Media mogul Peter Lam Kin-ngoc has been quietly building his restaurant empire for some time now. First he backed his favourite chef from the defunct Toscana, Umberto Bombana, to open the now three-starred Otto e Mezzo. Then he invited tycoon Sir David Tang to design the clubby Island Tang Cantonese restaurant, followed by the uber expensive Wagyu Kaiseki Den in Sheung Wan. And now he’s ventured across the harbour with Island Tang’s first off-shoot, Kowloon Tang.
Located at Element’s rooftop dining area, the restaurant’s design remains faithful to its Hong Kong cousin, down to nostalgic wood panelled walls, its bright yellow sofa seating and the artwork by Wong Chak (creator of the classic comic series Old Master Q). Unlike its neighbours, which seamlessly blend the indoor and outdoor dining areas, Kowloon Tang has kept its intimate dining room distinctively separated. To preserve a quiet fine dining ambience, the biggest table only seats six and we presume large parties will be ushered upstairs.
The menu is best described as innovative classical cuisine. The chef is a Dongguan native who previously helmed the kitchens at a five-star hotel in Sha Tin. It’s fitting then to begin with a Dongguan specialty of stewed pork belly with preserved vegetables wrapped in crispy rice paper ($178). The juxtaposition of textures from the savoury filling wrapped in bean curd sheets is already satisfying but the addition of a layer of crispy and light rice flour breading, which comes without a hint of oiliness, makes it especially sublime.
Kowloon Tang has also brought a Peking duck specialist in from Beijing. The duck ($598) is wheeled out by a master roaster/carver, who greets guests in Putonghua. The bird is imported from Beijing and while the golden surface could be slightly more burnt, the skin itself melts in the mouth with the right amount of fat adding a hint of sweetness to the taste. The individual condiments and plum sauce helpings are also a nice touch. For those who don’t want to fill up with two courses of duck,
go for the single course serving and take the duck meat home to make congee.
The jury is still out on the boiled meat broth with vintage sun-dried tangerine peel ($98). If anything, it resembles a half-baked attempt at molecular cuisine. It’s a clear consommé with a paste-like pork membrane (hours of simmering reduces the meat to a semi-liquefied form) and a piece of old tangerine peel. It still tastes like, well, a decent consommé. When it comes to no-nonsense Cantonese soup, don’t reinvent the wheel.
To complement the chilly weather, we also recommend an off-menu item – clay pot rice with chicken, mushrooms and truffles ($398). The rice comes out piping hot with enough rice to fill at least seven serving bowls. The texture is perfect and each long grain remains distinct without being oily. The succulent chicken chunks are well marinated and a generous helping of trunk mushrooms make this a hearty dish. In fact, with the strong flavour of the mushrooms, the truffles seem almost superfluous.
The best surprise however, is the dessert menu. The Chinese sweets are mouthwatering but you must try the innovative Western desserts, such as the soufflé with yuzu sorbet, or le brownie (both $88). The brownie cake, layered with thin chocolate, chocolate cream and whole hazelnuts, is served with a fragrant passion fruit sorbet. It’s amazingly light on the palate. Feeling adamant that we had tasted similarly divine stuff before, we ask the waiter where the dessert chef hails from, to which he answers L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon.
It’s never easy to operate fine dining outlets inside shopping malls but Kowloon Tang has kept its prices accessible and raised the bar on service. Instead of the mechanical phrases used by big restaurant groups, the staff are genuinely sociable and ask diners for feedback. We hope they keep up this intimate atmosphere. Leslie Chan
Shop R002-003, Civic Square, 3/F, Elements Mall, 1 Austin Rd, West Kowloon, 2811 9398. Daily noon-10.30pm.
Stewed pork belly with preserved vegetables $178
Peking duck $598
Meat broth with sun-dried tangerine peel $98
Clay pot rice with chicken, mushrooms and truffles $398
Souffle with yuzu sorbet $88
Le brownie $88
Ten percent service charge $144.80
Total (for two) $1,592.80
|Venue name:||Kowloon Tang|
Shop R002-003, Civic Square, 3/F, Elements Mall, 1 Austin Rd, West Kowloon