In 2008 the Michelin guide expanded its borders to include Hong Kong and Macau. This gained quite a bit of attention in the international media, as the influential guide had previously limited itself to fine dining in Western countries. This apparently also generated a great deal of interest in Hong Kong, as in an effort to promote the accomplishment, I was taken to two Michelin-starred restaurants on my recent press trip there. Of these, the restaurant that stands out the most in my mind is Yung Kee, a nearly 60 year-old Hong Kong staple and recent recipient of a single Michelin star.
Unfortunately, we arrived at Yung Kee at the end of a day in which I'd probably eaten more than any previous in my life. In the space of a few hours we'd been to a Japanese buffet, an old-school dim sum restaurant and now this. But the food at Yung Kee was so good, I somehow found a way to make room.
Yung Kee's most famous dish by far is its roast goose:
I'm not a huge fan of duck or goose in general, but enjoyed this well enough -- it was pleasantly meaty, oily, crispy and tender. But I was more blown away by Yung Kee's dictionary perfect stir-fried dishes, which due to our somewhat uncollaborative ordering, comprised the remainder of our meal. These included Shredded chicken with chili:
the chili in this case actually a very mild bell pepper, which like all of the restaurant's ingredients, was expertly and attractively sliced, and like all vegetables to follow, was perfectly fried, retaining all of its fresh crispiness. There was Chinese sausage fried with kai lan:
the sausages, which I think were a mixture of pork and goose liver, were on the waxy side, as Chinese sausages typically are, but again this was a masterpiece of deft stir-frying and subtle-yet-adequate seasoning. Sauteed sliced beef and vegetable was similar:
although here, for me at least, it was the meat the stood out. The beef appeared to have been pounded until tender and marinated, giving it a nearly fall-apart texture and a pleasantly salty flavour. Again, the technique took the forefront here, and the beef was simultaneously just-cooked and partially singed. Our final stir-fry was eggplant flash-fried with crab meat:
I can't imagine this dish involved more than five ingredients (eggplant, crab meat, salt, oil and perhaps a bit of corn starch), but was wonderful: smokey, well-seasoned and relatively un-oily -- everything a good stir-fried dish should be.
Reeling from having consumed so much food, I sat back and looked around the restaurant and noticed that, despite the accolades, Yung Kee appeared more or less like any other upscale-ish restaurant in Asia: there were a few tourists, but most diners appeared to be middle-to-upper-class locals, including several families. The dining room was boisterous and service was equal parts professional and informal. It struck me that this is exactly what a lauded restaurant should be like -- excellent food that everybody can enjoy without the baggage of formality and snobbery. I can't wait for the chance go back to Yung Kee on an empty stomach and try a greater repertoire of dishes.
Yung Kee 32-40 Wellington Street, Hong Kong +852 2522 1624 www.yungkee.com.hk 11am-11.30pm
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