Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lei Garden, Hong Kong. Michelin marvel?

with family in Hong Kong

By some coincidence, our trip to Hong Kong somewhat follows almost immediately the launch of the Michelin Guide for Hong Kong and Macau (released Dec 2, 2009). A fellow blogger Cha Xiu Bau has compiled the list in his blog.

Kin and I have had several great experiences with the Lei Garden at Wanchai - 1/F., CNT Tower, 338 Hennessy Road...we have wonderful memories of the superb, best we tasted roast pork. One evening, tired after a full day up The Peak, we had trouble finding the place...mistake of not having the address handy. The next day we took the easy way out, and went to the outlet at IFC. I thought, this branch had the additional benefit of one Michelin star.

The roast pork was in top form. Very tasty. The belly of pork was cut into cubes - mildly salty on the meat side, cooked perfectly...soft, tender, juicy. Topped with very crisp, brittle skin providing the highlights.

From memory, this cut of pork was less fat than the one we sampled a few months ago in the Wanchai outlet. Flavour comes from teh fat, and as a result, the roast pork was less flavourfull, but still quite delicious.

We also had the usual tim sum. Harkow, siewmai, char siew pau.

The siewmai was not spectacular, but quite up to the mark. Crunchy, fresh prawns still smelling of the sea adorns the dish.

The harkow was quite nice. The skin was almost transluscent, playing a peek-a-boo half revealing, half concealing the prawns it contains. The prawns were very fresh, as is expected.

The char siew pau was quite marvellous. The skin pastry was light, fluffy. Fragrant even. The char siew was sweet...coyly meaty/savoury. And very tasty.

As can be seen in the pic above, the skin is airy, light, fluffy. The filling intense.

Even simple fare like these tim sum dishes had the touch found only in Hong Kong. Singapore tim sum, though excellent and often also made by Hong Kong chefs (though these days, more frequently by Malaysian chefs) is not a comparison. The springiness, and texture of the harkow skin is a classic case in point. The superior ingredients is another. I guess tradition, dedication and passion pays.

The char siew was quite spectacular.

But not in the same manner as those found in KL in the likes of Overseas Restaurant or the more humble Meng Kee. It had less caramalization, less Maillard reactants. Perhaps the marinade was less sweet, and the fire less intense than the KL cousins. But the meat was well chosen, with a good blend of fats and lean. It sat on a small pool of soy sauce...the Hong Kong soy sauce is somewhat sweeter than the versions we get in Singapore which tended to be saltier. But the fragrance of soy was apparent, and went quite well with the sweetish marinade of the meat. I enjoyed this for what it is, but crave for the KL variety more.

The maitre d' also recommended a soup, which to me was a bit unusual.

Looks like a regular house soup - lai thong, typical of Cantonese cuisine.

The broth was very clear, mildly fragrant. Very nice.

But it also contained interesting ingredients which included pig's liver, lungs, kidneys, stomach, and claws of chicken.

We ended the meal with a lo mai fun.

Chock full of ingredients like pork, preserved chinese pork sausage, mushrooms, strips of omelette, this was a very good conclusion to a good meal.

A very tasty treat. Different from lo mai kai as this was made with regular rice as opposed to glutinous rice. But very nice.

Oh, and the customary vegetable dish...large leafy vegetables - this time leafy dou miao were blanched and lightly tossed with garlic.

So is it worthy of the Michelin star? There has been great debates that as the Michelin judges were mainly westerners who were not attuned to properly appreciate a Chinese meal, the stars were awarded to surprising entrants. My Hong Kong friends feel the Wanchai outlet to be better...even though 3 Lei Gardens were in the list, the Wanchai outlet was not listed. For me, it was a good meal, very enjoyable. The tim sum was above average, even for Hong Kong. The roast pork, char siew pau and lo mai fun was outstanding. And the soup was interesting. And worthy of many repeat visits.

Lei Garden Restaurant, Central
Address: Shop No. 3007-3011, 3/F., International Finance Centre, Central, Hongkong
Tel. No.: (852) 2295 0238
Opening Hours:
Monday to Saturday & Public Holidays
Lunch: 11:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Dinner: 6:00 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.
Lunch: 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Dinner: 6:00 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.

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