Sunday, January 9, 2011

1MB Travels: Hong Kong: CHE'S Cantonese Restaurant

Now that I've had time to get over jet lag, I'm feeling a little bit more my Type A self and itching to be productive again.  First on my list - sharing all the amazing eats I had in Hong Kong!  I had also spent Christmas vacation in HK last year, but prior to that I hadn't spent any meaningful time in the city that evolves at the speed of light for many years, so didn't know where to begin!  Luckily, as my parents don't cook, they basically eat out every meal and had lots of recommendations at least for family friendly places.  We ate out every meal while I was back - yes, life was rough for a few weeks - NOT! It was a dream vacation for a foodie!

In trying to process it all, I am having a hard time deciding where to start in terms of posts!  I think I will start with CHE'S Cantonese Restaurant, opened by long time local celebrity Che Yuan Yuan's family, as it's a place that's not too well known even to locals. 
My uncle had a client that introduced him to the place, hidden away on the fourth floor of an office building in Wan Chai, and he's been hooked ever since.  Celebrity ventures in the culinary world are often at risk of having its status as a star-driven vehicle overshadow its credibility as a legitimate culinary destination - it is typically perceived as 'guilty until proven innocent' of hype that is not necessarily merited by the quality of its food offerings (e.g. Planet Hollywood, Beso Las Vegas etc.).  However, CHE'S truly stands out in a class of its own from the start - its creative menu and flavors are so impressive that its fans really go for the food.  The celebrity connection becomes a bonus, "gravy" on top of it being a great place to eat - and on the night we were there, local superstar Ekin Cheng and a mix of old timey and more recent singers and actresses I didn't know were there to attend a birthday party in the private room.

Once upon a time, back in high school (yes I am totally dating myself now) - like every other school girl in Hong Kong, I fantasized about marrying Ekin Cheng, tall, looking brooding and rebellious with his long hair yet funny and an upstanding, good guy your mom would love.  All of a sudden I felt like a teen again when he walked in mere feet from us!

*Ahem* but, so like I said, at CHE'S the food comes first.  There are lots of great dishes that I had never had in all my years of eating Cantonese food, and that certainly are not easily accessible in the U.S.

The first item to arrive is Pig's Lung Soup with Lean Pork and Vegetables - Chinese people believe that eating specific parts of animals will nourish the corresponding part of the human body.  So Pig's Lung is supposed to be good for your lungs, or respiratory system.  The broth was incredibly clear and grease free, no strange flavors - and I thought it was a good way to start the meal.
The next dish was one of my favorites - Port Wine Barrel Oyster Stew.  The oysters were infused with port wine, battered and lightly fried, then stewed in a barrel of port wine sauce.  I love anything cooked in wine, for the amazingly rich flavors that only get better over time - and this dish delivered on taste, as well as incredible texture with a crispy/crunchy exterior (this texture reminded me of orange chicken, but much more sophisticated), giving way to a revelation of creamy, silky yet still structured oysters inside.
As my dad does not like seafood (I know, blasphemy!) - we had a few meat dishes on hand for him, the first of which was Braised Flank Steak.  This was a well executed classic, with the meat perfectly marinated and melt-in-your-mouth soft.

Our second meat dish was Crispy Skin Chicken - another well executed classic, with skin perfectly crisp and meat juicy with just the right amount of fat.

Up next was my second favorite dish of the night, Crab with Shaoxing Wine and Steamed Egg Whites (see a theme / pattern emerging here...? Seafood + wine = good food in the One More Bite Encyclopedia).  The wine made this dish amazingly flavorful - though the alcohol was a little too strong for those at the table who didn't drink - and it was a stroke of genius to steam the crab with egg whites, which caught all the intense flavors from the crab and the wine, and made for a great enhancer for steamed rice.  You could scoop the egg white onto rice to add flavor to the grains, and made for a great pairing with the crab to eat along with it.

For our not-so-token veggie, we had Snow Pea Sprouts in Superior Broth, lovely savory/sweet crunchy greens steamed in chicken broth.  Simply delish!

For dessert, we started out with a CHE'S specialty - Crispy Barbecue Pork Buns.  BBQ Pork Buns, of course, are a dim sum staple and not a groundbreaking new invention - however, no other restaurant I had been to had thought to shape it into a ball, and add a crispy shell all the way around (some restaurants serve it 'Pineapple Bun' style, with a crispy slightly sweet layer that's lumpy, resembling a pineapple, just on top).  CHE'S bbq pork buns are served piping hot, seemingly fresh out of the oven, with the shell a smooth, perfect golden brown all the way around, crunchy with just the slightest bit of sweetness - contrasting beautifully with the smooth flow of bbq pork in a delicious sweet/savory sauce inside.  The spherical shape ensured that we got an even mouthful of crispy shell, bread, and bbq pork in every bite.  The plate had arrived with more buns, but I couldn't hold everyone back long enough for me to take a photo, so I was only able to capture an image of a solitary bun on my own plate.

A second dessert we could not resist, based on the Chinese name, was the Yin Yang Sesame Dough Balls ("Yin Yang Ma Sa Ji" - which sounds like "Yin Yang Massage").  The name came from the main ingredients in the dish - black and white sesame paste, stuffed into fried dough balls rolled in sesame.  I know I almost criminally over-use the word "amazing" - but there is truly no other way to describe these freshly fried balls of awesomeness.
Well aware of my incurable sweet tooth, my family ordered two more desserts for me to taste - "Almond Tea", a classic Cantonese dessert that is basically a white almond soup served hot, which is supposed to be nourishing to the complexion, and Coconut Pudding with real chunks of fresh young coconut inside.

All in all, one of my favorite meals on this trip - not because I got to see my childhood idol, but because I got to see my childhood idol and got to taste and learn about some totally new dishes.
[Can't wait til I have time to find a decent Cantonese cookbook so I can figure out how / what other seafoods I can make with port and Shaoxing wine!!!]

CHE'S will most definitely be on my request list for the next time I visit.

On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6 bites
Presentation - 5.5 bites
Originality - 6 bites
Ambience - 5.5 stars
Service - 6 stars

Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$ (2 bite marks)

Probability of return visit - 100%

Hong Kong

CHE'S Cantonese Restaurant
4/F, The Broadway, 54-62 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Ph: 852-2528-1123


  1. i LOVE sesame balls - and those yin yang sesame dough balls look amazing!

  2. I wish I could have brought some back!

  3. I love sesame balls aswell, im trying to cook them at home has anyone got any tips please :)



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...