January 19, 2009

3-star Cantonese? Puh-leeeze!

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I arranged to lunch with my guests at Lung King Heen (龍景軒) today. Since they are staying at the Four Seasons and it's the only restaurant in Hong Kong awarded 3 stars by the people at Michelin - plus the fact that I have never been there - I thought it would be interesting to see what the hype was all about.

We ordered four items of dim sum to start, plus a few main dishes.

Crispy spring rolls with shredded chicken and bamboo pith (竹笙雞絲春卷) - the skin is nice and crispy, but honestly the filling is nothing to write home about. A little bland in my opinion. By the way, the waiter brought along some vinegar at the same time we were served this dish, and we started dipping the spring rolls in it. It wasn't until later - after I asked several waiters not to remove the vinegar since I wasn't done - that the Worcestershire sauce for the spring rolls was finally brought to us. This is a pet peeve of mine, so it's -1 LKH...

Steamed Shanghainese pork buns (xiao long bao) with crab meat (蟹肉小籠包) - this was soooo underwhelming. The presentation was so pretty, where each bun was supported by its own bamboo cradle. But did I even taste the crab meat? Nope. Not a hint. Why they would choose to use crab meat instead of the tastier crab roe is beyond me. -2 LKH.

Baked roast goose puffs with chestnut (栗子燒鵝酥) - this is pretty interesting, as you don't usually find chestnut as an ingredient in dim sum. More often than not you will see taro in its place. The taste of the chestnut paste dominated the goose. Not outstanding, but I like it because it was more innovative and interesting.

Baked dried oyster tartlets with sea moss (髮菜蠔豉撻) - this is the clear winner out of the four. The dried oyster has a lot more flavor, and worked very well with the sea moss - actually a type of fungus also found on land. The fact that it's done as a small tart with a pie crust also makes it interesting. Now -1 LKH.

Crispy crab claw with shrimp paste (炸釀鮮蟹拑) - what a disappointment...and not exactly a cheap one, either! None of us liked this, and one of my guests even left half of it in his plate - the clearest sign of dissatisfaction. The actual crab claw was pretty tiny, enclosed in a blob of shrimp paste that somehow turned into cement...it was just so hard! This was definitely not what I had in mind when I ordered the dish... -5 points for the dish and -6 LKH.

Baked chicken with sesame, ginger and spring onion (香焗薑蔥芝麻雞) - this dish is alright but not great. The skin was originally crispy, then softened a bit as it was put into a claypot along with the sesame and ginger sauce. At least the meat was moist and tender, even from the breast.

One of the surprises today was the sautéed zucchini with assorted mushrooms (翠肉瓜炒鮮菌). It was a simple dish of veggies, but very well executed. The zucchini was nice and sweet, and there were 5 different types of mushrooms to make this a very interesting dish.

The last dish was the Dong Po-style braised pork belly (紅燒東坡肉). I'm very surprised to find this at a Cantonese restaurant, and a little skeptical at first when ordering. But it was actually pretty good, with a relatively thin layer of fat and skin on top, which has been cooked to a semi-liquid state. Kudos to the chef. +3 points for the dish and still -3 LKH...

Finally we have the fried glutinous rice with air-dried meats (生炒臘味糯米飯). While this was pretty tasty, I cannot give it full marks due to personal preference. For this dish, I prefer that the long-grain rice actually stick together a bit more. Instead the grains are separated, and a bit of shiitake mushroom sauce has been drizzled on top, making the rice a bit wet.

We were pretty full, but I can't honestly say that we were satiated. Were our expectations high for this meal? Sure, but wouldn't everyone expect a high standard for food from a restaurant with 3 Michelin stars? Given the number of dishes which disappointed the entire table, I must give Lung King Heen a failing grade for lunch today. I'm sure that I can rattle off the names of 10 better restaurants in Hong Kong within the space of one minute...

2 comments:

Helen Yuet Ling Pang said...

Hello Peech! My husband and I went to Lung King Heen for dim sum, at my insistence, on the October foodie trip. I was horrified to read about the 3 stars that it was later awarded, as was the husband. XLBs were quite bland, har gau also. The best was the mango pudding! OK, I've only been the once, but shouldn't a 3 star amaze you on the first visit (even though I went about 6 weeks before it received the stars)?

Peech said...

Helen, I could not agree more...

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