HateBites – Loong Toh Yuen @ Hullett House

One sunny weekend, we decided that we fancied some dim sum and that we would check out Loong Toh Yuen at Hullett House. It had already been a weekend of Hong Kong adventure, such as us lazy HK Islanders call it.  We had already once travelled over to the dark side that weekend in search of what my Korean girlfriend calls “the top place for Koreans to eat Korean BBQ in Hong Kong”. After a short MTR journey to Tsim Sha Tsui (easy enough) we proceeded to get lost on the streets of Kowloon, finally finding Won Pungwon after half an hour of walking around, only to get ordered around and given death stares by our halmeoni server. The reviews on Openrice are quite hilarious – I also had a similar experience with the service, although the food was pretty awesome.

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Loong Toh Yuen has a main dining room and a couple of separate side dining rooms, set around a beautiful courtyard

Hoping for an enjoyable Sunday dim sum experience, we sailed over on the Star Ferry and then walked to the beautiful heritage building that is Hullett House. Having heard wonderful things about St. George at the same location (although now Chef Philippe Orrico has moved on to open Upper Modern Bistro), I suppose it was wishful thinking that Loong Toh Yuen would be of a similar standard – how painfully wrong we were.

Literally – painfully … we left with a bit of a stomach ache. I don’t post too many hatebites and yet sometimes it is a social necessity. Yes, it is all you can eat dim sum, so you understand if the standard is not as high as other places. But when only three of the dishes are of a passable standard, there is something wrong.

Loong Toh Yuen

Clockwise from top left: Char Siu Rice Flour Rolls, Pan Fried Rice Flour Rolls, Baked Turnip Puff, Baked BBQ Pork Puff, Deep Fried Glutinous Rice Flour Dumpling with Pork and Dried Shrimp, Salmon Spring Rolls, Steamed BBQ Pork Bun, Shrimp Dumpling Flavoured w/ Rose Champagne, E Fu Noodles with Mushroom and Chive.

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Desserts – the lau sa bao are the best option in this restaurant

The only decent things on the menu were the steamed varieties, I imagine because they are the only things that have to be made freshly – the char siu rice flour rolls (cheung fun), the baked BBQ pork bun (char siu bao) were alright, and in the dessert section the custard steamed buns were the best thing on the menu. Literally translating to “flowing filling bun”, this bun spilled beautifully yellow, cholesterol-laden custardy goodness when pulled apart. Unfortunately, a lunch of only custard filled buns does not a balanced meal make.

All of the fried options tasted like they had been re-fried before serving. Biting into them, you are treated to the taste of oil before anything else. The e-fu noodles were a joke – they had been pre-prepared in bowls and so stuck together in one huge lump, and was completely devoid of chives or mushrooms.

This is all very unfortunate, as Hullett House is such a beautiful venue that attracts a large number of tourists. It would be a shame if someone who only had dim sum once in Hong Kong took away an oily, greasy memory when Hong Kong has such a plethora of amazing dim sum options.

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A Dim Sum Compendium

I recently read an article about a book called “The Paradox of Choice – why more is less”. Being quite an indecisive person when it comes to consumerism, I can relate to the authors premise that whilst choice is good for us, we are presented with too much choice nowadays. It can be psychologically disadvantageous and ultimately, makes us more unhappy. And so, faced with all of this choice, many of us do the simplest thing – choose the same option over and over, because we know it, because we’re comfortable with it.  While this is all a bit too serious as an introduction to dim sum, the logic is quite the same.  There are many choices in this city for Dim Sum – which one should we choose?

I have a long list of Dim Sum restaurants in my phonebook, a Dim Sum Compendium, if you will. Some are the good old favorites, some are the easier option, some take that extra effort to get there but are worth it, and some are on my “To Eat” list. All are worth trying – why choose, when you can have them all? Continue reading

Seeing Stars: Tasty buns and tonic medlar @ Tim Ho Wan

To dim sum, or not to dim sum? If it is 1pm on a Saturday or Sunday and you have just woken up with a mean hangover and only a vague recollection of what time you got home the night before – then this question is moot. If there is a reaaally good dim sum restaurant in the vicinity, then the need or desire for a chippy, kebab shop, greasy spoon or hot dog stand simply ceases to exist. Dim sum is not only the perfect hangover cure, it is a great meal to share with family and friends: you can order slowly and gradually to savour the food as well as the company, and try a bit of everything. It’s a perfectly balanced meal (a bit of fried stuff + a bit steamed stuff + a plate of green stuff = a relatively guilt-free meal), AND you can drink copious amounts of tea! Have a cup of long jing(Dragon Well) tea  HT recommended it once as the best hangover tea and I have never looked back.

I digress. Dim sum in and of itself really deserves its own post. My point is that dim sum has always been a brunch or lunch time affair for me. When I ended my detox early, my friend JY was very excited. He had been raving about Tim Ho Wan(添好運點心專門店)- translated literally as ‘Add Good Luck’. It is Hong Kong’s cheapest 1 star Michelin restaurant – in fact, it’s most probably the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world. THE WORLD! “Let’s go TONIGHT!!!”, he says, in a pitch several octaves higher than his normal voice. Continue reading