The Ying and Yang of Hong Kong

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Mott 32

Part of Hong Kong’s charm is the visceral contrast between a modern, vibrant and effervescent world city and its nostalgic heritage as a former British colony with ancient Chinese roots. It’s inescapable. Even as you gaze up at gravity-defying forests of steel and glass on streets named after British lords and ladies, you can’t escape the smell of fresh dumplings and steamed rice. And so to enjoy the total Hong Kong culinary experience, you have to spread your meals around as many influences as you can.

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Crispy Chicken, Fook Lam Moon

On the classic side, restaurants like Ho Lee Fook, Tim Ho Wan (who just opened a branch in New York) and The Chairman deliver the quintessential Chinese experience, but none more so than Fook Lam Moon. This city staple and a favorite among Chinese tycoons for over 75 years is more of an institution than merely a restaurant. Barricaded behind a shiny flotilla of Bentleys, Mercedes’ and Maybachs on a busy, neon-lit Wan Chai street, the nondescript access to a brief elevator ride plops you into a large, bright, windowless room dotted spaciously with square tables. An armada of firm (but friendly) white-aproned staff, whisks guests, wines, teas and trays laden with piping hot dishes around the room as if they were line dancers picking out and replacing partners in a hectic but inaudible ballet.

 

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Double sticks at Fook Lam Moon

Once landing at our white linen 4-top, I was vexed as to the need for the double set of silver handled chopsticks at each place setting. Turns out the white set are for grabbing portions from the strictly sharable dishes onto your plate, whereas the black set are for lifting eat morsel into your mouth. (Clearly taboo to employ the same chopsticks for both functions, which meant an evening of constant chopstick swap-a-roos.)

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Chargrilled Pork Belly, Fook Lam Moon

The first few pages of the elaborate menu proudly include some of the world’s most infamous restaurant no-no’s: Shark fin soup and Birds nest congee. (Oh dear!) Instead we selected a few equally famous – but more GreenPeace-acceptable options that all arrived inside of 9 minutes. Instead of that (often unpleasant) ¼ inch layer of unavoidable fat that normally surrounds any order of pork belly, this Chargrilled crispy pork belly had rendered its fat entirely during the process of becoming the most magically tender cut of crispy-skinned goodness, bathing in a maple syrupy sweet barbecue sauce. On the subject of impossibly crispy skins, no Oktoberfest rotisserie Brathändl could ever rival this deep red Crispy Chicken with eight succulent sections this side of a wish bone. On the blander side our order of Wok fried king prawns desperately needed that welcome side order of wild mushroom stew.

 

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Wok fried King Prawns, Fook Lam Moon

On the more modern restaurant front, my favorites include Yardbird and Duddell’s, but no trip to Hong Kong would be complete without at least trying to get a table at Mott 32. Named for the first ever Chinese convenience store dating back to 1851 at 32 Mott Street in New York’s Chinatown, this deep, dark, glam and impressively modern space is housed three floors beneath the Standard Chartered Bank building in Central Hong Kong.

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Mott 32

As you descend from the ruckus of honking cabs and double-decker trams grinding along rusty tracks, the dark mirrored staircase sets the scene for a very special and decadent experience. It’s as if an exclusive modern nightclub and an opium den produced a child. On one end of the wrought-iron framed clubby lounge, a wall of bright blue windows reveals a glimpse of the fuss, steam and energy inside the frenetic kitchen, while solo spotlights illuminated the black and gold banquettes, booths and a lengthy marble communal table, providing the perfect hideout for the next hour or two.

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King Prawn Har Gow & Crab & Caviar Hot & Sour Iberico Pork soup Dumplings, Mott 32

 

The cocktails are all home made delights and the menu offers a range of contemporary spins on some of the cuisine’s greatest hits, but the a la carte dim sum is what all the fuss is about.  Divided into six sections: Steamed, Siu Mai, Har Gow, Baked, Cheung Fun and Fried, chef Lee Man Sing reaches for ingredients far beyond the Asian peninsula.

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Assorted Dim Sum, Mott 32

 

The dark red Crab & Caviar Hot & Sour Iberico Pork Soup Dumplings are an incredibly delicious mashup of salty umami. And nothing I have ever sampled in Chinatown can rival the taste and crisp texture of the King Prawn Har Gow, nor the wafer-thin fur-covered breadcrumb Chicken, Prawn and Toro Croquette. But I challenge any wonky dim sum wagon that ever rolled passed your table to muster the show-stopping brilliance of their signature item: The Crispy Sugar coated BBQ Iberico Pork bun. Adding a candy shell to an evolved pork ragout, transformed a one note ho-hum bun into a Chinese rock opera.

 

 

http://www.mott32.com/

http://fooklammoon-grp.com/en#home

http://www.thechairmangroup.com/index.php?lang=enus

http://www.duddells.co/home/en/

http://hk.dining.asiatatler.com/restaurants/ho-lee-fook-hong-kong

http://yardbirdrestaurant.com/info/

http://www.timhowan.com/

 

 

Ma Peche review

Ma Peche - Scallop crudo

Scallop crudo

If New York City ever said its prayers before bedtime, it should include in its blessings that David Chang decided to move here from Vienna, Virgina, and that he didn’t choose any other US city to set up shop as one of the most celebrated and deservedly accoladed Korean-American gastronomic virtuosi of our time. His enormously popular East Village conclave of bars and restaurants, (which are all vertical adaptations and extensions of one another) are platforms for spotlighting his take on American influenced Southeast Asian street food. The philosophy behind serving fast-food that actually takes hours to prepare, is by no means taken for granted by his adoring fan-base, who would quite happily donate a tenth of their lives by standing in line in all sorts of inclement weather to sample his life-altering and award-winning cooking. At his midtown establishment Ma Peche, located within the rather hoity-toity Chambers hotel, Chang forces prospective diners to march right through his Momofuku Milk Bar (the ultimate willpower test to grab/not grab a slice of his now world-famous, butter-laden Crack-Pie) before descending into a windowless box-shaped room with colorless stretched fabric sails, covering identically colorless walls – more reminiscent of a pop-up med-evac tent on the front lines than a haven for impending culinary indulgence…but then the dim sum carts of international treats begin to arrive table side, and all is instantly forgiven.

Ma Peche - Lobster Rice

Lobster Rice

The ever-so-gently torched chunks of Scallop Crudo were resting in a refreshingly simple but delightful bath of yuzu lemon and olive oil when they pulled up beside me. The creamy risotto-like Lobster Rice accompanied by the robust, deeply layered and aromatic brown-sugary-cinnamony-clove flavored Jerk Chicken Wings could quite possibly jolt the earth off of its axis.

Ma Peche - Jerk Chicken WIngs

Jerk Chicken WIngs

 

 

The following cart delivered the delectable shredded Lamb Noodles, served over a thick lamb and onion roux with lemony cabbage and chili jam. And just when things couldn’t possibly get any better, the crispy, salty and impossibly delicious Roasted Rice Cakes with Spicy Pork (my all-time favorite item appreciatively borrowed from his Momofuku Ssam Bar menu) was on final approach.

Ma Peche - Roasted Rice Cakes

Roasted Rice Cakes

The biggest hit from the handful of á la Carte options was the addiction-inducing, shatter-crisp yet buttermilk-moist Fried Chicken, which easily steals the honors from anyone else brave enough (or silly enough) to enter the category.

This isn’t just a meal, people. It’s a sacred New York experience!

http://momofuku.com/new-york/ma-peche/reservations/

Ma Peche - Lamb Noodles

Lamb Noodles