High-end wining and dining has its obvious allures. There’s the fancy décor, the attentive service, the stunning plates handcrafted with finicky precision. But there are times when simplicity can be just as rewarding and we’re gladly reminded of this during a visit to Happy Welcome Restaurant.
The owners of this divey, congee-centric eatery have a long history in the restaurant industry, having operated a similar cheap and cheerful concept in Yau Ma Tei that recently closed its doors after more than 10 years of business (high rent in Hong Kong is an ugly thing). They’ve since migrated to West Jordan, moving into humble new digs where customers perch themselves uncomfortably on tiny red plastic stools while listening to the background sounds of the latest drama series flashing across the TV screen. It’s not pretty, but the food is thoroughly comforting.
The congee of course is brilliant – a perfect ratio of rice and broth yielding a bowl that’s fluffy, cottony and diligently seasoned. If you want to put to rest the myth that porridge is bland, prosaic food, do as we did and order the one loaded with century egg, shredded pork and small chunks of salted duck egg ($16). The signature claypot-cooked congee is equally good, especially for those who prefer their porridge with a slightly thinner consistency. And while you might not expect a down-and-dirty store like Happy Welcome to really splurge on fine ingredients, the claypot clam congee ($38) arrives brimming with fresh, open bivalves that still carry a tinge of briny sweetness.
On top of the mile-long list of congee dishes, the restaurant peddles an extensive repertoire of freshly steamed plates. Chase your congee with an order of ‘zha liang’, deep-fried Chinese crullers wrapped in steamed rice flour sheets. There’s the plain version ($15) and one with rice wrappers that are further embellished with dried prawns and chopped scallions ($25). Both are sliced into wide, bite-sized pieces before they’re sloshed in soy sauce. Enjoy these the proper way by topping them off with extra peanut sauce and toasted sesame seeds.
We also recommend the delicious radish cakes ($15), which are moist and soft without being mushy. The blocks are speckled with bits of preserved sausage and dried prawns, which give them enough flavour to hold their own even without the traditional oyster sauce accompaniment. Another dish that’ll slap a smile on your face is the steamed-to-order Teochew ‘fun gor’ dumpling ($12). It combines softened diced carrots and jicama, peanuts, zingy cilantro, chives and crunchy salted daikon all tucked neatly inside sticky wheat and tapioca flour envelopes. The plump dumplings measure up to the size of a baby’s fist and look like translucent gems resting in a shallow pool of soy sauce. These are a must.
The only thing that doesn’t particularly float our boat here is the pork rice roll ($18), which comes with too little meat to balance its starch-heavy flour wrappers. It’s a strange anomaly in a restaurant
which is otherwise so generous with its portion sizes.
Happy Welcome charms because it does food that is simple, stripped-down and completely honest. On most days, that’s all you can really want or ask for. Dorothy So
8 Man Wai St, Jordan, 5114 8831.Mon-Fri 8am-midnight, Sat 8am-2am & Sun 11am-midnight.
Century egg and pork congee $16
Claypot congee with clams $38
Pork rice roll $18
Zha liang with dried prawns $25
Radish cake $15
Teochew dumplings $12
10 percent service charge $0
Total (for two) $139
|Venue name:||Happy Welcome Restaurant (Closed)|
8 Man Wai St, Jordan