Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong


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No Motley Crew at Mott 32

I’m not certain what is gaining more interest at restaurants these days, the interior design or the food. With places like Duddell’s, (art gallery or dining establishment?), St Betty’s (Hanging Gardens of IFC) and AMMO (Tate Modern meets metallic staircase) distracting diners with their decoration, the food could be in danger of being a side dish rather than the main attraction. However, with newest Maximal Concepts’ venture on the block, (does this group ever stop?!), Mott 32, the food AND the decor are certainly neck to neck in the attention stakes.Mott 32

Mott 32 is not your local Chinese eatery. The food is top-notch quality with prices to match, so don’t say I didn’t warn you if you look at the bill with bulging eyes. I will say this- I will most definitely be taking all my future visitors there. Mott 32 is the epitome of Chinese fine dining, and Maximal Concepts have gone all out for their first Chinese restaurant. Named after New York’s first Chinese convenience store which opened in 1851 on 32 Mott Street and an homage to those who left HK for NYC’s Chinatown, Mott 32 showcases Cantonese cuisine with regional specialties from Sichuan and Beijing using the Maximal Concepts’ farm-to-table cooking principles. Even finding it is an eye-opener; situated in the enormous basement of the Standard Chartered Bank building in Central, beyond one set of escalators and a seemingly never-ending and heel-unfriendly spiral staircase.Mott 32

Enter and you will find a splendorous space beautifully furnished with an array of Chinese artifacts, sumptuous sofas and Oriental wooden screens that divide the restaurant into zones, each with their own gorgeous design. Their semi-open kitchen with an industrial duck oven and special air-drying duck fridge is an interesting focal point and one can get quite diverted by the duck carcasses hanging as if in suspended animation. My meandering took me to my favourite room- an intimate area decorated with hundreds of Chinese calligraphy paintbrushes and round the corner I admired a wall cloaked in a breath-taking silkscreen of silver birds and flowers. In yet another corner, a giant abacus floats serenely from the ceiling, whilst the walls play host to a hotch-potch of Chinese antique vases and ornaments. Street art and graffiti complete the East meets West/ ancient meets modern look and you are left with what is a truly magnificent interior, courtesy of award-winning interior designer Joyce Wang. There are also five private rooms, all equally stunning, that ensure you can have an uninterrupted, elegant meal with a party of friends. The bathroom is also worth a mention, not least because it feels like you’re at Hogwarts. Polyjuice potion scene springs to mind.Mott 32 Mott 32 Mott 32 Mott 32 Mott 32

And onto the food, which is as impressive as the decor. The kitchen is headed by Chef Fung, previously of Dynasty Restaurant, Renaissance Harbour View Hotel , which explains why Mott 32’s prime char siu made with Iberico pork  is a smorgasbord of excellent flavours and succulence and touted as one of the finest in town, and Dynasty’s char siu has gone downhill in the last few months. When the char siu arrived, consistency was a slight issue though, as our table had two plates of this popular dish, and one was distinctly lacking the same love and care the other had. The winning plate was sensational; the char siu unbelievably tender and juicy, fragrant with the perfect amount of sweetness to the taste and edged with drool-worthy caramelisation. Its sister plate however, was a lighter colour, a little on the soggy side unfortunately and not quite as charred on the edges.

Iberico Pork Char Siu

Iberico Pork Char Siu

We sampled a few of their dim sum delicacies starting with the Dry Fried Squid with sweet chili and lime zest. Whilst the squid itself was nice and chewy, this wasn’t overly memorable and the batter tasted a little on the chalky side.

Dry Fried Squid

Dry Fried Squid

I loved the Crispy Sugar Coated BBQ Spanish Teruel Pork Buns which were delicate, light, soft and fluffy. The sugar coating was beautiful to bite into and the pork filling sweet and lean. Another hit were the Kurobata pork, quail egg and black truffle siu mai. These posh siu mai were plump and delectable, and who can resist a surprise quail egg in the middle plus fragrant black truffle on top?

Crispy Sugar Coated BBQ Spanish Teruel Pork Buns

Crispy Sugar Coated BBQ Spanish Teruel Pork Buns

Kurobata pork, quail egg and black truffle siu mai

Kurobata pork, quail egg and black truffle siu mai

The Australian Wagyu beef with Shitake Mushrooms was a solid dish and we enjoyed the Aged Black Vinegar Sweet & Sour Pork which was a more sophisticated version of the classic dish. The sweet and sour sauce was great and a perfect balance of flavours. Rach from Through the Looking Glass and I were a bit confused by the addition of dragonfruit, (of the normal red variety I believe, as they had absolutely no flavour at all). The dish wants the pineapple back please.

Australian Wagyu beef with Shitake Mushrooms

Australian Wagyu beef with Shitake Mushrooms

Aged Black Vinegar Sweet & Sour Pork

Aged Black Vinegar Sweet & Sour Pork

As if we hadn’t had enough food, there was the Apple Wood-Roasted Peking Duck, (you need to pre-order this), which was stupendous. I couldn’t get enough. A bamboo steamer holding wonderfully thin pancakes was emptied at lightning speed as we feasted on crispy, glistening duck skins and succulent slices of meat.Apple Wood-Roasted Peking Duck

Apple Wood-Roasted Peking Duck

Apple Wood-Roasted Peking Duck

At this point my stomach was starting to protest but we powered our way through a 12 hour Slow Cooked Sticky Pork Belly which was another outstanding dish. The invitingly glossy exterior of the pork belly fat was even better to taste as each mouthful melted.

12 hour Slow Cooked Sticky Pork Belly

12 hour Slow Cooked Sticky Pork Belly

I was disappointed I did not have more room to fully indulge in the next dish which was Black Cod, Potato, Chilli, Garlic, Spring Onion, or as we affectionately called it ‘Chinese Fish and Chips’. The whole dish was well-seasoned and aromatic; the battered cod was light yet meaty and the potatoes fat and moreish.

'Chinese Fish and Chips'

‘Chinese Fish and Chips’

We were all on the precipice of a food coma when the final savoury dish emerged- Fried Rice with Pork Belly, Preserved Vegetable and Egg. Don’t ask me how- pure greed coupled with a carb craving and a love for preserved vegetables in anything, meant that I finished both mine and Rach’s bowl of rice. It was delicious though, so no regrets!

Fried Rice with Pork Belly, Preserved Vegetable and Egg

Fried Rice with Pork Belly, Preserved Vegetable and Egg

To end, (yes, we had dessert too), we had the Green Tea coated Chocolate Mousse, 3 of which made up part of my dinner grazing at their opening party, and the Osmanthus Flower Jelly. The green tea flavour was a good counterbalance against the rich and smooth chocolate mousse and the jelly was a lovely, refreshing end to a hugely satisfying and delectable meal.

Green Tea coated Chocolate Mousse

Green Tea coated Chocolate Mousse

Osmanthus Flower Jelly

Osmanthus Flower Jelly

Mott 32 is simply stunning to dine at, just sitting there to take in the ambiance and admire the interior is enough, let alone sampling the stellar food. The high-quality ingredients, first rate preparations and clever twists on traditional dishes without losing the essence of the original creations, make a dining experience at Mott 32 a must despite the price. With main dishes between $200-400 each, (the Iberico pork is $295), you are looking at a fairly hefty bill, especially if you are a) a glutton and b) ordering some of their delicious cocktails. However, I do think Maximal Concepts have really done a fabulous job with their latest venture, and while I won’t be a frequent visitor, I will definitely be saving up for my char siu fix on special occasions and when I have visitors to impress.

Chopstixfix rating: 4/5

 

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Mott 32, Standard Chartered Building, 4-4a Des Voeux Road, Central, Hong Kong Tel: +852 2885 8688 Reservations@mott32.com

 This meal was by kind invitation by Maximal Concepts. Many thanks!

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A Spot of Lunch at Lung King Heen

Four Seasons- Lung King Heen

Four Seasons- Lung King Heen

There are some restaurants in our beloved, hectic city that I have been saving for a special occasion or just waiting for a good time to go with my other half and visitors, and Lung King Heen at The Four Seasons is way up there on that *special occasion* list. But there it languished for a couple of years, until I despaired that such an occasion would ever materialise until, to my surprise, The Four Seasons extended a very kind invitation to me to try their set lunch one weekday. They were equally surprised that I hadn’t as yet been to their Three-Michelin starred restaurant, (I wasn’t deliberately avoiding, honest!), so it was with great delight that I found myself gazing round their spacious dining-area with polished floors, plush seats and magnificent views of Victoria Harbour.

Now, to be crowned the world’s first Chinese restaurant to be awarded the Three-Michelin stars is no mean feat, so naturally, one wonders if it deserves such an accolade. Although I was invited, I do believe that day to day, invites make little difference, as this is a tightly run ship with stellar service and truly standout dishes at what are frankly, quite reasonable prices for the quality that one gets.

Lung King Heen

Lung King Heen

After nestling into one of their side booths I had a look at their Executive Set Lunch menu which, at $485 +10% per person for seven, albeit small courses, is GREAT value, especially once I started tucking in. The a la carte menu has an array of fabulous dishes and of course they have a fine selection of dim sum, being Cantonese and all, so if a tummy full of dim sum tickles your fancy then you should definitely do that at leisure. I was trying their set lunch which starts with the Chef’s dim sum selection followed by the Soup of the Day, Barbecue combination (highlight for any pork belly obsessive), two mains (more on those later), then dessert and petit fours.

Our attentive wait staff soon arrived and two neat, steamed dim sum parcels appeared before me- the mushroom dumpling with celery and the shrimp dumpling with bamboo shoots. They were both morsels of joy and deliciousness and not nearly enough to satiate my dim sum lust that they ignited. Their dim sum skins were delicate yet firm enough to hold their contents, and as they yielded to bite, I savoured the plump shrimp and tender bamboo shoots and the silky and flavoursome mushrooms, with the celery adding a fresh taste. I was also treated to their wonderful Crispy Spring Rolls with Shrimp and Hairy Gourd, which made that happy crispy sound as I bit into it.

Steamed Dim Sum- mushroom and celery dumpling and shrimp and bamboo dumpling

Steamed Dim Sum- mushroom and celery dumpling and shrimp and bamboo dumpling

Crispy Spring Roll with Shrimp and Hairy Gourd

Crispy Spring Roll with Shrimp and Hairy Gourd

The Soup of the Day of dried vegetable, snake- head fish and pork, may not sound or look that impressive, but it was a wonderful, soothing broth to warm the cockles of the heart. As a Chinese soup fan, I fully appreciate the fine art that can go into a simple, humble soup, and I really wanted to produce a thermos and take some home!

Soup of the Day

Soup of the Day

Lung King Heen’s Barbecue combination may be small but they made an impact. And also made me want to weep that there was not more. (Am definitely having a plateful of crispy pork belly next time). My salivary glands were going into overtime and I had to tell myself not to wolf down my two precious pieces of pork belly and the equally magnificent two pieces of roast goose. The roast goose skin glistened delicately with the delicious goose fat; it was pretty much barbecued meat porn. But let’s not forget the marinated jellyfish with its yummy, crunchy texture, which was good but paled in comparison to its meaty neighbours.

Barbecue combination- crispy pork belly, roast goose and marinated jellyfish

Barbecue combination- crispy pork belly, roast goose and marinated jellyfish

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The next dish is a little controversial, as I soon found out after tweeting a picture of this dish enthusiastically, in that the so-called “Chilean Seabass”, is actually the Patagonian Toothfish, cleverly marketed to make it appear more appealing, in name, to us mere mortals and not only that, it seems to be a fish that is teetering on the edge of sustainable, depending on whether you want to wade in on the ‘legal fishing’ debate. I was educated very swiftly by Wafflerica – thanks! Anyway, this awkwardness aside, this dish (Steamed Chilean Seabass with with Fermented Black Bean Sauce) was outstanding, the fish was amazingly fresh, meaty and succulent and I loved the fermented black bean sauce, which is always such a dynamic contrast in flavours to that ‘clean’ fish taste.

Steamed Chilean Seabass with with Fermented Black Bean Sauce

Steamed Chilean Seabass with with Fermented Black Bean Sauce

Next up was the welcome sight of the Braised E-Fu noodles with crab-meat in lobster sauce. Crab meat AND lobster sauce? Winning combination. I ate it so fast, such was my pure enjoyment of this dish, that I was not really registering any deeper analytics of the dish except YUM!

Braised E-Fu noodles with crab-meat in lobster sauce

Braised E-Fu noodles with crab-meat in lobster sauce

And so we were coming to end of this excellent lunch, and I had to make room for one of my favourite Chinese desserts of all time- the Chilled Mango and Sago Cream with Pomelo. Deconstructing this, there is basically a glorious mango pudding, firm and inviting, drowned in a fresh mango-sago-pomelo cream. Fruity fun.

Chilled Mango and Sago Cream with Pomelo

Chilled Mango and Sago Cream with Pomelo

IMG_6750

To end, there was a lovely Chrysanthemum jelly with barley and a sesame biscuit to cap off an impressive lunch. Three-stars absolutely well deserved.

Chrysanthemum jelly with barley and a sesame biscuit

Chrysanthemum jelly with barley and a sesame biscuit

As the Terminator said- I’ll be back.

Chopstixfix rating: 4/5


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Lung King Heen, Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, 8 Finance Street, Central. Tel: +852 3196 8880, 3196 8886 http://www.fourseasons.com/hongkong

This meal was by invitation- many thanks to Four Seasons Hong Kong. (Interior photos also from Four Seasons. )


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In It To Wynn It- a day in Macau Part 1, Wing Lei

I was surprised to receive a kind invitation from the Wynn Macau to spend a day touring the premises and more excitingly, to sample the food at two of their restaurants- the Michelin 2-star Wing Lei (awarded in the 2012 guide) and Mizumi (see here for the review). If it weren’t for this opportunity, I doubt I would actually think about dining at the Wynn, but I’m very glad and grateful for this invite as I hope that this encourages people to think about the Macau dining scene a little more!

It was on a beautiful day that I set off, and apart from the frustratingly long wait at Immigration, I was soon waltzing through the elegant doors of the Wynn and on my way to lunch at Wing Lei.

As with most of the resorts in Macau, what strikes one immediately is the sheer size of the structure and the grandiose manner in which everything is displayed. However, compared to the others I’d visited before, I felt the Wynn, whilst still luxurious, was more understated and intimate in its decor, which was appealing to me.

The Wynn Macau has some impressive restaurants under its belt including the Michelin-star Golden Flower (awarded in 2012) and the Italian, il Teatro, as well as several casual dining establishments to cater for all palates. I wanted to go to the Wynn without any expectations. Obviously, Wing Lei, being bestowed with 2 Michelin stars is quite the accolade, but in my mind a luxury Vegas-style resort with such a badge of honour, usually means a fair bit of moolah and food artfully arranged on a plate. So what was in store for me when I sat down for lunch?

Before anything else, I have to mention the eye-catching crystal flying dragon that’s dramatically displayed on the back wall of the main dining area. This centrepiece is certainly an arresting sight, made more impressive by the fact that it’s constructed out of 90,000 Swarovski crystals and tiny lights. If anything is going to detract attention away from the food, that would be it! After I finished gawking at it, I had my first sip of Wing Lei’s Signature Tea, a floral and delicate blend of flowers, fruits and tea leaves that, as the meal progressed, nicely cleansed the palate. (I was delighted when I was presented with a tin of their signature tea to take home, will be taking my time with this precious supply!).

The menu for lunch had been prearranged to highlight the best of Wing Lei’s dim sum as well as a couple of their signature dishes.

To start we had a pretty selection of appetisers: drunken shrimps, marinated eggplant with chilli vinegar and shredded barbecued duck, chilled sliced sea cucumber and cucumber with spicy sauce and smoked bean curd, mushrooms and sweetened carrot. The drunken shrimps were plump and meaty with a light infusion of alcohol and I especially enjoyed the marinated eggplant.

I was very much looking forward to the selection of Dim Sum, in particular to the baked barbecued pork bun that I have a weakness for which arrived on a simply presented plate with a  steamed shrimp and vegetable dumpling with in-house made XO chilli sauce, a deep-fried shrimp spring roll and steamed layered bean curd skin with soy bean milk.

The elongated deep-fried spring roll was delicious. I loved the wafer thin, cripsy  wrap and the shrimp mince enveloped inside. The steamed layered bean curd skin was excellent and so intricately layered that it was almost an art-piece rather than a morsel to be eaten. But the real showstopper was the fragrant baked barbecued pork bun with a sweetened crust. The crust was perfect- beautiful, fluffy and sweet (the crust immediately made me crave a whole plate of pineapple buns when I sunk my teeth in), which gave way to a tasty filling of barbecued pork, which was just on the right side of salty to complement the sweet.

The most astonishing part about Wing Lei was discovering that their lunchtime Dim Sum Tasting menu costs a mere 158MOP (equivalent value in HK), for a selection of 6 dim sums from a fairly extensive list. Considering this is a 2-star Michelin restaurant, I found this to be incredible value for such fantastic quality dim sum.

The next course was their signature Steamed cod fish roll with preserved tree seeds. The rolled cod was fleshy and well-prepared, the light broth giving it that added succulency and flavour. The tree seeds added a contrasting sourness which I liked.

The Crispy crab claw with fragrant garlic flakes was huge and meaty. Nothing beats a good sprinkling of fried garlic flakes. I’m always a bit fussy when it comes to fried garlic as I hate it when it becomes soggy but these were nice and dry and gave the crab claw that wonderful garlicky aroma. The fried crab meat with egg white that accompanied it was also good and tempered the salty crispiness of the claw.

I should add that service during the lunch was exemplary, and I don’t just say that because my visit was expected. I observed the service across the dining room and the staff were attentive throughout and just as detailed about the courses when serving the other diners. My tea was refilled constantly and everything was said with a warm smile which always makes a difference!

No meal is compete without dessert, no matter how stuffed one is. The dessert platter was gorgeous, both in presentation and in taste. I enthused with girly delight over the tiny, golden steam basket which I really wanted to take home! Anything deep-fried usually gets my attention anyway, but the deep-fried egg custard roll was honestly delicious, the filling was so smooth and flavourful. The osmanthus milk pudding was reminiscent of a panna cotta and was quite delicate on the palate. I was deeply impressed by the baked walnut puff which looked exactly like the real thig. I couldn’t fathom how they made it, I doubt I would have the patience to recreate that in the kitchen, so gold stars for effort! I was also interested in the seasonal fruit on my platter which was a slice of yellow dragon fruit from Columbia. I find dragon fruit usually so bland and this was the first time I’d encountered yellow dragon fruit (Piyahaya). I was taken aback by its juiciness and honey-like sweetness which acted as a fabulous refresher and cleanser to the end of the meal.

Wing Lei impressed me and I could definitely see why it was awarded 2 Michelin stars. I would highly recommend going there for dim sum if you are ever in Macau, because frankly, you won’t find such quality at such a steal.

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Chopstixfix rating: 4/5

Wing Lei, G/F, Wynn Macau, Rua Cidade de Sintra, NAPE, Macau Te: +853 8986 3688

(Photos of the main entrance to the Wynn and the crystal dragon are courtesy of Wynn Macau)


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Sing Yin at the W Hotel

I was quietly impressed with Sing Yin when I went. It’s certainly one of the few places where the decor really  wows with it’s individuality and it makes for a great alternative to the usual suspects for dim sum. You can also read this review on Sassy.

The softly lit entrance of Sing Yin invites you to take a closer peek at what is hiding within. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it doorway, as it’s tucked away on the first floor on the W Hotel, but once you walk in, it’s hard not to be quietly impressed with the decor.  Before I launch into the food, I have to gush a little about the interior. The architect and interior designer Steve Leung, has skilfully paired a sleek and modern design with features of old Hong Kong. I love the semi-private dining rooms which span the length of the passage on the way to the main dining area. It’s a clever and lovely feature and each ‘room’ has a theme which cheerfully reflects the streets of Hong Kong such as local groceries, boutiques and barbers. The rooms are separated by transparent Oriental frames and coupled with the muted colours of the restaurant, subtle lighting and soothing music in the background, it all makes for a wonderfully harmonious atmosphere. At the end of the passage is a nifty wall of clear glass fish tanks and LCD screens showing virtual marine life and real fish swimming along, which adds to the tranquil ambience. The main dining- room is equally ‘oohh-worthy’ with the walls proudly displaying the city’s skyline and the carpet an awesome copy of the map of the outlines of Hong Kong and Kowloon skyscrapers.

I had lunch in the gorgeous bird-cage themed semi-private room and experienced impeccable service, which included the waiter kindly giving me a chair for my handbag (very important for a girl of course, bonus points!). Chef Bryan Lee has created a menu that has a Cantonese focus, but which also encompasses elements of Northern and Southern cuisines, as reflected by his culinary travels in China. I was lucky enough to try eight of Sing Yin’s ‘must-try’ dishes, including their famous Lychee wood-fired crispy chicken which I eagerly anticipated, especially as it was seventh on the list!

To start, I had three excellent dumplings- deep fried abalone with wagyu beef,  steamed whole abalone with sea moss and steamed hairy crab meat with minced pork and crab roe. I particularly enjoyed the deep fried dumpling, which had a fantastic crisp shell and a wonderful balance of beef and abalone flavours. Nothing is more addictive than the broth inside a xiao long bao, and the steamed hairy crab dumpling was fantastic. As I gently nibbled the side of the dumpling, the flavoursome broth escaped and in my panic, I lost some of the soup (so sad). In the end I had to opt for inelegance and popped the entire dumpling in my mouth before further loss!  The double-boiled grain-fed quail soup was presented with a flourish in a scooped out papaya masquerading as a bowl. The sweetness of the papaya infused into the soup which had a real depth, I assume due to the double-boiling process, and was interestingly refreshing, cleansing my palate.  An observation I made was the simplicity and elegance of all of Chef Lee’s dishes. The stir-fried fillet of garoupa was an excellent example of this, where the real pizzazz was in the taste. The garoupa was delicately seasoned and cooked to perfection, with the asparagus and Chinese wolfberries subtlely enhancing the fish’s mild flavour.  Stir-fried diced Wagyu beef with crispy garlic is always a winner with me and again, the dish was uncomplicated in appearance, with the beef accompanied by a small receptacle of beansprouts which helped cut through the tiny amount but unavoidable grease of the meat. My only grouse is that the garlic slices weren’t nearly crispy enough.  The main star of the menu, the lychee wood-fired crispy chicken, was truly luscious. I was glad I had paced myself for this dish, as it was well worth the wait. The chicken, I’m told, undergoes a fairly intense process of overnight seasoning, roasting with lychee wood and tea leaves, and then fired to the golden, glistening beauty that it is when it comes to your table. The skin was amazingly crisp, the chicken succulent and juicy with a faint hint of sweetness.  The last dish was a ‘sichuan style’ soup noodles with enoki mushrooms and minced pork which was a surprisingly spicy finish to the meal and left me in a flustered but satisfied, bloated heap in my chair.

I managed to squeeze in a small dessert platter too!With the exquisite decoration, attentive service and an impressive menu with several stand-out dishes, the W Hotel has a fine restaurant on their hands. Sing Yin has a lovely nostalgic feel to it, and with those frames carefully shielding you and your friends from fellow dining companions, one can dine with absolute gusto and feast on that chicken with abandonment.

Sing Yin, 1/F W Hong Kong, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon Station, Hong Kong. 3717 2222