Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Old school dinner at Shek Kip Mei's Central Restaurant

A table heaving with just some of the many dishes that 
my party of twelve had for dinner this evening!
 
One of my favorite dishes of the night: 
deep fried prawns coated with salty duck egg yolk! :b
 
One of two desserts we were served: 
baked tapioca custard pudding! :)
 
In Shek Kip Mei, there's a thoroughfare called Tai Po Road which runs all the way from this section of New Kowloon to that old market town in the New Territories.  Deep inside a building whose main entrance is on Tai Po Road is an old school dining establishment called -- for some reason -- Central Restaurant despite it being located quite a bit aways from the Central District.  
 
Founded in 1963 and serving traditional Cantonese and Hakka fare, it is the kind of restaurant which you need to dine at with a large group.  One reason is because its dishes tend to be on the large and substantial side.  For another, when you go with many other people, you then can order a variety of dishes and sample a lot more of them than if you went alone or with just one or two other friends.
 
With our party being 12 in number this evening, I knew that I'd be able to try a bunch of dishes at the dinner.  Even so, I must admit to being on the shocked side when the decision was made for us to order 12 different dishes -- which turned out to be 13 in total since, unbeknownst to us, the restaurant also hands out complimentary bowls of sweet green bean soup for dessert!  

As it turned out, I think we did justice to the food served.  Put another way, we actually weren't overwhelmed by the amount of food that came to our table -- though I did worry early on when I saw the size of the first three dishes we were served.  As it turned out though, they actually happened to be the largest dishes we were served all evening; with pretty much everything else being a fair bit smaller in size than the eight treasures duck (i.e., duck stuffed with lotus seeds and presumably seven other ingredients!), the top-priced (at HK$300) whole salt baked chicken, and the heaping -- and, actually, really delicious -- bowl of pig's stomach, dried beancurd sheets and gingko nut soup that got our dinner going. 
 
Among the dishes that followed were familiar items like Hakka-style stewed pork belly with preserved mustard greens and old Cantonese favorite, sweet and sour pork, but also unfamiliar dishes like a mainly egg white affair which, upon investigation, also contained crab and prawn meat.  If pushed to name a favorite dish of the night, that last dish may well be it -- though other strong contenders would be the deep fried prawns coated with salty duck egg yolk (even though, if truth be told, I prefer the version served up by Tung Po over Central Restaurant's) and the baked tapioca custard pudding that I ended tonight's feast with two servings of!  
 
Before the bill was handed out, a couple other members of the dinner party and I were discussing what we considered the meal to be worth.  Having decided that it'd be a bargain at HK$200 per person, still okay value at HK$250 per head but overpriced if we had to pay HK$300 each, we were very pleased as well as surprised to find that the total damage actually came out to just HK$140 per person!
 
When looking at the bill, it was discovered that the two most expensive dishes by quite a long chalk were the salt baked chicken (HK$300) and eight treasures duck (HK$250).  Interestingly, the general conclusion was that the highest priced dish of the night was actually one of the least tasty.  So if we were to return to eat again at Central Restaurant, we'd substitute the chicken and duck dishes for a couple of other options -- and maybe end up with a bill of less than HK$100 for what, at least in terms of quantity, really is quite the feast! ;b  

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi There,

For baked tapioca custard pudding, those at Tak Lung (http://www.taklung.com.hk/) in San Po Kong are good. Last time I was there I poured some 10 year old port wine over the pudding and it was superb. Those from Lin Heung in Central is also good.

T

YTSL said...

Hi T --

Thanks for the recommendations. A couple of questions: 1) Would it be correct to assume that, like with Central Restaurant, the portions are pretty big, so one needs to go with a large group to properly enjoy a meal there?; and 2) does Tak Lung have an English menu? Also, have you been to Lin Heung Kui in Sai Ying Pun? If so, how does it compare to Lin Heung over in Sheung Wan?

Anonymous said...

Hi There,

Concerning the printed menu at Tak Lung, I remember they have a graphical menu of sort, hard bound. Not all the items have English entries though. If you speak Cantonese or Mandarin or other local dialect you should be able to communicate with the restaurant.

As for the size of the gang, I've gone there with table of four up to over 16. The size of most of the standard dishes are just normal size, more incline towards modest. But if you call ahead and order fore a bigger gang they will adjust both the size of the dishes and the bill. Sort of Flexible. You could place customized orders ahead too. Just name your dish and most likely they would know how to do it. They may need a few days to procure raw materials.

When I went there in fours, those are usually the wine gang. We would go there a bit after 1900 hrs and stay until close to midnight, drinking and eating slowly.

Recommended dishes are Cantonese Siu Mei (BBQ stuffs). Their roasted goose is on par with those being served by Yue Kee in Shum Jeng and/or Yung Kee in Central. Best goose is the period around Tsing Ming Festival in Spring. If there are sufficient numbers you could order a whole goose. They also have standard size servings.

As for Lin Heung, Lin Heung Lau in Central is better. They are of the same restaurant group though. Lin Heung also has the stuffed Duck dish. Dishes are also modest in size but they are also flexible and would accept custom orders.

Lin Heung also have a graphical menu for tourists.

I'll see if I could remember some of the dishes I had had in these two and then get back to you.

T

YTSL said...

Hi again T --

Thanks for the tips! I know that Lin Heung Lau has an English/pictorial menu.

Re Tak Lung: the thing is that I seldom eat with more than two people at a time. But if I do go there, I'll order something besides siu mei since I have my favorite places for those. E.g., for roast goose, my favorite place by far is the Yat Lok in Tai Po. (And yes, I've eaten at Yue Kee in Sham Tseng and Yung Kee in Central. ;b)

Anonymous said...

Hi There,

A few non-Siu Mei dishes that I like at Tak Lung:

1. Sweet and Sour Pork (San Ja Goo Lo Yuk in Cantonese 山楂咕嚕肉). By accident for this particular dish me and the wine gang found out it formed an exceptional pair with aged port ine;
2. Baked fish intestines with eggs (焗魚腸). I actually like the steamed version more, but this suffice in most places as very few restaurants offer the steamed version these days;
3. Baked oysters with port wine sauce (砵酒焗生蠔). Just another example of greasy stuffs with something sweet as sauce;
4. Baked yellow tail neck. (焗油魽魚較) This is one of the clay port dishes. Yellow Tail as in Japanese Sushi.

Portions of these tends to be small to mediocre if you order the standard size.

T

YTSL said...

Hi once more T --

Thanks for the recommendations.

Re sweet and sour pork: I'm pretty much always up for that. Have to say though that I'd hesitate to drink that with something like aged port wine -- and actually, about the strongest thing I drink when eating Cantonese food is lager/pilsner beer!


Re baked fish intestines with eggs: I had this dish for the first time a few months back at Tin Heung in Sham Shui Po. Have you eaten at that dai pai dong?

Re baked yellowtail neck: I love yellowtail sushi, sashimi and grilled. Am not sure though if I'd like it baked as, if truth be told, I tend to prefer good fish raw rather than cooked.

Anonymous said...

Hi There,

Port wine is a bit stronger than Sake, but if you just sip a little bit for the sweet & sour pork it would just be superb. Funny for my gang's finding of this unconventional match. It happened when we popped the bottle of 30 years port as dessert when one of use said the aroma of the port made her wants to have Sweet & Sour Port. We were close to up to our neck in stuffs (both booze and chow), but we went along. It was unforgettable.

Anyway, 30 year ports are sort of expensive these days so I would settle for 10 year old ones, like the Otima 10, available at Watson's. (https://www.warre.com/our-port/otima/4) Try some sometimes. I'm yet to encounter anyone who does not like Otima 10 yet. Even for occasional drinkers.

For opened ports, if you put it in the fridge it could stay good for a week, maybe a few days more. One other thing for Ports. There are half bottles around. The Otima 10 mentioned come only with 500 ml bottles. Should be save for 3 to 4 for a half bottle, I think.

I think some Japanese Restaurants would serve roasted yellow tail neck on charcoal or on grill. My first attempt for this was in J-Town in Los Angeles in Sushi-Gen (http://www.sushigen-dtla.com/) back in 1999. Recently I started making my own if I could get old of one of those flash frozen yellow tails or the left overs of sushi counters at super markets. After properly defrosting, they are good for soup or grilled with a splash of ghee.

I used to have the steamed version of fish intestine with eggs in Kwun Tong. There used to be a dai pai dong called Sam Kee making quite a few of these fish intestine dishes. But since the lot was under redevelopment and the cook decided to fold, I have not found anybody else doing the steamed version yet.

My own wine experience towards greater Cantonese food is that, they could easily be paired with Sake or white wine or champagne. Certainly good beer as well. Don't be afraid to have some clashes of your senses as long as you sip instead of gulp. :-)

Good eating.

T

YTSL said...

Hi once again T --

I'm actually not unfamiliar with port wine -- believe it or not, I was introduced to it at the age of 13, at the end of a fox hunt in England! Have to say though that my preference is to have it as an after dinner drink rather than with any food, or even sometimes just as a warm-me-up on a wintry day/evening.

Also, as I think you know, I'm not a big fan of wine -- and in some ways, I'm happy for it to stay that way since I'm already a pretty big fan of a number of other alcoholic drinks, including sake, beer and gin-, chartreuse- and mezcal-based cocktails! ;)

Anonymous said...

Hi There,

Sorry, couldn't help when the topic is food pairing with booze. I would just start babbling. Sake then. Anything Junmai upwards more inclined towards the dry side should be fine for Cantonese stuff.

Oh, talking about food again, if you could summon sufficient mouths and bellies, you may opt for some good soup, custom to order. Or simply ask for something seasonal.

These traditional installments may have soup of the day though. But you'd better ask in advance.

Ah, almost forgot. for Tak Lung, you should try the Tai Ye Chicken. I don't know exactly how it's made but it has an oaky tang on the skin, probably have something to do with smoking. Minimum order is a half and you might have to reserve it together with your table, especially on weekends. This is one of their signature dishes.

T

YTSL said...

Hi yet again T --

Teehee and sorry but I'm not convinced yet of junmai sake's suitability with Cantonese food (even while loving it with steak and cheese as well as most Japanese food). But I'd definitely order soup at a place like Tak Lung and its Tai Ye Chicken does sound intriguing! ;b

Anonymous said...

Hi There,

This would seem to be a chicken and egg question. Well, if you want to find out you would have to brace for the impact and try it out. Maybe go with a half bottle sometimes.

Other than the port wine with sweet and sour pork, I had had other weird pairing like Pinot Noir with Szechuan spicy and numb stuffs, Sake with steamed fish, Brazilian Caipirinha with red meat, White wine or Champagne with prime ribs....... These might be considered laughing stock to some, but who knows. I wouldn't mind trying out new combinations.

T



YTSL said...

Hi one more time T --

I think it's a different strokes for different folks thang. All in all, it seems that you're far more... daring and experimental in your fod and drink pairing tendencies than I am willing to be! ;)

Anonymous said...

Hi There,

The Central appeared folded. I have walked by the location a few times since last November and it is all dark, with a notice of renovation in progress.

Pity. It used to be an above average place.

T

YTSL said...

Hi again T --

I checked Openrice. The entry (currently) says that it's under renovation, not closed. Let's hope that's indeed the case!