Kam Fung Restaurant – Serious Food Nazi Service, But Oh Man The Pineapple Buns And Cold Milk Tea Are Worth The Abuse!
Kam Fung Restaurant 金鳳茶餐廳 is an old school cha can ting 茶餐廳 in Wan Chai that is famous for their pineapple bun, cold milk tea, chicken pie, egg tarts and various instant noodle / macaroni dishes. Cha can ting literally means “tea restaurant”. They are a style of casual restaurants in Hong Kong that are very popular and serve a type of comfort food that is a mix of Chinese and Western cuisine; you can read more about them in this Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cha_chaan_teng). The food might sound a little odd if you’ve never had it, but it’s very enjoyable.
The restaurant is a tiny restaurant located on Spring Garden Lane in Wan Chai, which is a street that has a lot of good local eateries located on it. In fact, I unintentionally ended up eating at Chiu Yuen (http://www.lauhound.com/2012/08/chiu-yuen-chiu-chow-noodle-delicious-chiu-chow-style-beef-patty-and-fish-ball-noodle-soup-in-wan-chai-hong-kong/) afterwards because I realized it was located next door after I finished eating at Kam Fung. The customer base was mainly locals, but Kam Fung is quite famous, so there were a few tables of mainland Chinese tourists who had read about the place in their tourist books.
Now I’m going to dedicate an entire paragraph to the service and the way things work at the restaurant as I think you’re going to be a little surprised if you’ve never been there before. The interior of the restaurant is super cramped and pretty chaotic. When I walked in I told the old lady at the front that I was one person, she looked at me, turned around and went back about her business. I was confused, but then realized you had to seat yourself. So after I hustled my way into a seat, I kept trying to flag the waiter (there is only one waiter) and he kept ignoring me and even ignored the other old lady at my table who was a Hong Kong local then I came to another realization that he only comes and talks to you once it’s your turn to order, so just flag him once and then wait your turn. Finally, he came to take my order and was gone in a heartbeat after taking it. He showed up about 10 minutes later with my food. So the rules of engagement here are: a) find your own seat b) flag the guy once and then wait your turn and c) get your food and pay up front. Now as a happy ending to the story when I was paying the old mean lady smiled at me and asked me how I liked the food. I don’t think they are evil necessarily just really gruff old school efficient Hong Kong style service, so prepare accordingly.
Here’s what I got:
- Iceless Cold Milk Tea (Wu Bing Dong Nai Cha 無冰涷奶茶): They are famous for their cold milk tea without ice. Hong Kong style milk tea is a style of milk teat that is a little different than the milk tea that you may have gotten at your local boba place; I even found a Wikipedia article about it (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_Kon...). It uses a fairly strong black bitter tea that I believe is a holdover from the British rule and it’s mixed with condensed milk. The result is the tea is more bitter and creamy and less sweet than the milk tea than the milk tea at your local boba place. The problem is sometimes you get someone who makes the tea too watery just using regular lipton tea bags or they put way too much condensed milk in it and turns it into a creamy mess. The tea at Kam Fung is basically as perfect a glass of milk tea as you’re going to get. The ratio of milk to tea is perfect and its super smooth not too sweet or creamy. Because it is served cold it is also very refreshing especially on a hot day like the day I was there. This is also the best glass of milk tea I’ve ever had. 9.25/10
- Pineapple bun (Bo Luo Bao 菠蘿包): Pineapple bun is something I have a soft spot for because they’ve been one of my favorite Chinese pastries since I was a kid, but they are also delicious and I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t like them. A pineapple bun is moist slightly sweet bread topped with a sweet crusty sugary topping. The version here is different than most other versions; the bread is more on the dense side compared to some which are very airy and the topping is almost like a separate really crunchy thin cookie on top. However, everything about it is just really good; the flavoring of the topping is much better than other ones and the crunch combined with the softness of the bread is just wonderful. This is the best pineapple bun I’ve ever had and is a perfect combination with milk tea. Also, you should note that many people get a pineapple bun with a slice of cold butter (bo luo you 菠蘿油), but I decided that would be a little too heavy that day since there were several other restaurants I wanted to try that day. 9.25/10
Despite the service and the crowded atmosphere this place really lives up to its reputation for the quality of its food and I’d highly recommend trying this place out and I’ll definitely be back to try some of their other dishes.
It is said that they sell over 600+ cups of their milk tea each day, and can afford to be the way that they are (in terms of non service). As long as the tea is good and the in house baked buns come out fresh and tasty, it's hard for them to go out of business due to poor service. Some like their chicken pie better. Kam Wah in Mong Kok area apparently does a better pineapple butter bun, but many are not enamored with their coffee or milk tea.
Kam Wah takes some additional care to the brewing process of the HK milk tea and a few extra steps to keep the milk tea chilled without losing its flavor (or letting the tea turn sour). The roasties chain shop Tai Hing (if I got the name right) offers a variation of iceless cold milk tea, but they serve the milk tea in a cup, resting in a bowl of ice surrounding it to keep it cool, so there's no ice in the milk tea that ends up diluting the flavors when it melts. Lan Fong Yuen in Central, on the other hand, used to make their ice cubes with 1/2 water 1/2 milk tea, so not to cause dilution and loss of flavor (not sure if they still do this).
You will see Mainland tourists all over Hong Kong...even places that were once revered by locals for their authenticity.... are now overun (and usually they end up spending more $ and getting better service than locals!) I guess this is what happens when marketing food tourism becomes very successful that is causes service and quality to deteriorate over time, that once great places are now losing favor.
re: K K
yah the food was more than good enough to not make me not care about the service and I'm actually not that big a stickler about service, i actually care more that the food comes out in a timely manner than what the actual service is like.
Kam Wah - I hadn't heard of kam wah, but I'll add them to my list of places to try. Is this the one you're talking about? http://www.openrice.com/english/resta...
Lan Fong Yuen - I've been here several times over the years since it's close to where alot of my friends live although it's been a few years since the last time I went, but based on memory I thought Kam Fung was better although i liked the milk tea at LFY
re: mainland tourist - I really noticed it starting in like 08-09 time frame and its even more pronounced now where the vast majority of tourists seem to be PRC tourists now. I remember when I was in HK alot in the the early 00s when i was living in singapore I saw very few. However, i mean its good for HK, tourism means spending which means a better economy; it'd be ugly if they were relying on americans and europeans for tourism spending right now. Although realistically the only restaurants I really noticed alot of PRC food tourists were kam fung and under bridge crab which maybe a function of me staying pretty local type places on this trip