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Hong Kong - Yung Kee Roast Goose re-visited

This is one HK dining institution, if there ever was one - Yung Kee, the famous roast goose establishment on Wellington St, Central.

The 72-year-old restaurant still packs the crowd in each day, and one-hour waits are not uncommon, unless one has an advance reservation.

What we had:
- Century egg with pickled ginger - still the *best* I'd ever tasted anywhere. Loved their molten yolks.
- Stir-fried garoupa fillets with yellow chives, "gai lan" and carrots - perfectly executed with the delicate fish fillets just-cooked.
- "Char-siu" - flavoursome. Not the best in town, but nicely-textured with the requisite layers of fat in-between lean meat.
- Asparagus with minced garlic.
- Roast goose: definitely not the best in town anymore (even Yat Lok down the street boasts a tastier rendition), but the one we had tonight was perfectly-roasted, and much better than the one I had from my previous visit last year.
- Yangzhou fried rice: good, but the standard seemed to have dropped from the ones I had from previous visits - change of cooks?

Desserts were egg-tarts and mango pudding - standard Cantonese adaptation of Western desserts.

A bit of trivia: 32 seems to be the late founder, Kam Sui Fai's lucky number - the first Yung Kee restaurant was at 32 Wing Lok St in Sheung Wan (1942), then 32 Pottinger Street in Central (1944) before landing on the current address, 32 Wellington Street in 1964. There's a much-publicised family feud going on for the past couple of years between the 3rd-generation Kam family over the control of the family-owned holding company.

But whilst Hongkongers seemed a bit turned off by this, foreign visitors seemed unperturbed. The evening I was there, we were surrounded by what I can describe as the Chinese diaspora - all ethnic Chinese diners, but speaking Indonesian, Thai and various Chinese dialects from Mainland China. Yung Kee will definitely continue to thrive with this new generation of fans from all over the Asia-Pacific region instead of local HKers.

Address
========
Yung Kee
32-40 Wellington Street
Central, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2522 1624

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  1. Pity about their 'Yang Chow Fried Rice'. Used to be my favorite too! First one I had really wowed me!
    Unbeknown to most, their 'Shrimp Sui Gow Dumpling' used to be one of the best in town. Can easily rub shoulder with Mak's down the road!
    Glad your Goose was nice. Which floor did you dined in? 4th?!

    3 Replies
    1. re: Charles Yu

      We were on the second floor - but the standard of roast goose now is as good as what they used to be many years back. A great improvement from my last visit 2 years back. It's now run by the younger brother, Ronald Kam's family.

      The late elder brother, Kinsen Kam's two sons, Kevin & Hardy Kam now runs Kam's Roast Goose at G/F, Po Wah Commercial Center, 226 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai. However, this week's Time Out HK gave a not-so-good review of Kam's roast goose, saying it lacked the fragrance one usually finds in Yung Kee.

      1. re: klyeoh

        Thanks for great review, klyeoh!

        About Kam's Roast Goose, I visited five times so far, because it's close to my apartment and it was mixed experiences. There were better days and worse days. Overall though, it was quite satisfactory, esp. given the reasonable price range (Roast goose rice 燒鵝飯 HK$45, roast goose leg rice 燒鵝脾飯 HK$80).

         
         
         
        1. re: kosmose7

          Great to hear a first-hand review for once, and especially from you, kosmose7. I think it's fantastic that the late Kinsen Kam's sons, Kevin & Hardy, have decided to open Kam's Roast Goose, very likely as a tribute to their father and to continue his legacy.

          It's not easy going up against an institution like Yung Kee, which is also awkward when (if I'm not wrong) the Kam brothers, as heirs to their father's estate, still own 45% of the holding company. But their rancour with their uncle (Ronald Kam) & first-cousin (Carrel Kam) also meant that they are completely estranged from the management of Yung Kee.

    2. They say Yung Kee has not returned to its former glory after Kinson Kam passed away, who was monumental in introducing very interesting banquet dishes and had a wealth of knowledge.

      Apparently Kinson's two sons branched out on their own and opened up two roast goose themed restaurants that are far more downscale, in tribute to their late father, and as a result of being pushed out by the other siblings of the Kam family of any involvement in Yung Kee.

      甘牌燒鵝 Kam's Roast Goose in Wanchai

      and

      甘飯館 at Tin Hau

      One of them (can't remember which) does roast goose with charcoal roasting, the other does not.

      Guess they need more time to ramp up from the reviews of many netizens, but at least there are alternatives to Yung Kee.

      1 Reply
      1. re: K K

        KK - "pushed out by the other siblings" is an understatement: Kinsen's nephew (son of his younger brother & nemesis) pretty much humiliated the old man (whom I'd always regarded as synonymous with the Yung Kee brandname) by calling him a dog in front of their staff.

        List of articles about the family feud in the South China Morning Post:
        http://www.scmp.com/content/search/ki...

      2. Thanks for rekindling fond memories of Yung Kee, klyeoh! (BTW, I'm still waiting for you to show up at one of the weekend markets in Makati.)

        I could almost taste those century eggs, which I look forward to even more then the roast goose. And I had almost forgotten how good their yangchow fried rice was! I'm glad it's back in good form again.

        The other thing I used to like there was the roast pigeon. Family lore has the 8-year old pilinut and her favorite aunt returning from YK with a little doggie bag filled with 4 pigeon heads and a few wing tips.

        17 Replies
        1. re: pilinut

          Yes, pilinut - I'm still dreaming of my Manila trip. My scheduled one last year did not eventuate due to work commitments. I'm off to Pakistan next, so it'll be nihari stews and kebabs instead of caldereta & lechon.

          LOL! Doggie-bagging pigeon heads! You should have devoured them there & then, crisp & hot off the ovens - the crisp skulls shatter at the lightest bite, yielding rich, creamy pigeon brains. It's a delicacy much treasured by many of us :-)

          1. re: klyeoh

            I learned about pigeon brains too late! (I've probabaly grossed out a few hounds on the SF Bay Area board asking where I can find veal brains. But that's another story.) I finally attempted a squab brain in SF a couple of years ago, partly out of desperation, but it was sooooo tiny and dry, not creamy at all, though it did taste like brain. I tried again the other day, but again, it was so dessicated I could barely the little critter.

            If and when I get another shot at pigeon in HK, I'll attempt to brain the bird. Tell me, do you eat the top of the skull as well, or just the brain?

            1. re: pilinut

              When I was young and living in Hong Kong. My family loved to frequent the famed 'Roast Pigeon' place in Sha Tin - Lung Wah about once or twice per month. My Uncle used to collect the heads of all the pigeons ( at least half a dozen ) and suck out the brains. At that time, no body was concern about 'cholesterol'. Well, to cut the story short, he suffered a stroke at the tender age of 42!! The pigeon brains a factor??

              1. re: Charles Yu

                @ Charles - Ack, I'd like to think that it wasn't his pigeon's brain diet which killed him!

                1. re: Charles Yu

                  Did your family ever go to the Pigeon Restaurant on Lamma Island a bit of a walk from the dock and up on a hill?

                  1. re: BoneAppetite

                    Pigeon Restaurant on a hill?! Love to know more info!
                    The only hill top pigeon restaurant I know and tried is 'Lung Wah' in Sha Tin?!

                    1. re: Charles Yu

                      Your post stirred a memory from a very long time ago. It might remain a memory if this report is accurate:

                      http://metropolasia.com/Han_Lok_Yuen_...

                      1. re: BoneAppetite

                        Wow!! Bravo to you for digging this up!
                        Yup! Pity so many such establishments as well as Dai Pai Dongs have closed down, especially with their food not being passed down to the younger generations! Sigh. Braised Beef innards is such one example. Just doesn't taste like the good old days anymore!

                  2. re: Charles Yu

                    My favorite for roast pigeon is the Shui Wah (萃華酒家) in Tai Wai. Not to be confused with the ubiquitous cha chaan teng Tsui Wah (翠華).

                    1. re: Uncle Yabai

                      Hello Uncle! Greetings from TOronto!
                      You can do a horizontal pigeon taste test by popping next door to 'Fung Lum' for comparison. Pretty dawn good as well. Don't forget to order the 'Fried sea prawns with peppered salt'! So good!
                      Austrian hound Albert can attest to that!

                      1. re: Charles Yu

                        Absolutely true about the prawns, I make them myself at home at least once a month since I had them at Fung Lum, but they are not the same, as I can't get my hands on such good and fresh prawns here.

                      2. re: Uncle Yabai

                        Sadly, Shui Wah's last day was last Wed. Another one bites the dust

                          1. re: Uncle Yabai

                            Even have a picture to prove it but unfortunately, it is in Chinese

                             
                    2. re: pilinut

                      @pilinut - I tend to eat the skull as well - it's crunchy. But I know most folks just suck out the brains. Many American Hounds tend to get grossed out by what we eat in this part of the world - no prizes for guessing their reaction if they see this bowl of pork rice congee I had in Penang last year - it included a whole pig's brain!

                      There's an active thread currently on-going which talked about why Chinese restaurants in the US have a "secret menu" for their Chinese customers (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/857367). But is it ANY surprise?!

                       
                      1. re: pilinut

                        Well, you could call it "free range" squab brains for your vocabulary-squeamish correspondents, if that would keep the conversation going ...

                  3. Thanks klyeoh for this update. When I lived in Hongkong for five years our offices were just down the road and Yung Kee was a regular luncheon ritual. It was also the best place to get taxi's in the rain.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: scoopG

                      "Luncheon ritual" does seem the right word - it was the same for me when I was a private banker based in HK for 7 years. Yung Kee's standards have been inconsistent - even the Michelin folks found that out - it got 1-Michelin-star in 2010 (if I remember correctly?) and lost it the following year.

                      1. re: klyeoh

                        May I ask what years you lived there?

                        1. re: scoopG

                          1994-2000. I still visit the city 1-2 times a year after that.

                          1. re: klyeoh

                            Oh wow klyeoh! You were in Hong Kong when I was (1994 - 2004)!
                            La Ronda @ Furama, Genji @ Hilton Hong Kong, Sichuan Lau @ Causeway Bay, Pierrot @ Mandarin Oriental, Island Cafe and Cyrano Bar @ Island Shangri-La, San San Trois at its peak, etc, etc...

                            1. re: kosmose7

                              Well, kosmose7, my forays into HK's dining scene went even earlier than those - but, yes, those names brought back lots of memories. My fave dining spot at the time was actually Umberto Bombana-helmed Tosca.

                              1. re: klyeoh

                                You mean Toscana.
                                Its semi buffet was one of my favorite lunch deals in town back then.

                                 
                                 
                                1. re: kosmose7

                                  Yes, indeed. Never tried Otto e Mezzo yet, though.

                                  1. re: kosmose7

                                    During SARS you could have the run of the place and have a 5 course dinner for two for under 1,000 honkie. Ah those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end...

                                    1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                      It was a strange time - SARS. Totally changed HKers perception towards life. But, thankfully, the epidemic didn't become a yearly affair like what the medical fraternity had direly predicted.

                                      1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                        Back when I was dating my wife, you can walk into Toscana on a Sunday night and there will be maybe 3 tables. No reservation needed. Those were the days ...

                        2. nice review, the pi dan there are the best pi dan ive ever had anywhere, but the goose was a bit disappointing last time i was there a few years ago

                          whats considered the gold standard for goose these days? i dont even know anymore

                          18 Replies
                          1. re: Lau

                            Well, our old friend Charles Yu recommended Yat Lok nearby Yung Kee.

                            1. re: klyeoh

                              ah yah i know about yat lok, ive eaten there a while ago...wasn't sure if there was somewhere new

                              1. re: Lau

                                The flag ship at Tai Po's Tai Ming Lane, where the owner resides, offers an even tastier version.
                                Talk about Tai Ming Lane, its one of those obscure little street with end to end great eating places! Tiny specialty hole-in-the-wall places for Clear broth Beef Brisket noodle, Tofu-Fa, Salt baked chicken...etc.

                                1. re: Charles Yu

                                  ah cool, i really need to make it out to tai po next time...i have a bunch of places i want to try there, but i never end up having time

                            2. re: Lau

                              My fav in town is Tin Hung in Yuen Long. But that is a long trek for goose but I always buy one when I am in the area

                              1. re: HKTraveler

                                yah yuen long is far, but ive heard of alot of places that sound amazing out there

                                i need to spend like a month in HK so i actually have enough time to do stuff like yuen long

                                1. re: HKTraveler

                                  Yup I actually took a photo outside Tin Hung in January when I took friends from San Francisco there. Unfortunately we had prefilled our stomach quota at Happy Seafood at Lau Fau Shan, but it was worth the splurge, otherwise that would have been a good contender for goose.

                                  The other options would be the Chiu Chow marinade versions, of which Chong Fat in Kowloon City does some killer goose livers.
                                  The marinade at Hung's Delicacies (North Point) is very intense and complex, at least it was still good for me in January when we had the sliced goose breast.

                                  The other option would be Bor Kee in Western District, but you have to be first in line (lunch hour) and order a whole goose drumstick uncut, so when you bite into it, you let the lard drip into the noodles. The skin is super crispy. The duck drumstick is also very good.

                                  1. re: K K

                                    yah i want to try chong fat, i like hung's alot i actually find their marinade quite light on a relative basis but really good although i like tak kee a bit better

                                    haven't heard of bor kee, but will def put it on my list, sounds amazing!

                                    1. re: K K

                                      Have only been to the new "Ball Kee" once and it was only OK. Still have fond memories of the old one where you can walking in late at night and still get a bowl of uncut goose drumstick "lai fun"!

                                      1. re: K K

                                        Think the Hung's Delicacies in North Point is closing end of this month?

                                        1. re: HKTraveler

                                          really?? wow are they moving or shutting completely?

                                          1. re: Lau

                                            Just this location but permanently. They are also at the airport and I think one other location as well

                                            1. re: HKTraveler

                                              interesting, the other location is kinda far in kwun tong
                                              http://www.hungsdelicacies.com/shopen...

                                              1. re: HKTraveler

                                                There is an alarming trend of family owned traditionalist shops and eateries just closing shop, not just over rising rents, but family conflicts/ego/$ etc.

                                                Was very sad to read that back in April, the family that owns Shu Kee, that supplies artisan bean curd products to locals as well as The Chairman, shuttered in Sham Shui Po (one of the siblings relocated to Tai Po I think?). And to think I visited them and bought some bean curd rolls (to smuggle into a hot pot restaurant to consume), just a few days after dining at The Chairman and savoring that bean curd dish with friends!

                                                Ball Kee...they don't even roast their own roasties, it's all outsourced, but it's good quality. At this rate, whether overhyped and overrated, still nice to get a capture of the good stuff before whatever reason takes over and it becomes just another distant memory.

                                                My friend is going to be upset about Hung's North Point...he recently relocated recently near there from Wanchai. 13 stall is gone (ethereal marinated braised beef innards) and now Hung's!

                                                1. re: K K

                                                  any idea why hung's is shutting the north point shop? it does excellent business and i dont think north point rent would be as bad as more central parts of HK island

                                                  1. re: Lau

                                                    http://www.epochtimes.com.tw/n99306/%...

                                                    says skyrocketing rents are causing Hung to shutter NP location. The exact same reason why a few other iconic (to locals) smaller food shops shuttered in NP, along with 13 stall. You would be surprised at how expensive real estate is becoming in that area.

                                                    1. re: K K

                                                      wow crazy...maybe everyone is going to move to the new territories soon

                                                  2. re: K K

                                                    I was never impressed with 13 Stall's version of the beef innards. Found them too overwhelmed with medicinal herbal flavor and aroma.