When I worked in London, I spent several years working for a restaurant which was in the very proud possession of a Michelin star and enjoyed the opportunity to visit other “starred” restaurants with friends or colleagues to see what exactly it was that set them apart from other restaurants. Whilst Michelin is certainly not the be all and end all of eating out, I do like to try to visit their picks on my travels, money permitting and my trip to Hong Kong was no different.
Lung King Heen, located in the Four Seasons hotel near Hong Kong/Central station is the worlds only Chinese 3 Michelin star restaurant and when I discovered they offered an “executive” set lunch at HK $470 (approximately $80 sgd) I was determined to visit and see what it was that set them apart from the rest.
Arriving shortly before noon I presented myself to the reception desk and then waited in the lobby outside for them to open. When the hour approached, several hostesses seamlessly appeared to seat us in the order in which we had arrived meaning as the first to register with the hostesses I had the pleasure of being the first guest whisked through to the restaurant. When I had booked via email I had requested a window seat but had been informed that they were all pre booked so I was quite delighted when I was taken into the larger of the two rooms and shown to a beautiful table (set for one with a selection of magazines for me to read already on the table) with stunning views across the causeway to Kowloon.
The room is sleek and stylishly minimal, everything you’d expect of the Four Seasons, it’s a sea of crisp, starched white linen with comfy, brown leather chairs and splashes of colour on the pillars to the side of the room. No sooner had I been seated an immaculately groomed waitress appeared and offered me tea which I agreed to (secretly hoping i wasn’t going to be stung by this when the bill arrived and I would belatedly realise I had ordered some rare blend prized by former emperors etc!)
I shouldn’t have been concerned, the jasmine tea I was served was in fact listed on the menu as Chinese tea and was only HK$30 and came beautifully presented in a modern china teapot atop a little latticed silver tea stand with a candle (is this why they are called tea lights? I never really thought of it before!) inside to keep the tea warm.
In addition to the set lunch they offer a small selection of dim sum as well as an impressively long menu with whole pages dedicated to topics such as BBQ, Birds Nest and Abalone as well as Rice and Noodles, Poultry, Organic and Vegetarian, Meat, Seafood, Soups and Broths.
The set menu that day consisted of the chefs choice of dim sum, the soup of the day, roast goose, sautéed pork loin in xo chilli sauce, fresh braised tofu with shrimps and mushrooms and a choice of either fried rice with seafood or shrimp wonton noodles in broth as the last of the savoury dishes before finishing with sweetened potato soup with osmanthus and ginger and petit fours.
Almost immediately after I placed my order the dim sum were whisked to the table, a steamed shrimp and bamboo dumpling and also a little green courgette or zucchini dumpling with celery and mushrooms. I was a bit unsure if I should eat them au natrel so to speak or to smother them in black vinegar, soy and chilli as I usually would, so resolved to try a little piece as the chef had sent it before adding sauces to the remainder of the dumplings. The shrimp dumpling was very good with a whole shrimp inside as well as finer pieces of chopped shrimp with just the right crunch to it, however for me it was the courgette, mushroom and celery dumpling that stood out, the differing textures of the fillings and use of multiple different types of mushrooms meant it was just a bit more interesting than the shrimp although they were both excellent.
A spring roll filled with garlic and shrimp came next, again a faultless example with a real savoury flavour coming through from the wild garlic used inside, this came with a little pot of Worcestershire sauce which I was slightly intrigued by but decided against adding.
I was barely half way through the spring roll when the soup arrived, I was a bit surprised to hear it was apple and snow fungus and am generally not a fan of Chinese soups as I find them a bit bland and they tend not to look the most appealing of dishes either. I now stand corrected. I could eat this soup every day it was so good! The apple flavour was slightly tart, like a granny smith apple almost but without being acidic and the snow fungus which looked rather chewy was almost silken in texture, the unadvertised chunks of pork were a welcome discovery too! I had to restrain myself from finishing it as the roast goose arrived, and I was worried I would get too full if I ate everything.
I have never tasted goose before and I can’t say I’d be rushing to try it again but it was interesting to try something new all the same. The crispy skin gave way to a layer of juicy fat before you reached the meat itself which had almost a pork flavour, certainly not like the game birds or turkey I had been expecting. The plum sauce it was served with was made from yellow plums and had a great refreshing and tangy flavour, it was most unlike any chinese plum sauce I had tried before, a great way to balance all that fat.
This was followed by the pork loin which was wonderfully moist and flavourful, I think they leave a little fat on it instead of removing it all? The vegtables still retained their crunch and the little padron pepper type chillis on top were nicely charred although The XO sauce didn’t deliver as much spice as I was expecting but then this was another dish I hadn’t tried previously.
At this point I realised that not only do Chinese people (in my experience only I should add) like to be served very quickly but “executive” lunches are also designed to rush busy businessmen and women back to their offices as quickly as possible and as I am neither of those things, I asked the waitress if we might be able to slow the pace down a so I could be able to take it all in a bit better which they did with no hassle at all.
The braised tofu which followed was so good I completely forgot about the two huge shrimps on top (only managing 1/2 of one of them) the tofu was light, slightly chewy with a lovely nutty flavour to it and the overall dish was very fresh and delicate. Then it was onto the wonton soup. I had already eaten wonton twice in the previous 24 hours and was intrigued to see what the 3 Michelin starred version would be like in comparison to the others (which I had really enjoyed) This time there was very little actual soup with plenty of noodles crowding the two perfectly bite sized wontons in the bowl. The broth was delicately flavoured but still tasty enough for me to want to finish and the bouncy, springy noodles were cooked just al dente. As for the wonton, well they really were just the peak of perfection for me. The shrimp was cut smaller than in the earlier dumpling and little strands of fungus proved a very pleasing contrast texturally. The wonton wrapper was somehow elastic enough to be chewed yet seemed to have a silken texture, gliding around on my Chinese soup spoon. A truly outstanding dish, I’m not sure I’ll be able to eat wonton noodles again without thinking of this version!
Although I was sorry to finish, the sweetened potato, ginger and osmanthus soup soon cheered me up when it arrived as it was electric purple! Having not particularly enjoyed Chinese desserts when I’ve tried them in the past, I loved how light and refreshing this was, it really was a great dessert to finish such a lavish lunch with. The tiny pumpkin seed tart and coconut and red bean jelly served as petit fours showed that even this gets expert attention. The contrast of the coconut with the beans was a wonderful match and the pastry on the tart was so good I can only imagine what their baked BBQ pork buns would be like, but I will have to leave that to another visit.
Whist you can eat well for 10% of what I paid for lunch at Lung King Heen, it really was an excellent experience and I am glad I decided to spend my last lunch in Hong Kong enjoying their excellent hospitality and 3 star cuisine.