Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Central Hong Kong: Right in the Heart

The Hui

I used to think that it wasn't possible to have dimsum for a working lunch, given that you only have an hour. However, after having lunch at The Hui, and observing just how packed it was at lunchtime, dimsum might actually be a good idea for lunch.

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If you don't order too much, food comes relatively quickly and you're done in about forty odd minutes. The trick is in getting a reservation though; lunches in Central are ridiculous, rather like hordes of inmates being set loose for a day.

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I'd actually walked past The Hui on my way to work a number of mornings, without ever realising what it was. Located just off Lan Kwai Fong, in a commercial building, with an escalator as its only egress, it's really quite easy to miss.

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While the usual dimsum suspects were quite well done, what I really enjoyed was the winter melon soup seafood rice. Almost akin to Teochew porridge, the soup was clear and sweet, the rice grains were perfectly plump with bite; the whole dish was refreshing.

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The carrot cake was also excellent; generous cubes of crispy, starchy radish, the Chinese equivalent of complimentary bread to work up an appetite (except this one's not free).

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The custard buns were a little rough around the edges (circumfrence, whatever), and the custard tasted a little artificial, but perhaps I was just being picky.

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Xiaolongbaos make every dimsum lunch better. There doesn't seem to be much of a xiaolongbao culture here in the same way as there is back home - no accompanying black vinegar and ginger.

Central may be an odd place to come for dimsum, but it certainly beats trekking all the way to Tsim Sha Tsui or Maxim's for your dimsum fix.

The Hui
3-4th Floor, Entertainment Building
30 Queen's Road Central
Tel: 852 2877 3993


IFC has a couple of pretty fancy restaurants, catering to the well-heeled investment bankers who can expense their meals.

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One of these is Isola, an Italian restaurant and bar that is a real pain to find, sandwiched between Lane Crawford and Longchamp on the third podium. Reservations are a definite must for dinner, as even booking a table for two at 7pm, I was told I had to clear off by 8.30pm. Sure enough, by 8pm the place was almost completely full, on a Tuesday night.

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Boasting an attractive open kitchen, Isola clearly has a white theme, with tablecloths, linens and even decorations in a pearly hue. It's cliched, but sensible, as it makes it much easier to control the lighting tone with minimal artificial lighting.

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One of the prime attractions, of course, is the night-time sea view. For the full effect one could probably sit outdoors, and I imagine in winter those seats need to be reserved weeks days in advance. Even in the restaurant though, the view is pretty good.

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A shame, then, that the food is somewhat short of spectacular. While it's understandable that prices reflect the high rents in IFC, I did think the pizzas and pastas suffered a dearth of interesting ingredients and creativity.

The pizza I had was generous on the button mushrooms, but not much else. Still, the chefs clearly have some skill; as the crust was wafer thin and not the least bit oily.

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Great place for a date, as long as you've got an expense-paid account.

Level 3, IFC Mall, Central
Tel: 852 2383 8765

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