Monday, November 2, 2015

Old School Tim Sum: Lin Heung Tea House in Hong Kong

A visit to an old school tim sum (dimsum) place in Hong Kong is quite an unusual experience for the uninitiated. Service in the traditional Western or Japanese construct is almost non-existant, and what there is is efficient rather than polite. With a touch of tension all built in.

First when one arrives at the restaurant, in this case Lin Heung Tea House in Central Hong Kong.

One makes one's way into the restaurant...not as easy as it sounds, as it is likely to be very crowded. The restaurant seats 300 per sitting in about 50 tables. And it is often very crowded. The first task at hand is to find a table. The wait staff will not help you on this other than the cursory "there's a place there". Most of the waiters are old men, who are as grumpy and curt in their responses as can be.

Once one finds a table, and it is mandatory to share a table. Regulars already know this, as well as those who have read their guide books, and they will make way for one to sit...small gestures like a small shift of the chair to allow one to slide over. A nod of acknowledgement.

Once a table/seat is obtained, one needs to capture the attention of one of the waiters. The waiter will then take one's order for tea, and disappear. When he re-appears, he will hand over two cups (if one is alone) or the one cup one per pax, a basin for rinsing cutlery and a tally card. If one is solo, the larger of the two cups is used for tea making, and the smaller one for drinking. One steeps tea in the larger cup and pour it into to the smaller one to drink. If one's party is more than self, then a pot is served instead of the larger cup. The rinsing bowl is filled with hot water, and one is expected to rinse the cups, chopsticks and spoon in it to cleanse them.

The food is served on traditional food trolleys. The idea is for the trolleys to make its way around the tables and the diners choose when the trolley arrives. However, the place is usually so crowded that the trolley almost never makes its round. Diners rush to the trolleys as they exit the kitchen and wave the tally card to the trolley lady. She will take the card, puts her stamp on it and serve one the dish ordered.

And the food?

It is rather good. Portion size is quite large. The style of dim sum is more robust and basic rather than Michelin starred (like Tim Ho Wan). This is not fine cuisine. This is basic, hearty food. Well done. And quite delicious.

The experience of eating is part of the fun. It is rather hectic, but should be experienced at least once. For me, I try to get a chance every visit to Hong Kong.

Lin Heung Tea House
60-164 Wellington Street
corner of Aberdeen Street, in Central, Hong Kong.
蓮香樓 | 蓮香居 | 蓮香老餅家

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