Thursday, July 9, 2009

Hong Zhou Restaurant 杭州酒家

When I first looked at the hanging neon-light fixture of this restaurant at the street level, the first thing that came to me mind was how traditional and perhaps how the much the interior needed much decoration / upgrades. How wrong I was !! The place was very contemporary with a rather upscale decor. Various Chinese paintings and calligraphy works were placed on the walls together with many photographs taken together with the chefs famous individuals such as Donald Tsang, Chip Tao, Choi Lan (蔡瀾) and etc. Does all these photographs provide some degree of quality assurance? Maybe or Maybe not!

One of the first thing I realized when I look at the menu was that there was NO ENGLISH that goes with the dishes. Therefore, the translation of the dishes are done on a best effort basis. Honestly, I have no idea what are the specialities of Hong Zhou cuisine so I had to consult my friends and the large amount of pictures in the menu. My friend pre-ordered Special Baked Chicken 富貴雞 / 乞兒鷄 so one less item to decide! Here what we ordered: For Starters - (1) Tofu and Preserved Egg 豆腐皮蛋 (2) Signature Duck 招牌醬鴨 (3) Diced Wild Vegetables 馬蘭頭 (4) Xiao long bao (Shanghai Dumplings) 小籠包 (5) Pan Fried Bun 生煎包; Main - (6) Special Baked Chicken 富貴雞 / 乞兒鷄 (7) pan-fried fresh shrimps 醬煎河蝦 (8) Stir fried eel slices 炒鱔糊; Dessert - (9) Fried Sweet Sticky Rice 煎八寶飯 and (10) Osmanthus flavored mini dumplings sweet soup 桂花酒釀丸子. Another long list !

(1) Tofu and Preserved Egg 豆腐皮蛋
This is a dish I often order at Shanghainese restaurant. I like both items and how they are presented usually; however, the way it was served here surprised me. Usually one of the key presentation point of this dish is to show how good the chef's cutting skills are by cutting the tofu very thin without much breakage. The tofu here was in blocks and the preserved eggs were thickly sliced as well. Not as presentable as I expected and by serving in a bowl, it was hard to evenly share / distribute the big tofu cubes, huge preserved eggs slices and sauces that sank to the bottom of the bowl. Taste wise, it was fair but the sauce was abit too spicy.

(2) Signature Duck 招牌醬鴨
The texture of the duck was more like preserved items: hard and chewy. Taste wise it was very good indeed, not too sweet and the meat remained very moist. It actually tasted more like smoked duck to me. Maybe it was being smoked as part of the whole process. Thumbs up to me.

(3) Diced Wild Vegetables 馬蘭頭
The usual 馬蘭頭 should be more ... crispy (爽)? Not sure how to describe it but the dish here was overly chewy to a point I cannot completely chew it. It was more like AGED vegetables whereby you have to chew for like minutes before you can swallow. Extremely high in fiber! Thumbs down ! (did I mention there was not much taste to it?)

(4) Xiao long bao (Shanghai Dumplings) 小籠包
Another disappointment! Just take a look at the picture and I think you know what I mean. The dumpling sheet / skin was so thick that you can use your fork to slowly pick it up without even having a scratch or break the dumpling. Even if you did break it, no worries, there weren't much soup in there anyways. Thumbs down !

(5) Pan Fried Bun 生煎包
This dish was much better than the Xiao Long Bao. The bun was of the right side, bread layer not too thick and the meat inside was pretty tender and juicy. Not much soup can be found in there but the meat was juicy enough to make up for that. Not the best pan fried bun I had before but good enough to have a thumbs up from me!

(6) Special Baked Chicken / Beggar's Chicken 富貴雞 / 乞兒鷄
The star of the show is this special baked chicken. Difference places call it differently but they are done in similar ways. The chicken was braised and then wrapped by lotus leaf before being packed tight with a mud / soil cast or mold and smoked until fully cooked. To serve, one has to crack the mold open, usually with a hammer. I cannot really comment on how this dish compared with other places because this was the first time I tried it. What I can say is that it was good. The whole chicken was tender even the breast and the smoked taste was very well balanced ! Worth trying if you never did.

(7) pan-fried fresh shrimps 醬煎河蝦
Wonderful sauce in terms of taste but it was a bit too thick. I love shrimps and I am lazy at the same time, so since the shrimps comes with shells, the problem with peeling the shells came into play. Usually I am okay with peeling the skins without hands but the size of shrimps were rather small, my friends were debating whether to eat the whole thing with the shells or not. Tough decision indeed and I tried both with and without. I prefer to eat without even if it was more troublesome. (note: the shells were pretty hard !)

(8) Stir fried eel slices 炒鱔糊
Nothing special about this dish but I would like the sauce to be thicker. The eel slices were tender and soft but my idea of good eel was to be a bit chewy I think. There were other variations of eel's dishes, maybe worth trying. A fair dish in general.

(9) Fried Sweet Sticky Rice 煎八寶飯
Another dessert I often order at Shanghainese restaurant. It usual has the options of either steamed or pan-fried and I prefer the pan-fried option. Taste wise it was alright but the sugar / icing being used were not that matching. Maybe I am too used to the pinkish sugar powder being used at Ye Shanghai for this dessert. Other than the taste, the texture was not as good as I expected. In my opinion, the whole pancake was too thick and not pressed thin enough to create the hard and chewy texture it requires.

(10) Osmanthus flavored mini dumplings sweet soup 桂花酒釀丸子
A pleasant dessert indeed. The osmanthus 桂花 flavor was strong and the mini dumplings were of the right size (and of right chewiness) to make it a pleasant experience. Actually, I think less mini dumplings would be better.

  • Decor & Environment
  • Signature Duck 招牌醬鴨 (good taste and texture)
  • Special Baked Chicken 富貴雞 / 乞兒鷄 (a new experience to me, wish they could have crack the thing in front me us, I think Peking House does that in front of the table)
  • Service was good (not very pushy to make you order expensive dishes)
  • Xiao long bao 小籠包 (the skin was tooooo thick)
  • Diced Wild Vegetables 馬蘭頭 (overly chewy to my liking)
  • Fried Sweet Sticky Rice 煎八寶飯 (texture too soft in general, if pressed longer would be better)
  • Alot of items require pre-ordering
Avg Spending: HKD 200 - 300 per person

(awarded Michelin 1-Star by the Michelin Guide Hong Kong 2010)

Hong Zhou Restaurant 杭州酒家
1/f, 178 - 188 Johnston Road
Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Tel: 2591 1898

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