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First Time in Asia- 3 nights Hong Kong, 2 nights Bangkok

Hello Everyone,

In April I am going to Asia for the first time. I'll be in Hong Kong for 3 nights, Bankok for 2 nights, then travelling around Thailand (Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi). My question is where to go in Hong Kong and Bankok. I want to make the most of this trip by eating some great meals. I don't have a budget per se, but I appreciate good value and I'd like to eat where the locals would go for traditional food and prefer not to eat at hotels, as they are more touristy (is this a mistake?). Here is what I have on my list. Does this look like a good plan?

Hong Kong

The Manor (goose)
Lei Garden (soup)
Sichuan Da Ping Huo Restaurant (Private Kitchen)

Bangkok

Taling Ping (Thai)
Somboon (Curried Crab)

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  1. i was dining in hong kong a couple weeks ago for five nights.

    don't miss tin heung lau or sheung hing -- these were our favorites, by a margin. they have english menus, so communication shouldn't be too much of a problem. don't miss the smoked yellow fish at tin heung lau, or the cold crab at sheung hing -- two of the most delicious things i've ever eaten. decor is a bit iffy, but no worse than many chinese restaurants in the us. i'd recommend these to anyone serious about food.

    goose at the manor was okay, and their abalone pot with ginger and scallions was good, but neither is something i would necessarily go out of my way for on a short trip.

    i'm hoping to try lei garden and da ping huo on my next trip, so can't comment on those.

    crab roe xlb at fu sing was also very good, as was their superior broth. bbq pork is worth getting if your there too. the turnip cakes weren't our thing, but they at least are different from what i've found in the us.

    the random unplanned and convenient chinese bakeries and dim sum places we hit were also excellent, so don't be afraid to explore a bit.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Dustin_E

      @Dustin_E: just notice your reply on this thread. Good to hear you really like THL and SH. How was the trip to Hong Kong and Tokyo since I don't think I read any of your review yet?

      1. re: FourSeasons

        @FourSeasons: yes, i've been needing to write up a comprehensive detailed review of the trip and all the dishes we had. it will happen. But in a nutshell, Hong Kong and Tokyo were both amazing -- i'm tempted to make this trip an annual thing.

        Chinese food in hong kong was just consistently so much better than what we have in the bay area -- from the really casual stuff we had in cheap convenient bakeries, to the high end stuff, from the stuff i researched on chowhound beforehand to the stuff that just looked good from the shop outside and was convenient to our hotels. Tin Heung Lau in particular was an all-time favorite meal. I never knew chinese seafood could be this good. the cold crab at Sheung Hing was also an all-time favorite dish. These i preferred to most, if not all, places in tokyo i've visited.

        Tokyo was great, as expected. 7chome kyoboshi was by a margin my favorite, which was surprising, because the mid-range tempura (~4k yen dinner) i've had in tokyo i really didn't like. Ryugin, Kadowaki and Sushiso Masa all had some really great dishes, but the meals as a whole weren't consistent or novel enough that i'd return. (But i knew this going in, as it was extremely difficult to get reservations during this time, and i prefer more traditional approaches to japanese cuisine.)

        The thing is, when japanese places introduce fusion elements, then it makes it more likely i've had something similar around the bay area at places like atelier crenn, saison, or manresa. And the weak US dollar meant all these places were extremely expensive for me.

        Also, I actually really like the sushi / sashimi we have here in the bay at my favorites ino and sawa -- certainly in tokyo it is better, but maybe i'm just not enough of a sushi snob for some of the places to be a revelation for me.

        Yakiniku Jumbo was good, but it was expensive, and i think we have good beef here.

        Even though this was my third time eating in tokyo, I actually really enjoyed the casual stuff just as much as the high end places -- breakfast sushi at some place in tsukji with no wait, pickles and soy milk from depachiku, and the random ramen joints we stopped into. But i'm sure on any future trip, i'll try just as many high end places.

    2. In which area do you plan to stay in BKK? Is proximity to sky-train a concern?

      Both Taling Pling and Somboon are good but they have multiple outlets which are not necessary equally good.

      8 Replies
      1. re: NP2

        We are going to stay at the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit at 250 Sukhumvit Road. Are we near the good locations for Taling Pling and Somboon?

        Should I swap one of my choices for tin heung lau or sheung hing?

        I will order the pig in advance at the Manor instead of the goose... thanks for that advice.

        1. re: cingor

          if u have a big enough party, you can have half a pig and half a goose. You get the best of both worlds. Their goose is pretty good, as good as anywhere else except perhaps Chan Kee at Sham Tseng.

          1. re: Kiedis

            There will only be 2 of us. Good to know that we can order a 1/2. We may just get the 1/2 pig then some other dishes. Should I replace one of my choices with Chong Fat? Which should I drop?

            1. re: cingor

              you dont seem to have that many meals, hence you can drop Chong Fat, cos I think its rather out of the way for you due to your limited time. Perhaps you can keep it for your next trip. I'm Singaporean but have been in HK for awhile now. Maybe we can meet up the next time you are here. I will be going back to Singapore for the lunar New Year. :)

              1. re: Kiedis

                Sounds good. Thank you so much for your help!!!! I really appreciate it!

                1. re: cingor

                  Tell you what, I actually missed out that you are coming in Apr. I may be back in HK then. If I am, then maybe you can consider sacrificing Lei Garden for Chong Fat. I'll take you there :) Oh and like Sheung Hing, the decor is not indicative of its price. They are both quite dinghy local, Chong Fat a bit worse off, but not cheap. Their cold crab can cost up to HKD2000 each! But then again, seafood in HK is never cheap, but very good though.

          2. re: cingor

            sheung hing's stds have slipped. If you really want Chiu Chow cuisine, which is what Sheung Hing serves, then I recommend Chong Fat at 60 South Road, Kowloon City. But be ready that its very local, meaning english is limited. But the food is great.

            1. re: cingor

              I'd recommend going to the Silom location of Taling Pling. Its near the Chong Nonsi BTS station on Th Pan. There are closer locations, including one at Central World, but I like the stand alone location.

          3. Manor is actually much better for their roasted suckling pig. By far my favourite after having my fair share in Singapore, Malaysia and HK. Order in advance though. The rest of the their dishes are very competent, especially the tiger prawns and mung bean vermicelli in claypot, and their seasonal stir fried glutinous rice with preserved meat.

            No comments on Lei Garden but since you mention you are in Asia for the 1st time, its a rather decent and safe place to dine. Standards are fairly consistent regardless of branch, but some here say that the Wanchai branch is the best.

            Da Ping Huo is pretty good. Tell the staff to hold the spice if you cant take too much heat.

            11 Replies
            1. re: Kiedis

              we saw more people with suckling pig than with goose at manor.

              but couldn't the OP order a decent version of either at Lei Garden?

              1. re: Dustin_E

                I would like to try the goose, so maybe I can order a 1/2 at Lei Garden?

                1. re: cingor

                  i'm pretty sure you can -- i'd suggest you pre-order half a roast goose, and whatever herbal soup sounds good from lei garden.

                  then replace manor on your itinerary with tin heung lau (but be prepared to pay us$300 for dinner at tin heung lau.)

                  and hit up a chiu chow place for lunch if you like -- i actually preferred the chiu chow braised goose at sheung hing to the roast goose at manor. and the (expensive) chiu chow cold crab was also fantastic.

                  1. re: Dustin_E

                    Is Heung Lau better than the Manor? Is it a la carte or set menu? What is the specialty there? We only have 2 nights now so I want to make the best of them.

                    I liked the idea of the suckling pig or goose.. Should we order the goose at Lei Garden instead? What kind of soup should we order there in advance?

                    1. re: cingor

                      Tin Heung Lau (huangzhou) is very different from manor (cantonese i think). But yes, I'd say heung lau is much, much better, but you certainly pay for it.

                      The specialty at Tin Heung Lau is their smoked yellow fish, and noodles with hairy crab roe. We also thought their fried eel dish was excellent. These dishes alone for two people will run ~$300 usd and dinner will last a little over an hour. but for me, this was one of the best and best value fine dining experiences i've ever had. i loved this place. Their menu is a la carte, but they are very nice and will suggest dishes for you if you need help figuring out what to order.

                      I'd suggest just doing suckling pig or goose at lei garden. lei garden has about 8 different long-cooked herbal soups (pre-order these at least 24 hours in advance) -- the fish one or the fish bones one. i believe one order (more than enough for a couple people though) costs ~$100usd. please note i wasn't able to visit lei garden -- i called to get lots of details though.

                      1. re: Dustin_E

                        Wow, thank you SO much for this information! I will go to both and report back. I really appreciate it!!

                        1. re: cingor

                          Although Dustin_E's above posting covered almost everything, if I may, I would like to chip in my two cents worth:

                          Yes, Tin Heung Lau is quite expensive and quite run down as well. However, one can get equally good food and less expensive/better value treat at the Michelin 1* Hong Zhou in the Wan Chai district. This restaurant is owned and operated by the son of THL's owner/chef!! We had a 14 people chowmeet there last year. All chowhounders present found the food excellent, resulting in a number of re-visits at later dates! In addition to a whole bunch of delectable appetizers such as drunken pigeon, we also had the smoked yellow fish, Fried river prawns with Longjiang tea leaves, Braised pork belly and the Hairy crab meat noodles....etc

                          For B-B-Q/roasted meat Cantonese style. Be it suckling pig or goose, I personally prefer the Manor. They also have a huge selection of fresh seafood ( housed in aquariums ) for one to choose from as well! However, you won't go wrong with any of the Michelin star Lei Gardens. For Cantonese cuisine, my current favourite are still Fook Lam Moon, Wan Chai Lei Garden, Tim's kitchen and Ming Court ( lovely dining room and HK's only Chinese restaurant with a wine cellar that provides Chinese food and wine pairing! ) The Chairman and Yan Toh Heen are also excellent choices.

                           
                           
                           
                           
                           
                          1. re: Charles Yu

                            i have not been to any of those mentioned by Charles Yu, save manor and tim's macau (but hopefully will on a future HK visit), so can't really add too much.

                            fwiw, i know tin heung lau is considered a bit run down, but the atmosphere / service felt charming to us -- like we'd imagine old-school hong kong to be. (though we did not visit their restrooms :-) )

                            it was certainly expensive, so i would doubt it is the best value to be found. but it really did have a level of subtlety and perfection that i haven't seen anywhere in chinese food before, and compared favorably with the best i've found in tokyo and paris. but then again, i am very inexperienced compared to someone who has spent time living in HK.

                            1. re: Dustin_E

                              Ah!! Those 'unimaginable' HK restrooms!! Never seize to wonder how Michelin gave the 'old' Tim's Kitchen a star with a washroom like 'THAT'??!! I'll let your imagination figure out the look and odour!! Ha!!!

                            2. re: Charles Yu

                              I have Lei Garden in Wanchai booked already. For the second meal would you suggest Tin Heung Lau or Hong Zhou? Which is a better experience and do I need to order anything in advance?

                              My husband doesn't really like smoked fish... So the yellow croaker may be out. Should we still go? Is Tim's Kitchen a better choice? We only have 2 dinners... What would you choose? We want authentic food but something a little different from Lei Garden.

                          2. re: Dustin_E

                            Hi Dustin_E,
                            Do I need to order any dishes at Tin Heung Lau in advance or can I order them the day of?
                            At Lei Garden, is 1/2 suckling pig and one soup too much for just 2 of us? Is there a particular soup you recommend? I'd rather not have one with too much noodles.

                            Let me know.

                            Thanks!!

                2. I used to be a proponent of Somboon's curry crab. But, the last two visit proved it as average as the rest of it's menu. Somboon's pricing makes no longer worth a visit, IMHO.

                  You might try Lek Seafood, directly beneath the Chong Nonsi BTS station.

                  15 Replies
                  1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

                    I will try lek seafood instead. Thanks!

                    1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

                      I have been to Lek once -- was disappointed - but it might have been just my selection of orders. I actually prefer "Home Kitchen" on luang suan (very approximately 13.736686, 100.542396) -- not fancy - but good food.

                      Two other seafood restaurants I liked were of course Baan Klang Nam (on the river), and Seafood Market on Sukhumvit Soi 24 (way back) -- but I only go to the "Seafood Market" when I am with Thais since you pick your ingredients first - then tell them how you want it cooked (pay for ingredients - and then pay cooking service charge) :o

                      1. re: cacruden

                        You found Thais that would go to Seafood Market?!

                        An interesting place a neighbor took us,was Bann Phuengchom. It's a short walk from the ARI BTS Platform. Read some right ups on the place:

                        http://tinyurl.com/83efvdg

                        1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

                          Well, I am not sure they were all Thais - but I did not see anyone that was a farang (think it would be overly intimidating to be one trying to order there :o). Yes, actually it was a Thai that requested to go there for her birthday with friends (4 in total). Actually Baan Klang Nam would have been her first choice this year but concerns over flood & time meant a change of venue. I have not been to Bann Phuengchom - but I will put it on my list to try.

                          1. re: cacruden

                            By Thai standards, Seafood Market is an expensive dinner. It's not a "regular" spot for dinner. Its set up is as much a draw as the dinner itself. Its somewhat of a novelty.

                            Such venues can draw quite a few Asian visitors, from Japan, China, Singapore and such.

                            1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

                              Well I did notice that it was expensive. I stayed away from the "Maine/Nova Scotia Lobster" -- I generally only order that when I visit my parents.... Much cheaper to order it at Sobeys and have them steam it, then walk back home and eat in the back yard :o Will make a return trip to Baan Klang Nam in early february when my sister visits. I actually don't go out to restaurants to eat very often - maybe once a month or so.

                              1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

                                I agree. I'm a Thai working in Singapore, and I'd be very surprise if any of my Thai friends/ family would want to go to Seafood Market. It's one of those places that only tourist goes. For Seafood, I like T. Restaurant. It's a place where my family has been since I was young. Love their crispy calamari, but I got to say their baked goose feet with vermicelli is yummy! My favourite seafood restaurant in Bangkok, very popular with the locals.

                                There's an article on it here.
                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/832534

                                I've also been to Lei Garden in both HK (Kowloon Elements Mall branch) and Singapore and I have to say the one in HK is def worth a visit. The roast pork was so good. I wouldn't waste money going to the one in Singapore though...it's no where near the HK standard. Also would recommend Ming Court in the Langham Hotel in Kowloon. It has a Michilin star and the food was delicious! Also TIm Ho Wan for dim sum though be ready to queue and go before the restaurant opens. Their lo mai gai and pork bun were worth the trip, though we got sick of waiting and got take away instead!

                                  1. re: Charles Yu

                                    Oh really! We were there 2-3 years ago for dim sum lunch and dinner, and I think it was only 1 star then. Even then it was really great food.

                          2. re: cacruden

                            Food at lek seafood is good, IMHO. I do prefer the food at baan klang nam but given the location, I might just go to lek though. Crab in crab curry, in particular, baan klang nam and somboon (fr my experience) were "lumpier" (if that could be a word) than those at lek. However, given the location-proximity to bts, I wouldn't get into hassle of bkk traffic to go to baan klang nam.

                            I went to krua nai baan ("home kitchen") and enjoyed the food so much at the moment but I felt numb afterwards...so I guess they might use quite a lot of MSG.

                            Taling pling at Pun road is my most preferred outlet as well...I'd say it's closer to bts surasak than chong nonsi.

                            Last advice- please please please do not underestimate Bangkok traffic. Silom/sathon and roads connect them together could jam really bad during 5-7 pm. (I'm talking about average car speed of 5-6 km/hr)

                            1. re: NP2

                              5~6 Kilometers per hour. That's not too bad.

                              My mother-in-law once take over an hour to drive up Narathiwat, from Central Rama III to Surawong! Get on the west side of Narathiwat, and Sathorn can become a parking lot.

                              1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

                                5-6 km/hr is somewhat normal day at 6 pm along sathon or silom ;)

                                (no intention to sway off fr original topic)
                                But the worst record I've ever heard fr my friend's dad was 1 hr to move fr 7th fl parking lot to ticket booth on ground floor... Hahaha that's actually zero distance!

                                So yeah...I hope this gives cingor and other visitors an idea when we say bkk traffic is bad ;)

                              2. re: NP2

                                I am not overly sensitive to MSG and never had any problem at krua nai baan. I have been there with my sister, and two friends that were in town from Canada -- and no-one had a problem. I would have thought statistically speaking that if they overly used MSG that at least one person would have had problems since I believe MSG causes problems in half the caucasian population. Is this the normal reaction you have with regards to MSG?

                                1. re: cacruden

                                  MSG causes problems in exactly zero of any population. It's psychosomatic.

                                  1. re: cacruden

                                    Maybe it's MSG or I reacted to some other ingredients that's not MSG....but I do feel numb sometimes dining out- regular enough to not feel worried about it as it'd be gone within an hour or so.

                                    We dined with a party of 10 that night and everyone was fine too. I noticed it happened after I drank plenty of (yummy) soup. Most of my friends don't have a habit of drinking lots of soup though.

                                    Don't get me wrong, if my friends asked me to go back, given the location, quality of food and pricing, I'd go back.

                            2. You might find this of interest: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/770948

                              Also, not sure which country you're coming from but for first time in Asia I guess you'll have food hygiene in the back of your mind. My advice is to toss that fear aside and allocate a night to the street food of Bangkok. It really doesn't get much better.

                              Stan Sesser, long-time food/travel writer at WSJ and Bangkok resident, once said he has eaten street food constantly over many years and has only had food poisoning once in Bangkok - and that was from a 5-star hotel.

                              Trust me, your memories of sitting on the footpath with a cold beer (or fresh calamansi juice) watching someone make the most amazingly complex meal from a cart in front of you will stick in your mind much longer than any restaurant. Much more thrilling!! Usual rule of thumb applies: find somewhere busy with locals and wait for a table, if they don't speak English then just point at other people's food.

                              For snacks, keep an eye out for street vendors selling maing kham - they are so good and like nothing else you've had (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miang_kham). I've seen them selling at Chatuchak Market but I'm sure they're everywhere. If you're game, the market also has fried locusts and other such creepy snacks.

                              Also be sure to stop at the street vendors selling calamansi juice. Had before? Like a combination of orange/lime/mandarin. They squeeze fresh on the street and is a flavour I associate with SE Asia. You can buy prepackaged calamansi juice elsewhere but it's too sweet and doesn't compare to the refreshing pure drink they sell on the streets of Bangkok.

                              Have fun!!
                              Ian

                              12 Replies
                              1. re: p0lst3r

                                If we want a more high end choice in Bangkok, should we go to Bo Lan? Has anyone been?

                                1. re: cingor

                                  Yes - very good, ate there late last year.

                                  1. re: PhilD

                                    It looks like Bo Lan will be closed when I am there. Is there another high end option?

                                    1. re: cingor

                                      If you want that style of restaurant - you could try Nahm - a David Thompson restaurant (Bo Lan is a restaurant by someone who worked for David Thompson).

                                      1. re: cacruden

                                        Beware: Just like any David Thompson restaurant - the dishes will NOT be adjusted (i.e. less spicy).

                                        1. re: cacruden

                                          Thanks cacruden. Since it will be towards the end of the trip, I don't mind as much if it is authentic Thai. What is your top choice for a special occasion? We will be celebrating a birthday.

                                              1. re: cingor

                                                I haven't tried food at Vertigo but the drink there was just ok. Although the view is stunning, the crowd made it not relaxing at all.

                                                For that reason, I prefer d'sens. Food is really nice in general (but can be exceptionally impressive when the twins pay a visit). You can request seats by the window which would give you a nice view also. What I found as area for D'Sens to particularly improve is their staff- they are friendly but not quite informative.

                                                1. re: NP2

                                                  Would you choose D'Sens or Nahm?

                                                  1. re: cingor

                                                    Do you want Thai or French? Seems odd to me to eat non-thai food on a short visit to Thailand.