January 15, 2004

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Hong Kong has a problem. It has one of the most beautiful and spectacular skylines; looking back at the Island from TST, with the Peak covering a plethora of high rises is one of the world's great sights. Accordingly numerous restaurants are perched in the upper floors of many of the buildings that line either side of what's left of the harbour. They are favourites for those with out-of-town visitors as well as the great and good of HK. They are places to see and be seen.

Last night we went to Aqua in TST, one such place. Our experience was the same as several other similar places. We entered the restaurant to be greeted by a front desk in opulent surrounds. I think. It was so dark it was hard to see the water lined perimeter. We confirmed our reservation and headed to the bar for a drink. A door slide open just like those in Star Trek. We ascended to the bar. I think. Again it was so dark it was hard to tell. Several minutes of appreciative view staring and checking out the fit-out of the place commenced. After downing a refreshing ale we moved to our table. Now we only got our booking very late in the piece. All the hot places in HK are hard to get into. Yet in typical HK fashion, someone knew someone, and they knew someone connected with the place. So our table turned out to be the private room in the corner, facing out over the entire harbour. After manipulating our bodies into the sunken floor several more minutes of appreciative cooing commenced. This was helped by a massive light show that seemed to occur on the hour, every hour for the rest of the light. Very thoughtful of HK to provide this for our entertainment. I can imagine it's drawing the tourists in (this is sarcasm, for those that can't sense it). Sure it's pretty to watch, so long as you aren't an epileptic. But it is completely pointless and even a little worrying at times. What if a pilot flying overhead is temporarily blinded by the laser pointed off IFC2?

Our waitress was adequate. Certainly the service met the basic standards of a good restaurant but it went no further. She was not overly friendly, which is not in itself a crime, but she made no effort to establish a rapport with us. I don't want to know a waiter's life story, but I do want to know what's good, what the restaurant history and background is, things that can enhance my experience. Any shmo can carry a few plates to and from a kitchen and write down an order. But HK lacks quality waiting staff in it's upper tier restaurants.

Even more perplexing are the menus. There is a need in most of these places to have eclectic menus with several different incompatible food types. Last night it was Italian and Japanese. I do not know why it is so hard for restaurants here to decide on one particular food style and concerntrate on that. However they could certainly benefit from it. Our waitress informed us if we, a table of 6, ordered a mix of Japanese and Italian the meals would arrive at seperate times as they come from seperate kitchens. I almost laughed out loud. How a top class place can get away with that astounds me. Yet they make no attempt to co-ordinate between kitchens, a crucial part of the service. This split focus also means the food can be hit and miss. We all ordered Japanese entrees and mine was a tasty set of Wagyu beef maki. However my main of prawns with risotto and spicy tomato sauce was disappointing. It wasn't spicy; the risotto was slightly overdone; and four smallish prawns hardly makes a full main course. Sharing a tiramisu for desert with Mrs M was again disappointing. Too sweet, little coffee and no alcohol to speak of. Basically missing anything worthwhile in a tiramisu.

To the final score. The food was average. The service was average. When I say average I am using a different benchmark to what I would use at a small local place. These places sell themselves as top class, so that is their yardstick. The location was superb. The key question is would I go back? Perhaps with visitors from out of town - they get the Star Ferry ride, the view, the funky HK restaurant experience. But for a celebratory meal with Mrs M? Not this place. The search for a good top class place continues. So far VaBene in LKF is the only place the goes close to having the right mix of atmosphere, presence, food and service.

posted by Simon on 01.15.04 at 09:29 AM in the


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Excerpt: I have mentioned previously Hong Kong's fascination for lights. Courtesy of my Da I now know who to blame. The whole article has been shamelessly lifted from the subscription only Australian Financial Review as a service to all Hong Kongers and tourist...
Weblog: Simon World
Tracked: February 26, 2004 04:58 PM


The Hong Kong dining experience can be a difficult one. When I visit I tend not to want to visit "top class" establishments as they seldom satisfy for the sort of money spent. Sydney can be equally hit and miss at times.

I did enjoy dinner at a place up on the Peak recently. Certainly couldn't beat the views. More mid range then top class though.

My leaning is towards the cheap and cheerful (more often surly) cantonese places. Although I can do without the waiter's finger in my complimentary cup of tea.

Poor table service is a great HK tradition.

Normally the "light show" along the harbour is part of the Christmas / New Year / Chinese New Year celebrations. So the light levels should come down in about a weeks' time.

Side note, your definitely becoming aclimatised judging by your acronyms for places. The HK uninitiated may not understand what these are though.

posted by: Andrew on 01.16.04 at 05:34 AM [permalink]

there are two restaurant guides in HK - bc magazine's and HK tatler's. Both cost around $100. Bc's has more reviews and covers a wider range of restaurants from top end to dai pai dong and includes some rather blunt reviews. Tatlers concentrates on the more upper end places. Both are good reads and are useful in pointing you in the direction of restaurants you didnt know, had forgotten about... T
There is a good restaurant at the top of the toliet roll like building close to admiralty on the waterfront (CITIC tower?) expensive but again good views. Also the Harbour Plaza Hotel in Hung Hom has a couple of fine establishments and great romantic views

posted by: Kanis on 02.26.04 at 10:48 PM [permalink]

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