Monday, May 7, 2007

Come Eat With Us: Hong Kong City Restaurant

Food tasting is fun but can be so frustrating. HKCR is a new restaurant in Towering, Penampang, with a chef and a manager from Hong Kong. The place even smelt like those restaurants in Hong Kong! I thought, at last, I don't have to go to Hong Kong for dimsum.

The siewmai came. That got us even more excited; all four of them were the size of golf balls. Wey took the first bite and spit it out. It was half cooked. The replacement came. Wey spit it out again. "Something's wrong". They looked at me. I too spit it out. The meat was kind of strange-smelling, slightly off. Hubby ate one and said it was fine so we pushed the little bamboo steamer to him. It was the same with the hargow; you know the smell of refrigerated seafood?

And so it went. We left very disappointed. A few days ago I met a friend who is a very picky eater and she recommended HKCR for dinner. So off we went last night, in a big group so we can order many dishes.

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Yingyang rice

One of my dining companion raved about this dish as he used to eat it while living in Vancouver, and it has never been available here. Wey liked it. I thought it tasted as strange as it looks. Not surprising when you consider the name. Yingyang refers to everything opposite: masculine vs feminine, hot vs. cold, dark vs. light and in this case prawns (from the sea) in white sauce vs pork (land) in red sauce dished up in the yingyang symbol.

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Prawns fried with salted egg yolks.

How different the same ingredients taste when its cooked by different people. I first had this dish in Hong Kong's Ye Shanghai, in Pacific Place. Great food, by the way. There they shelled the prawns which were small and very crunchy and the dish was just superb. At HKCR, we couldn't even finish this small portion between the 7 of us.

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yew ja gwei with prawn mince

This was quite good but I couldn't help thinking of all that oil going to my hips.

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Bittergourd claypot

Tasty and cooked with lots of 'fire'.

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This was very good, especially with the hot mustard.

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Wonton noodles

Typical Malaysian wonton noodles. Nothing to brag, er, blog about.

The manager told us that all dimsum are discounted by 30% on Mondays and Fridays so we went back to HKCR today, for lunch. This time the siewmai was small like other yumcha places and tasted ordinary. The hargow (which is my benchmark for any yumcha places) was big, plumb, crunchy and tasty. The bao was good, but the yam puffs and rice rolls were so-so and the wonton noodles were disappointing. My criteria for good HK wonton noodles: 1) the noodles must be fine and springy, and not stink of ammonia (I'll never forget that horrible bowl of ammonic noodles I ate in Toronto on Dundas St. years ago). 2) The wontons must be made of prawns only (no pork) and must be fresh and super crunchy. And it shouldn't have all that excess 'skin' or wrap hanging around it. In Malaysia wontons are more 'skin' than stuffing. 3) The soup should have this particular flavor. I'm told it's the flavor of a special kind of dried fish. A chinese dashi of sorts.

The wonton noodles at Hong Kong's International Airport used to be good enough for me, even at HK$48 (US$7). That was before my Hong Kong friend Helena brought me to this place tucked in some street in Central. After that, I have never found anything better than Jimjaikee wonton noodles. And if I'm not wrong they were only HK$20 per bowl. A few months ago while on an overnight transit in Hong Kong, I sneaked out of the hotel just to eat a bowl of wonton noodles. I didn't tell Hubby because he would never understand or agree to go, as we were to leave for the airport at 4 am. It was hard to find Jimjaikee on my own, so based on the list of gold-medal wonton noodles restaurants recommended by The HongKong Tourism Board, I went to this place in front of Times Square in Causeway Bay.

My only chance to eat wonton noodles, and it was SO disappointing. I almost cried on my way out. The whole trip from my Mongkok hotel to Causeway Bay (for those who don't know, that involves crossing from Kowloon to Hongkong by tunnel under the sea) however was not entirely wasted because on the way back I saw a small stall selling Shanghai hairy crabs and bought two. They were small but good. So good, especially the roe. (Funny thing happened while waiting for the crabs to cook. I went for a walk- it was around midnight- and when I got back there were other crabs in the steamer. The lady asked me which crab was mine, and, like a proud father, I pointed happily at my 'babies'. Oh ya, she said, yours are the ones at HK$98 (US$14) each. These ones at HK$338 (US$48) each are his, pointing to a guy waiting nearby. Four of the crabs were his. What's the difference, I asked timidly, other than their slightly bigger size? Oh, she said, " Sig joh mei jee loh!" (you'll know after you have tasted them!)). I'm digressing.

HKCR? The service is good, tea is free, parking is easy and prices are reasonable at RM10 to 15 (US$2.80 to US$4.30) per small portion for the fried dishes, around RM7 for soup noodles. However, all the dishes were too salty for me and the food is more for casual Sunday dinners with the family rather than for banquet dining. The dimsum is better than that in Foo Ping, a place very popular with many but which I avoid (shudders). But what bothers me about this place is the food is so variable, sometimes good sometimes not. My rating? 5 or 7/10, just to be as variable as them.

1 comment:

Western Dental said...

That looks great! Reminds me of my time traveling through asia. Its so much harder to cook than it looks. Lots of ingredients and the right balance of ingredients is important too.

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