July 25, 2009

A disappointing outing

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One of my friends has a guest from out of town and wanted to take her to Lamma Island. I decided to go along with them since it's a nice day out, and it's been a couple of months since my last outing. We arrived on a full ferry at Yung Shue Wan (榕樹灣), the populated end of the island, and proceeded to walk through town on our way to lunch.

I called ahead to book a table at Han Lok Yuen (閒樂園), the famous "pigeon restaurant" above Hung Shing Yeh Beach (洪聖爺泳灘). We arrived at the restaurant a little late, after being caught in a short rainshower. The restaurant looked pretty empty, perhaps partly because of the rain. We seated ourselves at a table indoors and waited...and waited... Service was extremely slow today. I think there was only one person doing the work outside the kitchen.

When it was finally time to order, we were greeted with an unpleasant surprise. Whole section of seafood are unavailable without pre-ordering, and apparently this has always been the case. I can't say that I remember this being the case from my previous visits, but maybe I've just been lucky enough to get the extra stock they had ordered... The waitress told us that people mainly come for the pigeon (which is true), that she had assumed that we know this about the restaurant, and that she didn't tell me about this when I booked the table because it was already too late to order the seafood anyway. I guess she has never seen the commercials on TV starring Andy Lau telling people in Hong Kong to improve their service...

We started with the minced quail with pine nuts (雀崧), wrapped in lettuce leaves. This was OK although the sauce was just a little stinky.

The roast pigeon came and it was OK, actually a little subpar to be honest.

Things started going down hill from here... Because we couldn't order a whole steamed fish, we ended up with sweet and sour garoupa fillet (酸甜炒斑球). This was a disaster, as the batter was chewy like rubber.

The deep-fried tofu was pretty tasteless, with the only flavors lent by some stir-fried diced capsicum and deep-fried garlic.

The steamed prawns with minced garlic (蒜茸蒸中蝦) weren't very fresh, and the heavy dose of garlic was used to mask the slightly off taste of the prawns.

This was such a disappointing meal...I wish we had taken our visitor to Rainbow (天虹) - even that would have been better. I think this will be my last visit to Han Lok Yuen.

We walked a little more on the hiking trail, and doubled back to get some sweet beancurd at the famous Grandma's sweet beancurd (亞婆豆腐花). This is another institution on Lamma, and I've been coming for years. Though she no longer sells her grass jelly (涼粉), her beancurd is as delicious as ever, and a much-welcomed relief in the searing heat. All was not lost on this excursion...

As we came back into the town I looked for a shop recommended by a friend.   Shelly Cake Express is a tiny cafe with only a handful of tables, serving coffee, tea and cakes. I ducked in to order a few slices for takeout, and the blast of aircon I enjoyed for those few minutes seemed heavenly. The place was packed with customers, as the prices seemed very reasonable. I'll have to come again on my next trip.

We boarded the ferry back to Central, feeling a little disappointed at how this outing turned out. After cleaning up and resting, I ended up having the cheesecakes for dinner... The trademark tofu cheesecake was pretty decent. The distinct taste of tofu was clearly there, but the consistency was more of a mousse instead of cheesecake. The chestnut cake was OK - very sweet and creamy. The New York cheesecake was really pretty good. The texture was thick and creamy, and does remind me of the real thing. Overall the cakes seem to be tailored to local palates. I must try the other cakes at Shelly's next time.


Sher.eats said...

Fung Lum for pigeons...
Ming Kee (Po Toi) for Seafood...

MorgChop said...

Is Han Lok Yuen where we went when I was in HK and we went to Lamma?

Peech said...

Eric, I think I did take you to Han Lok Yuen... Was the place we went up on a hill and not right next to the water?


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