Back to Hong Kong, back to another Porthos recommendation (we sort of did a Porthos food tour of Hong Kong for the most part): here is my writeup of Tasty Congee & Noodle Wantun Shop in the IFC mall. Slideshow with captioned descriptions are in the post on the blog: http://myannoyingopinions.com/2016/03/08/tasty-congee/
After a week off I’m back to reports on our meals in Hong Kong in late January and early February. This is the home stretch—only two more after this, probably. I’m also back in the IFC mall. This was our third meal there and we came back again the next day for an outstanding lunch at Lung King Heen. This, however, was a meal at the far end of the spectrum from Lung King Heen. Which is to say not that it was cheap (though much cheaper than Lung King Heen or even Lei Garden) but that it features very basic Cantonese comfort food: the setting, as befits the IFC location, was also very comfortable indeed; this is no Yat Lok.
As the name of the restaurant tells you, their specialties are congee and wonton soups with noodles. And they’re not over-reaching with the “tasty” they’ve attached to their name. Both the congee and the wonton noodle soup were very good; also very good were the selections from their limited dim sum menu. To this latter point, I remember reading in the LA Weekly (or maybe it was the LA Times) a few years ago an account of a visit by some Hong Kong chefs to Los Angeles. Jonathan Gold, the food writer, took them to eat at Sea Harbour, considered by most to be the pre-eminent dim sum house in the San Gabriel Valley. The chefs praised it, saying it would be a good neighbourhood restaurant in Hong Kong. At the time I thought this was damning with faint praise but this short visit to Hong Kong really drove the comparison home.
As I noted in my Lei Garden review, a place like Sea Harbour is just nowhere near that league, from conception of dishes to execution to variety to quality of ingredients. But how would it stack up to the limited dim sum offerings at a chain specializing in congee and wonton noodle soups? Well, the quality at Tasty Congee was still better for most things, but it is very much on the same continuum. This made us think that the description of Sea Harbour as a good neighbouhood dim sum place in Hong Kong was right on the money and really not an insult at all. Now, you might say I could have saved the time thinking about this and just taken the word of a bunch of Hong Kong chefs…and you would be right.
As mentioned, Tasty Congee is also part of a chain. There are five outposts in Hong Kong, one of which is in the transit area of the airport—which means that you can eat there without having to clear security again. In fact, we had originally thought we’d hit up the airport branch on the way out for a late breakfast but we ended up doing a regular meal at the IFC location instead. I have to admit this was a fallback option after the predictable failure of a low percentage shot at trying to get into Lei Garden again, this time without a reservation: the woman at the front desk all but laughed in my face (it’s true what I was told, people: you have to book weekend dim sum at Lei Garden at least a month out). We’d passed Tasty Congee en route to Lei Garden though and there was a sizable crowd outside and so we were happy enough to go there instead.
There was a wait of about 10 minutes and then we were in. The inside is quite nice but I have to say that in an odd way all the IFC restaurants we ate at (except Lung King Heen, which is not in the IFC proper, I guess) have a very similar design feel despite being quite differently done up. Anyway, this means it was bright and open. Also as with most places there seemed to be one staff person who had a lot of English and she was our point person. We didn’t have difficulties with ordering or service. The restaurant had very brisk turnover the entire time we were there, and seemed very much like a destination for family outings.
What did we eat? Well, we selected a congee from the many varieties on offer—this took a while but we settled on the fish brisket congee. The fish was carp, I believe, and it was perfectly cooked—and the congee itself was excellent (though not very much better than the versions at the airport Crystal Jade). With the wonton noodles we went the simple route and ordered the “House Specialty Wonton Noodles in Soup” (while they spell it “Wantun” in the name of the restaurant, it’s “wonton” on their menu). Very good wontons, very good, springy noodles, very good broth. We also got dry noodles (the same noodles) with brisket—this was just okay, I thought. And we also got, as I noted, a bunch of their dim sum. Their selections were very similar to what’s on offer at most dim sum places in the US—for a few things the quality was on par with the better dim sum places in the SGV, for most it was somewhat better, for some it was a lot better. More details on all this in the captions in the slideshow below.
All of this came to $72 USD all-in. Not the most exciting food, maybe, and probably a bit expensive for what it is, but if you like this kind of thing, as we do, it’s worth checking it out in Hong Kong. On price, keep in mind that people with normal appetites would have been happy enough with just the wonton noodle soup and the congee and gotten out for quite a bit less.
Next up from Hong Kong: a Michelin starred Sichuan restaurant that was not as good as our favourite places in the US!