We come down from the hipstery heights of Soho to the small noodle shops that feed hungry office goers from the skyscrapers in the IFC area. On my first day in Hong Kong I had back to back bowls of wonton-noodle soup at Tsim Chai Kee and Mak’s Noodle, and a few days later I had back to back bowls of wonton-noodle soup at two other restaurants in the area: Mak An Kee and Samdor. Mak An Kee is, I believe, an offshoot from the original Mak’s family operation. Samdor is unrelated and I came across it while looking on Open Rice for other noodle soup places in the vicinity. Here’s a quick look at both.
Mak An Kee is on Wing Kut street and is a bit difficult to find if you don’t read Chinese, as there is no English signage and shop numbers are not clearly marked either. But if you are walking down Wing Kut from Queen’s road, it is pretty much the last restaurant on the right, opposite some shinier establishments selling Thai and Vietnamese food. It is far more downmarket than either Tsim Chai Kee or Mak’s Noodle: basically, a long narrow corridor with small tables on either side. You sit down (probably with a stranger or two), put in your order, eat it quickly, pay and leave. Thankfully, while they have no English signage outside, they do have a bilingual menu and I ordered a bowl of shrimp-wonton and noodles in soup. Their iteration was very close to the Mak’s Noodle style with a similar springiness in the noodles from the alkaline treatment they apparently get. A good bowl, and I ate it quickly and set off in search of Samdor.
Samdor is much easier to find—both because they actually do have small English signage if you look for it and because their sign is much more easily recognizable from Google images. Unlike Mak An Kee, there was a small line outside and it was far busier inside. At Mak An Kee I shared a small booth with one older gent; at Samdor I was at a small round table with five young office-goers. The tables are right next to each other and people who couldn’t find a spot on the floor for their bags and purses ate with them on their laps. Only two people at our table knew each other; so it was again that oddly communal experience of eating with strangers without making any conversation with them. I got the shrimp-dumpling noodle soup here. It came with three big dumplings, mostly shrimp and some mushroom as well. Also very good.
There was a much longer line outside Samdor as I was leaving and so I was glad I’d arrived when I had.
So, what are my rough rankings of four wonton-noodle shops at which I ate only one bowl of soup each? For the very little it is worth, based on these single bowls I’d rank them as follows: 1. Mak’s Noodle; 2a. Mak An Kee; 2b. Samdor; 3. Tsim Chai Kee. I’m sure these preferences might change if I were to have a second bowl at each place or try one of their other offerings. In other words, pay no attention.
Coming up next from Hong Kong: more simple Cantonese food, this time revolving around claypot rice. And if all goes well, I should be back in the US (though not in MN) not long after that posts.