Hong Kong reminds me of Vegas. It is rapidly changing and the old is knocked down to make way for the new. Unlike Singapore, a lot of the old buildings here are no longer visible, and those which remain are not restored and kept up to reflect nostalgia unless they are main tourist attractions and therefore, requires such maintenance.
This was clearly evident when my god-siblings invited us to lunch at Hutong, a gorgeous restaurant atop the building that is known as One Peking Road — which ultimately is also the address of the vast structure. For the life of me, I can’t remember what stood here before, but once we stepped onto Peking Road, the billboards and designer stores were blinding and a wave of sadness fell over me as I see everything replaced by the same visuals I can get at South Coast Plaza at any given day.
Hutong 胡 同 means “alley” and it wasn’t surprising when the elevator doors opened on the 28th floor and the interior of the restaurant resembled what an antiquated Chinese alleyway would look like.
Okay, not really, but all the components are there from the tricycle rickshaw, wooden doorways, old-style birdcages, to all the re-created furnishings resembling that of my grandmother’s time. Something old, but given a face-lift to suit modern day tastes. But that’s about it. There is nothing really old about this place, in fact, quite the contrary!
The stunning view from its floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the harbor is breathtaking and if you wanted to impress out-of-town guests, this is THE place to take them.
Our meal began with an array of appetizers. Crabmeat and Turnip Rolls (HK$138/US$17.70) are paper thin slices of daikon with crab meat wrapped inside and rolled up to create a delicate cold dish. It was subtle and should be eaten first so your palate is not compromised by the other, heavier sauced dishes.
When I saw Chili Spiced Bamboo Clams (HK$168/US$21.50) I was immediately excited because I love razor clams! These steamed clams are steeped in a rice wine, garlic and chili sauce but never overpowering, allowing the natural flavor of the clams to shine.
Thinly cut pork belly with cucumber slices served with chili garlic sauce (HK$138/US$17.70) is something my mother makes at home. Poached pork belly is then sliced up and served with paper thin cucumber slices.
The chili garlic sauce has some sort of bean base and is basically what makes the dish. You put the cucumber, pork and sauce together and enjoy! I just love how the taste brought me back to my childhood. Note to self: make this when I return home.
Green Asparagus coated with White Sesame (HK$118/US$15.10) is again a simple dish of steamed asparagus coated with white sesame seeds to give it a bit of varying texture. Again, this is something easily replicated at home and I fully intend to do so once I get home.
Some Vegetarian Spring Rolls (HK$108/US$13.85) were ordered for the kids but of course there were enough for the adults too.
I love spring rolls in Hong Kong because they are made perfectly — rolled well with the right amount of crispiness to the wrappers. Served with the ubiquitous Worcestershire-based dipping sauce, it is a favorite among everyone.
Crispy De-Boned Lamb Ribs (HK$268/US$34.40) on the other hand, was not. My son definitely wasn’t a fan. Served on an impressive wooden slab with a bamboo basket of flour pancakes, garlic dipping sauce, scallions and fresh minced garlic, the lamb was very pungent and gamey but I loved it.
The rib meat was tender while the top was beautifully crispy. Take a piece of pancake, top with the lamb, drizzle with some sauce and add scallions and garlic as desired, wrap and voila, a delicious packet of tasty goodness.
My son’s favorite was Sliced Beef (HK$208/US$26.70), fried with sweet and dark vinegar sauce. The glazed beef slices were tart and slightly sweet and quite addicting. A few apple slices were thrown in for added flavor which I thought was a bit weird.
When Dragon Snow (HK$488/US$62.50) arrived I thought it was this fake “crab” dish my parents used to order when we were kids. It’s made completely of egg whites and the texture resembled that of crab. I hate that dish. This however was completely different. Lobster medallions are scrambled with egg whites and tossed with shrimp roe. A fluffy and airy dish so delicate it was like eating air. Nothing like that horrible dish I refuse to eat.
A very traditional dish from my childhood is Shanghai Style Honey Glazed Ham (HK$208/US$26.60), although it isn’t my favorite at all. I’m not into sweet savory dishes and this one definitely takes the cake with lotus seed and an osmanthus flower sauce.
A basket of Steamed Bread Rolls (HK$48/US$6.15) shaped like butterflies are served in a white and light green hue.
These are to be used as a bun for the ham to be stuffed into and then made into a “sandwich”. Stuff a lotus seed in for an added textural contrast.
Vegetables are a vital part of a Chinese meal and Bai Choy Poached in Fish Soup (HK$138/US$17.70) was highly welcomed by me. The soup base was made with dried flounder, an ingredient widely used to make stock at Hong Kong wonton noodle houses. There were bits of dried fish, bak choy and the most luxurious tasting broth it was sitting in.
Egg White Fried Rice (HK$128/US$16.40) is one of my favorite types of fried rice and presented in a bamboo basket. I make it at home sometimes and I use conpoy (dried scallops) in it — here they top it with conpoy and spring onion (scallion). My son didn’t care for it much but I loved it.
We ended our meal with Mango Pudding in the shape of fish served with a mango sauce. The pudding was a nice firmness with chunks of mango hidden within.
Traditionally, Chinese pancakes are filled with red bean paste, but here, taro is used instead. The end result is a lovely taro paste inside a crispy pan-fried pancake. The crunchiness of the exterior with the softness of the interior makes for a very pleasurable eating experience.
Hutong is a beautiful restaurant with decent food and definitely one which will garner ooos and ahhhs from your guests who have yet to experience the beauty that is Hong Kong Harbour. Come for the experience but stay for the view — it is well worth it.
One Peking Road
Tsim Sha Tsui
Lori Lynn says
Steamed asparagus with sesame seed is simple and brilliant. I’m going to steal that idea too.