Lung King Heen
Four Seasons Hotel
8 Finance Street, Hong Kong, China
Tel: (852) 3196-8888
Cuisine: Chinese (Cantonese) Gastronomy
Nearest tube: Central
Website: Lung King Heen
When the first edition of the Hong Kong & Macau Michelin Guide was first released in 2009, Lung King Heen (LKH) was only one of two restaurants bestowed the highest rating of 3*s. It thus became the first Chinese restaurant in the world to hold 3*s. Since then, the guide has seen various other restaurants bestowed with this honour but LKH has been omnipresent.
Now of course, those who follow the food scene closely know that the choice of LKH as the sole Chinese restaurant to receive 3*s was cause for much controversy. Accusations were pointed at Michelin not grasping Cantonese cuisine. There were even rumours that the Michelin inspectors were staying at the Four Seasons during their time inspecting in Hong Kong.
I have dined at LKH before prior to my more recent visit in 2015. My previous visit was back in 2011 for weekend dim sum lunch. It is worth noting that the restaurant serves a shortened dim sum menu during weekdays with a more extensive dim sum menu available during the weekends. My experience back then was nothing short of spectacular with Chef Chan delivering a masterclass in dim sum cooking. One unique touch was the care the restaurant took in delivering the dishes in a sequential manner starting with lighter steamed items served first before moving on to the richer baked and fried items. I can still taste their signature Baked Abalone & Chicken Puff today.
This time around we decided to visit for dinner. The main dining room remains unchanged with varnished wooden floors and floor-to-ceiling windows providing stunning views of Victoria Harbour. We were fortunate enough to obtain a window seat (the same table we were sat at during our first visit!) no doubt thanks to my efforts in booking 6 months in advance.
Before I continue, let me just share an interesting tidbit about how a Cantonese kitchen works. In an European kitchen, the Head Chef/ Chef de Cuisine will seldom do any actual cooking during service – their role is more of one who would oversee the running of the kitchen and doing the final checks at the pass. Depending on how big the kitchen is and how it is set up, the actual dish may be cooked by various people in their respective sections. In a Cantonese kitchen, an entire dish is cooked by individual chefs. Most of the chefs in the brigade are well versed with the entire menu repertoire. Now here is the catch – how important the customer is will determine the chef assigned to cook for you. Thus, a VVIP will have the head chef himself cooking for you and the random gweilo tourist will have someone junior assigned to them. As the saying goes “your mileage may vary.”
The menu, like most Cantonese restaurants in Hong Kong is extensive featuring all the classics you’d expect. As this is a hotel restaurant and has to cater for tourists and hotel guests, you will also find non-Cantonese favourites (e.g. Peking Duck, Hot & Sour Soup) and not-so-authentic Chinglish ones (e.g. Prawn Toast) on the menu. Just like you could go to a French restaurant and order Steak & Kidney Pie, and they could probably do you a decent rendition, you just know that it is not going to be the best version possible. I left the difficult task of ordering to my sister.
The essence of Cantonese cooking is all about freshness. Fish caught and filleted yesterday is no good – the fish should ideally be alive, swimming in a tank, moments before being served to the diner. Thankfully, customers are spared the sight of their dinner swimming as the fish tanks are kept out of sight, in the kitchen. A classic dish of Steamed Star Garoupa features fish which is quickly killed, filleted, steamed in individual bamboo baskets and served to the diner all within the space of 20 minutes. Chef Chan chooses to utilize a delicate soy to allow the delicate flavour of the fish to come through.
Nothing shouts Chinese gastronomy like a dish featuring the crown jewels of Cantonese cooking. These are of course abalone, fish maw, bird’s nest and shark’s fin (the later rarely served now in most Hong Kong restaurants – in fact LKH were one of the first to stop serving it in Hong Kong). Their Braised Abalone with Fish Maw hit all the right notes – melting tender Oma abalone is paired with gelatinous yet firm fish maw, with a floret of steamed broccoli providing refreshing balance to the unctuous sauce. Be warned however, that the price for this dish is eye watering. To put it into perspective, the cost an individual portion of this dish would buy you an entire meal at the Fat Duck… with plenty of change to spare.
Another star dish was an off-menu spinach paired with braised crab meat. The vegetables here are flown in daily from Mainland China and the restaurant carefully picks only the choicest shoots. The result is a dish which bursting with beautiful, sweet spinach flavour that simply melts in your mouth.
Like most Chinese meals, desserts are a simple and almost forgettable affair. The version of Chilled Mango and Sago Cream with Pomelo (compliments from the chef) features a hidden surprise of mango pudding (jelly) at the bottom of the dish. It is competently executed but not as awe-inspiring as the version served at the Eight.
I know my opinion will probably be very controversial but I honestly felt that some of the cooking encountered was truly world-class. Of course it helps to have a beautiful view and slick service but at the end of the day it is all about the food and LKH delivered for me.