Lung Hing Keen, Four Seasons Hotel, Central. Needed to have somebody pull some strings to get us off of the waiting list for a reservation. This was a definitely different type of upscale dining. Tables widely spaced throughout the dining room, without the fuss or clatter typically associated with dim sum restaurants. The look and the taste of the food was exquisite. The steamed scallop dumpling came with a green wrapper and was almost creamy. The gold leaf seafood dumpling in a brown wrapper was unique, though I can’t say that the gold had any particular taste. We also had siu mai, pan fried beef buns (visually like Shanghainese shen jen bao), xiaolongbao (perhaps the most ordinary of the dishes), roast goose XO puffs, ha gow, abalone chicken puffs, crispy spring rolls with shrimp, mushrooms dumplings in a brown wrapper, XO rice noodle logs (incredibly delicate), egg puffs, poppyseed jello, steamed fois gras with abalone sauce and lobster fried rice. Truly a meal to remember and surprisingly only $70 per person.
Pak Loh Chiu Chow, Grand Century Shopping Mall, Mong Kok. The best shark fin soup I had ever eaten. We also had the Chiu Chow appetizer plate (shrimp ball, crab ball, jellyfish and roast goose), gai lan, fried arugala with chicken, shrimp lettuce wrap, bamboo pith tofu casserole and two desserts, green bean taro and taro bars. Not a Michelin star meal, but quite good, though at $70 per person (likely due to the shark fin) nothing close to Lung Hing Keen.
Aberdeen Fishball and Noodles, 242 San Yeung Choi St. S, Mong Kok. Another random choice near the hotel. The fish broth was by far the tastiest I had ever eaten. The fish balls and noodles themselves were good, not great, in line with our previous experience of random Hong Kong restaurants.
Tasty Congee in the Elements mall in the western part of Tsim Sha Shui. We had fresh carp jook, shrimp dumpling soup, you tiao cheung fun, dark fish balls, gai lan and turnip cake. Another excellent meal, though at $15 per person a little expensive for this category of food.
Tsui Wah, 2 Carnarvon Road, in Tsim Sha Shui, another one of those restaurants with long lines of people waiting to get in. Tsui Wah is a popular café chain and we had several favorites including curry beef brisket, milk buns, gai lan, vegetables with fish, mixed vegetables, tomato beef with egg, hot almond egg white drink, and Singapore mei fun. Reasonably priced at $10 per person.
Other eats. The egg tarts at Tai Cheong were fantastic. But other bakery fare was a little disappointing. In our last Hong Kong visit in 2009, I was impressed by the quality and variety of the buns and sandwiches. But at least at the places I tried near the hotel it was like being back home. I’m guessing that this shows that Los Angeles has closed the gap with newcomers like 85° Bakery and its imitators leading the way. One morning I decided to drop by the neighborhood grocery store for a no carb breakfast, hoping to get some cold cuts. Unfortunately they apparently haven’t heard of chicken or turkey lunch meat in Hong Kong. Everything was pork except for chicken hot dogs, one from France, the other from California.The problem was that the French hot dogs indicated that they were uncooked. While the California hot dogs made in Fresno had no indication that they needed to be cooked, could it be that Hong Kongers expected all hot dogs to be uncooked? So having to choose between pork cold cuts or possibly uncooked chicken hot dogs, I chose the latter, guessing the California hot dogs were already cooked. Fortunately, they were cooked.
Every scheduled meal was better than the food back in Los Angeles, so we finally achieved our desire to experience the superior brand of Chinese food. Where Hong Kong excels is at the high end (there are no Michelin star Chinese restaurants in California) and the low end (who thought noodle soup or egg tarts could taste so good?). Also Hong Kong has a superior variety and quality of fresh ingredients. Otherwise there is a vast middle where the food is comparable to Los Angeles Chinese food. In Hong Kong as demonstrated by the long lines outside of many of the restaurants we visited, the people know where the good food is. But as the waiter at Ming Court, who had been a longtime resident of the San Gabriel Valley said, the Chinese food in Los Angeles is also very good, so Hong Kong’s advantage is in spots, not across the board.