February 16, 2010
lt might be strange to search deep into my notes on a meal that took place more than seven years ago then write about it, but hear me out on this. As everyone in Hong Kong knows, Four Seasons’ Lung King Heen is the first Chinese restaurant to be awarded three Michelin stars and has retained this honour till this day. Local foodies are bemused by the Hong Kong Michelin guide from the onset. There are many reasons, obviously Tim Ho Wan being the most erroneous, but many would also point to the utmost adoration of Lung King Heen by the Michelin inspectors.
One week ago over a business lunch at Lung King Heen my colleague from France proclaimed he had now dined at the best restaurant in town, the L’Astrance or L’Arpège of Hong Kong. I avoided potential awkwardness by quickly diverting the topic as this is a common perception among foreigners. Hong Kong has a good handful of 5-star hotels, each with their own typically sumptuous Chinese restaurant. Many of these are featured on the Michelin guide, seemingly interchangeable of each other, so what makes Lung King Heen the king on the top?
I have been there five times, tried their famous dim sum and sat through ten-course meals, and I still can’t tell the reason why. Through my writing I want to tell anyone who is thinking about eating at Lung King Heen that it is a decent restaurant, one that could very well meet your expectation depending on your objective, but it is far from serving the best local cuisine in Hong Kong.
Of all my visits, I only documented this 2010 casual family dinner. Without the backing of an expense account we didn’t order any big ticket item. We opted for several simple Cantonese dishes, curious to see how this fabled kitchen would fare.
We ordered two appetizers. First to arrive was Crispy Eel with Honey and Pomelo, which unfortunately reeked of fishiness despite the heavy dose of honey. The Baked Sea Whelk stuffed with Diced Abalone and Pork in Portuguese Sauce was overpowered by the sauce, and the abalone was rubbery.
Stir-Fried Minced Vegetables and Pine Nuts with Lettuce Wraps was a vegetarian version of the customary pigeon lettuce wrap. The ingredient mix had good texture but very little flavour.
Our main course was Braised Duck with Preserved Plums, at least a dish that was decently made. The poultry was tender and complemented well by the sour and savoury sauce.
Fried Rice with Roasted Goose, Barbecued Pork, Shrimp, Taro and Preserved Vegetables rounded out our dinner. Flavourful and dry, as a well prepared fried rice should be.
The bill was around $500 per person. I had tried many other dishes at Lung King Heen on other occasions, but this meal encapsulated my opinion of this restaurant. It was mostly consistent but very rarely spectacular, and every meal there were some head scratchers, be it odd seasoning or even odder fusion attempts. On the positive side service was always attentive. Lunch is a surer bet as the dim sum is solid, even though if you know where to look you can get similar offerings at a discount elsewhere, none of which requires you to book months in advance.
Address: Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, 8 Finance St, Central
Opening hours: 12:00 – 14:30, 18:00 – 22:30