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Hong Kong: Foodie gift recommendations?

If your recipient cooks Chinese, then some of the amazing soy sauce sold by the place at 9 Graham St, Central. Never found anything like it.

Dong Bei Mama Chowdown

I'll reply for the non-judicious table, the one where we cast restraint to the winds and ran up a final bill that reached the dizzying heights of $23/person.

Here were the highlights for me:

I thought the initial appetizers remarkable. Some were merely competent, like a solid version of the Shanhai "smoked fish" dish -- but too often, this dish is too sweet, or the fish not meaty enough or too dry so I'm prepared to award points for a competent version. But I was also enthralled by the new-to-me "headcheese" slices, and the terrine with salted duck egg and century egg slices, surrounded by, what, pork and pork fat? It seemed a great combination.

The crunchy, spicy dry-fried intestines, and a sister dish of dry-fried chicken, which I think the other table skipped, were for me special -- not greasy, crisp, nice spice bite, great texture, and very good flavor shining through.

The sour cabbage, bean noodle, and pork dish was also a pleasure. Yes, the first impression was German, Haxenfleish revisited, but over time the impression changed, and I wound up regarding this as a more savory and subtle thing than the German version, with more of a creamy appeal than the let's wallow-in-meat German experience, and it made me keep wanting more.

The cumin-spiced dish (lamb?) made little impression on me. Probably I was not adequately prepared to encounter such Indian-seeming flavors in the context of the remainder of the meal.

I was quite fond of the pork liver -- it, and one other stir-fry dish were combined with big chunks of some sort of large, spicy green pepper I could not place, seeds intact, which I thought perfectly complemented and offset the strong flavors of the liver.

We also had a perfectly-executed Shanghai stewed pork leg section, beautifully presented, just right in both texture and flavor.

I will admit we did over-order. I had no room for the dumplings, for the beef pancake, for the glass noodles with assorted cold toppings, or rather I chose to try other things and ran out of room. I regret that now, especially with reference to the pancake and the lamb dumplings, but that's only because I'm not as full as I got last night.

Would I drive out of my way to eat here again? Yeah, I would. There were some dishes in there that I can easily work up a powerful craving for. Only drawback for me was that the dishes arrived so fast I could not keep up.

Thanks to vliang. Great event.

Macau suggestions?

I will be in Macau in a few days. I would welcome suggestions of where to eat. I fear that I've been in too much of a rut on previous trips, and would like to do better. Background below.

- I have eaten at A Lorcha, perhaps 5 years ago, and enjoyed it more than some on the board seem to. I had a tripe stew with chick peas, and thought it was great. Ditto their Sangria.

- I've also eaten at a place just down the road from A Lorcha, and thought it was maybe better: Litoral.

- I've never eaten at Fernando's.

- I've eaten at a place whose name I do not know, but it is convenient to the Landmark, where I usually stay, and at which I will be staying this time. It's Inner Harbor, not far East of the park that is East of the Landmark, and it's Portuguese, but with Chinese proprietorship, and it's on the south side of a wide alleyway (no cars), with some outdoor tables.

- I had a really memorable meal at Os Santos in Taipa Village, some years ago.

- I am infatuated with the Portuguese version of Chorizo, a sausage whose Mexican version is nearly inedible.

- I am extremely interested in exploring the cheap-Cantonese side of Macau, but don't know where to begin with that. The only experience I've had is multiple visits to a place called Fook Lam Moon (I have no idea whether there's an affiliation with the famous Hong Kong restaurant, but the pricing makes it seem unlikely); they have great and cheap dim sum.

- For some years, I made a fetish of visiting the Chinese restaurant in the (pre-renovation) Mandarin Oriental, because they served a sauce with their roast pigeon that captivated me every time.

- I am suspicious of "African Chicken," which I've never had, though I know it's a famous Macanese dish, because it just sounds like curry to me.

So, how can I get started in getting more out of the Macau food scene? I love walking around Macau, and I've loved the food I've had there. But I can't escape the impression that I'm still not quite doing it right, and I really need some advice about getting the most out of Macau, culinarily speaking, for both the Portuguese and Cantonese sides of the cuisine. Can you help?

Qiao Tei 橋底辣蟹 (Under the Bridge Chili Crab) – Amazing Chili Crab in Hong Kong

I agree, it's awesome. However, I was not able to reach a decision about whether it was better than Hee Kee, in the same area. They both seemed excellent to me.

I'd sure love to try the clams you mention, they sound fantastic. But I'd need a group to do so, because the crab alone is more than enough to fill me up when dining solo.

I believe there are two locations for Under The Bridge, within a single block, which is really odd. But I'm pretty sure it's the same outfit running both. I've never heard any opinions that suggest one is any better than the other.

Hong Kong in November

This is a good question, but one that can be answered by reading the board. I think that's why you didn't get replies.

But OK. Go to the corner of Burd St and Hillier St in Sheung Wan (I think I've got that right), on any morning but Sunday, for some remarkable fish congee. Pick up the WOM guide when you're in town (it's sort of a Hong Kong Zagat), and go to Joy Hing (note that the place is around the corner from the given address on Hennessey) for some world-class barbecued pork.Go to Mak's Noodle on Wellington, one block west of Lan Kwai Fong, on the north side, for some remarkable shrimp wonton noodles. That should get you started.

Trip report: eating Caesar's Chinese food so you don't have to, and other highlights

Yes, that definitely sounds like the dish I had. Thanks for the clarification; I was having difficulties locating it on the online menu.

Mar 19, 2010
SoupNoodles in Las Vegas

Trip report: eating Caesar's Chinese food so you don't have to, and other highlights

OK, I'm still in Las Vegas, but I can't resist providing some reports. I should mention that I got annoyed with Dollar after they sent me down to their basement, where I was informed that the midsized car I had just signed a contract for didn't exist, but if I would just wait behind three other people in a similar situation, for cars to be returned...I walked up the stairs, voided my contract, and decided to embark on an experiment of on-strip eating in lieu of transportation.

Now, I do know that one can do this successfully, with careful attention to the latest info from Chowhound. Last trip, I enjoyed a great meal at Fiamma, for example. But I also noted that, last I checked on the board, no one had eaten at Sea Harbor, a Caesar's restaurant that purported to be a real deal Cantonese seafood place. I was ready to discover a gem, or take one for the team.

It was the latter. Okay, the space is very nice, with marble-looking columns and a ceiling like the night sky. But my $18.80 plate of gai lan with oyster sauce had most of its wonderfully bitter leaves cut off, and the oyster sauce was stingily applied, nearly flavorless, and to call it markedly inferior to the "sailboat" stuff I pay $2.75 or so for at 99 Ranch would be to be guilty of complimenting it excessively. I can think of no plate of $1.50 - $3.00 gai lan I had in Hong Kong that was not 3x better, except maybe once when I walked into the wrong place and it was waterlogged. This was at least properly boiled.

I also ordered a clay pot of tofu and chicken and salt fish. How much on Temple street? I don't know, is $8 too high? Well, this was $24, and I'd have happily paid it if it were as good as the Temple St version. Instead, it was lacking in umami and flavor, except for the salt fish and ginger. The dish needed something it was not getting. I don't know what. I just know it was not right. This is a restaurant that has 8 branches in China? I don't know how they survive, but I doubt it's by serving food of this caliber.

If there were live tanks, and I suppose there must have been, given the live fish selections on the menu, I did not spot them.

Sea Harbor is not the only Chinese restaurant in Caesar's Palace. The other is Beijing Noodle No. 9, a noodle cafe in a hypermodern, painfully white space that I thought was very cool, sort of like what people in the 70's thought the future would look like. Well, I hope that the future does not supply pu-erh tea that was so watery and lacking in actual tea that I didn't bother drinking it. I ordered beef brisket noodles, a dish I've had dozens of times in Hong Kong and San Francisco, and the cheerful waitress said "good choice." $16.00, by the way. What arrived was a broth that was not bad, though I suspected it contained beef base, beef that was a just bit too tough and in which some pieces had hardish connective tissue, and which did not have nearly enough flavor in the anise-chenpi-rock sugar axis, and thick, udon-ish, soft, starchy-tasting noodles. I admit I'm not an udon fan. I ate the beef, which was sort of OK, drank the broth, which was OK, and left the starchy noodles. Then I walked to the Mirage for a pastrami sandwich on rye at Carnegie Deli, which was like cool water on the brow on a 90 degree.

So that's it for me and Caesar's Palace's Chinese restaurants. And I had such hopes.

I have ventured off the strip once, of course, for Lotus of Siam. A colleague and I went there, and while I ordered the sour sausage and crispy rice to which I am addicted, and the crisp duck in Panang and cognac I had read about here, he ordered a good squid salad, and an amazing beef in peppercorns. Green peppercorns, to be specific. Has anyone else tried this? It's incredible. That green peppercorn taste was not familiar to me, but I just loved it, and somehow the flavor was all through the beef, even though the beef was medium rare in spots. It was flavorful, deep, complex, and spicy, and I am going to have a hard time getting through another meal at LOS without ordering it.

I will venture off the strip again, to Joyful House and Sen of Japan. I expect to do better at Rao's than I've done above. And I've already done better, with the pork loin sandwich at lunch at Spago's. Their chef is from Alsace, and if I could take back that Sea Harbor meal, and try his choucroute instead, I'd do it in an instant.

I'll report further if anything interesting turns up during the rest of my trip.

Lotus of Siam
953 E Sahara Ave Ste A5, Las Vegas, NV 89104

Sen of Japan
8480 W Desert Inn Rd F1, Las Vegas, NV

Carnegie Deli
3400 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109

Mar 18, 2010
SoupNoodles in Las Vegas

Looking for a great tea shop in Hong Kong

I agree, Sunsing in Causeway Bay is great. I like the feel of the space, and they're very nice people. You can taste teas and pay a tasting fee, but I generally buy enough pu-erh there that the fee is waived.

Going to HK alone for two days in March - where to eat?

Oh, and about the airport. I'll assume you're in Terminal 1, most people are. You can grab dim sum at Maxim's before security. It's OK. It used to be pretty bad, but now it's OK. But I prefer to pass security, and hit Pak Loh Chiu Chow before making my way to the gate. One dish I remember from there is a nice fried green bean dish, vaguely reminiscent of the classic Sichuan dish, but with thicker beans. Personally, I'd skip the classic Soyed goose, egg, etc, because I think it can sit out a while. If I want that, I'll go to their Causeway Bay restaurant while I'm still in towm.

Going to HK alone for two days in March - where to eat?

Niles, I've been going to Hong Kong since about 1998, and I've eaten many superb meals alone. It's easy. McDonald's is simply not an option given the incredible local food that is the primary motivator of my trips.

One easy thing to do solo is hotel Cantonese. The Cantonese place in the Inter-Continental is superb (it used to be called Lai Ching Heen, now it has some other name with three words, but by any name it's truly excellent, either for the dim sum set lunch (which they will serve for one), or at dinner. Ditto T'ang Court in the Tsim Cha Tsui Langham Hotel.

Do you love soup noodles, or are you eager to learn to love them? Then try Mak's Noodles on Wellington in Central, or Tsim Chai Kee just about across the street, or WIng Wah at 89 Hennessey in Wan Chai. Got a breakfast? Try some of the great fish congee at Sang Kee in Sheung Wan, on the corner of Burd St and Hillier (or maybe Jarvis, but that's only a block of separation).

Want some amazing dim sum? Go to Causeway Bay (Times Square MTR exit), and up to the food court, and hit Chung's Chinese Cuisine (10th floor, I think). If they have the soft-shell crab with chili sauce, don't miss it. Ditto the chicken or goose feet in abalone sauce. But also, their rice rolls are unbelievably good. So are their prices.

You can also walk into Yung Kee, also on Wellington St in Central, and order up some of the roast goose. Yes, there are people here who will say there's better roast goose around, and they're probably right, though I haven't visited the places they recommend, and the only better I've had was in the New Territories. The point is that you will have roast goose that will open your eyes. And you can get a combination plate with that and their excellent BBQ pork. It's one of my favorite lunches, to grab that combination plate.

Alone is no problem. Arrive early and you won't need a reservation, most places. Yes, you may be seated with other people at a table. That's fine with me. And it's a chance to pick up little pieces of Hong Kong etiquette, like covering your mouth when you use a toothpick.

Just walk into places and eat. No more McDonalds!

Hong Kong Report

Some experiences so far on this my 14th trip to Hong Kong.

Joy Hing, Hennessey Rd at Stewart (actually on Stewart) for some take-away roast pork that is probably the best I've ever had, with wonderfully caramelized outsides and some fantastic burnt edges. Mine was mostly lean, but I got no dryness, and the nice sweet soy sauce joined very well with it, and made the pork seem moister anyway.

Sang Kee, 7-9 Burd St, Sheung Wan. My favorite congee place, albeit I have not been to Fu Sing or the other (unrelated?) Sang Kee in Wanchai. A bowl of beef ball and sliced fish congee was wonderfully creamy, the fish fresh and cooking to perfection in the congee, the beef balls surprisingly flavorful. I even enjoyed the cold lemon water, which was like a lemonade toned down enough to be very refreshing.

Stall No. 3, Bowrington St. Cooked Food Center, Causeway Bay. There's a wonderful street meat/fish/product market right by here, so it's an interesting area to walk around. At Stall No.3, I had wonderful mutton curry and some pig's feet that had been touched with roast duck flavor. The place was recommended by Cha Xiu Bao, and I certainly second the recommendation. However, he had recommended mutton curry noodles, and either I was unable to convey that I wanted noodles with my curry, or they're not doing noodles any more, not sure.

Lin Heung (Wellington St). An old-style dim sum joint with a bustling atmosphere, customers chasing the steamer carts and waiters running around with giant kettles of boiling water to top off your personal giant gaiwan of good-quality tea. Go with a local if you can. Some dishes can only be obtained through dialog with the kitchen. Homey, satisfying food in an environment that's not quite like anywhere else I've been. Quite cheap.

Yunyan (4th floor, Miramar Centre, TST, take escalator to 1/F then elevator to 4/F). Still my favorite Hong Kong Sichuan, though I hope to try San Li Xou and Da Ping Huo on this trip, so that may change. They have a special mushroom-based menu now, so I went for a spicy dish of green turtle. The turtle itself was, like so many other Cantonese luxuries, a bland but interestingly-textured food. I certainly enjoy interesting textures, but at least half of the appeal of some of these Cantonese luxury dishes for me is in the high-grade preparation and accompaniments. In this case, some superb preserved duck dominated the dish, and the special porcinis were a real treat. Also hot and sour soup, which was not very good when I first went to this restaurant in 1998, but which is now terrific, great earthy balance of hot and sour. Their spicy eggplant is an entirely different dish from last year, but equally excellent, sharply tangy and slightly sweet and wonderfully spicy, with nice thin threads of chewy pork adding savor and textural interest. Very tasty cold chicken and noodles with sesame paste and chili appetizer, subtle and tasty. And of course the dry-fried chicken in its nest of chilis is fabulous as always.

Tung Po (Cooked Food Center, Java Road Municipal Building, right near North Point MTR Exit A1). My first jaunt to North Point, and a very successful one. This restaurant is located in one of those informal cooked food centers. It gets busy, so it's wise to book. They have at least one employee who not only speaks very good English, but is very friendly and seems to enjoy joking with Westerners. This was an extraordinarily good meal, in a group of 6 people, so plenty of different dishes. The razor clams with black bean were so much of a standout that I wondered if we'd hit the absolute peak of a season. Delicately flavored, with chili hotness somehow infused to the core, they were fresh and sweet and delicious, and we ordered a second plate. I'm not sure I can still enumerate the rest of the flood of excellent dishes, partly because those razor clams loom so large in my mind. Amazing crisp deep-fried pig's feet. Crabs with garlic. The only thing that I didn't like was a strange spareribs slathered with mayonnaise dish, but that's because there is no way for me to like such a dish. Under the mayonnaise, the pork was as excellent as everything else. The meal closed with some green fried dessert wontons that turned out to contain Durian. Yummy.

Tsim Chai Kee (Wellington St, Central). Two visits here, one for fish ball with yellow noodles, one for the big shrimp wontons with yellow noodles. As terrific as ever, maybe even a bit better than I remembered. Either the broth has gotten better, or I've gotten used to it. Once I ordered a plate of vegetables, but I won't be doing that again. They were soggy, and I don't know what the sauce was, some sort of fermented bean curd maybe, but I didn't like it, and thought of it as "vomit sauce."

Mak's Noodle (Wellington St, Central). Same as ever. Great soup, firm noodles, and bouncy fresh shrimp wontons. But, scallions --is anyone using yellow chives anymore?

Still a week and a half to go, so many wonderful dining experiences ahead.

Delicious Mooncake on Chinese Mid-autumn Festival

I'm merely a frequent visitor to HK, and not that experienced with moon cakes, but the 2 egg ones I got at Lin Heung, the old-style dim sum place on Wellington, were very good. I've never enjoyed the ones I had in San Francisco much, but these were very tasty.

Beijing report

Some say that the food in Beijing isn't so great. After three meals and one snack here, you couldn't prove it by me. I've had some great stuff.

Yunnan food at In & Out (

Yunnan food is new to me. Ok, I know I love the ham, and I do own, and make chicken in, a Yunnan clay pot, but that's about the extent of my knowledge of Yunnan food. So this was going to be a revelation even if I didn't like it much. But it was great. Two different skewers of seasoned special mushrooms, so different from each other, so full of flavor and character that was different from any mushrooms I've ever had. I wonder if one can simply live on Yunnan mushrooms -- after this meal, I'm tempted to try. Also a beautiful comfort food dish of eggs and, I think, Jasmin buds. A dish of little tied parcels of fried tofu, with ham inside. At first they struck me as bland, but grew on me over time, and when the dish was gone, when I could no longer pick up one small parcel, dip it in the purplish mix of dried spices, and pop it in my mouth and feel it melt away, I felt that something important had gone out of my life. A fried and seasoned Tilapia was full of character and perfectly cooked to tender softness.

Beijing Duck at Made in China, Grand Hyatt

My first Beijing duck in Beijing, and it lived up to my highest possible expectations. Lunch was just that one dish, plus an astonishing appetizer: Chinese foie gras, a generous quarter-inch thick slice of melt-in-your-mouth fattened fowl liver with a crisp, flavorful, and chewy little sesame bun that showed beautiful scorch marks that made me wonder if it has been finished in the same wood oven, visible behind the glass that shields the open kitchen, in which the ducks hang and absorb wood smoke.

The duck itself, carved tableside, was amazing. Crisp skin that seemed to have completely separated from the meat, which had a more pronounced duck flavor than any duck skin I've had. The meat was juicy and equally full of flavor. We wound up with a plate of pure skin, a plate of pure meat plus the split head (which was yummy), and a place of skin-attached-to-meat. Plus a little oval steamer of perfect thin little pancakes, and of course the wonderful dark sauce and the white shreds of scallion and the cucumber (which I mostly skipped). And a little dish of sugar for dipping the occasional piece of pure skin. Typically they discard the less-refined pieces of the duck, presumably using them for stock or something, but we asked to keep them, and the resulting "trash plate" was not pretty, but was actually a highlight of the meal. Those ugly parts have some of the best textures, if you are not limiting yourself to the high refinement of the famous dish.

Sichuan food at Chonquing Hotel

We had a bunch of people for this one, and were therefore able to order a bunch of dishes. The prices were amazing – RMB840 for 6 people, and more than a quarter of that was the whole fish. They have many appetizers in the 8-12 yuan range. Some highlights:

- A cold dish of thin-sliced pork with a thin, lively dark sauce and a large pile of crushed garlic on top. This one was especially amazing.
- A dish of terrific pickle cubes.
- A cold appetizer of spicy chewy rabbit on the bone with lots of Sichuan peppercorns
- Some sort of raw lettuce in a sesame sauce. Sort of like A choy but I don't think it was
- Boiled beef, soft and tender, and appropriately intensely spicy, in a pot of hot and spicy liquid that also had some nice pieces of lettuce in there that softened and soaked up sauce wonderfully.
- Dry-fried chicken, firm bits of chewy chicken hiding in a massive heap of dried chilis and Sichuan peppercorns.
- the best Ma Po To Fu I've ever had, soft and melty and wonderfully flavorful and spicy
- Fried fat green beans, perfectly tender and well-seasoned. I did not notice the pork I usually see in this dish

Oh, and the snack I mentioned? A tasty skewer of chicken hearts skillfully fried on a griddle, and brushed with spices including chili. I got it from an extensive outdoor food market on a north-south street, the next block east of the huge Oriental Plaza complex.

There were also skewers of scorpions and what looked like bee pupae available, but I didn’t. taste those. Maybe that's what you have to do to have bad food in Beijing, because I haven't found any yet. Just one topnotch meal after another.

Hong Kong: Innards delight, fish balls

I went back to check, and you're right. The flavor of the fish balls is just slopping over with chenpi. I suppose after 30 bowls or so, I might get tired of it too, but that's a risk I'm willing to take.

Hong Kong: Innards delight, fish balls

Yep, that's where I was. Thanks!

I will check out San Xi Lou.

Hong Kong: Innards delight, fish balls

What a joy to be back in Hong Kong. Ok, the weather is a little grim for November, but the food is as wonderful as ever. I found myself in an innards mood, and found two good ways to satisfy that craving that nothing else but innards can touch.

Yunyan, the Sichuan place on the 4th floor of Miramar Centre in TST, has a dry-fried pig intestines dish that's just wonderful. What arrives is large pieces of intestine, almost hidden in a giant pile of dried chilis and sichuan peppercorns. They're delicious -- crisp outside, chewy and a touch creamy on the inside. My lips were tingling like a leg that had fallen asleep, and my tummy was happy. Also had some of their wonderful hot and sour soup, and a cold dish of tofu and preserved egg. I don't know whether that's traditionally sichuan or not; it seemed more like a Sichuan take on the Shanghai dish, with hot bean sauce substituting for the soy concoction that's used for the Shanghai version

Then of course I really wanted to find Cho Choi Koon, the home of the stir-fried pig innards dish recommended enthusiastically by Charles Yu. When I was here in March, I went looking for the place and had no luck. But that was before Charles Yu posted more details: a cross street, and a specific corner of Jordan and Nathan. So now I was searching along one line, instead of along every line of a # sign, if you follow me.

Yesterday, another Chowhound and I reassured Simon that he would have no problem getting around Hong Kong and finding great food. That's absolutely true, but it's also true that there are very Chinese places that don't do English, and the place I found is one of them. Still, I succeeded. At least I think I did. I can't swear that I was at the right restaurant, or that I ordered the right dish. But I think I did. What is inarguable is that I ate a truly superb stir fry of mixed innards with ginger and scallion.

So where did I eat? Well, I went to the SE corner of Jordan and Nathan, and walked east, crossing Tak Hing St, and coming to a restaurant on the right, at 10 Jordan Rd. There's a large black sign above the door with three Chinese characters on it, and a sandwich board on the ground to the left of the door with lots of small pictures of food. The sign is bordered blue on three sides, and seems to be strung with lights around the outside.

After some equivocating ("is this REALLY it? Should I look around more?"), I walked in the door and asked if they had an English menu. No. But the guy was helpful, asked me to wait, and came up with a menu with pictures. I looked through them, and spotted something (I think it had a number 53 next to the picture) that looked about right, and which sported what looked like a flat triangular piece of liver on the top. So I ordered it, and some Choy Sum, peavines not being available.

It was a small heap of innards in a dark sauce, liver and small intestine and a layered thing I took for some sort of ligament, with plenty of scallion pieces and chunks of ginger. It was really fabulous -- each different type of innard was cooked to a perfect texture (no overcooked liver here), and the sauce was rich and delicious. This would be a good introduction to innards, because the flavorful sauce smooths out any characteristic gamyness.

Whether this is the fabled innards dish or not, I plan to return to this place and eat whatever it was I had, again (I asked them to write down the name of what I had, to make sure I could get it again). Yum!

Then there was breakfast this morning, when I finally got to try Tsim Chai Kee's (Wellington street) famous fish balls. I was expecting something decent, but I actually wound up loving them. Large grey masses, each about the size of two golf balls, in a bowl with broth and noodles and Gai Lan, they were neither too bouncy nor too soft, had a tiny touch of appealing sweetness, and flavored the broth in a wonderful way. When I ate here before, I had the wontons, and I liked them, and the noodles, but I didn't really like the broth. Maybe all it needed was some fish ball exposure, because I liked the broth a lot this time. A great experience for less than HK$20. And, Simon, they have an English menu; it's even posted on the window so you can see it from the outside.

In Hong Kong for 10 days.... help :)

Don't worry. I'm currently in Hong Kong for what I think is my 12th trip. I don't speak or read a word of Chinese (except that I know how to specify my favorite green veggie by saying "dao mieu"), and I eat very, very well when I'm here. Just read the board, note both the restaurants and the recommended dishes at those restaurants, and start eating.

Lots and lots of places have English menus, even many of the wonderful holes in the wall. No one will expect you to speak Cantonese, and you can always point at what's on other tables if you find yourself in a hole in the wall with no English menu. I once ordered beef tendon soup noodles in a little place in Mong Kok by mooing and pointing to my Achilles tendon. But I could get them at Wing Wah at 93 Hennessey in Wan Chai by ordering from the English menu.

Hong Kong is an intense place, and can be overwhelming at first. But the restaurants want your business, service is businesslike and accommodating, if sometimes brusque, and I really don't think you'll have any problems (be warned that most taxi drivers speak little or no English, though -- get your hotel to write your destination in Chinese, and bring a card with you for the return trip).

Any place that looks even a little upscale, that's between Jordan and Tsim Sha Tsui, or Causeway Bay and Central, will almost certainly have an English menu. So you could start with that. But there are many rewards to be had at the holes-in-the-wall, and little to be lost by just diving in and making your way as best you can.

If you want to stick to the real deal, be aware that the expat-focused places starting with Hollywood road and up the hill from there, on Hong Kong island tend to be less authentic and more expensive. I come here basically to eat, and I rarely venture into that area.

I think you'll have fun in Hong Kong. I always do.

Happy experience at Aziza

The reports here looked good. I figured I'd get a good meal. But what I got was not good, it was excellent. Every dish was a winner, including some that had me scratching my head about how they pulled it off.

Aziza is modernized Moroccan food. I knew that, but it didn't help any. What's Moroccan food? Couscous? Lots of stuff with saffron in it? I wasn't exactly sure. But here's what we had:

Lamb sausage. Lamb sausage is hard to pull off well. It's often gristly and gritty, and sort of monotonic. This was different -- tender, rich, and flavorful, just what lamb sausage should be, and with two nice dipping sauces for it. A winner.

Spinach rolls. Well, I'm not sure that they called them that, but basically they were Spring roll like things with spinach in them. This is not something I'd tend to think I'd like. Spinach can be bitter, and is often watery -- so how do you get it to work inside of fried dough? Well, they pulled it off. It was cooked to tenderness, no more, and full of the fresh flavors of good spinach.

Breads and dipping sauces. 1/4" thick wedges of well-textured flatbread, and three heaps of thick sauce to spread and dip. Very worthwhile. The chick pea sauce was a little bland, but the spicy one was amazing.

Paratha. I think that was what it was called; I keep thinking of it as "Paratwa," but that's from a series of SF books by Christopher Hinz. Anyway, it was possibly the best dish of the night, pastry around a moist mixture of meat and egg. How they got the pastry to seem lively and now soggy, when wrapped around such a moist interior, I just don't know, but the flavor was amazing.

Couscous. Whoa. Maybe this was the best dish of the night. This was couscous in luxury style, with shrimp around the outside, and regions of chicken and lamb. Sounds like a weird combination, but really one didn't combine them, but experience one or the other while prospecting in one area or another. Fantastic.

Squab. I don't remember the preparation, but it was perfection.

For dessert, I had a great plums and dates combination platter.

Great stuff. I WILL be back.

5800 Geary Blvd., San Francisco, CA 94121

Great Szechwan Chowdown

This was an excellent meal for sure. The soup really stood out, with an absolutely delicious broth I couldn't get enough of, and soft, soothing big chunks of fish, subtly flavored by the broth and the floating, burned peppers. What a wonderful dish.

Like others, I loved the kidneys, perfectly cooked, just the right bite to the tooth, fresh and flavorful. I dispute the Yimster's claim that I am nameless, and anyway it was the waitress that dumped the last of the kidneys on my plate. Perhaps he meant "blameless." Or maybe not. Sorry, Lillian and Louise; I though I was waiting long intervals between my attacks on the kidneys, but perhaps my kidney yearnings had telescoped time for me.

The tea smoked duck was also a standout. I've had versions of this dish that came across greasy, or dry, or flavored in an indistinct way, but this one was fully and interestingly flavored, with a nice fat layer on some pieces that was tasty rather than heavy.

Two more dishes wowed me. The eggplant, with its sensual texture, dark, flavorful sauce, and slippery, caramelized skin was one of the better renditions I've ever had. The stir-fried potato threads were perfectly textured and very subtly flavored.

That's my list of outstanding dishes, and most of the rest was excellent. The cucumbers and tofu skin was a surprise, with a very firm, bouncy texture and an overall refreshing quality that was a perfect interlude in a multicourse spicy meal. The chicken with arrowroot had a wonderful sauce and was really delicious. I missed out on the spareribs, unfortunately. I must have been distracted by some other wonderful dish while they vanished.

On the mildly negative side, I do prefer my fried breads to be a bit more crisp and well-done on the outside than these were, but that may be more of a stylistic preference. The seafood noodle dish, the one with the squid and tree ears, didn't have enough flavor to stand up to the noodles, so came across too bland and plain for my taste.

The final rice wine soup was a nice surprise, savory and sweet at the same time, with flashes of acid when you got a bite of fruit. A great finish to a great meal. I loved hanging out and eating with you guys.

The Chef from China Village has been found.

This was a really excellent meal. As the Yimster points out, what was special was how subtle and layered the seasoning was. No spicy dish was overwhelming; all were completely distinct in character, and there was always interesting depth to the flavors.

My favorites were the kidneys, the gizzards, and the soup. But not just my favorites of the meal; these were truly outstanding dishes by any standard. The gizzards were thin sliced and had just enough bite, with a sauce that was spicy and complex and somehow refreshing. The kidneys were wonderfully cut in that flower way, well-cleaned, and perfectly cooked to a juicy tenderness, with a complementary spicy sauce that never interfered with the kidney's flavor, and yet contributed an assertive and complex flavor of its own. The soup was rich and hearty in the mouth, tinged with the wonderful flavor of the slightly-burned peppers, and the soft pieces of fish served as a textural counterpoint to the flavorful broth.

The jelly was interesting texturally and had a very worthwhile spicy sauce. It's not something I'd want a lot of, but it's certainly a worthy thing to include in the order if you have a large group.

Stir-fried peavines with garlic were quite tasty, but I probably didn't appreciate them as much as I would have if I had not just returned from Hong Kong, where this dish can be high art, at Yung Kee, for example.

The fish with pine nuts was competently cooked, but didn't sing for me. I liked the soft pieces of fish, but there wasn't enough going on in the dish flavorwise. Maybe a more intense toast on the pine nuts would have helped, but since the dish was, as Marlon says, only on the table because of a case of mistaken identity, oh well.

The clams were also a very pleasant surprise; clams with basil didn't sound like an auspicious combination to me, but they came perfectly cooked to tenderness, and bathed in a rich and savory brown sauce that absorbed and extended the clam flavor. Really nice dish.

The scallion pancake was crisp outside and quite tasty, though I might have wished for a touch more salt; the sesame bread I found bland and underbrowned so it really didn't do anything for me. It would probably have been nice to dip in sauces, but I was running out of room by the time it arrived, so I didn't experiment with that.

The taro chicken and the ribs were good dishes, but have not remained distinctively in my memory.

Richmond is closer to Petaluma than the city, so I'm very pleased to have a Chinese restaurant of this caliber within striking distance. And I can go shopping at 99 ranch, about 50 steps away, when I finish eating!

Thanks to Yimster for putting this delicious dinner together, and to Marlon and Cece for the great detective work.

Wing Wah Noodle House vs. King’s Palace Congee & Noodle Bar

One correction to the Tsim Chai Kee directions. It's Exit D1, not Exit D2, from the Central MTR, that the directions are from.

Wing Wah Noodle House vs. King’s Palace Congee & Noodle Bar

Tsim Chai Kee/Jim Chai Kee is located at 98 Wellington St, Central. Central MTR, Exit D2. Turn right when you get onto the (Pedder) street, cross Queen's Road, take your next right (Wellington). Continue down Wellington street; don't branch left onto Lyndhurst Terrace. Tsim Chai Kee is on your left, it's well-labeled, and when I walked past the place not 20 minutes ago, their yellow laminated menus are posted in the window. It's a bit of a foodie street of dreams, that Wellington way. En route to Tsim Chai Kee, you will pass Yung Kee on your left, Wang Fu on your right, and Mak's Noodles (aka Mak an Kee) on your right.

As for Wing Wah, take Wan Chai MTR Exit A2 (because that will put you on the correct side of Hennesey; the B exits won't), and turn right onto Hennessey. It's right in that long block; I don't think you'll have to cross any streets at all.While many Hong Kong addresses are unlabeled, Wing Wah is labeled with an "89"about 8 feet off the ground above the door, or maybe above and to the right of it. If you're in any doubt, look for the restaurant's pictures of the guy making noodles with the bamboo pole, posted on the window, visible from the street. The register is on your right as you come in, and the little kitchen on your left.

Wing Wah Noodle House vs. King’s Palace Congee & Noodle Bar

Oh darn. Makes sense, though. But I took another walk down that strip today and spotted no other places matching the first two characters. Can you give some more hints about how to find the place, or recognize it when one has found it? Does it have booths, or all tables? Where is the register located? Is it open to the street, or does it have a door? Stuff like that, anything you remember that might help narrow it down.

And when you say that there are articles up on the wall, do you mean the wall inside, or at the front, visible through the front glass, as many places do? I did spot one place with a lot of articles on the front, but couldn't match the characters. I'd sure welcome any help you can offer for locating the correct place. The thought of finding a new top tier soup noodles place in Hong Kong is exciting.

After failing (again) to find Ji Yauh, I wandered down Hennessy and stopped into a red-and-black noodle place, with menu in both languages, that was new to me: Yeung's Noodle, right near 213-219 Hennessey. I had a plate of beef tripe noodles with shrimp eggs, soup on the side. I was pleased to see that the tripe, sliced in long thin shreds, was unbleached (black). Newcomers to shrimp eggs should be warned that they are quite fishy in quantity, and some of the chili sauce offered on the table was necessary to bring the dish down into balance, out of fishy territory. Still, the noodles were firm, the tripe nicely chewy, and the broth, which was more pork-oriented than the typical soup noodle broth, quite tasty. I probably won't make it a point to return, but I'd certainly stop in again if I found myself outside, and it did go some way to addressing the tripe craving I've had ever since I failed to find the tripe-soup-noodles place that supposedly exists at 15A Austin St in TST.

I've tried to use Babelfish to translate the openrice comment you quote about Mak's, and as far as I can figure, it means "not special," though Babelfish's version is "Does not have specially."

Report on Hong Kong Trip in progress

For reference on this thread, Yellow Door actually has a website. Menu, map, and everything. Didn't even think to look for one, but here it is (I've linked to the page with the map):

hong kong: restaurants in the 5 star hotels

Inspired by this thread, and wondering to myself why I hadn't returned, for so long, to a restaurant I used to be so fond of, I wandered in to Yan Toh Heen for lunch today.

I did notice HKD165 pork on the menu, but it was barbecued suckling pig, a very different sort of pork. I have not had it here, but elsewhere that has meant a thick fat layer and very crisp skin, as well as a higher price than ordinary pork. Considering the high level of quality or both ingredients and preparation at Yan Toh Heen, it's hard to imagine that it wouldn't be worth it.

I had forgotten just how much I loved this restaurant. The peaceful atmosphere, the luxury of widely separated tables, the jade and ivory place settings, and the incredible view. Even before I sampled the caramelized sesame walnut snack on the table with my ivory chopsticks, I felt vaguely decadent, sitting inside in such luxury, watching people on the harbor walkway struggling against the wind and the rain, through the continuous horizontal window..

But I wouldn't love all that if the food weren't up to the expectation set by the decor. And it is. I opted for the dim sum set menu, at HKD298, which is available to the solo diner, and a very nice old pu-erh (Bo lay) tea from the tea menu. The meal consisted of:

A bowl of incredible pig-tail soup, consisting of mostly broth and some chewy shreds of pigtail. I suppose one could say "is that all?" but having done stock- and soupmaking at home, it seemed the equivalent of a high-wire act, a "nowhere to hide" dish, much as with cold soba is in a Japanese restaurant: yes, they're trying to impress you with something that's mostly just a broth. And they did. It was amazing, essence of pork, and I could not discern other influences. I know they were in there, because just pork doesn't taste that good, but it seemed as though everything else just contributed by hiding itself and making the pork broth taste better. I was pleased to see that the soup was deliberately cloudy; in my own stock-making, I've found that a more vigorous simmer, and no clarification, results in better-tasting stock, however unacceptable that may be considered for presentation of many Western soups.

Then some dim sum: a pastry containing duck, with chopped pistachios on top (very good), a siu mai with a piece of abalone on top, and with abalone sauce (wonderful), a shrimp dumpling shaped like an open boat (wonderful).

A stir-fry of shrimp and pea pods, which came next, probably sounds boring. Standard stuff, right? No, at this place it's like they're using the classic stir fry as a reference point, and then showing you what it can be if you take incredible care with the ingredients and preparation. The shrimp tasted better than any shrimp I've had, and even bouncier and livelier than I've come to expect as the high Hong Kong standard; the pea pods were fully crisp and perfect without any rawness.

Fancy Japanese beef with red/green/yellow bell pepper in a mild black bean sauce, meltingly tender, veggies again perfect.

Choy sum, cooked perfectly, not too much, not too little, with some great oyster sauce on the side

e-Fu noodles, soft and savory -- but this is the one dish that I thought could have used a little more flavor and character. Maybe more mushrooms or something to introduce more of a smoky element.

And, for dessert, a rich bowl of hot red bean soup, thicker than what one usually gets, a perfect foil for the wet weather we're having right now.

Basically, noodle quibbles aside, it seemed like a perfect meal. It won't take me two years to go back to Yan Toh Heen, next time.

Wing Wah Noodle House vs. King’s Palace Congee & Noodle Bar

I went looking for Freedom Noodles. I'm not entirely positive I found it, but it seemed to match your description of its location. What I found was a place about 2 blocks south of Hennessey, along Canal Road West, with stylized characters on a sign above the wide doorway, and a sandwich board on the ground with clearer characters, that seemed to match what I'd copied into my notebook from your post. I can be positive about the first two characters, about 50% on the third, and can only say about the 4th that I observed no contradiction. It was just to the right of an entrance, paneled in brown speckled granite, to "Wing Tak Mansion Block B, 15 Canal Road W." The cooking area was to the left as you walk in, and there was no register per se, just a sort of sectioned box that served as one.

If this truly was the place, I'm afraid I was unable to find the merit in it that you did, to say the least. The noodles, while not exactly soft, were not properly firm, did not "bite back," and missed the lively character I associate with the noodles at the good Hong Kong soup noodles places. In fact, they seemed nearly identical to the factory noodles I am able to get in the San Francisco Bay area.

In two areas, my experience was exactly the opposite of yours. Perhaps this is an indication that I was in the wrong place after all. You mention "pork filler;" I read that as intending to imply that Mak's had it in their dumplings, and Freedom Noodles did not. But for me, Mak's tight little dumplings have always contained one pure, plump shrimp, perfectly fresh, perfectly cooked, bouncy...and nothing else, no pork, no nothing, just one shrimp. These dumplings, by contrast, were long and loosely constructed, and appeared to contain small shrimp, black mushroom, pork, and a carrot shred or two. Reasonably tasty, but not special; not up to the standard set by many many other Hong Kong places.

The broth, I actually found saltier than Mak's, and also it just did not seem special, as Mak's does. That may be partly explained by the use of scallions instead of yellow chives; like Charles, I find that the yellow chives are a key to this dish, and necessary to make the flavor of the broth lock in. Scallions are nice, but not nearly the wonder that the yellow chives are.

Along with the noodles, I had a side dish of overboiled, waterlogged, peeled gai lan, again a stark contrast with the briskly crunchy, intensely green article served at Mak's.

So either I wound up at the wrong place, or we simply had very very different reactions to the food there. For me, it was basically a bad meal, by Hong Kong standards, one whose memory I will have to wipe away with a trip to Mak's, Wing Wah, or Chung Kee (37 Wing Kut St, Sheung Wan). Probably later this afternoon; I can still taste stale gai lan in my mouth.

Report on Hong Kong Trip in progress


Tsim Chai Kee, 98 Wellington St, Central. A soup noodles place, and one I've been meaning to try for a couple of annual visits now, because everyone kept telling me about their giant shrimp wontons. But every time I'd pass the place, even during the 11:30-12:30 hours I usually have lunch, to avoid the insane 1:00 lunch rush in Central, it was seriously packed even at that early-bird hour. Finally I noticed the sign in the window, saying they open at 9:00. Still wary, because some soup noodles places only offer congee at that hour, I ventured in, and found that here, it's soup noodles from the first moment. They don't even do congee, as far as I can tell. You get a nice-sized bowl of noodles (three noodle choices, but I always asked for the "yellow" wheat/egg noodles that are the norm with soup noodles), with three big shrimp wontons, each bigger than a golf ball. Terrific wontons, really good. Good noodles. The broth, though, is not up to the standard of other places, such as Mak's across the street. Still, it makes a darned tasty breakfast, and I'll go back. And the price is amazing: HKD 15. Less than two bucks U.S. I don't know how they can do that. Actually, I have to go back -- tonight, a local told me that the big wontons were all very well, but what this place is really known for is their fish ball. So of course I have to try it now. Probably with rice noodles; I think that makes more sense.

Mum Chau's Sichuan Kitchen. 5/F, Winner Bldg, 37 D'Aguilar St, Lan Kwai Fong, Central. This is a private kitchen I'd never heard of. It's sort of downscale in decor, but who cares? In company with two others, I had a dinner which consisted of:

- A spicy chicken dish, loaded with Sichuan peppers (not Bon Bon Chicken, something else with no sesame).
- A spicy dish of transparent wide flat rice noodles and thin cucumber shreds
- A non-spicy corn dish with red pepper, that turned out to be an excellent palate cleanser
- Ma Po Tofu
- A magnificent shrimp dish, whole small shrimp in shell in a big pile of seeded chilis, some burnt.
- A spicy cold noodle dish, as a finisher, that was just topnotch.
- A dumpling dish, that my dining companions, who speak Mandarin, requested, melt-in-your-mouth pork dumplings/fat wontons in a non-spicy soup.

$200/person. Very good meal, with the shrimp and noodle dishes approaching transcendence (the dumplings/wontons, too, but I have no idea how you can arrange for those). They're open for lunch, too, at 12:00. It says "reservation only" on their card, and the phone number is 2522-0338. The woman who says she answers the phone speaks only a little English, but seemingly plenty to take a reservation. I plan to go back for lunch at some point, if I don't run out of opportunities before my trip runs out. I'm told they do a great dumpling/hot oil dish at lunch, and if it's the same dumplings I had tonight, I can easily believe it's great.

Oh, and I have not mentioned:

Wang Fu. 65 Wellington St, Central. This is a Northern Chinese place, with great prices and a specialty in dumplings. Be warned that their selection of dumplings is more limited at lunch, and some of the dinner dumplings are quite elaborate and quite wonderful (one has shrimp and scallops and other stuff in it). I wouldn't say the food here is transcendent, but it is very good, and it is comfort food of a sort that keeps me coming back when I'm in this sort of food mood. The dumplings are well-executed, with the typical Northern thick skins; other dishes I've tried have also been good, from pork with a hoisin like sauce, to a wonderful, and wonderfully priced, whole fish in a dark sauce with pork shreds.

hong kong: restaurants in the 5 star hotels

I've had good experiences with the following: Yan Toh Heen in the Inter-Continental, sort of new-wave high end Cantonese, for both dinner and dim sum, though most of my visits were before the name change; dim sum at the Island Shangri-La, and, one of my favorites, T'ang Court at the Langham hotel in TST (not sure that's a 5 star hotel, but it seems fancy), for dinner. I've also had great dim sum at Spring Moon in the Peninsula as recently as last January, but there has been some word that the place has gone downhill of late, and have not returned to check it out.

I think you'll find that northern and Szechuan is rare in the 5 star hotels.

Report on Hong Kong Trip in progress

Alas, no, I do not. I'm aware of Openrice but I can't make use of it. I rely on Chowhound, word of mouth, the annual WOM guide, and the annual Best Restaurants guide, as well as some semi-random experimentation.

Report on Hong Kong Trip in progress

Having just returned from the Shanghai restaurant in CityPlaza mall at the Tai Koo MTR station, and eaten what are still the best XLB I've had, along with my benchmark version of the tofu/preserved egg dish and a nice bowl of fish soup, I need to update my reference above.

The restaurant's correct name is Wang Jia Sha. The most straightforward way to get there from the Tai Koo MTR station is to take exit D2, which will take you up an escalator. Turn left, go out the door to the street, cross, and enter the building. This is a continuation of the same building you were in when coming up out of the escalator, but it's easier to tell you to just go outside and back in, than send you two floors up to the bridge. Anyway, once you're inside go up one level, using the esclators to your left (I think), and it's right there, next to one of the escalators that goes up to the next level.

They have an English menu, and, on it, on the dim sum side, the first dumpling listed is an XLB. During hairy crab season, they offered a crab roe-flavored version, but right now there's just the one.