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Indian Food [Hong Kong]

PhilD Feb 3, 2011 02:51 AM

I know we are in the perfect city to sample the myriad of delights Chinese food offers but sometimes you need variety and the Friday night curry is one of my rituals no matter where I am (an English heritage showing through). So the quest is on to find the best and after our first month here we have tried a few:

Tandoor (1/F Lyndhurst Tower, Central) was our first experience after a recommendation from a work colleague. Unfortunately it didn’t impress with sludgy curries and slightly crispy naans – a definite quality in a pappadum but not in a naan. The food was very reminiscent of a good old British high street curry, which may be a good thing in some peoples book, but for us is a reason not to return - price HK$528 for two.

Hin Ho Curry (Shau Kei Wan) gets a star in the latest Michelin guide, which is not usually a great endorsement for Indian food, so we approached this one with caution. I think we were the only ones with a reservation and I was definitely the only one in a suit, and we were probably the only westerners. It is packed, and turns tables frequently. The menu is scrappy and too long; the photos’ in the menu are not a good sign, and so it looks like we will need to put this one down to experience. However the food is superb, great kebabs, really fresh breads and some great vegetables (the true test of good Indian food). The curries are all really fresh with quite subtle flavours. Service is a bit chaotic but wonderfully friendly - a keeper and one we will return too frequently – price HK$368 for two.

Bombay Dreams (77 Wyndam St, Central) is a really posh curry house in a trendy designer space off one of the popular/fashionable bar streets. It’s a good space, nicely designed with thick white linen table clothes. It has an interesting menu with some nice choices. The kebabs are good, if slightly mild, and the vegetable curries are generally interesting apart from a sludgy eggplant dish. Breads are wonderfully fresh and of good quality. Again another one for a return trip especially if we feel like staying in Central. It also features in Michelin and gets a bib, this really confuses me as the bill for two was HK$707 which stretches the bib definition of $300 a head for a three course meal (as do many other Bibs in HK).

So far so good, two out of three were good, the quest will continues, I will keep the feedback coming and would be grateful for suggestions and ideas.

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  1. u
    Uncle Yabai Feb 3, 2011 02:09 PM

    If you like pure vegetarian South Indian, try the Woodlands or Branto, both in Kowloon. Very atmospheric places, quirky service, but outstanding dosas and thali platters. For northern-northern indian (Nepali), the Nepal restaurant in Staunton Street has a pretty good tandoor.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Uncle Yabai
      c
      chloehk May 25, 2011 03:17 AM

      Hey Uncle Yabai, is Woodlands still open? Photos of their food on Open Rice looked very good, but when I called their number -- 2369 3718 -- I got wrong number and no answer.

      1. re: chloehk
        u
        Uncle Yabai Jul 3, 2011 06:40 PM

        I have no idea, but I would be surprised if it closed. Is always crowded with people from India and the subcontinent when I go.

        1. re: chloehk
          u
          Uncle Yabai Jul 3, 2011 06:43 PM

          Just called the number, everything OK, don't know why you couldn't get through.

      2. h
        Hot Chocolate Feb 3, 2011 03:16 PM

        My indian coworkers have recommended conrad's buffet on sunday.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Hot Chocolate
          PhilD Feb 3, 2011 04:22 PM

          Don't they mean the "Curry Tiffin" which is the weekday buffet in the "Lobby Lounge" at The Conrad?

          The Sunday buffet is on the 8th floor and is broad based covering all sorts of foods with only a couple of curries.

          1. re: Hot Chocolate
            smileyko Apr 29, 2011 07:06 PM

            Ok, the Conrad, very good, very expensive, totally uptown, place to to to be seen. As for Indian? No. I think my friend your Indian co workers thinks you like these five star places so they tell you the Conrad. For real Indian you have to get down, down to the real Indian food in TST or even Causeway Bay. Some are really a hole in the walls. The server all smells like BO on roids. But at these places the garlic nan and the tandoor are fab and you will see some Indians eat saag with their bare hands. Now you won't get to see that at the Conrad. Worst then that, when you go to the Conrad buffet, you won't even eat Indian since they have 200 other things for you to try, like you will just stick to Indian??? Come on.

            1. re: smileyko
              PhilD May 1, 2011 06:26 PM

              Smileyko - I have not tried the Conrad buffet but did try JW Marriotts one a few weeks ago. They had Chef Shadab Khan from JW Marriott in Mumbai presenting a selection of dishes so on a slow Good Friday holiday we thought why not and we were not disappointed. As with all buffets they did have "200 other things....to try" but we focussed on the Indian section.

              Overall I was very impressed, a nice selection of dishes including whole lamb shanks in a mild sauce, a fiery prawn dish and a chef making romali roti to order. Chef Khan was at the buffet station and helped me select the correct (homemade) pickles to match to each dish which really added a lift to each and revealed very different flavour profiles. We had a very good meal and it was definitely worth the money for the overall quality (and quantity as i filled my plate three times). Unfortunately he was only in HK for April so the promotion has finished but I will keep my eyes peeled for others.

              I am still far from convinced that the cheap "Indians" in TST (CKM I assume?), or CB (where would you recommend?), are any more real than more upmarket places. OK it is cheap but why do we assume real Indian food needs to be cheap after all there are lots of very wealthy Indians who appreciate and pay for quality and I find it vaguely insulting (to Indians) that their food is only good if it is cheap and served in squalid surroundings.

              1. re: PhilD
                smileyko May 1, 2011 07:05 PM

                Yes, Mr. Phil, both the Grand Hyatt and the Conrad really put out the buffet show, I lived at the Hyatt there in HK for 8 month at the service apartment and love the Conrad too. The thing is with all that other stuff you see, I tend to let my eyes wonder and then the mouth tend to go with it. Now if you want to try some more upscale places that's real Indian, and nothing but Indian people love to go to Gaylords in TST, on the HK side the Tandoor is a great bet. They are in Central I think. Now check out this site:

                http://www.hktandoor.com/

                This should light you up a bit. Now let me tell you my top Indian place to eat since I stay in Causeway Bay now. There is a little hole in the wall right near Time Square, it's on the second floor on the corner of Russell St and Percival St. You can't miss it but the signs are small, look up a bit till you see it, only 50 yards from Time Square, really down home grass roots Indian food, no table clothes, no wine, just great food served by real Indian folks. Now that's my top choice when I want some saag and dal. Happy Eating.

                1. re: smileyko
                  PhilD May 1, 2011 07:25 PM

                  If you read the thread you will see we have tried both Gaylord (OK) and Tandoor (average to poor). We will check out your recommendation near Times Sq - do you have a name - sounds like it is near my Indian grocery and spice shop.

                  I clicked the link you gave it is a site with no content....?

                  1. re: PhilD
                    smileyko May 1, 2011 07:46 PM

                    Those two are when people wants a great place to eat and don't care about the food. The Time Sq place is easy to find, remember to look up, the signs are on the second floor wall. Sometimes there are people passing out coupons right there at lunch. Mango Lassi, very good here. Now my best curry I ever had was in TST in a back alley 茶餐厅,the very best gooey thick curry over fish filets, OMG, my mouth waters just thinking about it, once again I can't even recall the name but I know how to walk there on Peking Rd near Canton Rd, a real hole in the wall.

          2. Charles Yu Feb 3, 2011 03:41 PM

            If you are brave enough. Try venturing into 'Chung Hing Mansion' in TST across from the Peninsula. Place a bit sleezy but lots of very authentic places inside of complex!

            4 Replies
            1. re: Charles Yu
              PhilD Feb 3, 2011 04:28 PM

              I haven't been in for a curry but have ventured in before.

              I always ponder on why "authentic" is used as code for cheap and often not great quality i.e. ingredients, surroundings, cleanliness etc. My Indian colleagues tend to enjoy the same standards as I do so why do we assume hole in the wall places are more authentic than more upmarket ones?

              1. re: PhilD
                Charles Yu Feb 3, 2011 04:43 PM

                Interesting question!
                However, I did find for example, Pho in Vietnam does taste better and look more authentic from Hawker stands or Hole in the Wall places than nice sit-down restaurants! Furthermore, apart from a few exceptions, I found Indian curries in hole-in-the-wall places in London like Tooting better tasting than a lot of more fancy and comfortable places!

                1. re: Charles Yu
                  PhilD Feb 3, 2011 05:54 PM

                  Charles, I wonder if it has to do with the evolution of food in those countries. In places that have yet to establish a general restaurant tradition the single dish focussed hawker stands are great, but in countries with an established/evolved tradition they are superseded by the restaurants.

                  I know in Sydney there is an emerging generation of Vietnamese and Thai restaurants, often second generation restauranteurs who are building-on, and moving-on from their parents "pho" stalls. These have broad interesting menus with really interesting dishes rarely found in the standard vietnamese "hole in the wall" places. I also ponder why "we" often reduce a great cuisine like Vietnamese to "pho" and "summer rolls": maybe the limited holes in the wall are to blame with the more diverse cooking still mainly confined to home kitchens.

                  The UK is interesting, there are some great local "Indians" now, often second generation restaurants run by the offspring of the first pioneers. There is also a divergence at the top end especially outside London, a posh curry in London has tended to go more mainstream tastes, whilst a posh curry in Birmingham or Leicester is more "authentic" probably catering to the large populations of Indian/Pakistani origin. The exception is probably Southall in London which has some real curry palaces with lots of expensive bling.

                  I wonder if we are seeing a bit of this in HK with places like Bombay Dreams, we definitely saw it in Sydney.

              2. re: Charles Yu
                WCchopper Feb 3, 2011 04:30 PM

                I agree- had some tasty food at Bombay Club I think the name was.

              3. PhilD Feb 6, 2011 06:28 PM

                Another Friday night and another curry. We watched the fireworks at the bar in Aqua (and won't ever darken their door again - long story) and so headed to The Gaylord in TST, it was pretty empty on arrival but soon filled up. The menu is quite extensive with lots of interesting dishes. We probably ordered badly as we ended up with three dishes that were too similar, that said the quality of the food was good, and we enjoyed every dish. A kebab to start and then three veggie dishes completely overwhelmed us as the portions are more than generous! Good value at $421 for two, with one beer and more than enough food for three!

                20 Replies
                1. re: PhilD
                  TomEatsHK Feb 6, 2011 09:02 PM

                  As an aside - I have to say I haven't ever found any truly amazing curry places in London. Tooting, Southall, Norbury etc. included. Obviously there are Pakistani grilled meat places around Whitechapel but they aren't rounded experiences.

                  Had no outstanding experiences in HK. Place on Mercer Street (pretty much downstairs from where I live is average). Nepali place in Queen's Road West Cooked Food Centre is actually ok for the price.

                  Really interested about the 1 star place. Will give it a go now.

                  The best I have had recently was a place by the street by the military firing range in SIngapore. Pure genius. But I think there is a lot of good curry to be had there.

                  1. re: TomEatsHK
                    j
                    JamTam Feb 7, 2011 04:36 PM

                    Generally agree about a lack of amazing places in London but I do quite like Sagar (in Hammersmith, haven't tried the branches) for vegetarian. Southall had a few good places too, though could be slightly hit and miss. Chowki was normally fairly reliable as well, though, as you say, not amazing.

                    From a "finer" dining perspective, I do have a vague recollection of enjoying Chutney Mary as an undergrad (was taken there for a job interview) and I did like Benares on someone else's tab. Trishna was a massive let down, nothing like the original.

                    There are quite good curry houses in Manchester and Birmingham, though I tend to stumble into them rather than know where I'm going.

                    I have struggled in HK for good Indian. I think to date my best experiences have been in Chung King mansions (apart from the fear factor).

                    1. re: JamTam
                      PhilD Feb 8, 2011 03:33 AM

                      JT - looks like we have been lucky and have a good hit rate because most we have tried in HK are better than those you mention in London.

                      I used to live in Chiswick so know Sagar and Southhall, I liked Chowki but didn't find it that special, preferred Mela the sister restaurant in Shaftesbury avenue. That said my quest continues here in HK....!

                      1. re: PhilD
                        j
                        JamTam Feb 8, 2011 03:40 AM

                        Lol a London neighbour then! I think sagar and southall were winners from a value perspective. Where would you recommend in London these days then?

                  2. re: PhilD
                    TomEatsHK Feb 6, 2011 09:07 PM

                    PPS maybe as a pre chowhound meet we should try and hunt down a good Indian as this disucssion of Indian food is making me hungry.

                    I really really want to find a murtabak here in HK but think that may be impossible.

                    1. re: TomEatsHK
                      Charles Yu Feb 7, 2011 05:14 AM

                      Since you are in HK , may be you can initiate the research. I'm sure Nilecable et al will love to savour something other than Chinese. Assuming its good?!!

                      1. re: Charles Yu
                        n
                        NilesCable Feb 14, 2011 03:57 AM

                        If a place serves good food I am always interested! But I also must say that I still have much Chinese food to sample, so just Chinese in HK is also good for me. ;)

                        Also, I have been to an Indian Restaurant in Vienna past week that was raved in a Magazine test but it was not so great as they made it sound. The Curries were OK, but the portions very small and the prices much too high. I think a pot of lamb curry should have more than 5 small pieces of meat for a price of around 20 US-$.

                        1. re: NilesCable
                          Charles Yu Feb 14, 2011 05:18 AM

                          Better taking the 'Chunnel Train' to London for Indian food!!

                          1. re: Charles Yu
                            k
                            klyeoh Feb 14, 2011 08:02 AM

                            No city in Europe (or anywhere in the Western Hemisphere) beats London when it comes to Indian food - too many good restaurants around: Zaika, Rasa Samudra, Chutney Mary, Cinnamon Club, Trishna, Rasa Samudra, Tamarind, Benares, Red Fort, etc.

                            1. re: Charles Yu
                              n
                              NilesCable Feb 15, 2011 12:23 AM

                              Of course, but it would be a long train ride from Vienna to London, better and cheaper to take a plane. :)

                            2. re: NilesCable
                              PhilD Feb 14, 2011 01:27 PM

                              Niles - I hear what you are saying but when you live here it is good to get variety.

                              Klyeoh - I know what you mean about London, it has a good top end, I just wish the middle ground was stronger. However I think Birmingham has greater depth than London, and in the southern hemisphere I see Sydney sneaking up in world class curry stakes - Aki's is superb.

                              1. re: PhilD
                                k
                                klyeoh Feb 14, 2011 06:39 PM

                                Gotta do Sydney's Indian food scene soon! So far, I'd only tried a couple of places (Maya da Dhaba & Holy Cow) a few years back in the small Indian enclave near the intersection of Crown Street & Cleveland St, Surry Hills.

                                1. re: PhilD
                                  n
                                  NilesCable Feb 15, 2011 12:24 AM

                                  Of course, when you are living in China or HK you need a rest from that kind of food. But I only spend around 15 days a year in China, so Chinese food it is for me!

                            3. re: TomEatsHK
                              PhilD Feb 8, 2011 03:44 AM

                              Works for me......when is good? We were thinking of giving the new one Ista a go in LKF in the near future, although "Indian Tapas" puts me off a bit but some of the reviews indicate it is worth a shot.

                              1. re: TomEatsHK
                                k
                                klyeoh Feb 8, 2011 03:56 AM

                                Haven't found any place that serves murtabak in HK (after nearly 30 years of chowhounding there), but the best murtabak I had recently was at Hameediyah in Penang, Malaysia. They'd been serving the best murtabaks in town for more than a century, and they still have queues out the door at lunch time!
                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/745434

                                1. re: klyeoh
                                  PhilD Feb 8, 2011 09:49 AM

                                  Is it still an "Indian" dish or is it more an expat Indian dish in Sing and Malaysia? A bit like condensed milk in coffee that was once a British think but is now never used by them.

                                  1. re: PhilD
                                    k
                                    klyeoh Feb 8, 2011 04:06 PM

                                    It's supposedly Indian in origin, per Wikipedia, but most info when Googled seemed to be quoting from this same source (I'd have liked to have other independent sources for verification) :
                                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murtabak

                                    I'd not seen or had murtabak during my trips to Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad,Dhaka or Kolkata, but then, Indian food is regional and murtabak could have been from Tamil Nadu, where majoirty of Indians who came to Malaysia/Singapore originate from (Tamil's one of the 4 official languages in Singapore, alongside English, Mandarin-Chinese & Malay).

                                    I didn't see murtabaks during my couple of visits to Chennai a few years back, but then, I wasn't specifically looking out for it!

                                    It does seem like murtabak's more connected with South-East Asian cuisine than Indian cuisine: I'd had murtabaks in Georgetown (Malaysian) restaurant in London, and Straits (Singaporean) restaurant in San Francisco.

                                  2. re: klyeoh
                                    j
                                    JamTam Feb 8, 2011 06:48 PM

                                    There's a version in the foodcourt at HarbourCity, though it's not very good...

                                    1. re: JamTam
                                      k
                                      klyeoh Feb 9, 2011 03:47 AM

                                      The foodcourt opposite CitySuper? I'd not tried that Indian stall yet, but will definitely give it a go on my next HK visit.

                                      1. re: klyeoh
                                        j
                                        JamTam Feb 9, 2011 03:54 AM

                                        It's fairly perfunctory, may be best saved for the next visit to ZamZam?

                                        Some of my Goan friends say Murtabak is a Portuguese influence on Paratha, though I suspect that it's a claim on a popular dish more than founded in fact.

                              2. c
                                chloehk Feb 7, 2011 05:20 AM

                                Himalaya: http://www.himalayarestaurant.com.hk/aboutus.htm

                                Taj Mahal Club in Chung King Mansions: http://www.chungking-mansions.hk/Dini...

                                1. k
                                  klyeoh Feb 7, 2011 05:20 AM

                                  Bombay Dreams' certainly one of the best Indian restaurants I'd ever tried in HK. It's got a mish mash of regional Indian dishes - a good selection of Peshawri tandooris, Bengali specialties like lamb bhoona & chicken dopiaza, Goan vindaloo, etc.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: klyeoh
                                    koknia Feb 7, 2011 04:14 PM

                                    Lunch buffet at Bombay Dreams is awesome value for HK$100. Go early and get a window seat.

                                  2. PhilD Feb 11, 2011 03:28 PM

                                    I like trying new places, I am probably a marketers dream, but obviously being on the leading edge is risky especially when it comes to restaurants. We read about "Ista Bar & Grill" (LKF) in HK Magazine and thought it worth a shot. The evening kicked off well with a few Pinot's in the equally new "California Vintage" which has a lot of promise and then headed down to LKF.

                                    Our spirits fall when we see they have a tout on the street trying to entice diners in, in my book this is never a good sign. Our spirits fall further when we get upstairs, it is a slick and sophisticated space, almost an opulent space, but it is almost deserted at 8:30 on Friday, with only one other able taken. The slide continues with the "tapas" menu; this just feels gimmicky, it can't be good!

                                    We’re here, so we might as well give it a go. We start with pappadums and some chutney’s. They look mass-produced, are probably out of a bottle, and they are lurid colours: fluorescent orange for the mango; equally bright green for coriander; and strangely a sticky pool of vegemite completing the selection. However, they were superb, great fresh and vibrant flavours, quite different to the mass-produced ones found in most restaurants. The tamarind (vegemite) had a wonderful heat on the back palate: that sounds poncy but it is the best description.

                                    First up some stuffed mushrooms and they are good, then some Seekh Kebabs which are well spiced and taste absolutely fresh, freshly made and freshly cooked. I always test a new place with the kebabs as I find it is a good test of the spicing and cooking. These are very, very good. Next a chicken kebab (Pahaari Tikka) they again have great spicing and are fantastically tender. The only quibble is that each plate comes with garnishes and smears of sauce that add little to the dishes. For mains we go veggie with Dal Makhani and Palak Paneer both of which come with naans. The spinach is really good, great depth of flavour, the Dal equally good, the breads are fresh and good, and a Raita has clearly been made to order.

                                    As we eat the restaurant slowly fills more tables and as it does we realise that apart from us there is only one non-Indian eating here. I generally don’t take this as a recommendation (I think back to those British restaurants on the Costa del Sol which must be good because they are full of Brits) but I think here is a sign that this is a restaurant that delivers seriously good food. It isn’t cheap for curry in HK at $649 (including one beer) but it is attracting the well-healed members of the local Indian community and we will definitely be joining them.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: PhilD
                                      k
                                      klyeoh Feb 14, 2011 01:44 AM

                                      Nice write-up. Well-heeled Indians tend to dine late, which was why the restaurant was fairly empty at 8.30pm - Indians have formal dinners almost as late as the Spanish. On my business trips to Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, even Karachi (Pakistan) and Dhaka (Bangladesh), the hosts will normally ply us with drinks & finger foods at around 8.30pm onwards, and we'd only adjourn to the dinner table around 11pm or even later.

                                      BTW, I was quite curious about Ho Hin Curry House in, of all places, Shau Kei Wan - the latest HK/Macau Michelin Guide gave it One-Star (methinks the Michelin folks are overdoing it a bit when they said they are going to tone down their hoity-toity image), but reviews have been mixed - quite a bit being on the negative side, e.g.
                                      http://foodofhongkong.blogspot.com/20...

                                      I'm curious enough to try it myself, if/when I'm in HK next.

                                      1. re: klyeoh
                                        PhilD Feb 14, 2011 02:36 AM

                                        It is tricky to get a sense of the bloggers depth of experience so tricky to weigh up the comments. I am keen to revisit, so give me a shout when you are in town, or I wil report back if we go sooner.

                                        1. re: PhilD
                                          k
                                          klyeoh Feb 14, 2011 02:56 AM

                                          Most likely in mid-march during the Chowmeet (organized by Charles Yu) in HK! Keep in touch.

                                      2. re: PhilD
                                        PhilD Apr 16, 2011 03:13 AM

                                        Went for our third meal at Ista after a bit of a lay off - we got distracted by Tapeo last time we planned to go, we only visited for a glass of wine and stayed for dinner: great Tapas worth a visit for some casual food.

                                        Food was again very good for my money better than Bombay Dreams, where we had a couple of very good meals recently, so that is saying something. It still isn't busy and continues to attract well healed Indians, last night they had a table of 16, another of 10 and another of 6, so they must be doing something right with the food. I have also been to India a couple of times recently and the Ista food stacks up very well against much that I had there. It isn's as cheap as many places but IMO delivers good value for the quality of cooking.

                                        1. re: PhilD
                                          u
                                          Uncle Yabai Apr 16, 2011 07:45 AM

                                          Were these Indians ruddy cheeked and the picture of health? I should try this place, always like to be healthy.

                                          1. re: Uncle Yabai
                                            TomEatsHK Apr 19, 2011 12:25 AM

                                            I still have to try this place (Phil will drop you an email soon about a return date - I can't face typing on my iphone atm!)

                                          2. re: PhilD
                                            PhilD Jun 3, 2011 09:24 PM

                                            Sad to report that last nights meal at Ista was lacklustre. We tried to get into Bombay Dreams and it was packed so headed to Ista which was half empty. Service wasn't great, we had to ask for the wine twice. The meal was rushed with pappadums rapidly followed by starters which were cleared to be replaced instantly by mains. The garlic chicken tikka was magnificent so no complaints. But the mains were under-spiced and lacked excitement. Even the pickles that had been great were flat and under-spiced.

                                            We suspect their lack of custom is causing them to cut back on FOH staff and modify the food to make it more mainstream. I am afraid it is now off the list.

                                        2. PhilD Feb 19, 2011 03:45 PM

                                          Update on Hin Ho. Tom, respective partners and I, met up for a curry there this weekend.

                                          Disappointingly our second visit was not as good as our first, we ordered more widely and maybe this showed up the weaknesses: the veggie dishes were still good; breads fresh, but the meat dishes missed the mark. The Chicken Tikka was under-spiced, maybe because it is a good entry dish for locals? The Chicken Korma exposed the problem of cheap ingredients as the chicken wasn't good.

                                          Whilst I have given up on the logic of Michelin selections and awards in HK, one of the tenants I thought it still adhered to the need for consistency across the menu and across multiple visits. Clearly little evidence of it here.

                                          We are unlikely to return - plenty more to try.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: PhilD
                                            k
                                            klyeoh Feb 19, 2011 06:21 PM

                                            Thanks for the update. Think I can scratch Ho Hin off my eat-list for HK.

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