Hong Kong has a lot to offer! The peaceful walks around Chi Lin Nunnery and the adjacent Nan Lian Garden, evenings at the Viktoria peak, crazy parties in LKF, hair raising rides at the Ocean Park and much more. But one would not be predisposed to do any of that on an empty stomach! So when in Hong Kong eat!
A more pertinent reason to indulge, abandoning caution, is because Hong Kong is truly a melting-pot of cultures. With Cantonese, Shanghainese as well as western influences, it is hard to place a finger on what the local cuisine is. But that is precisely what makes the entire experience a delight. A delight for all the senses with enveloping aromas and bursts of flavors. The broth of these myriad influences has given us all – gluttons, food dabblers and picky connoisseurs – a truly eatsome experience.
The Crystal Jade
First stop, the Crystal Jade! If I may permit myself to pun upon it, this place rocks!! Quite well-known with several kitchens at several locations across Hong Kong, we would have been found gobbling down the deliciousness in Causeway Bay. The restaurant is usually quite crowded, but the lightning fast service makes us suspect whether they are in-fact using thunderous clouds to cook their food. We started with the acclaimed Xiao Long Bao (The soupy pork dumplings) that vaporized all such hare-brained suspicions with its heady steaminess. Ensconced in steamed tender dough, were succulent balls of pork floating in broth that exploded with spicy-tanginess making our salivary glands shriek with happiness.
Tip: Eating the bao can be a little messy. If one fancies oneself as a “proppah fella” then one may use the following method. Pick up the bao with the chop sticks, place it in a soup spoon, add a bit of sauce and then relish fruit of one’s labour. Lacking any such hang-ups we were the messy lot, but the bao remain steadfastly enjoyable.
Fighting our gluttonous desire to place multiple orders of the bao, we chose to eat the Green Beans with Minced Pork. There isn’t much we could say by way of description, as they quite fittingly, were just green beans with minced pork. A sweet and sour dish with a lingering pungent taste which may or may not suit every palate. The fried noodles and the rice dishes are also a must try. The Kirin and Tsing Tao Beers with their chilled crispiness complements the hot steamy dishes well.
Hidden in a tiny street of the Causeway Bay surrounded by dilapidated buildings and graffitied walls, is Ichiran. This place is not to be skipped, if you like the ramen experience! (wink wink) I enjoyed the place to the extent that I feel passionate enough to beseech the Gods and melodramatically seek their assistance in teleporting me there without much ado. It is, however, advised not be engage in such drama when in Ichiran. It is a matter-of-fact, no-nonsense, stand-in-the-que, fill-up-the-form-of-preferences, sit-in-a-partitioned-cubicle, eat-your-ramen, play-with-the-buttons-of-the-high-tech-toilet-seat and be-on-your-way-kinda place.
Tip: The Ichiran etiquette: There are no tables for groups. However, you can ask to be seated in a queue with your buddies. If that is your preference, do ensure that all your friends have arrived and then step into the queue, otherwise you would be asked to step aside till the time the laggards make it. You will be given a form to fill where you can choose the flavor strength (choose medium, if this is your first time), richness, the amount of garlic (anything lesser than regular would evade detection), green onions, choice of sliced pork and measure of Ichiran’s Red Sauce (definitely a by-product of the forgings in Mount Doom of Mordor. In other words soul-splittingly-spicy. A regular dollop is advisable). We found the Asahi super dry beer complementing the food rather well.
Of course, a good meal needs to be capped up with drinks and what better a nightcap than a string of delicious cocktails. The next stop had to be the famous Djapa in Wan Chai. With frescos of quirky modern décor, relaxed ambience and peppy playlists; this is the place to be when the night is yong. Risking sounding quite inappropriate, I must express that the Blushing Geisha tasted amazing. One cannot go wrong with this sweet wine-based concoction with a hint of strawberry. For the one who like to experiment with spice mixed with sourness, the Agua Benta is the drink for you.
On a candid note, however, we truly had an assembly to cocktails and we were disappointed by none. It would not be out of place to champion the notion of “go wild” here!
For the truly adventurous who have crossed the line where the taste of the drink is no longer of concern. Off you go to LKF (Lan Kwai Fong) where the parties spill out on the streets and the thumping music reverberates all around.
Clearly, our previous night was a bit much. A tad hung over, rich grilled somewhat-Korean food is what we needed. Mr. Iron, unequivocally, was the man for the job! The Korean fried chicken, chicken wings, the Korean fried rice with a twist of cheese and the frozen pulpy mango drink was soporifically satisfying. The quantities are more than generous, so it is recommended that one ought not to go as crazy with the order as we did. A bowl of fried rice would be sufficient for three marginally-gluttonous individuals.
Lastly, one cannot skip mentioning Nha Trang (Tsueng Kwan O) for traditional Vietnamese Pho and Vermicelli bowls. Filled with aroma of fresh lemon grass, spring onion and steamy broths, the tiny restaurant can stir one’s appetite with a simple whiff. The food looks as delicious as it smells. If you are trying Vietnamese food for the fist time, the Pho Ga (Pho with shredded chicken) is a safe bet. The Pho Tai, however, was the star of the evening and the iced coffee was a close second.
With our tummies more than satiated and memories that still instill a vampiric hunger, we headed back home, already planning our next trip to Hong Kong to experiment more with the sights, sounds and of course the tastes.