Sun Tung Lok, Happy Valley, HK - How's the food these days?
About 25+ years ago, before the days of Ah Yat, Forum, Fook Lam Moon and Michelin stars, Sun Tung Lok was THE go to place for high end top notch Cantonese feast. 4-8 head abalone as well as sharksfin, with strands the thickness of chopsticks, was a common sight. I recall a friend of mine once told me that his father paid over HK$20,000 a table to entertain Chinese government officials! And that was over 25 years ago!
I was surprised to read that they are still around after all these years! In addition to their usual well known dishes of mega-expensive sharksfin and abalone, the article also mentioned that their Dim Sum still follows the traditional approach of preparation. eg, Har Gow has the mendatory 11 folds per dumpling!
Has any fellow chowhounder given this old stalwart a try recently? How's the food?
Thinking of giving it a long overdue visit next March?!
When Lung King Heen (LKH got its 3-star Michelin, many people not only in HK but also across the globe began to discuss and question the restaurant’s credibility as well as Chef’s capability whether they deserve the red book’s highest accolade. While the debate was still going on, many were surprised when Sun Tung Lok (STL), out of nowhere, became the 2nd restaurant serving Chinese cuisine to receive the world’s most prestigious award for a restaurant. Does STL deserve its merit?
Food (and wine) – 92/100
Since I visited alone to STL this time (early 2011), I supposed the most efficient way to dine here would be trying its degustation menu. There were several different tasting menus, varied from about HKD 1000 to more than HKD 5000. Generally, Chinese restaurants would serve more than 100 items daily on the menu. It will be impossible to expect any dish we pick to be of 3-star level unfortunately. It’s been a while that I have not savored Chinese delicacies, and since STL is very famous for abalone, bird’s nest etc. plus it’s in HK, I believe this should be the right place to do so.
Among the standard/classic preparations of Chinese luxury ingredients, here is what I had =
- Braised shark's fin in superior soup (let’s put aside the ‘shark’s finning’ controversy for a moment) - The tasty 'soup' consisted of chicken broth and Yunnan ham. I liked my 'stock' not too intense. The shark's fin was kept whole and served in generous portion with nice texture. It's never about being delicious here
- Crown brand Yoshihama dried abalone served with shark's skin - The abalone was fresh and firm, the sauce around it was quite good. The tasteless shark's skin has a jelly-like texture (contrast to the abalone). Actually, outside the abalone, the rests were unnecessary
- Double boiled bird's nest with almond and coconut crème (dessert) - Really delicious. The almond cream was of high quality, the coconut added fragrant smell, the bird's nest was soft in texture ... The soup had a nice hint of sweetness, my favorite dish!
Some other dishes that were quite good are: braised prime rib (tender and the meat fell of the bone easily, but the sauce was too sweet) and sauteed live prawns (it would be nicer if the prawn was ‘firmer’ and the spicy sauce was not spicy enough). The cold dish appetizer and baked spaghetti were pretty much forgettable. The tea selection was not as wide as the one at LKH. I had tie guan yin and didn’t usually drink wine eating at Chinese restaurants. Based on this visit alone, I like STL slightly better than LKH. I gave 92/100 (low 2 ¼*) for the food rating – no comments for its dim sum. I might do LKH some injustice since I did not order shark’s fin, abalone or live sea food when eating there (meaning I may have not tried LKH’s best items)
Service (and ambiance) – 93/100
I experienced a slightly better service at STL compared to LKH. The staffs were courteous, professional and attentive though rather impersonal. The wet towel was replaced regularly; my tea cup was always filled. At least one waiter was always nearby my seating booth. Sometimes, I felt that I was being watched
The dining room was nicely decorated with big tables and comfortable chairs. It’s also very spacious (may not be very common in Chinese restaurants). However, it lacked any beautiful views of HK’s harbor. When I came, it’s rather quiet. After 1 hour plus, the restaurant was about 80% full. I noticed that 10% or fewer of the guests were tourists (there were a few Caucasians and African Americans, but they’re accompanied by locals), mostly the patronage was locals. As a whole, I think Chef Joe Chan was doing a decent job. STL’s shark’s fin soup and abalone will always follow its 30 plus years of experience and preparation – safe choice, one will either like it or hate it. I think the chef also needs to be bolder to try more contemporary Cantonese cuisine with some twists. It’s shown a few in it’s a la carte menu. Overall, I was satisfied with my meal here, but it’s not a 3-star meal in my notes – 92 pts, still worth 2 ¼*.
Pictures of the dishes: https://picasaweb.google.com/11823790...
We really enjoyed the dim sum at Sun Tung Lok a few months ago but had a terrible meal there last week. For example, the pork buns were dry, chewy, and clearly pre-made and re-steamed, and the signature stuffed suckling pig skin was deep fried almost to the point of being burned.
Why is it so hard to find a restaurant that is consistently good? Is Fook Lam Moon the only one?
I had the same experience with the Dim Dum at Fang Tang. In March, I went there with a few hounds and it was excellent and top notch. But then I went back there just two weeks ago; it was just above average, not terrible as per your experience though, but really disappointed after expecting a similar standard that I had in March. And we ordered mostly the same dishes too; but the execution just wasn't there. Wonder if it is just an isolated incident or a change of chef?
OK Charles, JUST FOR YOU... Sherman and I went to Sun Tung Lok with some friends for dim sum today. Overall I thought the quality was very high, certainly among the top in Hong Kong for me. With one lunch experience each, STL definitely kicks the butt of the so-called 3-star LKH.
But I probably will stay away from ordering the expensive stuff...was never a big fan and certainly not gonna change just for this place!