11 Dec2007

Hutong, Hong Kong

by Marketman

hutong5

The setting is utterly dramatic. Particularly at supper time. Floor to ceiling glass panes present guests with one of the finest harbor and city views from the Kowloon side. In a previous life, I once held office on the 60+ storey of the Bank of China Tower in Central, and I think the view from Hutong was significantly better still. The interiors are intentionally very dark, in order to highlight the city nightscape. Chinese furniture, on black surroundings, unusual ceramics, directional halogens, attentive staff, a somewhat unusual fusiony Chinese menu, and you have the makings of a wonderful evening out. For many, this is drop dead touristy, but worth it, if you ask me. And the evening we were there there were a LOT of local residents dining at the surrounding tables, though mostly foreigners. Sometimes we all go out to eat JUST FOR THE FOOD. Other times it is to spend time with friends. Yet other times is for the location. Sometimes, you get all three combined; our dinner at Hutong was the latter.

hutong1

For dinner, we ordered from an extensive and sometimes bewildering menu. We were at the restaurant early that evening and amongst the first patrons to arrive. So we had to order without the benefit of sneaking peeks at the neighbors food, if you know what I mean. First up, we had a dish of marinated scallops with fresh pomelo. Almost like a scallop seviche or knilaw without the harshness of vinegar, this was soft, rather bland-ish, served cold, refreshing and pleasant. They used Mainland Chinese pomelo which I like much less than our own Filipino pomelos, so while that added a nice touch of sweetness to the dish, it could have been better, as far as I was concerned. MM Flash Rating, 7.0/10.0.

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Next up, a totally intriguing sounding dish. Pigs throat with marinated scallions and coriander. What arrived was a cold salad, at first glance, a marvel created by the chef’s knife skills, but the texture of the pig’s throat was almost like squid, and the astringency of the shredded scallions and sharpness or coriander made for a fantastic combination. Many people wouldn’t like this dish, but I loved it. In small doses, it is strong, sharp, bitter, flavorful and yet with the benign softness and odd texture of the pristine white pieces of pig’s esophagus. We didn’t tell The Kid what it was before she tried it. She didn’t like the scallions and coriander, but ate the pig’s throat, though she didn’t take seconds after we told her what it was… MM Flash Rating 8.0/10.0, mostly because of the novelty of the ingredients and the mix of ingredients. Don’t order this if you can’t stomach a LOT of shredded scallions.

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We HAD to try the crispy deboned lamb ribs. EVERYONE has been raving about this, sort of like a mixture between Peking Duck Skin with honey roasted peanuts and the strong flavor of lamb… And bizarrely, no ribs… it was de-boned. It was a clever dish, almost created by computerized ranking of what would be an over-the-tip dish (crisp skin, sweetness, saltiness, flavor, etc.)… and it was served with soy, scallions and garlic. I liked this quite a bit, but I would only have one or two pieces as an appetizer, then stop. How they get it crisp on both sides is beyond me. MM Flash Rating 9.0/10.0. (Close up of a single serving up top, serving platter below).

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Next up, we had an order of braised prawns with lemongrass. The prawns were skewered on shards of sugar cane and had a corn-starchy sauce with lemongrass and chilis. Definitely a fusiony type dish. the prawns were large, juicy but probably frozen at some point in their journey to the 28th floor. I wouldn’t order this dish again. MM Flash Rating 6.0/10.0.

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The wok-fried beef tenderloin was VERY good. Again, a signature abundance of scallions seemed a bit showy and overpowering, but the beef itself was incredibly tender, yet obviously seared on the hottest of woks. The Kid really liked this dish, and so did I. MM Flash Rating 9.0/10.0

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For colonic happiness, we ordered a dish of sauteed kale (hard stems of chinese broccoli?) that was superbly executed but nothing extraordinary. It came with chunks of salted fish, that was TRULY salty. MM Flash Rating 7.0/10.0

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We also ordered some egg white fried rice that was delicate but “so what?”… Overall it was a solid 8.0/10.0 meal, but the view was so incredibly stunning that I would definitely recommend this place for tourists on a short visit to HK. It was pricey, at say US260 or so for 4, without wine, but again, the food and view were worth it. On the way out, I spied at least six different dishes that I would have ordered if I had known about them earlier, including a whole fish, a leg of lamb, some stir fried dishes, etc. But we were completely full despite the oogling and it was a wonderful evening with a good friend. I have to admit, however, that on the short walk back to our hotel, The Kid and I stopped off at a 7-eleven to buy two Haagen Daz ice creams for dessert. :)

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Trish says:

    Hey MM, what kind of camera do you use? Very nice pictures!

    Dec 11, 2007 | 5:45 pm

     
  2. Marketman says:

    Trish, it’s just a basic “instamatic” digital camera, a Canon Ixus 850; nothing fancy.

    Dec 11, 2007 | 6:20 pm

     
  3. Jennifer says:

    It’s called a point and shoot camera. :)

    Dec 11, 2007 | 8:02 pm

     
  4. Marketman says:

    Hahaha. Now you know how old I am compared to most of my readers… :)

    Dec 11, 2007 | 8:03 pm

     
  5. chunky says:

    Too exotic for my taste…but, they look delicious. Hanggang tingin na lang muna ako, until i develop an appetite to eat pig’s throat. eeewww! sorry…but the Haagen Daz would probably cancel out the ewwwww….

    Dec 11, 2007 | 9:07 pm

     
  6. caryl says:

    Been wanting to visit HK for a long time now. Really ironic that my mom flies (FA) to HK almost every week and we haven’t set foot on it. Soon! The crispy deboned lamb ribs looks really superb! But I think my heart stopped a beat when I saw it, hehe, yummy balat!

    Dec 11, 2007 | 10:41 pm

     
  7. ragamuffin girl says:

    i loved the pig’s throat when i ate it at their sister resto Water Margin in Times Square.
    Try the chicken with chili. Lots and lotsa chili that’ll burn your mouth! They have it with soft shell crab too but i prefer the chicken. :)

    did you get to try any private kitchens?

    Dec 11, 2007 | 11:56 pm

     
  8. Katrina says:

    I’m quite sure you didn’t use your flash when you took these photos. Yet, when I try to take pictures in places that dark without a flash, it never works — always too dark. I know we have almost the same camera, and like me, you’re not a techie…so how do you do it?

    Dec 12, 2007 | 1:06 am

     
  9. Maria Clara says:

    Thanks for the recap of your fine dining at Hutong in Hong Kong and the rating you provided is great idea for people who want to experience the fine dining at Hutong like a road map. Table clothes are not commissioned at Hutong to show the natural beauty of the wood. Obviously, their chefs have a very innovative idea in almost everything they make available to their guests. Lamb is not a primal offering in Chinese restaurants but with lots of Westerner and European travelers they have to evolve into something to cater their taste. I believe with the recent epidemic of bird flu patrons select the roasted lamb instead of duck and the rest was history! Love much their presentation of the lamb in a long wooden board like a miniature banca. They even use I believe the unassuming banana leaves in plating their prawn which added another layer of visual effect. Definitely, I want something sweet and cold to cap off the dinner and very smart of you stopping by 7Eleven to pick up Haagen Daz ice cream. Otherwise, you paid for the priciest ice cream of the night exactly the same ice cream at Hutong with a fabulous view of the Harbor and neon lights!

    Dec 12, 2007 | 1:31 am

     
  10. bealtea says:

    I’ve been to two of Hutong’s sister restaurants, Aqua Roma (one floor above Hutong) and Yun Fu (on Wyndham) ~ awesome interiors here! The food in both restaurants are equally just as good, visually overwhelming, an assault to the senses – in a good way. It all leaves a lasting impression.

    Dec 12, 2007 | 8:02 am

     
  11. Tony Lee says:

    Marketman, Hutong looks very good and we will try it soon. I see it is one of those dark blue lighting places. In my days of travelling all over Asia at the company’s expense(days sorely missed now)I always dined at the best restaurants in town , especially if I could persuade a client to join me,when I really splurged. Brasserie on the Eigth in the Conrad, Hong Kong side and Angelini’s in the Kowloon Shangi-la in Tsim Tsa Tsui were particular favourites. Angelini’s had the same great view towards Hong Kong Island as Hutong and together with BLU in the Singapore Shang also has that dark blue lighting, probably so you cannot see the prices on the menu! Dark blue lighting seems to mean great food though so we all live with it. Carry on great blogging Marketman!

    Dec 12, 2007 | 9:53 am

     
  12. Maricel says:

    Hutong is featured in this month’s Yummy magazine. Instantly recognized it as the same restaurant in your “table with a view” post.

    Dec 12, 2007 | 11:01 am

     
  13. betty q. says:

    What a spectacular view and presentation of the food!…what would make it even more an awesome night out would be sitting there and watching the GREMINID METEOR SHOWER scheduled to appear this week-end while you’re dining….

    Dec 12, 2007 | 3:36 pm

     
  14. CecileJ says:

    Haha, it wouldn’t be the scallions that would put me off eating pig’s throat…it would be the pig’s throat itself!!!! Yikes!!!!

    Dec 12, 2007 | 4:15 pm

     
  15. apm says:

    Regarding the lamb. Its definitely a memorable dish. I have often asked myself how I would attempt to recreate this dish. The first step is definitely to braise the meat so that you could properly debone the lamb. I suspect that the lamb is finished with either dripping boiling oil on the surface or finishing it with a convection oven.

    Dec 12, 2007 | 4:17 pm

     
  16. thejollyjetsetter says:

    Hi Market Man
    My girlfriend is a regular reader of yours and has convinced me to start reading your blog. After intense scrutiny over the last 4 days, I have to say- I am finding a new appreciation for food. Will be in HK in a few days, booking my reservation at Hutong.

    Keep writing!

    Dec 12, 2007 | 7:02 pm

     
  17. Pecorino says:

    Hi MM, I’d like to know if the name Hutong refers to what I think it does.

    When I toured Beijing, I visited a part of the Hutong, the ancient residential compounds that sprouted right outside the walls of the Forbidden City, where the emperor’s staff lived with their families for generations. These Hutongs were built in the traditional Chinese courtyard style with an elegant garden in the center from which all the separate roofed living areas were accessible. After a few centuries however, the courtyard concept was abandoned and many more smaller living quarters were built within the inner walls to accomodate the generations.

    Today, most of the Hutongs is gone — demolished to make way for modern buildings, especially with the impending 2008 Olympics. If you’re lucky, you might still be able to catch a rickshaw tour to some surviving Hutongs, where the residents would welcome you into their homes for tea and some conversation, helped along by your guide of course. The living quarters are cramped, almost like a clean slum area. However, don’t be surprised to find within the cramped space, centuries-old, exquisitely-carved wooden furniture that are still in use (assembled with no nails!). Also, I was thrilled to stand under a heavily-fruiting pomegranate tree in what remained of an ancient courtyard. Amazing.

    By the way, while in Beijing, I found lamb to be a common menu item in restaurants. I found skewered lamb kebabs in food stalls too. Not too surprising if one thinks back to Mongolia’s influence (think Kublai/Genghis Khan) in China.

    Dec 12, 2007 | 11:11 pm

     
  18. Marketman says:

    Pecorino, during dinner, we were told many o the dishes had a Northern Chinese influence, so the lamb would make sense now. And yes, Hutong is named after what you think it is… I think they explain it on their site in the link above, or else in someone else’s review of the place… thejollyjetsetter, I have two more HK restaurants coming up, in case you have several meals to book in HK… apm, I like the boiling oil theory, but can you imagine how danerous their kitchen would be with so many of these things subjected to poured boiling fat? Hmmm, I would guess hot oven as well… Katrina, you need a 12 year daughter with technical skills…she just switched my caera to “manual” and I took longer exposures with my elbows steadied on the table…it worked enough for me to have these photos… :)

    Dec 13, 2007 | 6:38 am

     
  19. alicia says:

    The soft shell crab with what looked like two kilos of red chili nearly sent me to the ER! I think I ate a bowl of sugar and two cucumbers to cool my mouth down! Gorgeous presentation of crabs in chinese basket drowned in bright red chilis but really inedible and I thought my tolerance for heat was pretty high. Good thing I had he crispy lamb before the crab so I could taste it. If anyone can recreate this dish its MM, so I am eagerly awaiting your instructions on how to pull this dish off at home !

    Dec 13, 2007 | 10:09 pm

     
  20. Irene Eng says:

    Hi MM .. what kind of camera do you use and excuse? I use the Casio EX-Z60 and am called the terrorist by my loving family. Loved and envied the pictures you took .. http://www.ireneeng.com/?p=1613 ..

    Mar 8, 2008 | 3:25 am

     
  21. Alexthepink says:

    Mmmmm…the lamb ribs are my absolute favourite HK dish and I still miss them after being back in the UK for 9 months! I also really like the soft shell crab, but I agree that it is VERY VERY spicy!!!

    Jul 25, 2008 | 2:51 am

     
  22. min says:

    Every time visiting Hk, I have dinner in Hutong. my favorite dish is the crispy deboned lamb ribs..
    I’ll visit there on this Cristmas with my wife~~

    Nov 12, 2008 | 4:10 pm

     
  23. cf121 says:

    Does anyone have a recipe for the crispy lamb ribs?

    Jan 20, 2009 | 1:57 am

     
 

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