Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Lei Garden 利苑酒家 [Hong Kong] - Chinese Restaurant Chain with Most Michelin Stars in the World

  Lei Garden 利苑酒家 for over three decades has been one of our places to fall back on for Cantonese food.  Granted it was not always our first and only option,  but on the more special occasions or when taking clients,  it was a slightly more prestigious and upscale,  trustworthy venue.  A proportion of current foodies have been vocal about Lei Garden receiving so many Michelin 1 Stars in some of their chain outlets in Hong Kong and Overseas,  yet personally I believe some of these branches can be truly deserving of this based on quality consistency and history alone.  Many years ago,  I remembered reading about Chairman Chan Shu Kit's earlier failures,  as he was simply a Perfectionist when eating Cantonese cuisine,  to the point he lost millions of dollars for his first openings and numerous Chefs abandoned his restaurants - but not before grumbling to the boss "why don't you go cook the dishes yourself,  if you really required this high standard?".   As if hit by an awakening call,  Mr Chan decided to take matters into his own hands and started to learn from scratch on how to cook and perfect each dish after he had already opened Lei Garden - and this type of army style managerial training made what Lei Garden stands for today.  It is an institution that is famous for it's Management and Brand, rather than for remembering their individual Chefs..

Lei Garden - Causeway Bay, Times Square
My favorite branches in Hong Kong are at Mong Kok, Wan Chai, and previously Tsim Sha Tsui East.  Some other branches we also patron include IFC or North Point,  but in general we adhere with our preferences unless we were in the vicinity of closer branches.

Fried Tofu Cubes with Spiced Salt - HKD $48
Always an appetizer to order here to start,  this is also a signature starter at Fu Sing and West Villa Restaurant (also ex Manor).  Somehow I think they had intricate relationships back in the days..  The version here is usually the best as it has the best seasoning, but they are close enough  ~ 9/10

Deep Fried Pumpkin with Salted Egg Yolk - $48
I cannot recall the size of this appetizer, but when it came it surprised us because it was quite huge for the $48...  And it was really good.  Slightly buttery with salted duck egg coating, thin batter, with cooked through sweet pumpkins.  Don't forget most places make this as a thinly sliced version,  here,  it's fried as chunks,  which takes much longer cooking times.  ~ 9/10

BBQ Roasted Pork 'Siu Yuk' - 冰燒三層肉 $130
The Signature here, for many years I have said their Charsiu here is actually even better!  This night was an odd occasion I didn't order that too,  since we were only dining as two.  The Pork in my history of eating here has on and off days,  sometimes it's too cold and the meat is bland.  Luckily this night,  the skin was crunchy and the meat well marinated,  5 layered as a belly,  also served warm.  The best I ever remember eating them here,  but I won't take it for granted as probability...  ~ 9.5/10  Sometimes it could be a 7/10 item.

Roasted Pigeon - $65
They have really good Roasted Young Ducklings here at Lei Garden,  but I had that not too long ago in another branch.  This time I ordered the Pigeon instead.  It was moist with the meat,  marinated well with the basics,  and the skin was crispy but not greasy.  Great execution.  Probably what you expect when ordering one,  but nothing really stands out in recipe or presentation.  ~ 8/10

Stir Fried Crab Meat, Dry Conpoy & Egg with Glass Noodles - 桂花蟹肉炒瑤柱 $140
This tasted really good mind you,  but the traditional dish should have eggs fried to assemble 'Osmanthus' flower petals.  Here,  it is presented as strips.  Since the menu did read 桂花, I personally could not accept this version of a classic Cantonese and Shunde regional dish, no matter how good it tastes,  as it is misleading as a misnomer.  ~ N/A

Flowing Custard & Egg Yolk Buns - $30
The buns were surprisingly not puffy soft,  but more on the harder side this time.  I remembered them to taste better,  and the inside also had more sweet custard than salted egg yolk.  Overall this was amiss coming from any Lei Garden kitchen for me.  ~ 6/10

Grapefruit, Mango and Sago Dessert Soup - 楊技甘露 $35
Lei Garden invented this dish over 30 years ago, which has since been imitated and made internationally in Cantonese restaurants.  I am used to calling this pomelo,  but it turned out the original version actually uses pink grapefruit.  It was refreshing,  had enough mango soup and grapefruit to be sour yet smooth with just enough cream.  Definitely still the version to be beaten out there by a large margin..  which is a bit of surprise considering its been 3 decades this was put out on the market by these guys.  ~  10/10

Lei Garden - Causeway Bay Times Square Branch
In general, I thought tonight's performance was actually right up there with the best of meals in the best Lei Garden branches,  in particular that Roast pork.  There were two small misses,  and pricing wise it was actually reasonable - considering many years ago we considered this place prestigious and extravagant.  Overall I thought the dishes at Lei Garden are contemporary Cantonese,  yet not overly exciting.  It is best to come for a family meal which is overall consistent and enjoyable,  and considering how many restaurants out there are taking shortcuts left and right in Hong Kong,  I duly think some Lei Garden branches are worthy of their Michelin Star status.  Even if by 2017,  the menu wouldn't sprang many surprises or innovations!

Price: $260 to $450 + 10% Per Person
Food:   ♕♕♕♕ to ♕♕♕♕ 1/2

Address: 10/F, Times Square,1 Matheson Street, Causeway Bay
Ph: +852 25063828

Other Branches and Information:  http://www.leigarden.hk/en/

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