Monday, May 09, 2011

Liu Yuan Pavilion in Hong Kong

This week wraps up my series of reports on my Hong Kong vacation. Get the last looks at all the noodles, dumplings and sights I devoured in this major Asian city on the other side of the Pacific.

An Education on Shanghainese Cuisine
3/F The Broadway, 54-62 Lockhart Road, Hong Kong
(Nearest MTR: Wanchai)
Wanchai neighborhood
PH: 852.2804.2000
Lunch and dinner daily
Reservations, major credit card accepted


When visiting my relatives in Hong Kong, I left it up to them to decide where to go for meals. My cousin knew I had a food blog and felt I should try a cuisine I wouldn’t get back home. So she recommended Shanghainese.

While there are Shanghai-style restaurants in the Bay Area, the majority seems to be primarily noodles and dumpling eateries. (And I’m not really complaining because I can eat Shanghai soup dumplings or xiao lung baos every day.) My cousin and her family invited me for lunch at the elegant Liu Yuan Pavilion, which looks like a fancy hotel restaurant but with service that’s friendly and accessible.

A note: Because my cousin was paying, I didn’t pay attention to the prices nor did I take any notes about what she ordered. So if any of you are experts on Shanghai dishes, feel free to let us in on the names of the following dishes.

First up was this refreshing appetizer of finely minced greens. My cousin said this was a popular and commonly ordered appetizer. And while it looked like quinoa (not one of my favorite foods to eat), it was not like a grain at all. The vegetables had a slight vinaigrette flavor to it, which made it almost seem like they were pickled.

Then came this half order of smoked chicken. This is one of Liu Yuan’s specialties and needs to be ordered in advanced, but we lucked out because someone ordered it and then didn’t show up so they had an order available. The chicken definitely had a nice smoked flavor, and the meat was so tender. It was prepared nicely.

OK, this is when I really shouldn’t have saved this review for near the end because I totally don’t remember what this dish was all about. I think it had something to do with dried tofu because several of the dishes were like that. One of the things I realized about Shanghai cuisine is that not every dish is spicy like Szechwan.

Like this next dish, for example, which was a vegetarian dish wrapped in the yuba skin, or dried tofu skins. This dish was very similar to a dish my mom likes to order during Cantonese dim sum, so it felt very comforting.

And here’s another tofu dish, which looks a lot like mapo tofu, but I don’t recall this being very spicy either. Gosh, I wish I could remember something about this dish because it looks good now that I look back on it. I think my mind was busy chatting with my cousin and her husband, so I couldn’t really focus on the meal.

OK, here’s a dish I remember. It’s a steamed bun filled with a traditional Shanghai ham called Yunnan ham. The thinly sliced ham is brought out on a platter, and then the servers make up the individual steamed bun servings. On each slice of ham there’s a piece of dried tofu skin that’s been fried to a crisp, giving the ham a nice contrasting texture along with the soft bun. The ham also had a mild smoky flavor that was balanced.

Here’s a dish that I definitely remember. It’s called shen jiao bao, and similar to the xiao lung bao, these are buns with a little bit of soup broth. The xiao lung baos are actual dumplings while the shen jiao baos are actually buns. Because of this, they’re more filling than the dumplings, and have less soup. But it has the same pork and vegetable filling.

What’s amazing about these buns are they’re a combination of soup dumplings and potstickers because after they’re steamed, they’re pan fried just like potstickers, giving them that added fun of a crispy bottom. Even though I’ve never had shen jiao baos before, I just feel like Liu Yuan’s version are excellent because of the soft bun, perfectly crispy brown bottom and luscious filling with tasty soup.

What was interesting about this lunch (yes, can you believe we ate all this for lunch?) was that it opened my eyes to Shanghai cuisine as being more than dumplings and noodles. There are actual courses that reflect the favorite ingredients of the area, prepared with a refined touch.

As an added bonus, Liu Yuan offers a discount during weekend lunch because it primarily does most of its business on the weekdays when the nearby offices release their workers for lunch. But even on the weekend, the place was quite full by the time we left.

Liu Yuan was a nice oasis from the bustling streets outside, and seems very popular with the locals. It’s a good example of how Hong Kong cuisine is more than just Cantonese.

Single guy rating: 3.75 stars (New adventures in dining)

Explanation of the single guy's rating system:
1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner

1 comment:

foodhoe said...

I think I had those shen jiao baos at Bund in the city. Mmmm looks like a delicious meal! I've really enjoyed reading about these far away restaurants.