December 2, 2008

Michelin Lands in Hong Kong

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So the results have finally been announced - the outcome of Michelin Guide's tour of Hong Kong eateries. Overall opinion seems to be reasonably positive - much better than the Japanese reaction to the first Tokyo guide. Internet discussion boards and food bloggers have already been in action, and I'm here to throw in my 2 cents...

There were very few stars in Hong Kong. This is not surprising, since many eateries (I wouldn't call some of these places 'restaurants') have zero decor and zero service. There are always surprises, however...

We have only one three-star restaurant, which is Lung King Heen, the Cantonese restaurant at the Four Seasons. Curiously it is also one of the few top-end Chinese restaurants I have yet to visit. Well, now that's gotta change.

I feel that a number of Chinese restaurants have had their status inflated, namely the ones from Shangri-La Hotels, Lei Garden and also the ones run by Maxim's. While some of the Maxim's outlets can deliver pretty solid food, I am not sure that they are deserving of Michelin stars.

The two most overrated restaurants on the list are BO Innovation and Hutong. Hutong is a well-known tourist stop which, while serving up decent fare, is mostly known for the stunning view and decor. As for BO, while I would not deny the level of Alvin's creativity, I have stopped going there since 1) it no longer thrills me as menu items do not change much; and 2) I felt the French chef really wasn't up to snuff. I haven't been back in a while, so maybe things have gotten better.

Our friends at Pierre must be disappointed, but I feel that I can understand why it only received one star: the wine list. To be fair, I haven't looked at the wine list lately, but from the very beginning I always felt it was a poor list. There are really not enough choices for a restaurant of this calibre. The pricing is also a bit out of touch with reality - which may be partly attributable to the fact that the wines were only acquired in the last few years at high prices. The food here is very solid, though.

As Chua Lan (蔡瀾) wrote in Next Magazine a few weeks ago, Michelin will achieve their objective of selling their guidebooks in Hong Kong. Many will be purchased by locals (such as myself, if I can call myself local) simply for the curiosity. We may not agree with their choices - and feel that they know nothing about Chinese food - but in the end, we will still buy the guides just to have a look. I'll be hitting my local bookstore when these babies come out...

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