Eating at Michelin restaurants in Hong Kong

Sayang and I woke up early and looked out of the window. The sky looked dark and overcast, which was discouraging. We turned on the TV to check the weather forecast on the Hong Kong news. According to the weatherman, the winds had blown the rain clouds away from Hong Kong. Sayang and I were glad to hear that as it meant that it was less likely to rain today.

Our first stop for the day was to a Michelin star restaurant called 添好運點心專門店 (Tim Ho Wan the Dim-Sum Specialists). I was told that we had to be there early as there would be a long queue. The restaurant opened at 10am and we reached there at 10:20am. But the restaurant was already fully packed. There was a lady at the door who took down our reservation and gave us a queue number. We were given number 22. It meant that there were already 21 groups of people in front of us! The lady told us that the waiting time was around one and a half hours and suggested that we walk around the area.

So we walked. Most of the shops were still closed but there were a few shops that were opened for business. We walked around Mongkok and saw stalls being set up for the street market. Sayang pulled me into a shop selling beauty products and showed me the latest fad in skin care. There was a whole shelf filled with bottles of snail essence which Sayang said were the current hottest items. There were also a few bottles of snake essence which Sayang said was very popular as well. I asked Sayang whether they really worked. Sayang said she did not know as she did not buy any of the products as they were too expensive.

There was a market in the area and we saw several roast meat shops preparing their wares for the day. I watched a worker placed a heap of freshly cooked char siew onto a tray on the counter. The steaming jiggly pork was dripping with sauce and it looked really yummy. If we did not have a reservation at Tim Ho Wan, I would not mind eating at the char siew shop.

When we returned to Tim Ho Wan after one and a half hours, we saw that the crowd waiting in front of the restaurant had grown bigger. Many of those waiting were foreigners. We thought that some of them sounded like Singaporeans. I noticed that there were many food award stickers pasted on the door. Among them were two stickers showing that the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star in 2011 and 2012.

Inside Tim Ho Wan

While waiting, we discussed on what to eat, ticking off on the order form that was given to us along with our queue number. Soon our number was called and we were shown in the restaurant with four other people. It was a small restaurant and the tables were all tightly packed together, so tight that there was barely enough space to move. Our chairs were back to back and getting in and out needed some coordination with other people. Suddenly I felt like a big, clumsy oaf.

Char siew bun

Because we had already ticked the dishes that we wanted, the food arrived quickly. It felt like the food kept appearing non-stop from the kitchen production line. The first to land on our table was the restaurant’s specialty – char siew bun. The char siew bun was different from the steamed bun that was usually served at dim sum restaurants. The char siew bun at Tim Ho Wan had a crispy layer on top which Sayang said was like 菠蘿包 (pineapple bun).

Char siew bun

Inside the bun was some pieces of juicy honey-baked char siew. The bun tasted good although sometimes I felt that there was more bun than pork. Sayang and I both felt that the bun was interesting as we had not tasted char siew bun made in this matter before. But it wasn’t so fantastic that we became instant converts with the first bite. Sayang said “Now it makes me want to eat the traditional type of char siew bun.”

Lotus leaf wrapped glutinous rice

Next was the lotus-wrapped rice which contained chicken, chinese sausage and mushroom. The rice was sticky, moist and infused with the scent of the lotus leaf. It was tasty but there wasn’t much to differentiate it from other lotus-wrapped rice.

Carrot cake

I liked the carrot cake which had big strands of radish. Like the typical dim sum type, the carrot cakes here contained bits of chinese sausage and were pan-fried. It was softer and wetter than what I usually ate before but it tasted pretty good.

Char siew rice rolls

The rice rolls at Tim Ho Wan also had a lovely sheen but they did not have the springiness of 堂記腸粉專門店 (Tong Kee Steam Vermicelli Roll Specialise). Sayang agreed that Tong Kee’s rice rolls were better.

Siumai

The typical siumai was only so-so. It was a bit disappointing as the siumai was the most basic of dim sum dishes.

Old-styled siumai

Tim Ho Wan also had a dish they called the traditional (or old-styled) siumai. It was similar to siumai except it did not have the yellow eggy skin and included half of a hard-boiled quail egg. This was a better and more interesting dish than the normal siumai.

Queue outside Tim Ho Wan

When we left the restaurant, there was still a big crowd waiting outside the door. While the food was not bad, I did not know if I would want to return to the restaurant again. It was not a place where one goes to eat and drink leisurely and the whole experience felt rather hectic.

After filling our stomachs, we took to MTR to the Central Piers. We wanted to try and go Cheung Chau again. Cheung Chau seemed to be a popular destination and there were two types of ferries to choose from; a normal ferry and a fast ferry to the island. The fast ferry took half the time to reach its destination as compared to the normal ferry but it also cost twice as much. Since the departure time was earlier, we decided to take the fast ferry to Cheung Chau.

Cheung Chau

The fast ferry ride took about 30 mins to reach Cheung Chau. The sky was overcast but it did not rain. Cheung Chau was a bigger island than Peng Chau and more touristy. Along the road next to the pier, there was a long stretch of seafood restaurants. We also walked past some booths advertising rooms available for a weekend stay. Once we walked beyond the stretch of seafood restaurants, Cheung Chau still managed to retain its lovely countryside charm.

Grasshopper

We headed left after disembarking and sort of retraced the same route Redhead and I took three years ago to the highest point in Cheung Chau. The road wound itself along the beach and it was a quiet walk. A huge grasshopper hopped across our path. We met some cyclists but most of the time we were pretty much alone.

A group of male cyclists passed us on the way up to the North Lookout Pavilion, which was the highest point in Cheung Chau. The slope was quite steep and one or two of the guys had to dismount and push their bicycles up. The rest of the group who have to strength to cycle up the slope shouted encouragement. I was quite amused at the rowdy camaraderie.

Then we reached North Pavilion and my goodwill towards the cyclists evaporated. Arriving at the pavilion before us, the cyclists made themselves at home and picked a good spot. We were unable to take any photos as the cyclists were in the way. We waited for them to leave but they were having such a good time that we got a bit impatient. Sayang whispered to me, “They were blocking the view.” I nodded.

Cheung Chau

Still, we could not complain as there were no tall bushes surrounding the pavilion. There was a clear view all around. Pity that the sky was cloudy and overcast but it was still much better than raining. The men left after a while and we had the place to ourselves. We decided to walk down to the lower pavilion because Sayang spotted a small beach and wanted to see if we could find a way down to it. There seemed to be only path leading to the beach. In the end, Sayang decided not to make the trip down to the beach as we might not have time to get back before the sun set. We sat in the pavilion for a while and counted the mosquito bites on our legs. We had more than ten mosquito bites each.

Cake shop

Back at the pier, we walked around the snack shops and saw a cake shop. It looked a bit out of place among the rest of the traditional dessert shops. The cakes looked good and we bought a mango roll and a tofu cheesecake to eat while waiting for the ferry.

Mango roll and tofu cheesecake

Both the cakes were light and yummy. There were a generous portion of mango in the mango roll which should satisfy Sayang’s mango craving for the day. The cheesecake was light and there was a slight tinge of soya milk.

This time, we took the slower ferry which was cheaper but took one hour to reach Hong Kong. The seats were made of hard plastic and therefore more uncomfortable. The ferry was open-air so there was no aircon. But we were so tired that we slept most of the journey.

We met Redhead for dinner. We wanted to eat roast goose but we heard that the quality for 鏞記酒家 (Yung Kee Restaurant) had dropped and the prices were expensive. It was the only roast goose restaurant we know so Redhead said she would bring us to another restaurant which was just as good but cheaper. We passed by Yung Kee along the way and we noticed that there were a lot of gold in the decor. Redhead told us that Yung Kee used to be managed by two brothers but there was a falling out which turned into a court case. In the end, one of the brothers was kicked out. That was why the decor of the restaurant had changed. As the quality of the food seemed to have dropped, people mused that the brother who left was probably the better cook.

Redhead brought us to 一樂食館 (Yat Lok Restaurant) which she said was a Michelin star restaurant too. And lo behold, there was a sticker at the entrance showing that it was awarded a Michelin star in 2011. It looked like a simple eatery and definitely not as grand as Yung Kee. We let Redhead do the ordering because she speaks Cantonese.

Roast goose

We had roast goose. Generally goose is a fatty bird and they had a layer of fat beneath the skin. I’m not squeamish about fats and would eat them but a goose had too much fat to be enjoyable. So I usually scraped the fats off and eat the crispy and flavorful skin. The meat is moist, tender and smooth and it went really well with the sweetish dipping sauce that came with it. Redhead and Sayang preferred to eat their goose meat with chilli instead so I took their share of the dipping sauce.

Char siew and roast meat

We also ordered some roast meat and char siew. The roast meat was quite nice but I found the char siew a little on the dry side.

Vegetables

To balance out all the meat, we (actually just Redhead and Sayang) ordered a plate of green veggies drizzled with oyster sauce. Redhead laughed because I took three photos of the roast goose but only one photo of the vegetables. It was easy to tell which was more important to me.

Redhead's present

After our food was cleared away, we gave Redhead the present we bought for her yesterday. On the front of the box was written 八月十五 (15th day of the 8th month) in big red letters. In the lunar calendar, that date was the that day of the Mid-Autumn Festival but it was also a slang for bum. So the creative mind behind this product decided to put two together and came out with a mooncake in the shape of a person’s behind.

Mooncake designs

What made it even more interesting was that you didn’t know which design you got until you opened the box. Before Redhead opened the box, we guessed which design the mooncake could be. Redhead guessed that it could be Mind the Gap, Sayang chose Hot Pants and I chose Spread My Cheeks.

Spread My Cheeks mooncake

Looks like I guessed correctly ha ha!

Desserts at Hang Fa Lau

After dinner Redhead brought us to a nearby 杏花樓甜品 (Hang Fa Lau Dessert) outlet for dessert. It was located just next to the famous mid-level escalators in Central. The desserts were typical Hong Kong dessert and not bad. Redhead had a new dish which was something like baked yam pudding while I had pomelo sago. Sayang chose to eat steamed milk pudding again.

Gong Cha outlet

After dessert, we said goodbye to Redhead and went back to the hotel. On the way from the MTR station to the hotel, Sayang and I passed by a Gong Cha outlet and we decided to buy a cup of bubble tea each.

Gong Cha

The cup is huge as the outlet only sold large sizes. Both of us got the same tea except that Sayang had no sugar while I asked for 50% sugar. However we couldn’t tell that there was any difference in the sweetness between our drinks. As Sayang also had a lousy bubble tea from a different brand in this morning, we concluded sadly that the bubble tea in Hong Kong was not up to standard.

Places we ate today

添好運點心專門店 (Tim Ho Wan the Dim-Sum Specialists)
Address: Taui Yuen Mansion Phase 2, 2-20 Kwong Wa Street, Mong Kok
Tel: +852-23322896
Opening Hours: 10am – 10pm
Nearest MTR station: Mongkok

一樂食館 (Yat Lok Restaurant)
Address: 34-38 Stanley Street, Central
Tel: +852-25243882
Opening Hours: 7:30am – 9pm (Mon – Fri); 9am – 5:30pm (Sat – Sun)
Nearest MTR station: Central

杏花樓甜品 (Hang Fa Lau Dessert)
Address: 34 Cochrane Street, Central
Tel: +852-25444180
Nearest MTR station: Central

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