After years of staying away from Hongkong, I recently went back with a group of girlfriends. One of them is practically a local and promised us Hongkong beyond the usual retail outlets, touristy Tsim Tsa Tsui and the perfunctory trips to Ocean Park and HK Disneyland. There are two things that never change in Hongkong even after years of being away… the first is that walking is a staple. Even if they have one of the best transport systems in the world, most locals still walk endlessly. The second certainty is that Hongkong has some of the best food on the planet ( Chinese and otherwise).
For our all-girls weekend, our hotel of choice was the Pottinger Hotel on Stanley Street., also fronting Queen’s Road in Central, miles away from my late father’s favorite Marco Polo Gateway Hotel on Canton Road, Kowloon. The Pottinger is a quaint boutique hotel with a European esthetic. Flanked by the fashionable COS store and Venchi – an Italian gelato and chocolate shop. For our group of foodies, it was centrally located as we just walked to most of the restaurants. The Pottinger is small but charming, like your aunt’s French drawing room combined with delicate Chinese brush paintings and 600 thread count sheets.
Our first stop was Fu Sing Seafood Restaurant. Fu Sing has quite a few branches in this country of 7.2 million people. We strolled to the one located at Grand Millenium Plaza about ten minutes from the Pottinger. It isn’t a Michelin star contender yet , but have the distinction of being Michelin recommended. And although the name says “Seafood”, they are more known for their barbequed pork or “char siu” pork. They also have fantastic dimsum at reasonable prices, but the star of the show is the pork. Fu Sing’s char siu pork is so soft it quivers when hanging from between chopsticks. Every table in the jam packed dining room had at least one order. Call and reserve in advance because all tables are full, even on weekdays and they do run out of the char siu pork.
Their fried tofu was also a revelation. It tasted like fried chicken and could easily beeaten like popcorn.
From Fu Sing, it’s a short five minute walk to Jenny Bakery for the best black sesame and almond nougat. Jenny Bakery is a cult favorite that has locals lining up and out the alley fronting the shop. Their nougat tins are in such demand that they only allow two tins of each kind per customer, per visit. At 100$ HK a tin , they are a steal and make great gifts or pasalubong.
We walked back on our own. Some opting to rest before dinner, while the others took advantage of the three hour lag to shop. I chose to go back to the hotel, but not without stopping by Venchi for one of the best dark chocolate gelatos in the city.
That night, we managed the short but steep trek up Lang Kwai Fong St. to Carbone…a two-year old Italian bistro on the 9th floor of the LKF Tower fronting Wyndham Street. Carbone reminded me of Italian trattorias in NYC with well prepared , hearty food in generous portions, all served in a comfortable and elegant atmosphere. It was a tad too noisy for my taste, but I enjoyed the evening nonetheless.
Our favorites were the Prime Porterhouse steak – 40 oz of perfectly grilled beef with rosemary oil and charred garlic ( worth every dollar and calorie)… Branzino – also grilled with lemon and three sauces and the Linguini Vongole.
At Carbone, when the waiter says, you shouldn’t leave without trying Mario’s Meatballs, take his word for it. They are out of this world delicious! If I weren’t so full from the steak and Vongole I would’ve polished off a whole order of three pieces by myself. And if by chance you still have room for dessert, like we did, go for the New York Cheesecake –it was light, fluffy, tangy and unctuous. The perfect end to our first day. ( To Be Continued )