Well, it’s been over two months since we got back to Minnesota from Hong Kong and here finally is my last meal report. This was our last restaurant meal there and in terms of reputation this was the biggest one of them all: under head chef Chan Yan-Tak, Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons holds three Michelin stars, the only Chinese restaurant in the world with that distinction, and is on most people’s short list of the best Cantonese restaurants in the world.
We’d not originally planned to eat there—I had Fook Lam Moon on my radar instead for high-end Cantonese—but as a result of our fabulous dim sum meal at Lei Garden (also in the International Finance Center where the Four Seasons is located) we ended up there for weekday lunch. Let me explain.
Our original dim sum plans had us eating one fancy version (slot filled by Lei Garden on the Saturday we were there) and one old school version (Maxim’s City Palace was probably going to be it on the Monday). But our Lei Garden meal was so jaw-droppingly good that I had to see if Lung King Heen could possibly top it. Accordingly, I dashed over to Lung King Heen at the conclusion of our meal to see if there was any scope of getting in for dim sum there the next day. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t. Nor did they have any availability for dinner that weekend. The best they could do for us was a table for lunch right before closing on Monday; but the hostess informed me that they had a small but quality dim selection on weekdays as well that we would likely enjoy. That sealed the deal even though it meant subtracting one meal: our seating was at 2.15 and there was no way we’d be ready to eat again until well after the boys’ bedtime. Moral of the story: if you want to eat at the top Hong Kong places at a time of your choosing you have to make reservations well in advance.
But we had no regrets anyway: this was a fabulous meal. I have to admit that Cantonese is not at the top of my list of favoured Chinese cuisines (Sichuan and Hunan, in that order) and so I haven’t eaten very many non-dim sum high-end Cantonese meals anywhere—I’ve only ever been to the big places in the SGV (Elite and Sea Harbour) for dim sum. And, of course, I haven’t eaten at the better Cantonese places in Hong Kong either. That is to say I have no context for rating Lung King Heen comparative to anything else, but I can say, again, that this was a fabulous meal. It was also a very expensive meal: the most we’ve ever paid for lunch and the most we’ve ever paid for a meal that did not revolve around raw fish. And that was despite the fact that we were very careful to stay on the affordable end of every section of the menu that we ordered from.
The restaurant does offer a set “executive lunch” on weekedays (along with the “seasonal dim sum” selections, of which there are about 10). When we were there this ran HKD 540/head (or $70’ish US). This is originally what we’d planned to eat. But after looking at the menu and wondering if we would ever have such an opportunity again, and keeping in mind that it was my birthday later that month, we decided to go a la carte. But, as I say, we didn’t go all out. Each section of the menu has a number of dishes that are marked as recommended by the chef and we mostly got the most affordable ones from that subset. We still ended up spending $136 (US) per head and that was without anything but tea to drink. If you were to venture in the direction of some of the more expensive ingredients (abalone, bird’s nest etc.) you could very easily pay 3x/4x as much; and with wine, you’d of course pay far more still.
I should say, however, that portions are quite generous and if there had been a third adult with us we would have needed to order only one more main dish for all three to eat very well; as it was, the two of us over-ate (the boys had already eaten—2.15 was a little late for their lunch, luckily for our wallets). So really this meal could have been closer to $105/head, at which point a) it begins to approach the realm of a good deal (relatively speaking) and b) the rationale for choosing the executive lunch over it begins to recede. That said the executive lunch is a good option for anyone dining there alone.
So, what did we get? In the order that they were brought out:
- Crispy Scallops with Fresh Pear and Yunnan Ham: From the seafood section of the menu, this was brought out first and it was just excellent. Excellent scallops (and a large number of them) atop little slices of pear, the whole fried to a delicate crisp that did not compromise the juiciness of the scallops or the pear.
- Barbecued Suckling Pig: From the barbecue/appetizer section. An exquisite presentation of suckling pig with impossibly crispy skin, a little sheet of tender meat and a mini pancake inside each piece. Served with excellent house-made hoisin sauce.
- Steamed Shanghainese Pork Dumplings with Conpoy: We were blown away by the XLB at Lei Garden but this might have been even better. The dumplings were immaculate at both places but the broth was more complex here and the dried scallop atop the pork inside gave the filling more texture as well. The missus kindly ceded the third dumpling to me.
- Steamed Seafood Dumplings: These were good as well but nothing amazing.
- Braised Asparagus Stuffed in Bamboo Piths with Assorted Fungus and Tofu: From the vegetables section. One way to describe this dish might be to say that it is bland. But this would be a mistake. This was a master-class in textures from the crisp asparagus to the bamboo pith (wrapped around the asparagus) to the various fungi to the little balls/pouches of tofu and egg. All floating on a delicate, cloudy broth thickened with corn starch (I’d guess). This is the exact kind of dish that I would have thought would have left me cold but instead I really liked it.
- Wok-Fried Prawns with Organic Black Garlic and Dried Chilli: Also from the seafood section this was not the most prepossessing presentation but was just wonderful. All the flavours in perfect balance and tremendous prawns.
- Braised Egg Noodles with Shrimp Wontons and Ginger: Though we’d already ordered a lot for two people our server recommended ending with a noodle dish and suggested this would go best with the rest of our order. It was indeed excellent with a sauce enriched with roe, putting in perspective the quite good wontons and noodles at Tasty Congee the previous day.
And now some pictures of the restaurant and the food. (For some reason my camera’ custom white balance controls had a really tough time with the mix of natural and artificial light at our table.)
An excellent meal, on the whole. Without having tried more of the less expensive Cantonese stalwarts in town it’s hard for me to opine on the relationship between the quality and the price but the quality was very good. That said, even though we ordered almost entirely from the list of “Chef’s Recommended” dishes the full measure of a restaurant like this can probably be best taken by those with the wherewithal to order in a more carefree manner from the seafood and bird’s nest sections, where there were individual dishes that cost a significant fraction of our total bill. I’m not sure that I’d come back (if I get to come back) for another limited sampling of the a la carte menu before trying other, less expensive places in town, but I would certainly come back for their weekend dim sum and possibly also to try the executive lunch. As it is, I am very glad we got to try it.
The service was excellent, by the way: solicitous without being overbearing and not in the slightest bit stuffy.
I tried Lung King Heen last year also, for their weekend dim sum. Thankfully, we had some local friends who booked it ahead of time. Food and service were impeccable and every dim sum dish was really much, much better than anything I’ve tried in a long time. However, two days after that, we tried the 1-michelin star Tim Ho Wan for dim sum… Guess what? 1 star was better than 3 stars!!! Maybe because I’m old school and I thought the authentic flavors of Tim Ho Wan was more to my liking and more exciting. And it was a lot cheaper! With that said, when we go back next time to HK, we will try Lung King Heen for dinner. And back to Tim Ho Wan for dim sum!
We looked in on the IFC branch of Tim Ho Wan on the day we had the Tasty Congee meal: the line was just too crazy to contemplate with two small children. That said, I’ve heard up and down things about it: variation across branches and a limited menu are two things that kept coming up. Which branch did you go to?
I went to the older one in Sham Shui Po! Long line also, but they move fast. Limited menu is fine as long as the classics are there and done superbly… Whenever I go to dim sum, I order the same 10 dishes probably, time and time again.
I respect that and I’m sure they do those far better than even the best places in the San Gabriel Valley. However, the fancy stuff at Lei Garden was just so amazing (and their takes on the classics were great too) and that stuff we don’t really see at all in the US.
(A minor correction: this wasn’t actually our last restaurant meal in Hong Kong; as mentioned earlier, we ate at the airport Crystal Jade again on the way out the next day—almost missing our flight in the process. What I meant to say was that this was the last meal we ate at a restaurant we hadn’t previously eaten at.)