I spent two months in Hong Kong and, if you eat at local rather than expat places, eating out is cheap. So I ate out a lot. These are the proper restaurants I went to (with table cloths etc.) for proper meals, not dim sum.
Tak Chi Chiu Chow
G/F, No 3 Belcher's Street, Kennedy Town, Western District
Family-style Chiu Chow restaurant in Western district. We were the only western customers, but they had an english menu. This was the beginning of a trend.... We completely over-ordered: oyster omelette, goose, deep fried whole small smoked fish, steamed fish, veg. All very good and at a very reasonable price.
Luk Yu Tea House
24 Stanley St
This place is very well known and relatively touristy. Clients were a mix of Chinese family celebrations and tourists. The waiters are famously rude, but ours was perfectly charming and very honest: he recommended the house specialities, against dessert (“go next door for gelato”) and we learned from him, when we were deliberating about having too much food, that it is perfectly acceptable not to order rice. PhilD later told me that rice is always served at the end of a Chinese banquet, in case you are not full, and that the aim of the host is to serve so much/ many of the previous expensive and exquisite courses that guests do not touch the rice. We ate the sweet and sour pork, which has the subtly sweet but sharp taste of berries, rather than the overpoweringly sweet pineapple that is common in the west; the pigeon and Cantonese ham; and on a second trip had the deep fried whole stuffed chicken (big -- the left overs made a second meal), which has to be ordered a day in advance.
Tien Heung Lau
G/F,Kiu Fung Mansion,18C Austin Ave, Tsim Sha Tsui
Specializes in Hangzhou cuisine. Exquisite smoked croaker, fresh crab noodles, deep fried eel. They also make their own rice wine, on the same sort of solera system that is used for sherry, which is an unusual way of making rice wine. All very good but not cheap. Mid-week, there only three tables were full: us, a lone businessman, and a courting couple.
Go Fu Lou
31/F, iSQUARE, 63 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong
A “private dining room”, staffed by renegade chefs from Fook Lam Moon. So that already tells you that it will be classic dishes done well. The private dining room concept started out as dining in someone’s house, but at Gou Fu Lou it a restaurant that you book by the room, with a minimum price for the room. We went there for a chowdown organized by Albert. The food was served banquet style, with lots of small courses. It was very good, but I wasn’t blown away at the price point.
Shop 4, G/F, Ngan Fai Building, 84-94 Wharf Road, North Point
Hovering on the borderline between restaurant and hole-in-the-wall. Known for their goose, the marinade was stronger and more complex than at Tak Chi Chiu. Also known for chicken tendon with mustard. I was surprised how much I liked vegetables in red tofu. Evidently everyone likes it, as it was on every table. This restaurant was pretty good. Go early or be prepared to put your name on the list and wait.
Ser Wong Fun
46-48 Cochrane Street 46-48 Cochrane St, Central
The best liver sausages we had, but the rice at the bottom of the claypot was not at all crispy (both as per reviews I read on-line). The chicken served on the claypot rice has the skin on, which was quite fatty and nice, but there were also little bits of bone. The fish intestine speciality was interesting (and expensive - 300 HKD - must be preordered) — livery and fishy and citrus-y, baked with egg. I would come back for the double boiled soups, which were excellent.
Shop A & 1/F, 84-90, Bonham Strand, Sheung Wan
Our favourite high end restaurant for dinner in Hong Kong. Atmosphere is quite casual. A lot of Chinese and also some English speaking diners. Over the course of a couple of meals we tried:
century eggs: creamy yolk, fermented flavour, served with pickled ginger
- crab claws (must be pre-ordered): deep fried salt and pepper, braised with bitter melon, braised with eggs white. I preferred the braised to the deep fried and the egg white ones win by a hair’s breadth, served in a pool of set egg white topped with what seemed to be warm raw egg white. Very delicate and lovely
chilled marinated goosemeat roll: quite oily but wonderful smoky flavour
snake bisque: quite peppery, complex broth. Snake is shredded, which hides the toughness of the flesh
braised pomelo skin with shrimp roes: signature dish, they are big - one skin is enough for two to share
braised whole fresh abalone in oyster sauce: also had some goose web thrown in, which was an unexpected bonus
salt and pepper tofu
steamed pork pie with salty egg
Stewed Tofu with Black Mushrooms, Glutens and Shrimp Roes
Stewed Eggplant with Minced Pork and Salty Fish Sauce
almond tea: clearly the best version we’ve had in HK
sesame puffs: Puff pasty case bottom, a slightly cake-like batter on top, and inside a surprise... stop reading now if you are going to Tim’s and don’t want to spoil it)... a glutinous rice ball filled with sesame.
sago cake with lotus seed paste: a bit like a glutinous rice ball, but made with sago. Filling has egg as well as lotus seed. May be the same filing as in the bun.
red jujube cake: slightly smokey, savoury taste. Strange but nice
birthday peach buns (large): the name of this dessert ought to contain a typo (look on google image and you’ll see what I mean). But apart from this schoolboy humour, it was unmemorable
Almond tea, sago cake and sesame puffs were the best desserts. There are also the house specialities.
Shop F-G, 440 Jaffe Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
For a restaurant that is rated so highly, it was very empty when we visited. Manor is particularly known for their roast suckling pig, and the table next to us (who were Chinese speakers but, we think, were actually English tourists) only ordered half a pig, washed down with lynch bages. Even then, they didn’t finish it. We opted for the more manageable roast goose, which is also highly rated. (Both pork and goose need pre-ordering.) It was very tasty, although the skin could have been crispier. Manor is also known for abalone/ oyster with ginger and spring onions. This was the only green element to our meal, and not because we shied away from ordering any veg. Not a place to take vegetarians. We also ordered aubergine, which was deep fried and had an interesting texture — and not, in my opinion, in an entirely good way.
No.18 Kau U Fong, Central, HK
Really friendly and helpful waiters, who give good recommendations and also guide you to dishes where they will do a small sized portion so that you can try more if you are dining in a small group. Ate tea smoked pigeon; steamed fresh flower crab with aged Shaoxing wine, fragrant chicken oil & flat rice noodles in a fatty chicken broth — tasted strongly of rice wine, needed more noodles to get up all of the scrumptious sauce; braised spare ribs with preserved plums in caramelized black vinegar — also strong flavours, a little too strong for me but my other half really liked it. For dessert, they were out of their famous tea, so we had ice cream, one scoop ginger, one wolfberry. Flavour was nice but texture not so great; had ice crystals in it. Packed with Western diners, it must be recommended in some guidebook, apparently you need to book a month in advance for dinner (but do try spur of the moment for cancellations, or if you are willing to eat early or late). Good modern Chinese food, with a more Western ambiance.
Tso Choi Koon
10 Jordan Road, Jordan, Kowloon
Feted on chowhound for its “wok hay”, the proper “char” on stir fry, and also for serving rice with lard. No English menu, but there were pictures. Servers spoke v. little English. Not at all keen on ordering by pictures. This was the first restaurant where I felt we’d have eaten better if we read Chinese. We ended up with the pork liver stir fried with ginger and garlic, rather than the pork liver and intestines, which we would have preferred. Frogs legs were fine. Both of these were attempts to get things that were previously recommended. Best dish was the stir fried lotus and pork, which we did choose from the pictures. Wouldn’t go back here without a Chinese speaker/ reader.
49 Market Street, Sai Kung
Finally, a Hong Kong Michelin 1* that deserves the accolade! We went to dinner straight from a hike in Sai Kung East Country Park, and we felt distinctly under-dressed but the staff didn’t bat an eyelid. No fishtanks, but spanking fresh seafood. Another table previewed some potential dinner, brought to their tables squirming in plastic bags. Prices are often seasonal, and are on the table in Chinese. Our waiter was happy to price things up before we ordered, and was also keen to make sure we were under no illusions about some of the portion sizes. Everything we had was good, not just the seafood. The chef is hakka so there are also hakka specialities. Every table has the salt and pepper beancurd, and for a good reason.