Monthly Archives: March 2016

Yan Toh Heen, Hong Kong

Yan Toh Heen (欣圖軒)
18 Salisbury Road
Kowloon, Hong Kong

On every one of my trips to Hong Kong I usually like to visit at least one fancy (usually 2+ Michelin Star) restaurant and a couple mid-tier and hole in the wall places for dim sum. While the couple mid-priced and hole in the wall dim sum places on this past trip disappointed as a whole, my high end dim sum experience did not.

I arrived to Yan Toh Heen at the Intercontinental Hong Kong a little after my reservation time. Not to worry, however, as the hosts graciously seated me right away. I was seated at a 2-top table with a nice view of Victoria Harbor while on a plus seating bench as comfortable as my favorite couch.

I browsed the menu for a few minutes while my pot of Chrysanthemum Pu-Er tea was steeping at my table. There were a lot of interesting choices I wanted to try, but I had a relatively limited budget and wanted to sample a couple classic items with a couple of new items. In the end I settled for the following items:

Yan Toh Heen Superior Dumplings

Yan Toh Heen Superior Dumplings

  • Yan Toh Heen Superior Dumplings (極品三式海鮮餃) – The three dumplings included in this dumpling set were the Steamed Scallop with Black Truffles and Vegetable Dumplings (黑松露帶子餃), Steam Lobster and Bird’s Nest Dumpling with Gold Leaf (金箔燕液龍蝦餃), and Steamed King Crab Leg Dumpling with King Vegetables (長腳蟹肶菜苗餃). The server suggested I start with the crab leg dumpling, which was the simplest and cleanest in terms of flavor, and progress to the scallop dumpling. That progression was delicious and loved being able to eat towards more rich umami flavors. It was also my first time eating gold leaf. Though the gold leaf was nice, let’s be honest, given that it’s tasteless it did nothing to enhance the flavor or texture of the dumpling except for a feeling of decadence. Regardless, it was a very tasty dish that also came with an accompaniment of 6 different dipping sauces.
Steamed Prawn and Bamboo Shoot Dumpling at Yan Toh Heen

Steamed Prawn and Bamboo Shoot Dumpling at Yan Toh Heen

  • Steamed Prawn and Bamboo Shoot Dumpling (晶塋筍尖鮮蝦餃) – These har gow were very on point and probably the 2nd best I’ve ever had. The skin was thin, but had a little bit of give, and held the shrimp filling well. The bamboo shoots gave a little textural bite to the very fresh shrimp used in the dumplings.
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Turnip Cake and Tofu Skin Rolls at Yan Toh Heen

  • Pan-Fried Turnip Cake – While these turnip cakes were nicely fried and had very flavorful Chinese sausage, they were probably my least favorite item of the meal. There was nothing particularly bad about them but it was a bland dish compared to the other dishes I ordered.
  • Pan Fried Tofu Skin Roll with Vegetables – In contrast, these were probably the best tofu skin rolls I’ve ever had, The tofu skin was crispy without being burnt and the filling was light but still substantive in portion. I ate these pretty quickly.
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Mango Cream with Sago and Pomelo at Yan Toh Heen, presentation

  • Chilled Mango Cream with Sago and Pomelo (楊枝甘露) – I finished my meal with one of Yan Toh Heen’s signature items. As you can see from the above photos, it came covered with a fancy glass dome to contain the dry ice steam. The mago cream and sago combination was delicious and not overly sweet as it could be. The shaved pieces of pomelo might have been a little too much, but it was a nice bit of tartness to cut the richness of the mango cream and sago. I can definitely see how this is a signature dish, presentation wow factor aside.
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Mango Cream with Sago and Pomelo at Yan Toh Heen

The meal was unforgettable, with impeccable service, a thank you gift of jasmine tea leaves, and a sweeping view of Victoria Harbor and Hong Kong Island to boot. While a meal at Yan Toh Heen is not affordable by any stretch of the word, I feel it’s definitely worth every penny.

Noodle Soups, Hong Kong

When I was tallying up which type of restaurant I ate at the most on this recent trip to Hong Kong, I realized they were essentially restaurants known for their noodle soups. In retrospect, it wasn’t much of a surprise as it turned out that my visit coincided with the coldest winter in more than 40 years. There are few things more warming on a cold winter’s day than a bowl of hot noodle soup.

Here’s a few of the places I went to nourish myself with a bowl of hot soup and toothsome noodles:

一樂燒鵝 (Yat Lok)
G/F 34-38 Stanley Street
Central, Hong Kong

Roast Goose Lai Fun at Yat Lok

Roast Goose Lai Fun at Yat Lok

While I have already reviewed Yat Lok before (making this the first time I’ve reviewed a place more than once), what I did not try last time was their signature menu item: 燒鵝瀨粉(roast goose lai fun).  Unfortunately, the roast goose was not as good as I had last time. However, that was likely due to the fact that I came during an off time (2PM) where the turnover of the goose was slow, and thus the skin of goose got a little soggier sitting idly by. In contrast, the broth was nice in its simplicity of flavor with just the flavor of goose and a few spices. I also like the lai fun as well, which were surprisingly al dente as I’m used to rice and tapioca starch noodles usually getting too soft, too quickly.

羅富記粥麵專家 (Law Fu Kee)
G/F 142 Queens Rd C
Central, Hong Kong

Fish congee and Dumpling noodle soup at Law Fu Kee

Fish congee and Dumpling noodle soup at Law Fu Kee

On the Sunday of my stay in Hong Kong I woke up earlier than usual so I decided to have breakfast. As I mentioned before, it was cold in Hong Kong so I just took a quick trip down the street to 羅富記粥麵專家, which seemed decent given its relatively good reviews on OpenRice (Hong Kong’s Yelp).

I ordered the 水餃麵 (Dumpling Noodle Soup) and 魚片粥 (Fish Congee). While the soup in the noodle soup was decent in its medium strong seafood flavor and use of chives, I was not much of a fan of the dumplings. The dumplings did not seem to have the freshest shrimp and folded a bit sloppily. However, the worst offense of the dumplings were the extremely heavy use of black pepper the overpowered the flavor of the dumpling.

In contrast, the fish congee was great. The fish was very fresh and the congee was seasoned well.  The only downside were that the portion of congee was huge, meaning I couldn’t finish it at all.

新成香港仔魚蛋王
G/F 43 Temple Street
Yau Ma Tei, Hong Kong

Fish Ball Noodles

Fish Ball Noodles

I confess, I wasn’t really looking to eat at this place. In fact, I was hoping to eat breakfast at the famed Mido Cafe just before I left for the airport, but it was closed for a break day. Since it was raining a little bit, I decided to go to the nearest hole in the wall restaurant instead, which happened to be 新成香港仔魚蛋王.

Given that the signage and many posters in the places pointed to fish balls, I decided to get a bowl of 魚蛋麵 (Fish Ball Noodle Soup). It took a few minutes for the fish balls to cook, but once it arrived it felt like heaven during the cold, rainy morning. The broth did seem a little too salty but the fish balls were cooked perfectly and assisted by a little dab of hot chile oil that I added. The noodles were perfectly toothsome as well. At around $28 Hong Kong Dollars, it was a bargain too.

Tasty Congee and Noodle Wantun Shop
7/F Departures East Hall, Terminal 1
Hong Kong International Airport, Chep Lap Kok

The last of my noodle soup adventures ended up at the airport when I was getting lunch before my early afternoon flight to Los Angeles. In all fairness, and looking at OpenRice, it’s probably not best to judge other branches of this chain from its location at the airport. Airport concessions tend to rely more on quantity, volume, and efficiency so some quality gets sacrificed.

Sad to say, it was pretty telling when I ordered a bowl of 雲吞麵 (Wonton noodle soup). The broth was just okay and I felt it could have used more seafood. The wontons, while wrapped perfectly well, were a bit heavy on the pork as opposed to the shrimp. I suppose pork is just easier to prep, cook, and store at an airport kitchen but it was a real downside to a city that is known for large, tasty, and fresh all-shrimp (or almost all-shrimp)  wontons.

All in all, this trip has taught me that the wisdom of the crowd can lead to truly delicious discoveries like Yat Lok (and previously, Mak’s Noodle House) but also some disheartening disappointments. However, Hong Kong is a city known for it’s street food and hole in the wall places. Those hole in the wall, barely reviewed places can just be your next ticket to a whole new world of tasty bites.