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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Dim Sum lunch at Cuisine Cuisine

I love dim sum. Back in London my parents and I would go to New World in Chinatown for a spot of dim sum trolley service or head to Princess Garden in Mayfair for our fix. Of course, in HK, there is no shortage of dim sum places and as such, I have been valiantly trying to visit a few different restaurants, especially a couple of the more posh joints like Lung King Heen, just to see how their dishes measure up against the likes of the more down-to-earth joints.

So hot on the heels of my WHISK dinner, I found myself going back to The Mira to try out their One -Michelin star Cantonese restaurant, Cuisine Cuisine (by invitation). Cuisine Cuisine has another branch in IFC, which I’ve yet to try, and is also a One-Michelin star. In fact the Mira branch had Two-Michelin stars back in 2011, but unfortunately it did not retain it the following year.

Cuisine Cuisine at The Mira

Cuisine Cuisine at The Mira

Cuisine Cuisine is a rather resplendent forest-emerald green inside with these dramatic suspended glass orbs hanging from the ceiling and pretty views of Kowloon Park. The modern decor with traditional hints is very much a reflection of their menu which serves traditional fare with contemporary twists. The day I went, I was sampling their re-introduced All You Can Eat Dim Sum, which at $248 (+10%) per person, is terrific value, if your stomach is as big as your eyes. This is only available Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays between 11.30am till 2.30pm, so if you can escape from work then make the most of it!

We started with the crispy taro puffs with diced chicken and foie gras which were light and airy with hints of foie gras (not strong enough for me!) Stir-fried turnip cakes in X.O. Chili sauce was excellent; their X.O. sauce enhanced the fried turnip beautifully and made it difficult to tear my chopsticks away from each morsel. Their steamed wild mushroom and black truffle dumpling with a pop of colour from the melon inside, was fragrant and quite delicious, a well-executed vegetarian dim sum dish.

Crispy taro puffs with diced chicken and foie gras

Crispy taro puffs with diced chicken and foie gras

Stir-fried turnip cakes in X.O. Chili sauce

Stir-fried turnip cakes in X.O. Chili sauce

Steamed wild mushroom and black truffle dumpling

Steamed wild mushroom and black truffle dumpling

The xiao long baos and steamed dried scallop with shrimp and vegetable dumplings were good but standard fare, but I was happy to note that the skins in the xiao long baos were not overly thick- I lost some precious soup from over-zealous picking up!

Xiao Long Bao

Xiao Long Bao

Steamed dried scallop with shrimp and vegetable dumpling

Steamed dried scallop with shrimp and vegetable dumpling

The mini steamed sponge cakes with black sugar were wonderfully warm and bouncy and not too sweet. The pop-in-your-mouth portions are a little dangerous, but as its an All You Can Eat, you can always order more! I loved the cheung fan or steamed rice flour rolls with BBQ pork which was quite succulent and had the occasional, but not too much crispy fat- a happy contrast to the plain but smooth rice rolls flavoured with soya sauce. Crispy glutinous rice dumplings with diced pork were also scrumptious and thankfully not too heavy or oily as these can have a tendency to be. No dim sum lunch is complete without char siu bao (steamed barbecue pork bun), and theirs was fluffy and soft, yielding easily to my fingers prying the bun open to reveal glistening BBQ pork.

Steamed sponge cakes with black sugar

Steamed sponge cakes with black sugar

Crispy glutinous rice dumplings with diced pork

Crispy glutinous rice dumplings with diced pork

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Steamed rice flour rolls with BBQ pork

Steamed rice flour rolls with BBQ pork

Char siu bao

Char siu bao

Greedy guts we may be but it is surprising how your brain thinks you can eat so much more dim sum than you can in actuality. We ended up with just about room to spare for three sweet dim sum dishes. Their delightful egg tarts, piping hot when they emerged from the kitchen and filled with sugary custard goodness. Their yellow centres wobbled happily at me and were devoured with gusto. The coconut and osmanthus pudding was not a headlining dessert, but being chilled and light in flavours, was a clean-tasting bite to refresh the palate. The mango cream and sago pudding was by far the best, cooling and sweet yet tangy.

Mango cream and sago pudding

Mango cream and sago pudding

Coconut and osmanthus pudding

Coconut and osmanthus pudding

Egg tarts

Egg tarts

Dining at Cuisine Cuisine can be an elegant affair, though there is also quite a nice, laid-back atmosphere, with service running like clockwork and high quality dishes rolling out and helping patrons to roll out of the restaurant themselves, stuffed to the rafters with food. Don’t stroll in wearing flip flops but otherwise you can have a relatively casual meal whilst enjoying the polished surroundings.

Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5

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Cuisine Cuisine at The Mira, 3/F, The Mira Hong Kong,118 Nathan Road,Tsimshatsui /cuisinecuisine@themirahotel.com /+852 2315 5222

This was a tasting by invitation by The Mira Hotel- many thanks for the kind invite. Interior photo courtesy of The Mira. 


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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

IMG_6734

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

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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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Ghetto Dim Sum

You may remember from my Temple Street post that my band of foodie friends and I attempted to sneak into Tim Ho Wan “the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant” for a spot of dim sum. Hahahaha, some of you will exclaim, you can’t do that with 9 of you at 8pm, you’ll get ticket number 579 or something ridiculous! Silly moos!

Well, after said failed attempt, my regular lunch buddy P and I decided that we needed to be cleverer next time… Like a reconnaissance mission, we gathered information on what time it opened and how we could get our dim sum without a) queuing b) queuing c) queuing. Hmmmmm..

As most normal people work during the weekdays, it was down to me, J, P and G to do the dim sum taste test. We collectively agreed that as Tim Ho Wan opens at 10am, we should get there at 10am. We could of course have gotten there earlier, but that means sacrificing precious sleep time- you gotta weigh the pros and cons! Like little children on a school trip, we met up at Mong Kok station so we could all walk there together and not lose a key member of our group. J thought that it would be tactical if he went ahead first, grabbed a ticket and started queuing. Smart boy. So far so good P and I thought- we’re gonna be eating soon, *clap hands in glee*. As P is a Happy Valley girl and unaccustomed to wandering around Mong Kok in the daytime, this was a bit of an adventure and she affectionately coined this meal as “Ghetto dim sum”.

Sadly for us, our strategies failed. By the time we reached J, he was standing outside Tim Ho Wan with about 40 other people, holding the number 20 ticket. “After all our efforts!”, we wailed! But it was ok, because some people already had the number 50 ticket hehehe.  At this point it was 10.10am and the woman dispensing the tickets hadn’t even called out number 1 yet! It appeared that some eager beavers had been queuing since 8am and those lucky people were ushered in the moment doors opened and were still eating while the rest of us salivated and drooled like a pack of dogs. The queue was getting so immense that several small groups had resorted to standing in front of the 7-Eleven opposite, so they could still hear the lady shout out numbers.

Tim Ho Wan is in the Mong Kok district of Kowloon, situated in an alley, round the corner from an alarming number of shops selling what I hope are fake guns, bazookas, rifles and other army paraphernalia. It’s rather sweet that Chef Mak Pui Gor, former dim sum chef at the Four Seasons and the intelligence behind this restaurant, decided to set up shop in this random place, but I suppose it’s to prevent mass food hysteria on the streets.

The minutes ticked by slowly. People were striking up conversation and asking each other if they’d been there before, what ticket number did they have, what should they order. Everyone sighed everytime someone got to go in and eat. We realised after 30 minutes that there were order forms we could fill out. Genius! Think about what you want to eat, fill out the forms, when you are finally seated give the waitress your form and voila! food is served, no time wasted. There are both English and Chinese food order forms which is great, especially for those of us whose one Chinese lesson a week for 5 years only gave us the ability to write our names in Chinese. For one American who had bravely turned up on his own to sample some dim sum, he resorted to asking random girls what to order and how to say number 16 in Cantonese so he could recognise his number when it was called! Awwww.

In total, we were hovering outside the restaurant for 1.5 hours before number 20 was called. For the last 30 minutes, we were reading the newspaper, books and wandering to the nearby vegetable market to stretch our legs. When our time came, a slightly hysterical “Yay!” slipped out from my lips and the 4 of us pushed our through the crowd to the front. The ticket woman told us that only 3 could be seated first whilst the 4th had to wait for a bit while the neighbouring table finished their food. J nobly volunteered himself as the 4th person and he had to wait for an agonising 5 minutes before he could eat.

In the meantime, P, G and I squished ourselves onto a side table, brandished our order form in the air and thirstily downed our cups of tea.

The first dish was my meat and salty and preserved egg congee which was delicious and piping hot. The 2nd dish was prawn cheung fan (vermicelli roll), which was good but standard dim sum fare.

The 3rd had us cheering and very excited. It was their famous baked barbecue pork/ char siu bun which had an exquisite sugary glaze on the pastry and a gorgeous BBQ pork filling- tender and full of flavour. You can’t complain for only $12 a basket, so we had another round of buns!

The rest of the dishes that came was good but like the cheung fan, all of them were like from any other high quality dim sum restaurants and didn’t stand out like their char siu buns. We were also disappointed with their pan fried turnip cake (lo baak gou), which was really bitter for some reason, but I think it was the fault of the turnip and not the cooking.

We ended our meal with the steamed egg cake (ma laai gou), the tonic medlar and petal cake (a pretty looking jelly like pudding made from jasmine tea- lovely) and a scrumptious sweetened taro cream with sago pudding which I had all to myself. 🙂

The damage was $217 for 4 of us- a wonderfully cheap and satisfying meal.

What’s the verdict? I think that everyone should go and experience this ghetto dim sum place at least once and immerse yourself in the frenzied queuing. I would definitely recommend planning your “trip” in advance and getting there as early as possible. Also, if you like the char siu buns, order excess and you can take it home as leftovers. We noticed lots of people in the restaurants blatantly over ordering, only to eat a few mouthfuls and carting the rest of the food back home in polystyrene boxes. I imagine they do this to feed the rest of their friends and family who are too big in number to ever get a seating this side of the century.

As for me, I am chuffed we managed to eat there and I’m very happy I ate the char siu buns. But I doubt I’ll be madly queuing outside Tim Ho Wan in the near future.

Chopstick rating: 4/5 for value and those buns… (2/5 for the queues)

Tim Ho Wan, Shop 8, 2-20 Kwong Wa Street, Mong Kok, Kowloon. Tel: 2332 2896. Nearest MTRs: Mong Kok or Yau Ma Tei (look for signs for Kwong Wah Hospital).

Opening times: 10am-10pm daily.

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