Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hoi King Heen 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.

Dim Sum Fit for an Emperor
B2/F, 70 Mody Road, Kowloon
Tsim Sha Tsui neighborhood (nearest MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui East)
PH: 852.2721.5161
Lunch, Mon.-–Sat., 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m.; Sun., 10:30 a.m.–3 p.m.; dinner, Mon.–Sat., 6:30–11 p.m.; Sun., 6–11 p.m.
Reservations accepted in English via website, major credit cards accepted
10% service charge


On my last day in Hong Kong, I decided to end my eating adventure just like how I started it – with the classic dim sum.

But the dim sum I got at Hoi King Heen was the complete opposite of the everyday but reasonable Tao Heung, also in the Tsim Sha Tsui neighborhood where my hotel was based. While Tao Heung had a variety of dim sum selections in a bustling dining space in a non-descript commercial building, Hoi King Heen was a serene and almost palatial restaurant inside the Intercontinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong.

Side note: There are two Intercontinental hotels in Tsim Sha Tsui – the Grand Stanford on Mody Road near the shopping mall and the newer Intercontinental Hong Kong on Salisbury next to the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Make sure you don’t get the two confused if you’re looking for Hoi King Heen.

Hoi King Heen is on the basement two level of the hotel, right at the bottom of the stairs. The entrance has no signage, except for a poster that says “Great Emperor’s Cuisine.” The interior takes on the look of a fine dining establishment, which doesn’t surprise me since it earned a Michelin star.

The food from Executive Chef Fai Hung Leung is classic Cantonese but with a few creative twists. The lunch menu (in Chinese and English) was one of the smallest of all the dim sum places I’ve tried in this town, focused primarily on a few select dishes. On one side were Chef Leung’s specialty dishes, including a tempting pork belly that I wanted to order but sounded like a lot for one person.

The other side of the menu listed the dim sum offerings, which had probably about a couple of dozen dishes.

I started off with one of my favorite dim sum dishes called char siu soh, or BBQ pork in puff pastry. Hoi King Heen’s version looked picture-perfect when it arrived, with an amazing golden brown baked skin. Eating it was just as perfect, as every bite was filled with flakey pastry and delicious BBQ pork moistened by a slight sweet-savory sauce.

Here’s an example of how Hoi King Heen puts a twist to classic dim sum choices. This is a steamed shrimp dumpling, but instead of the typical shrimp or pork filling, this one had shrimp and asparagus, wrapped in a delightfully different shape like an ancient gold nugget.

The skin was thin and fresh, and the filling had fresh crunchy shrimp with the snap of fresh asparagus pieces. It was a nice change of pace from the traditional har gow, although a bit difficult to eat in one bite.

I slowly enjoyed each dim sum, which came one by one like courses, making sure that my choices didn’t sit and get cold. That’s one of the things I learned about dim sum in Hong Kong at fine dining spots (often at the major hotels); the dishes are made to order – never in push carts – and the servers make sure you’re never rushed.

I took my time (my flight didn’t leave until midnight), sipping from the delicate China cup. More people started to arrive, and many of them were businessmen dressed in suits and the tai tais, or what we would called “ladies who lunch” back in the States.

I’m a fan of siu mai, one of the most basic dim sum dishes, and Hong Kong likes to offer premium siu mai, which is like siu mai on steroids. It’s topped with a whole shrimp with roe, and then more shrimp pieces and pork in the filling. Hoi King Heen’s version had a lot of flavor, but for some reason it didn’t seem to have as much visual oomph as the premium siu mai I got at the less pretentious Tao Heung.

There are several flat noodle options on Hoi King Heen’s dim sum menu, so I ordered one of the unusual sounding ones. Back in the United States, these cheong fun are typically filled with shrimp, beef or BBQ pork, but at Hoi King Heen I ordered it with pumpkin.

The pumpkin gave the cheong fun a beautiful orange glow inside, and I liked how they serve it with the soy-sesame oil sauce on the side so you can add as much or as little as you want. Here it is when it first arrived …

… and here it is after I doused it myself with the sauce. Again, the flat rice noodle was super fresh, so it was extremely limp when picking it up with my chopsticks. The pumpkin was cooked tender, but it was kind of tasteless, so while pretty, it wasn’t as flavorful as with maybe some other filling. Still, it was a nice idea.

I was winding down. It seems when in Hong Kong getting dim sum alone I top out at five dishes. So I decided to end with a sweet, and ordered this layered cake. It reminded me of a popular cake my mom likes to order called a thousand-layer cake. This, of course, was not made up of a thousand layers, and the layers actually don’t seem that thin. While it was pretty, it was actually a bit dry, so it wasn’t my favorite of all the dishes.

Despite the dry cake, the overall experience at Hoi King Heen was enjoyable, with a few classic dim sum options executed well and a few interesting twists and turns. Of course, you pay for what you get because my total tab for the five dishes (with service and tea charge) came out to HK$264 or $33. That’s a bit pricey for lunch for one person, especially given all the great food I had in the city for way less, but this was my last meal and one of those vacation splurges.

For the quality of the food and the beautiful setting, I didn’t feel ripped off. Hoi King Heen is one of those special occasion places, like where I would take my Mom for Mother’s Day if we lived in Hong Kong. And it was definitely the perfect way to end a vacation.

Single guy rating: 3.75 stars (Elegant Classic Small Bites)

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


Foodnut said...

Those pictures look awesome. We had dinner there last year and ordered a very memorable Beggars chicken. It was pretty fun hammering the beast!


Mei said...

I go to a lot of dim sum places in san francisco. This place looks like an experience. I would love to try the rice rolls with cantaloupe