First visit to Ah Yat Forum Abalone restaurant -- Questions
I'm a visitor from San Francisco, and i'd like to try the famous abalone / birds nest at Forum, and had a couple questions:
Is it possible to eat as a solo diner here?
What is the price range for a meal, if i go for the lowest-grade of abalone, shark fin soup, and birds nest? I know it will be high, but are we talking 2400hk$, or a lot higher?
Do I need to pre-order these dishes when i make reservations?
I assume shark fin, abalone, and birds nest are the things to try here, but are there any other can't-miss dishes? Is there anything in particular i should consider drinking with these dishes?
I will likely be visiting this restaurant solo, but possibly with one other friend.
I was a bit surprised not to see much mention of this place on the boards, but elsewhere on the web it seems to be mentioned a fair amount.
Don't know the answer to your question, but this place is certainly not cheap when it comes to the dried seafood/abalone.
My uncle enjoyed a dim sum lunch year a year or two ago, although shark fin soup dumpling ran HK$240, which is astronomical by our standards since Koi Palace didn't go above US$7 for theirs (now that shark fin is banned they replaced with fish maw, smoked ham, mushrooms, dried scallops etc).
I heard the coffee chicken is pretty interesting at The Forum. For those not wanting to splurge so much on abalone but want a taste of it, goose webbed feet braised with abalone sauce, is a much more affordable alternative.
You might also want to look at Ah Yat's other restaurant that recently opened that I believe has 2 Michelin stars
Ah Yat Harbour View Restaurant 阿一海景飯店
The Forum Causeway Bay's lease is due to expire in the next few short months, the landlord is going to charge them way more for rent, and they may relocate, or move above ground. And while I'm at it, Ho Hung Kee on Sharp Street's last day is sometime this month, and will close...but all remaining operations will continue at the Hysan Place branch. (Yes I know the food is downhill, and they stopped offering Yu Kwen Yick chili sauce, but thought I mention it anyway).
There's always a misperception that *all* meals at Ah Yat Forum will be expensive. You can eat reasonably well there at a price comparable to any other Chinese restaurant in HK.
If you're into the high-ticket items like sharksfin soup and braised abalones, there are lower-priced options (which tasted pretty good, too) on the menu priced at HK$500 thereabouts. Just walk in and browse the menu if you're in any doubt.
I think the reason why Ah Yat is rarely discussed on the Chowhound board is because it's been around for decades, and had become so much part of our dining landscape that somehow, some CHs had forgotten it existed - preferring instead to suss out new openings and high-profile newbies. A pity really, because Yeung Koon-yat does know his stuff very well, and his braised abalones are peerless.
Excellent, thank you.
So the abalone dishes don't need to be pre-ordered? I can just go in and browse the menu?
>> "been around for decades, and had become so much part of our dining landscape"
Alongside Ah Yat Forum, Do you know of any other places that fit this description? Last visit i really liked Tin Heung Lau and Sheung Hing, which also seem to fall into this category.
No, you don't need to pre-order the abalones - Forum will usually have a sufficient supply of abalones simmering somewhere in their kitchens for the day's orders.
My fave item from Forum is actually goose-webs braised in abalone-flavoured sauce - meltingly-soft webs covered in sticky, unctuous, hyper-delicious sauce. It's like a luxury version of braised chicken feet.
One other long-time HK eatery which closely resembled Forum is Fook Lam Moon:
There usually are subtle differences between the different branches of Fook Lam Moon, depending upon their chef de cuisine (not all chefs are created equal) even in Hong Kong. For example, there've always been comparisons between Fu Sing @ Wanchai (marvellous) vs Fu Sing @ Causeway Bay (bad), or Lei Garden @ Wanchai (fabulous!) vs Lei Garden @ IFC (good).
I'm not sure if Fook Lam Moon in Shanghai would have tweaked their food to suit Shanghainese palates, which preferred sweeter, oilier renditions. But the restaurant scene in Shanghai *is* pretty competitive, and most would go out of their way to attract those sweet-toothed Shanghainese businessmen with fat wallets.
>> Fook Lam Moon -- do you know if the branches are significantly different?
wanted to answer my own question, since i visited the hong kong branch a couple days ago.
i thought the hong kong branch was actually a lot better than the shanghai branch -- food and service were really outstanding.
they were good in shanghai, but in hong kong everything was world-class imo. best cantonese meal i've ever had.
For what it is worth, I've read that the Fook Lam Moon branch in Ginza area only offers set meals (for those who want say a steamer of some dim sum item with shark fin soup as a separate course). Astronomical kind of prices, but at least they ship all ingredients from Hong Kong (even down to the chickens)...at least that was 2009+ information.
If you have time, would appreciate feedback on your eating report, and what you had at Fook Lam Moon. I'll make a special trip there next time I'm in HK again.
re: K K
I'd been to that Ginza branch quite a few years back - brought there by Tokyo colleagues. It *was* very expensive - US$200 or more per head for what amounted to average Cantonese cooking, albeit with luxury ingredients. I didn't realise till much later afterwards that 'Fukurimon' was the Japanese rendition of 'Fook lam Moon'.
re: K K
i'll probably start a new thread with notes from all the places, i visit, but until then, here's my FLM report. i'm still in hong kong, actually. tried to go to tin heung lau for lunch. called ahead and booked a spot for 2:30pm -- they said great, see you then. i arrived at this time, the staff was sitting in the dining room playing mahjong looking at me like "wtf are you doing here?" as i left, i saw on the door they were only open 12:00 to 2:00pm. clearly something was lost in translation, LOL.
anyway, here are my notes on fook lam moon:
fook lam moon
- fried frog legs -- excellent, unique. i don't remember the fried frog starter at alain ducasse plaza athenee (1 year ago) in paris being any better.
- kale with ginger -- good, a bit better than similar dish at hakkasan sf.
- fresh abalone -- excellent, unique, noticeably better than the same dish at manor last trip (1.5 years ago)
- chicken with crispy skin -- excellent, way better than similar peking duck at sf's r&g lounge, or similar goose dish at manor or shanghai's fook lam moon branch.
- fried rice with preserved meats in lotus leaf -- excellent, unique
- almond and egg yolk dessert -- excellent, unique
Certainly not inexpensive at 1100hkd for 2 people, but i thought it a fine value. i'll consider returning again later this week to try some other dishes -- they were out of the garoupa belly, daily herbal soup, custard bun, and didn't have walnut cookies -- perhaps because we visited right before closing. overall, the best cantonese meal i've ever had.
i've heard reports you only get good service if you are a tycoon -- this was definitely not my experience. service and setting were near perfect -- and we were definitely nobodies. (two 30-something caucasian guys booking a table 30mins ahead at 9:30pm on a saturday night.)
For Ah Yat Abalone Forum -- yeah, had no problem communicating, at least once i started dealing with the more senior servers (who spoke english.)
I ordered the set menu at 3200hkd, total bill with service was like $500usd -- so crazy expensive. I had:
- supreme shark fin soup in dark brown stock
i think they actually gave me a lighter shark fin soup with fish maw. okay, but this was not my favorite bowl of shark fin soup. i haven't had a lot of shark fin, though, so i am not a good judge. i would have preferred a larger "chunk" of shark fin in a heavier broth.
- abalone with goose web and stir-fried vegetable
the vegetable was good. i was surprised to enjoy the goose web as well. sauce was nice. i enjoyed the abalone, but haven't really had it enough to judge it. it was definitely better than other versions i've had (koi palace, a random place in hk for $20usd, from a can in chinatown, etc.)
- chicken with crispy skin
amazing -- significantly better than the same dish at fook lam moon (which was itself pretty awesome.) probably the best chicken -- maybe poultry -- i've ever had. at least as good as poulet de bresse at taillevent in paris. i had poulet de bresse at robuchon macau for lunch the next day. this dish blew it away.
- rice in leaf with prawns
very good -- same level as similar dish at fook lam moon. the wine went really well with this.
- almond milk with bird's nest
i really loved this dish. favorite dessert i've had in hong kong, on par with favourites anywhere.
- glass of red wine -- it was a 2005 bordeaux. i had a second glass at 150hkd.
when i walked in, i was not only the only caucasian, but some of the other diners and the staff looked at me like i was the only caucasian who had ever been in there -- though to be fair, i guess it is usual for people to visit solo.
service was good and friendly, though, and they definitely made me feel welcome by the end. they servers i dealt with later spoke english. a part of me suspects this is the best cantonese in hong kong -- slightly better than fook lam moon -- just judging by the dishes i felt i could fairy judge (chicken, almond cream). that said, fook lam moon is certainly the better restaurant in every other dimension (service, setting, price, accessibility, etc.) take this all with a grain of salt, though, as i've only been to each one time.
i'll definitely return, though, to try some of the lower-priced menu items. a goose-liver wonton soup at $300hkd looked particularly interesting on the dim sum menu. oh, there were also plenty of dim sum offerings at $50hkd (most of the menu, actually), so it is definitely possible to have a (very) affordable meal here.
"i've heard reports you only get good service if you are a tycoon -- this was definitely not my experience. service and setting were near perfect .."
Sounded like you really enjoyed your meal. I think FLM's service is marvellous - they treat you the same whether you're famous or not. The last time I was there with a HK colleague, we were at a table right next to two of HK moviedom's top directors, Tsui Hark and Wong Jing. At no time did we feel that we were given less or different kind of attention/service from the wait-staff who served both tables.
Thanks for the FLM report! Picked up some shark fin yet? :-) There's tons of those dried seafood shops in Sheung Wan, you can smell them miles away along the tram tracks.
I think we are used to paying slightly higher prices in SF Bay Area post exchange rates, compared to something similar in HK (with the exception of high end restaurants). So anything that tastes far better for a similar dish we perceive it as excellent value. Don't know if you like Yank Sing but their pricing scheme is a joke for run of the mill that's stuck in time, but not in a Luk Yu kind of way. FLM's dim sum should blow everything away even if they had a change of chefs as a result of some leaving for the likes of Guo Fu Lao.