Dim Sum at Mandarin Kitchen (Bloomington, MN)


Oh boy, this post is going to win me even more friends and well-wishers in the Twin Cities food world.

My views on dim sum in the Twin Cities have never been popular. Many people here say that the dim sum scene in the Twin Cities is very good. In this they are supported by members of the local food media. Exhibit A for this position is Mandarin Kitchen in Bloomington, a restaurant whose dim sum selection has recently been described by one critic who dislikes me intensely as “dizzying, dazzling”. Alas, our opinion—the missus and mine—has always been that Mandarin Kitchen is in fact the worst of a ho-hum lot. We liked Jun Bo in Richfield better (before it closed) and still prefer Yangtze in St. Louis Park and the far less written about A&L Chinese in Inver Grove Heights. However, our last meal at Mandarin Kitchen was some years ago. That meal was so bad we’d sworn to never go back; but my parents are in town again and they always want to go to dim sum and Mandarin Kitchen is the most conveniently located of all dim sum houses for us. And so we decided to go back and see if things have improved. Here are our findings. Continue reading

Crown Princess (Toronto)


Back to Canada. We took the train from Montreal to Toronto, a journey that takes longer than I’d thought it would before we purchased our tickets, and which mostly goes through rather boring countryside. Well, there may be things of interest in there, I suppose, but nothing very interesting to look at from the train. Arriving at our hotel around 2.15, we were all starving—we’d foolishly assumed there’d be food to eat on the train and there was nothing beyond snacks, and so very few of us had eaten anything since breakfast. Along with a few others I went out for a small snack to a Taiwanese place down the road from our hotel. This is not an account of that small snack. This is an account of the meal a few hours later that is the reason for our having gone out for only a small snack: a full-on Cantonese banquet dinner at Crown Princess, rated by many as the best formal Cantonese restaurant in Downtown Toronto. The best Chinese food, otherwise, I’m told is out in the suburbs of Markham and Scarborough. I’ve no idea where Crown Princess ranks in the Greater Toronto Cantonese hierarchy but I can tell you this was a very good meal. Continue reading

Dim Sum at Tim Ho Wan (Hong Kong, December 2018)


Here finally is my last food report from my Hong Kong trip in December. As on our previous visit in 2016, I inaugurated my eating at Crystal Jade at the airport not too long after landing; but on this occasion I did not eat my last meal there as well. Instead, I took the opportunity offered by traveling alone to eat at Tim Ho Wan’s Hong Kong station outlet. We’d tried to do this on the last trip too but the line was very long on every occasion that we passed it and our kids were in no mood to stand in it. The line was quite long this time too but I stood in it and it moved fast enough to not be a trial. Was the food worth it? Yes, it was.  Continue reading

Dumplings etc. (Hong Kong, December 2018)


A quick roundup of small meals/bites that even I don’t have the energy to blow up into individual posts of their own. First, breakfast on arrival at Crystal Jade’s branch in the Hong Kong airport. This is where we had our first and last meals of our trip in 2016 and there was no way in hell I wasn’t going to eat there again right after landing. A bit of disappointment here as I was looking forward to a bowl of their excellent congee—what could be more restorative after a 15 hours flight?—but discovered they’d recently taken congee off their menu at the airport. It’s just a small selection of noodle dishes and dumplings now. Well, the dumplings themselves were not disappointing at all. I got an order of the pan-friend dumplings and an order of their XLB. A pretty good first meal in Hong Kong.  Continue reading

Lung King Heen, Executive Set Lunch (Hong Kong, December 2018)


Other than Crystal Jade at the airport, Lung King Heen was the only restaurant I ate at on this trip to Hong Kong that I’d eaten at before. That was during our short family sojourn in the city in early 2016. We’d gone there with every intention of eating their Executive Set Lunch but on arrival got seduced by their a la carte menu. That was a very expensive lunch but also a very delicious one. I did nonetheless harbour a bit of a sense of unfinished business re their Executive Lunch; and so when I had a meeting on this trip at the IFC, I couldn’t resist walking over to the Four Seasons and inquiring about the possibility of a lunch seating later in the week. Once again, I managed to get a table with only a few days notice; once again it was in a corner of their dining room, far away from their fabled view of Victoria Harbour. But I was not complaining.  Continue reading

Kwan Kee Claypot Rice (Hong Kong, December 2018)


For my first dinner in Hong Kong I had lined up at Kau Kee for brisket/tendon curry noodle soup. My next three dinners were far away from traditional Cantonese: Thai on the second night (review coming soon), mod-Vietnamese on the third night, and fusion’ish on the fourth night (review coming soon). On the fifth night, however, my friends and I went out for a very hardcore Cantonese meal of claypot rice at a place so known for claypot rice that it has it in its name: Kwan Kee Claypot Rice (at least I assume that’s the restaurant’s full name—it shows up that way on English language sites; of course, I do not read Chinese).  Continue reading

Mak An Kee + Samdor (Hong Kong, December 2018)


What could be more Christmas than an account of eating wonton-noodle soup in Hong Kong? You’re welcome!

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.  Continue reading

Congee at Law Fu Kee (Hong Kong, December 2018)


In the write-up of my quick dinner at Kau Kee I mentioned the genre of foodie recommendations for places like Hong Kong that is often seemingly predicated on running down any place that is too well-known or too often recommended to visitors. This is especially true of casual, down-market restaurants and stalls. Theoretically, there is nothing wrong with this per se: many places that show up on lists show up on lists because they show up on lists, and it can be useful to receive—if difficult to parse—counter-narratives. But when these counter-narratives are presented by people who are not residents of those places but themselves visitors, something else sometimes/often comes into play: the fantasy that one is not a tourist but a traveler—altogether more cosmopolitan, almost local.  Continue reading

Kau Kee (Hong Kong, December 2018)


On this trip to Hong Kong I did on multiple occasions something I hate to do at restaurants: I stood in line. I hate to do it not because I am too good to stand in line (though that’s true as well) but because I am too impatient to stand in line; plus when you’re in a foreign city for a limited number of days, spending a good chunk of your time in line for food doesn’t seem like the best use of it. (I don’t count waiting for a table at dim sum in this context as that’s a given unless you’re at the rare place that takes reservations.) But if you’re in Hong Kong and you like Cantonese food you’d be silly not to eat a lot of noodles in soup, and at a lot of the places that sling it you’re going to have no option but to stand in line. Thankfully, at none of those places will you have to stand in line very long. As I noted in my review of my lunches on my first day at Tsim Chai Kee and Mak’s Noodle, when you make it in you’ll be seated at a small table with many strangers and you’ll expected to order quickly, eat quickly, pay quickly and fuck off quickly so that they can keep the line moving. And so it was at Kau Kee. It was the longest of the lines I stood in (well, until Tim Ho Wan on my way to the airport a week later) but it moved rapidly*. And when I got inside and got my bowl of noodle soup, I was very happy.  Continue reading

Dim Sum at Maxim’s Palace (Hong Kong, December 2018)


On my previous visit to Hong Kong, I ate the best dim sum I have ever eaten. That was at the Michelin-starred Lei Garden in the IFC mall. On this occasion my friends in Hong Kong—well, one of them was out of town that weekend—insisted I go instead to an older-school place, and we hit on Maxim’s Palace in City Hall in the Central area. Maxim’s Palace is one of the few remaining cavernous banquet halls in Hong Kong, still serving dim sum on carts. Over the last decade or so, I’ve become un-enamoured of dim sum on carts—all the best places in the San Gabriel Valley switched to a la carte ordering over that period, following the lead of the better Hong Kong places. But my friend insisted and since I was curious to see what cart dim sum at a high-end place in Hong Kong would be like I did not resist.  Continue reading

Tsim Chai Kee + Mak’s Noodle (Hong Kong, December 2018)

I leave Hong Kong today and so it’s time to finally post my first food report. I’ve been eating like a maniac ever since I arrived—literally, since I arrived: the first thing I did at the airport was eat dumplings at Crystal Jade. As I’m traveling alone on this trip—and as my friends in Hong Kong have busy lives—most of my meals during the days have been eaten solo. And one of the genres that I have been hitting up a lot is one that we could not really do as a family on our last trip in 2016: small establishments that dish out variations on noodle soup and wontons. It’s hard with a family because you invariably have to queue up, then you get seated at very cramped tables, probably with strangers and you’re expected to order and eat quickly, pay and fuck right off so the line can keep moving. With small kids all of this is a challenge. On my own though it’s been very easy.   Continue reading

Dim Sum at Elite, Again (Los Angeles, July 2016)

Elite: Sticky Rice
We skipped dim sum on our trip to L.A. last winter—this because we were going to be in Hong Kong a month later and it didn’t seem particularly urgent to eat dim sum in L.A. Now, of course, after five months in Minnesota, the opportunity of eating dim sum that is better than just acceptable was hard to pass up. I have to admit, however, that I was a little bit nervous: years of eating dim sum in the San Gabriel Valley has made it hard for me to get excited about dim sum in Minnesota (the best of which would be about third-tier in the SGV); would eating excellent dim sum in Hong Kong do the same to the SGV? Our meal at Lei Garden had been an order of magnitude better than any we’d ever eaten at Sea Harbour or Elite—would either of these places still do it for us? It was to one of these that we wanted to go, of course: they’re still the consensus top picks in the SGV. The fact that we were going to be eating on July 4 all but ruled Sea Harbour out. The waits can be 1-2 hours on regular weekends. Elite can be as crowded but for whatever reason we’ve always had luck getting in there, and so that’s where we decided to take our chances. How did it turn out? Read on.  Continue reading

Lung King Heen (Hong Kong, Jan 2016)

Lung King Heen:
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. Continue reading

Tasty Congee & Noodle Wantun Shop (Hong Kong, Jan 2016)

Tasty Congee: House Specialty Wonton Noodles in Soup
After a week off I’m back to reports on our meals in Hong Kong in late January and early February. This is the home stretch—only two more after this, probably. I’m also back in the IFC mall. This was our third meal there and we came back again the next day for an outstanding lunch at Lung King Heen. This, however, was a meal at the far end of the spectrum from Lung King Heen. Which is to say not that it was cheap (though much cheaper than Lung King Heen or even Lei Garden) but that it features very basic Cantonese comfort food: the setting, as befits the IFC location, was also very comfortable indeed; this is no Yat LokContinue reading