The Royal Garden staked its claim to Hong Kong restaurant fame some time ago, particularly with its luxe Inagiku Japanese eateries and sushi fine dining spots. However Shanghainese has been unchartered territory for the hotel and restaurant group. That hasn’t stopped it, though, from just opening Jin Cuisine at the Holiday Inn Express in Tseung Kwan O. It’s a bold venture but RG has already garnered a great rep in the city so it shouldn’t fail.
And Jin doesn’t fail. But it’s a snazzy, clean-cut establishment which boasts about serving up edgy, innovative Shanghainese cuisine that should dazzle the eye with its presentation and surprise the tastebuds with its flavours and it just hasn’t really gotten there yet when it comes to offering up something new.
Before we taste the food, we digest the space, designed by award-winning Malaysian firm Blu Water Studio. Orderly and spacious with wide white walls, slivers of silver sculptures and large open windows overlooking a green courtyard, it’s a relaxing spot.
Next, we’re looking for edgy items in the menu which shine in their innovation. But the only thing we find which could be termed cutting edge is that each dish is served in petite, colourful square bowls – only slightly different for Chinese cuisine.
Though Jin may not be that outside the box, the food is nevertheless a delight. As far as Shanghainese meals go, there’s always a degree of comfort in knowing the taste will somehow be familiar and homely. Jin does this well – tasty dishes your gran could have made for dinner.
Chef Sze Chiu Kwan, with over 18 years of culinary experience under his belt, excels at packaging his dishes with an attractive, succulent zeal. The crunchy eels ($95) and crispy mushroom-stuffed tofu wraps ($80) are joys on the palate. The strands of crunchy eel coated with sweet and sour sauce seem delicate but they’re bold in flavour, and the tofu wraps’ shells, which house plenty of soft, meaty mushroom goodness, have just the right amount of crispiness to temper against the filling.
Shanghainese staples stand their ground here. The drunken chicken ($40) is mildly marinated and tears apart at the merest touch of a chopstick. The xiao long baos ($32) are mini pork balls soaking in a rich broth juice which really gets to the back of your tongue. The Taiwanese-style braised aubergine ($32), speckled with red chilli peppers, yellow garlic chunks and green shallot rings and drenched in a brown garlic sauce, is a mouthful of mushy delight. And the spicy sesame-oil mini wontons ($38) provide just the right amount of zesty sting in their minute (and we mean minute – each wonton is the size of a thumbnail) packages. Disappointingly, the dan dan mian ($38) and pork noodle soup ($58) are pretty unmemorable compared to the other dishes despite being decent fillers.
Ultimately, Jin Cuisine does Shanghainese well in a way which would make gran smile. There’s nothing we see which is revolutionary but it’s a soothing space and serves up unpretentious enough fare. We’ll probably give the extensive menu another go (we’re eyeing the Shanghai-style steamed eel) some other time to see if they do have any dishes which live up to the innovation claim. But even if they don’t, Jin’s comfort and familiarity will still leave our stomachs feeling pretty content. Janice Jann
2/F, Holiday Inn Express, Tower 4, 3 Tong Tak St, Tseung Kwan O, 2623 2333. Mon-Sat 11am-3pm & 6pm-11pm; Sun 10.30am-2pm & 6pm-11pm.
Crunchy sweet and sour eels $95
tofu wraps $80
Drunken chicken $40
Xiao long bao $32
Spicy sesame-oiled mini wontons $38
Dan dan mian $38
Pork noodle soup $58
Pu-erh tea $36
|Venue name:||Jin Cuisine|
2/F, Holiday Inn Express, Tower 4, 3 Tong Tak St, Tseung Kwan O