As a kid, at least one Sunday a month, our family used to go to Yung Kee for lunch after church - just a short walk down the hill, and on the way to the MTR (HK's subway system) and taxi stands in Central, Hong Kong's financial district.
Though the awarding of Michelin stars in Hong Kong has been the subject of controversy (locals feel inspectors do not have enough knowledge of Chinese cuisine to appreciate local venues - and purported the awards resulted from a superficial survey of western friendly restaurants, mainly conveniently found in five star hotels).
On this visit, we opted for dinner. Meals at Yung Kee always begin with an amuse bouche of Thousand Year Old Eggs (pidan) with sliced Pickled Ginger.
Those unfamiliar with this Cantonese staple may be a bit appalled by its appearance - the eggs are brown / black and the preserved yolk basically looks like it's long past being safe for human consumption. In fact, it looks like even bacteria might keel over at first bite of these things. But I grew up with this so I love it. Nowadays you would mainly find these eggs chopped up in congee (rice porridge) with lean pork (pidan shao yuk juk) - but Yung Kee lets their pure taste /texture shine on their own halved, with sliced pickled ginger - and I find their offering the - um - the freshest tasting ones I've ever had, with an incredibly creamy, unique tasting savory center with just a hint of sweet, encased by a light, lovely gelatinous outer layer that falls away with each bite.
That Yung Kee is focused on service and keeping up with the times is evident in its menu. Its answer to the questions most people ask of any new restaurant they go to - "What are your signature / best dishes? What would you recommend?" - is to create prix fixe menus around their award winning dishes - calling awards out right on the menu - and to do it in four languages - the better to service all the tourists who have found their way to the place. Some of the awards were from quite a while back, but the quality of some of the dishes have been lovingly maintained with pride.
The fried prawns themselves were unremarkable in taste and texture, unfortunately - and even a little soggy.
In discussing this dish, I learned Yung Kee's original rise to fame was with their wonton noodles. The family was poor and started out with a simple food stall serving wonton noodles. Word of mouth spread quickly and people came far and wide to taste them - and it is with the money the family made from their wonton noodles that they then built their signature roast goose business. It's easy to see how they could become famous for this simple dish - sometimes it is the simple ones that require most skill: you can't hide behind fancy ingredients and complex visual presentations. Yung Kee wins with fresh, amazing, clean, perfectly sized shrimp wontons clearly made with fresh wrappers, fresh noodles made needle thin to let the wontons shine, but substantial enough to sop up the clear flavorful broth, served at just the right temperature - just hot enough to seize your soul, but not scorching so as to burn you going down. (You can always tell when wrappers are mass produced or pre-made days ahead - they are usually more dense, stiff where they are 'sealed' with egg, and some even rubbery in texture. Yung Kee's wrappers are almost rice paper thin, yet hold together even in the hot broth, and are flowing / light.) Though there has been sadly reported infighting within the family in recent years with the heirs debating whether to sell the business off, on my particular visit at least, it did not impact the quality of the food - and the traditions, care and pride in their 'founding' dish seems to have still come through. The Wonton Noodles was my second favorite dish of the meal (tied with the Abalone soup), after the roast goose.
All in all, our six-course meal came out to HK$860 + 10% service charge = HK$946 total or about US$121 for 3 people!!!
I may not go to church very much (at all?) anymore, but I am still very much in love with Yung Kee and see it as a treat / reward. Definitely going back first chance I get next time I'm in Hong Kong. And keeping my fingers and toes crossed that one day they will look to create an outpost in LA or San Francisco - I would attend their services religiously for sure!!!
On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6.5 bites
Presentation - 5.5 bites
Originality - 5.5 bites
Ambience - 5.5 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$ (2 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 100%
Yung Kee Restaurant
32-40 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong