Hong Kong's top five yum cha
Author: PAT NOURSE
1. Golden Leaf
Hong Kong is also home to some of the great hotel restaurants of
the world. Grand Cantonese dining and five-star Asian hotels seem
to go together like ginger and spring onion, so it'll come as no
surprise to learn that the luxury groups have some of the strongest
claims to yum cha excellence in town. This gilt-edged basement room
goes with the more-is-more approach: check out their har gau see
fresh prawns and bird's nest steamed in a delicate dumpling shroud
decorated with entirely unnecessary but completely pretty gold
leaf. The humble pan-fried turnip cake, meanwhile, gets racy with
coin-like slices of fresh scallop and a hill of pork floss. They
also do one of the finest examples of warm sweetened bean curd in
syrup you're likely to see, something that's all the more swish for
not being served from the usual wooden bucket.
Conrad Hong Kong, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Hong Kong, +852 2521 3838
2. Lung King Heen
Hong Kong's sole three-star restaurant also happens to be the only three-starred Chinese restaurant in the world. Michelin doesn't actually say whether they've given this polished room, with its splendid harbour views, its maximum rating on the strength of their dinner menu or their dim sum, but you can rest assured that this is yum cha of a higher order nonetheless. Consider baked goose "puffs" with chestnut or lobster and scallop steamed in fine dumplings. Charcuterie is a strength - the crisp pork belly is a must - and it's fascinating to see that chef Chan Yan Tak complements his famed house-made XO sauce with a version of the same that is, wait for it, entirely vegetarian. (It goes very nicely with the pork.)
Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, level 4, 8 Finance St, Central, Hong Kong,+852 2196 8888.
3. Man Wah
This is undoubtedly Hong Kong's most attractively appointed traditional Chinese restaurant. It offers views from a room on the 25th floor that sparkles with golden birdcage-like lanterns; the service is gilded with a rich alloy of experience and gentility that leaves its competitors for dead. The tables aren't especially numerous, and there's plenty of room to breathe. The classics of yum cha, whether it's the cumulus-light char siu bau or the wonderfully clean-tasting siu mai are rendered with vigor, while the more innovative dishes - pan-fried rice noodle rolls showered with golden shreds show keen enough judgment and restraint that they fit into the rest of the service seamlessly. While the custard tarts are a must, this is also somewhere you can consider dessert with confidence. The pear, poached to delicate submission in a sweet syrup made tangy with dried citrus peel, is quite something, as is their unusual sweet eggplant number.
Level 25, Mandarin Oriental, 5 Connaught Rd, Central, Hong Kong +852 2825 4003.
4. Luk Yu Teahouse
Yum cha is, at heart, all about drinking tea, and that's long been the focus here. Luk Yu, with its timber booths, slowly turning black ceiling fans and leadlighting is something of a landmark and a throwback to an earlier age, whether it's the stern and serious doorman, the seriously long-in-the-tooth waitresses or the dishes they walk around the rooms on trays slung from their shoulders. Prawn in the siu mai? Forget about it. The selection of dumplings and the like is, compared to the modern-day places, very small, but what they do, they do well. The range of teas, though, is seriously impressive, and it's interesting to note that some of the older regulars - some of the city's more venerable tycoons among them - bring their own leaves.
24-26 Stanley St, Hong Kong, +852 2523 5464
5. Lin Heung
If the other restaurants we've mentioned here cast Hong Kong dim sum in a light that makes it seem far more genteel than anything you're likely to encounter in Australia, Lin Heung more than redresses the balance. Chaotic, noisy and brightly lit to the point of being painful even to the non-hungover, it's one of the few old-school yum cha places left in the heart of the city. This is old Hong Kong, so don't take English menus or English-speaking service as a given, and don't assume the spittoons are merely decorative. It's sink-or-swim here: you have to push to grab a seat from a departing diner, and if you're new in town, watch your neighbour for cues on how to scald your chopsticks and bowl in hot water from the enormous tea kettles before you dig in. The food pretty much matches the décor: big, grunty dumplings hewn from chunky cuts of meat and fat with the odd bit of liver and intestine thrown in for good measure.
160-164 Wellington St, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2544 4556
Want more of Hong Kong's best food? Check out Pat Nourse's Hong Kong on a plate.