The view from Hutong, a spectacular Chinese restaurant in Kowloon, Hong Kong
From a food perspective, it doesn't get much better than Hong Kong.
Actually, scratch that. Everything is better in Hong Kong. The food is not only delicious, but refined and evolved. The streets are bursting with sophisticated activity, in that awe-inspiring, "I can't believe all these people manage to peacefully co-exist and do all these crazy daily activities" kind of way. The transportation system is efficient, makes sense, and is incredibly affordable. In every way imaginable, Hong Kong a beautiful place, situated with glorious mountains to its back and a sparkling harbor in front.
Until this past week, all of my previous trips to Hong Kong have been transit stops -- one or two days here and there, where I get to marvel at the speed and efficiency of the Airport Express train, stuff my face full of char siew (Cantonese roast pork), and head onwards to my final destination. But this time, the hubby and I had a chance to spend almost a whole week there, and, thanks to our family Paul and Tom, who live in central Hong Kong and were our culinary tour guides for the week, we were able to maximize our eating adventure through the city.
Crispy deboned lamb served with scallions and garlic-soy sauce: this is what keeps me up at night these days
On our first evening, Paul and Tom took us to Hutong, a restaurant that's one of a group belonging to a wealthy Hong Kong businessman-turned-restauranteur. (Sidenote: If I weren't already married to a delightful man, I, too, would like to belong to a wealthy Hong Kong businessman-turned-restauranteur, because they really know how to up the ante when it comes to food and extravagance. Take that as a tip, single ladies.) As Paul pointed out, Hutong is one of those rare restaurants that has a breathtaking view and incredibly delicious food; usually, places with amazing vistas serve up gummy quesadillas.
Even though every single dish in our multi-course dinner was excellent, the knockout plate of the evening was the crispy, roasted and de-boned lamb ribs served on a wood plank with julienned scallions and a garlic soy dipping sauce. As if that's not enough to set your heart a-flutter, the dish also comes with soft, homemade flour pancakes to wrap all of this lamb-y goodness.
Behold the assembled lamb: one rib, a sprinkle of scallions, a healthy dash of sauce; roll it up, and it's a whole lot of awesome
While assembling my lamb rib atop that soft flour pancake, I had a flashback to 2006, when a few of my friends and I spent a week in Beijing. Beijing prior to the Olympics was a different experience than it is today, which I can actually say with absolute certainty because the hubby and I have just returned from a side trip there (and that's another story for another time). One night, we decided to search out a famed Beijing roast duck establishment in an actual hutong (the old courtyard-style homes that used to be the dominant residential structure in Beijing). We spent almost an hour weaving through hutong alleyways before descending upon Li Qun, and immediately set to task ordering 9 ducks for 6 people to share. I only wish they could've seen this lamb plank, because it would've resulted in an immediate request to our server to bring us 8 more planks of lamb, post haste.
But oh, the taste difference between that duck and this lamb I had here in Hong Kong -- they aren't comparable, not because the duck was bad, but because this lamb is that good. The skin is true as advertised -- crispy and caramelized on the surface. The meat is tender and so juicy that I dribbled down the front of my new purple dress and didn't care one bit. Along with the accoutrements, it's harmonious perfection. I'd go back to Hutong for just that lamb, any day of the week, for any meal. I'd adopt that lamb and introduce it to people as my other child. I'd make it a homepage, add it to our family's cell phone plan, and give it its own bedroom at our house. This is how much I love that lamb.
I could go on and on about the other dishes we had as well, and maybe I will, in a future post. For now, I'm just going to mention the surprise winner of the night: a simple but elegant asparagus cold dish. The spears were lightly blanched and dipped in just a touch of light sesame oil and soy sauce, then rolled in sesame seeds. I know I won't be able to make that lamb myself anytime soon (my skills are far from being developed enough to even know how to begin), but maybe I could start with this asparagus. That'd be nice. I could make myself a plate of that asparagus, and eat it while sobbing about why we don't live in Hong Kong so I can be closer to that lamb.
Hutong | 28/F, One Peking Road | Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong | +852 3428 8342 | Open 12pm to late, Monday-Sunday