A globe-trotting foodie was coming to town, hitting all 6 of the Michelin 3-star restaurants in Hong Kong and both of the 3-stars in Macau in the span of four days. I figured it would be interesting to meet someone who was close to his goal of having eaten at every single one of the 3-star restaurants in the world, so I invited myself to dinner at Lung King Heen (龍景軒) tonight.
Most of my friends know of my opinion about this place. Yes, it's a good Cantonese restaurant, but it was never a 3-star in my book... and the only time it came close was a particular dim sum lunch about 5 years ago. Maybe I am unfairly unprejudiced against this place, but I was never 'wow'ed come dinner time. I wanted to give the place another try and see if I'd feel differently.
Unfortunately, things went the other way. I came away from dinner fuming.
However much I bash this place about their food - or about their undeserved 3-star status - I have to give them credit for service. I'm lucky enough to know both of the restaurant's sommeliers, and once I was recognized, we were pampered for the rest of the evening.
Ordering for Chinese food is never easy for small groups, and given there were only three of us - with two of the three being Caucasian - it was natural for the manager to suggest that we take their Chef's Tasting Menu. This was when I experienced a bit of sticker shock. The price of the menu was a little bit more than HKD 2,000 per head. Another set menu - with bird's nest and braised abalone - came in around HKD 2,700 per head.
Now, I'm not really known for being stingy when it comes to paying for food, although I generally eschew the "big five" of expensive Chinese ingredients due to my inability to fully appreciate them. I've shelled out this kind of price before for a Chinese dinner, but I was somewhat skeptical after taking a look at the list of dishes. In the end, as the visitors seemed to have no objections - and I would never have taken a menu like this under normal circumstances - I decided to go with the manager's suggestion so that I could finally have a similar experience to what overseas visitors are likely to get when they come here.
Lung King Heen Appetiser Combination (廚師燒味拼盤) - this came with three different types of roast meat:
But the prawn itself was pretty tasty, if just a touch overcooked. It sat on a hollowed out section of hairy gourd (節瓜), and with a ring of leafy amaranth (莧菜).
I brought a couple of bottles of wine to share with my hosts tonight. But before we even got to my bottles, Bernard the sommelier very kindly came over to offer us a sip of a rare bubbly.
Charles Dufour Avalon, dégorgée à 14 octobre 2014 - a blanc de blancs brut nature with zero dosage. Nose was very fragrant and toasty. Beautiful. What a treat to taste this!
Paul Dethune Cuvée a l'Ancienne, dégorgée janvier 2012 - nose was very caramelized and toasty. Creamy and smooth, full on the palate. Delicious.
I had a good time tonight, as I really enjoyed the conversation and the company of my hosts. But at the end of the meal I couldn't help but feel disappointed - and a little upset. With the exception of the beef, most of the dishes were fine tonight. But I couldn't shake the feeling that we didn't get our money's worth... and that I could have done better elsewhere. Yes, this is a restaurant with 3 Michelin stars in a 5-star hotel, and good Chinese restaurants and chefs definitely deserved to get paid the same way as good French and Japanese restaurants. But the reality is that I'm paying a lot more for food that isn't head and shoulders above some of the other places in town, and there was too little "wow". When I sent the menu to some of my friends and told them the price, their reactions were similar to mine.
As Happy Gilmore once said to Bob Barker: "The price is wrong, bitch!"
But I haven't given up yet. I'll keep coming back to Lung King Heen once in a while, and hope that just once, they will deliver such a knock-out that I will finally understand why it's held 3-star status for the last 8 years.
P.S. My hosts had dinner at The Eight in Macau the following night, and sent me a message during dinner saying something like: "Three courses into the signature menu and already 10 times better than last night". Having just been there 3 days ago (and quite a few times over the years), I whole-heartedly agree!