and if I'm paying, after the duck, its about a way to fill up everyone at the table without blowing a massive wad of cash. Ordering a vegetable is always a must and they do a good job with their simple stir fried veggies. There is a lamb and mushroom stew that I really enjoyed, but maybe not best for summer. Other than that, the other dishes I really remember are the pork neck and the drunken chicken.
Da Dong is the best choice for duck. Fu Jia Lou is the type of place that expats love because its friendly to them and serves food within their comfort zone, but its not very well liked by locals. Noodle Loft is gimmicky, its cool to see them making the noodles and their noodle dishes are tasty (though no better than what you'd get at small noodle places that charge half the price). It does have my nominee for the city's scariest Chinglish "hand pulled ass meat" (which is absolutely delicious). I did mention 3 Guizhou Men elsewhere on here, again, its very foreigner friendly and allows them to go outside their comfort zone while not going too far outside it. There are far better Guizhou restaurants in the city, but few are as welcoming to foreigners (with English menus, cleanliness, and interesting setting). I've recommended Na Jia Xiao Guan before and I'd recommend it again, if you can eat spicy food, I'd recommend Sichuan, most likely the Sichuan Representative Office Restaurant (川办). I would go to Crescent Moon for excellent Xinjiang food (or if you are more into a show, Afunti, for mediocre Xinjiang food, but lots of fun). Are there any cuisines you are particularly interested (or not interested) in?
For Shanghai food, I'd go to Fu 1088 or Gui Hua Lou (located inside the Pudong Shangri-La), though both of these spots are pricey (ie ballpark them at RMB300 per person).