Shanghai Lane

About

I was a bit uncertain about Shanghai Lane as we walked in. The large black and white photos of Old Shanghai, the neat soy sauce pots on each table, and the smartly uniformed waiters all felt very packaged. I imagined other identical restaurants being set up by the company across the city and feared the food would taste equally indistinct. Overall though, while not that remarkable, the restaurant offered solid Shanghai food at lower prices.

The ‘braised pork belly with bean curd knots’ (HK$50) had fatty cubes of meat that were pleasingly tender, but didn’t melt sumptuously in your mouth like the best braised pork can. The meat was soaked in a sauce which felt a little thin, potent with Chinese rice wine but lacking more subtle flavours. In comparison the dark sauce of Xiao Nan Guo’s ‘red braised pork’ is thicker and loaded with hints of liquorish and cinnamon that it has absorbed through the long cooking process and make it really exciting to eat. The dish is twice the price at Xiao Nan Guo, but I’d probably rather pay the extra for these more stimulating flavours that really enhance the meat.

I was hesitant to pay HK$68 for fried noodles when some you can get them for half the price elsewhere. Shanghai Lane’s ‘fried noodles with shrimp, chicken and ham’ warranted the higher price though, reminding me more of pasta dishes in finer Italian restaurants than the oily ‘chau mihn’ of a lot of local cha chaan tengs. The noodles were just lightly brushed with oil, which enhanced rather than smothered their own fresh, slightly floury taste. The shrimp and chicken had also been handled delicately so the frying just lightly cooked them and brought out the strong seafood and tender white meats flavours. Together the noodles and shrimp offered really soft, yet enticing tones that were very enjoyable.

The siu lung bau (dumplings with pork and soup inside) followed the trend of being good whilst not really blowing me away. The dumpling wrapper was thin and tasted fairly freshly made, free from that chewy, micro-waved texture that often marks cheap dumplings. But the wrapper still didn’t have the homemade texture of the best dumplings, and the soup inside was a little bland, lacking those soothing brothy flavours which explode out of the best siu lung bao. Again, Xia Nan Guo offers better dumplings, as do many of the higher end dim sum places in Hong Kong.

If you’re hungry and looking for decent Shanghai food at a low price then Shanghai Lane is definitely worth a visit. Some of the more special braised dishes like the ‘sea cucumber’ or ‘pigs trotter’ might also offer something a bit more special, though I’m yet to try these. If you want more stimulating Shanghai food though, it’s probably worth paying a little bit more to head over to Xiao Nan Guo or somewhere else.

Directions

35-37 Gough Street, Central, Hong Kong Tel: 2850 7788

Notes

Open from 11:30 a.m. until 11 p.m.

Cost

Around HK$50 a dish, Dumplings HK$15-35 with some ‘chef’s recommendations’ for up to $200

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Yachiyo

ramen

 

About

I’d walked past this place quite a bit. It’s tucked away in On Wo lane, just behind Wellington Street in one of my favourite semi–hidden areas of the island. There are host of Japanese restaurants around the intersection of Aberdeen, Gough, Cage and Wellington streets, and I’m yet to really weed out the good from the bad. Yachiyo is definitely good.

A Japanese friend had also given Yachiyo his seal of approval, based on the fact that the noodle company he works for supplies them. The ramen here had an amazingly soft texture, melting in your mouth as you ate them and spreading a rich buttery flavour. They are the type of noodles you could eat unadorned and really enjoy.

Here though, the ‘spicy miso’ ramen I had came wonderfully presented in a bright red broth scattered with different additions. The soup really was exceptional, with a deep and hearty miso flavour just piqued by the right amount of spice. Its texture was especially satisfying. While not at all gloopy, the loaded flavours gave it a thickness so different from the tired, watery broths in a lot of places. I’m told this is because, instead of using a soup base, the chef here spend about six hour boiling down fish and other ingrediants into his own broth. 

Scattered into this broth are a liberal amount of other seasonings. Taking your chopsticks you can pull together the bits of seaweed, pickles, ginger and even strange very soft boiled egg, mixing all these with the noodles to further add to the depth of the flavours.  Although these ramen aren’t cheap, they are definitely worth the extra cash for the attention given to their preparation.

The restaurant does a range of ramen, a couple of cold noodle dishes, a few snacks like gyoza and fried vegetables, and Japanese ice cream. The beer and sake are reasonably priced and would go well will a bowl of spicy noodles. Worth checking out.

Directions

8 On Wo Lane (Kan U Fong), Sheung Wan

Price

$60 for a bowl of Ramen, $28 for 8 Gyoza

Notes

Open on Mon – Sat 12pm to 3pm and 6pm to 10pm.

Tel: 2815-5766

Hometown Dumpling

About

There are a few places dotted around Hong Kong Island doing good homemade noodles and dumplings, particularly Wang Fu in Soho, the two different Dumpling Yuan’s in Soho and Sheung Wan, and a place in Sai Ying Pun near the Chong Yip shopping centre.

You see them with all with trays laid out in the evening, rapidly stuffing filling into neat dumpling and lining them up row after row. All of these places are good basic fare rather than anything fancy, with prices to match.

Hometown has a better range of dumplings than most , with a lot of steamed buns and xiao lung bao on offer too.  Unlike Dumpling Yuan or Wang Fu, its menu is fairly limited to dumpling and a few different types of noodles though. If you’re not looking for either of these then you should probably go elsewhere.

Based on quality of dumplings alone, I’d say Hometown places near the top of the list. The Beijing lamb dumplings I had melted in my mouth with wrappers that were wonderfully buttery. The lamb stuffing had a really distinctive earthy flavour, and oozed succulent juice. 

The whole package tasted really freshly made, and massively better than the defrosted dumplings you get in so many places now.  

Directions

102 Caine Road, Mid Levels, Hong Kong

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Price

About $30 for bowl of dumplings and noodles, $30 for 12 dumplings, $10 for a steamed bun, $10 for plain noodles.

Cafe Little

About

www.cafelittle.com

Western style breakfasts tend to be pretty expensive in Hong Kong, with Cafe O’s clocking in at around $80 and other places even higher. This makes it hard to justify going for breakfast / brunch often like you might in the US.

But Cafe Little is out to change all of that. It offers a range of breakfast sets, none of which come to more than about $30 for the food and coffee. This small cafe on Hillier Street in Sheung Wan has a great retro feel, with plastic chairs and glass topped tables reminding me a bit of a local ‘caf’ in England, with the open cooking space bringing in hints of small American diners.

Like both of these is a functional place rather than somewhere to stay and relax; a place to get a good feed and some decent coffee before starting the day.  It’s the type of place I imagine a start-up group meeting to hack out different ideas, or a business man calling into during his short lunch place. Unlike the ‘cha chaan teng’ it isn’t so bustling that you can’t relax at all. 

It satisfies your hunger fairly well too. Although the scrambled eggs and toast ($25) I had suffered a bit from the blandness which seems to affect all HK eggs, they were mixed with herbs that gave them a stronger and more interesting taste. The espresso included with the set was of a high standard, as good as Cafe O or Graze anyway, and they also do more special coffee blends if you’re willing to pay a bit more.   

Other breakfasts come with bacon, or pasta, as well as the eggs. And Cafe Little also does a lot of different cakes. I’m yet to try any of these, but I will definitely be heading back in the future. Other people seemed satisfied with what they were eating from what I overheard. For a quick breakfast before work, or a feed after a heavy night out, Cafe Little is definitely to be recommended.

Directions

 Address: G/F, 27 Hillier Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

Cost

Breakfast sets $25-30 and ‘specialty’ coffees $25-35. 

 

Pho 26

About

I had walked part this place many times and hadn’t really expected much from it. But it turned out to have some of the best Pho I’ve had in Hong Kong, full of the strong fresh flavours which make the dish so special.

I believe that Pho should come overloaded with herbs and the version here didn’t disappoint. The noodles came with a huge pile of herbs and spring onion laid above the noodles. These slowly sank down into the broth giving it a really intense, earthy basil flavour that is so different from the water soup you get in a lot of places. There were also big clumps of lemongrass that added an extra, especially pleasing freshness and gave the broth more distinctiveness.

Some people might complain about the fact that this many herbs makes it harder to eat the noodles, but I’d much rather have this than loose all the flavour the herbs give. The pho perhaps could have done with a few more noodles in, but there was definitely enough to make is a satisfying porting. It also had a fairly generous amount of beef which, although not as tender as it could have been, wasn’t at all chewy like in some restaurants.

You can also get the special Kobe beef pho for $52 and a tomato sauce pho. Alongside these things, the restaurant has a pretty good selection of other Vietnamese dishes, like spring rolls and milk buns.

You can read another review here.

Directions

302 Queens Road Central, Sheung Wan

Cost

Pho about HK$30

Khyber Pass Indian Mess House

 

Mutton Saag, Mutton Jal Frezi and Chicken Mahkani

Mutton Saag, Mutton Jal Frezi and Chicken Mahkani

About 

Getting good Indian food in Hong Kong is not easy. If you go to most of the places on the island you’re likely to be dissapointed by half hearted, almost bland, attempts at different curries and preheated onion bhajis. A much better bet is to head over to Chungking Mansions which clusters a lot of the local India community and promises a much more authentic experience. 

Khyber Pass has for a long time been my pick of the different offerings in the mansion. When I visited several years ago, Khyber Pass offered curries cooked so that their different flavours were more intense, a wider range of different types of dishes and breads, and a generally more pleasant atmosphere. 

The balance of spices in the sauces at Khyber is its main strength, although the tandori dishes are also supposed to be good. The saag curries have spinach potent in flavour with a nice course texture that goes best with tender white chunks of chicken. We had the mutton saag however, and the sauce was let down by large chunks of lamb that were tastless and far too tough.

Mutton jalfrezi suffered from the same poor quality meat. Really the lamb should break apart into soft chunks. The jal frezi also lacked that slight piquancy which can make jal frezi so interesting. It had nicely balanced spices, but didn’t really leave you with a striking impression. The chicken mahkani was good however, with the really rich, subtly spice creaminess which makes this dish so satifying. 

Several other smaller complaints might further push me to look elsewhere. The popadoms came with tomato sauce. The waitress who took our order didn’t really listen properly and kept suggesting different things in an attempt to push the price up. The restaurant now serves alcohol and although the didn’t make a fuss about us drinking our own bottles, indicated that this was unwelcome in future. Other restaurants in Chungking allow you to bring your own. 

Directions

Chungking Mansions is located 36-44 Nathan Road. Entering the building from Nathan Road, you need to head to the back right hand elevator, and then go to the 7th floor. Alternatively if you ask the guys loitering out the front of the building, the chances are one of them will be eager to lead you to Khyber Pass and also to give you a 10% discount card.

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Doraya Japanese Restaurant

About

This small restaurant is definitely one of the best places I’ve been to in Hong Kong for Donburi.  You can get other Japanese food here too, but their speciality seems to be tuna dishes such as negitoro (minced tuna over rice) and the tekkadon (thin sliced tuna over rice).  You could stick to these without ever being disappointed.

I went for the lightly seared tuna (Circa HK$100) and was really struck by how they handled the fish to bring out all its qualities. It was very delicately singed on the edges, giving a hint of cooked flavour which added to, rather than damaged, the stronger impact of the raw fish.  Small pieces of onion scattered over the slices added a nice hint of texture, without being too bold.

Each fish slice broke easily into small, succulent chunks when touched by chopsticks, and it was great to pick these up with a little of the swollen, perfectly cooked Japanese rice below. The fish had a subtle yet distinctive, very pure flavour and melted in the mouth in the way that distinguishes really fresh, high quality fish. It had the buttery, subtle effect of tuna I’ve occasionally paid much more for at other places.

It’s rare to have a donburi dish and for each mouthful to have the same subtlety and delight that an individual piece of sushi might offer, but this place achieved that. 

Directions

415 Lockhart Rd, Causeway Bay

Also branches at 8 Tung Choi St in Mongkok and 10 Cameron Rd in TST

Notes

Open until 2am Monday thru Thurs, then 3am weekends.

Telephone:      

  • Causeway Bay 2834-8851        
  •  Mong Kok 2366-8072            
  • Tsim Shah Tsui 2300-1790

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