cafés… western-styled, local-styled 

Generally, businesses in Hong Kong seem to enjoy a slightly longer lifespan as compared to Singapore. Or maybe it just boils down to them having a better head for business? Cafes and F&B establishments here open and close fairly quickly, but somehow I noticed that in Hong Kong, cafes seem to be enjoying business brisk enough to open more outlets. Perhaps these are only the rare ones that we see, and that there could be much more that are closing which we are not aware of. Anyhow, it was only on this trip when I realised that the Cupping Room, a cafe that I had visited in the Sheung Wan area a couple of times before, had opened new outlets; there is one that is conveniently located along Wellington Street near to the mid-level escalators, and another which is nearer to the Wan Chai area.

I popped into the double-leveled Central outlet one morning for a cuppa while my friend was still sleeping. It was a nice, cool morning, and what’s a cup of Joe without something sweet to balance out the acidity that caffeine brings? So I ordered a banana bread, something I had always wanted to try, instead of going for their breakfast mains, though I was really tempted. The banana bread, more like a loaf cake, wasn’t too bad but again most of them taste generally the same. However, I did enjoy the sojourn, sitting there slowly sipping coffee and taking bites of the bread, while catching up on some reading.

When that was done, I made use of the connecting overhead walkways to IFC Mall, to do a spot of sale shopping at Zara, while waiting for my friend to contact me.

We finally met up at Lan Fong Yuen, which I had read about online and wanted to try their milk tea/coffee and bread. It’s really a non-descript hole-in-the-wall shop that was so cramped on seating that you are literally sitting elbow-to-elbow with other patrons, while trying to keep your butt on the mini stool. I can’t imagine how it must feel like in the summer heat, squeezed in that little space amidst so many patrons. So anyway, we decided to order the 鸳鸯, as my friend didn’t really enjoy the one we had at Tsui Wah, though I felt it was fairly OK, but then again I seldom drink that so I don’t know how it’s supposed to taste like.

For food, we opted for a stir-fried instant noodles with chicken and spring onion oil, as well as the toasted bun with condensed milk.
I think the yuan-yang here was a little disappointing for me because it felt just like a milk tea, without a single hint of coffee. Is that how it’s supposed to taste like, or had the coffee I took at the Cupping Room in the morning seasoned my tongue to the extent that I couldn’t detect the trace of coffee in this mix? The noodles were a winner for me. Despite that it’s a little oily, the fragrance from the spring onion oil made them so tasty! I should learn how to make noodles like that, though it isn’t so healthy to be eating instant mee, even if we are not dumping in that sinful pack of MSG-laden powder. Let’s take a closer look at the plate of heavenly goodness.  Then came the fall. The condensed milk bun… was just sad. For me. I admit that I am not a big fan of white breads, in most forms anyway, but the Tsui Wah bun, and another that I had tried at an open-air local coffee joint somewhere in the alleys of SOHO, were pretty decent and enjoyable. Somehow, this was a complete letdown. It’s like the bun wasn’t well-toasted enough, even if they had more condensed milk smeared on it than Tsui Wah.
Or maybe it could just be that a different type of bun or bread was used? So my conclusion was that, take online reviews with a pinch of salt, even if there are many positive reviews, because we all have different tastes, and also because sometimes reviewers just have not tried enough places to know which are the really good ones.As it was winter solstice, we proceeded to Cong Sau at Causeway Bay to have our 汤圆!  We also ordered the almond paste (or I think that’s what the other bowl was since it’s white haha), and I really like the tang yuan, because of its size. Even though there were 6 pieces which meant that we had to take 3 each, one ball was just a mouthful or two, and it contained black sesame, my favourite! Peanut would have been a good second choice but oh well, both are great. What I also liked about it was the soup base used, which is cooked in ginger, giving you a feeling of warmth as the spiciness of the ginger spreads through you on this cold day. Is it because it’s winter solstice that it feels colder that day? Because the next couple of days felt warmer, with one day even having temperatures that felt like what we typically have in Singapore, for December in Hong Kong – that is just an anomaly.
Since we were at Causeway Bay, we decided to just hang around the area and checked out Hysan Place, where we spent a long time browsing books and stuff at Eslite Bookstore that spanned several levels of the mall. They have pretty interesting reads stocked that I would have thought of buying, but they would just accumulate into clutter for me, even if I personally prefer physical books to e-books. I haven’t been reading much these recent years, which I think I resume reading, but because I was preparing to move, I decided not to get anymore stuff that would require me to transport them from the old to the new home.

After a while, it was feeding time again. Initially, we thought of having a tea/coffee break, so we were kind of looking around for tea-time sets, like coffee/tea with a slice of cake or something. But after some time, we thought that we should just have an early dinner instead, so we checked out this Japanese bistro. Perhaps it was a weekday night, so the place was quite empty, it almost felt like we had the whole restaurant to ourselves. Both of us took the set menu, which came with a small portion of salad and a mushroom soup as appetisers.These were our mains. My friend’s hamburg steak and my teriyaki grilled chicken. They were too generous with the sauce as you can probably see, and the fries were an indulgence for me. 🙂
Close-up of the mains.  
And that concludes the 冬至 day of feasting. Happy ‘belated’ winter solstice!

It’s all about the food

It probably does or not make sense, that although I visit Hong Kong fairly frequently, counting once or twice per year, there is a habit that I realised I have formed. When I enjoy something, I will have this tendency to revisit the eatery whenever I go to Hong Kong. The rationale is that since I like it, it is something that draws me back, right? Yet, in a city like Hong Kong, not unlike Singapore, where possibly many new eateries open all the time, I should be checking out new places, or at least recommended places that I have not yet tried. This was the case with say, Yee Shun Milk Company, which I used to visit without fail in the past, just to have their steamed milk pudding. Another one was Mak’s Noodles, and I always go to the outlet at Wellington Street, because it is always not crowded whenever I pop in and I find the staff relatively friendly (because they are not busy then I guess). I have since stopped going to Yee Shun or Mak’s, because I think I have had enough of the milk pudding which I find a tad too sweet for my liking now, and because I don’t generally eat much rice/noodles these days… going to Mak’s just for the wanton is not really that worth it for me.

But one place that I still go to without fail, at least for the last few times, would be Lin Heung. One of go-to dim sum places in the past was Luk Yu Tea House along Stanley Street. They are more tourist-friendly and probably pricier too (I can’t be totally sure) because of its restaurant-style setting. It’s much like our dim sum places in Singapore like Crystal Jade or the likes where you sit down and someone comes to take your order, which you do using a sheet of paper that only has Chinese names of the dim sum dishes. Each time I go, I would order the same wrong dish that I end up not eating, because I kept thinking that is something I want, but it turns out to be some innards dish that I don’t dare to eat. Haha!

Once, on a trip to Hong Kong, my friend and I checked out Lin Heung Tea House on Wellington Street, and I was quite sold. It’s so full of local flavour, even if there are many tourists who are easily recognisable, some even coming with their luggage cases in tow. You can see the uncles and aunties out for their morning yum cha, toting newspapers while sipping on a cup of Chinese tea, slowing taking bites of their ma-lai-gao or the lotus-leaf-wrapped glutinous rice.

The last few times, I have gone to Lin Heung at Sheung Wan instead, and it was on of the past trips that I discovered the goodness of their egg tarts! These are the flak-crust variety that are what I would consider bite-size. It’s not as custard-y or eggy like how some egg tarts tend to be, and its size ensures that you don’t get overwhelmed by it!My friend ordered this deep-fried yam pastry that was also pretty delicious. I like all these yams, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and the likes, even if I seldom or rather, never order this because yes it is deep-fried and usually the other people I go to Lin Heung with don’t seem to be fond of ordering deep-fried items too. But its crispiness was assured since they are only pushed out on the carts when they are ready! That’s why I am always on a hit-or-miss expedition of sorts to Lin Heung because there are times when I go there and don’t get to have anything that I really wanted!
Char siew bun, which again, is something that is seldom on my order list because it’s too much carbo that fills up precious stomach space. Char siew in Hong Kong really tastes quite different from Singapore, even in the buns. Theirs is juicier, I think, and sweeter. Which reminds me of how sweet the char siew bun of Tin Ho Wan is.  And this item always attracts almost all the patrons to the push carts once the auntie exits from the kitchen! Everyone would just rush to the cart and when they realise it’s siew mai, somehow the steamers just get snapped up really fast in record time!
On the whole, I don’t find Lin Heung to be extremely affordable or cheap, and the dim sum isn’t intricate, in the sense that they don’t look exquisite. But then again, dim sum to me, is about the taste, which I think is decent, and the experience, which is quite fun! Imagine me chasing after the aunties grabbing at the dim sum steamers while clutching the order sheet in my hand, jostling with tourists and locals to make sure I get the siew mai. That’s quite a rare sight I would think.

That same day, or rather morning, we decided to pop into Tsui Wah, the newly-renovated and reopened outlet along Wellington Street. It’s definitely newer and cleaner now as compared to its previous self, but I think service wise, it seems to have slipped loads. I have only been to this Tsui Wah a few times but they always are quite prompt, but this time, we had to wait really long just to get our orders taken, and then for the drinks and food to be served (even though we only ordered the condensed milk bun), it took forever as well. Needless to say, the bill took its time to come too.
Their famed condensed milk bun on wholegrain bread which I thought was quite cool (and healthy perhaps?) but my friend lamented the measly amount of butter and condensed milk spread on the bread, which was supposed to be the main attraction of the bun!

I ordered a yuan-yang that I thought was not too bad and had both the flavours of tea and coffee evident. It probably boils down to individual preferences as my friend prefers that the coffee flavour is not so strong that it seemed to overpower the tea taste. Perhaps it’s because I am generally a coffee drinker so I would prefer that the coffee taste is distinct.
Close-up of the bun that disappointed my friend. LOL.  So then we went over to Kowloon for some shopping after all that eating, and I think Kowloon and me just don’t gel. I get a headache while being in Kowloon, even though Hong Kong is on the whole, crowded everywhere. After a couple of hours, I just needed to find a place to chill and relax, but then again cafes are pretty scarce in this part of Hong Kong, and we hard a really hard time trying to find seats! Finally, we managed to snag a seat each at this small but open Starbucks at Harbour City, and ordered a Chestnut cheesecake for our tea/coffee break. 🙂