That is why I love Hong Kong - all kinds of regional cuisines running the gamut from haute to homey are a snap of the chopsticks away, that are either not easily accessible or not well done in the U.S. One of my favorite cuisines is Chiu Chow for its beautifully simple but flavorful dishes. In my last visit to HK, I was introduced to Pak Loh Chiu Chow Restaurant 百樂潮州 in Causeway Bay, its entrance half hidden in a recessed hallway in an office building.
Chiu Chow meals always start with a serving of tiny cups of 'Kung Fu Tea' - literally just enough for one mouthful. I'm told these 'shots' have at least twice the caffeine of normal teas, but have never investigated - it's a little more bitter than regular Chinese teas served at restaurants, and definitely wakes you (and your taste buds?) up before the feast.
香煎蠔仔烙. The name is pretty much self explanatory. This dish is a bit about contrasts - the omelette is fried to a crisp on the outside, which sandwiches the creamy oysters in every bite. Pak Loh's version was fine, but not as incredible as I've had at other places, mainly because the oysters did not retain their structure, and was sort of an amorphous, gelatinous spread inside the egg.
乾煎糖醋麵. This is like a pancake of thin egg noodles pan-fried on both sides to a beautiful golden brown, which you then season with vinegar and sugar - and is a shining example of sweet and sour done right. Every mouthful is a combination of crispy, chewy, light crunch from the granulated sugar that lends sweetness to the savory noodles, and vinegar to hydrate the mix and provide a burst of sour to counterbalance the sweet.
Simple, yet deliciously designed layers of flavor and texture.
水晶包 - another Chiu Chow signature dish, so named for the transparent mochi-like dough wrapped surrounding lotus seed paste. In this case, two types of lotus seed paste are served up - red and white. At Pak Loh the crystal bao dough was perfectly chewy, and the paste was smooth and served at just the right right temperature - hot but not enough to scorch the roof of your mouth.
All in all, a lovely family dinner. As expected at the end of a Chiu Chow meal, the same tea served at the beginning is also offered at the end (the better to wake you up from food coma, because you WILL overeat) before stepping out into the night.
On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6 bites
Presentation - 5 bites
Originality - 5 bites
Ambience - 5 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 5.5 bites
Price - $$ (2 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 90%
Pak Loh Chiu Chow Restaurant 百樂潮州
G/F 23-25 Hyson Ave., Causeway Bay, Hong Kong