National pride and Old World Hong Kong is what The Chairman restaurant is all about. The exterior is a homage to Hong Kong in the 1940s, with half-curtains, dynasty chandeliers, and a waiter with silver hair greeting guests on arrival. The split-level dining room, meanwhile, provides the option of either public or private dining.
Well-edited, the menu is brief by the standards of Cantonese restaurants. A few items appear as both an appetiser and a main. The pan-fried minced pork cakes with salted fish were nicely salted by the dried fish and flavourful by the pork fat, and made a great meal opener.
A wonderful dish followed in the braised, layered beancurd with morel and Chinese mushroom. The bean sheets had been stacked high like mahjong tiles, then cut into blocks, to give a meaty texture. This “meat” was drenched in brown sauce, which also coated the soft morels and rehydrated Chinese mushrooms. This will be a dish appreciated by both vegetarians and meat-eaters.
Next, we got our fingers dirty, gnawing the crispy, deep-mahogany mess of bones and sweet-sticky meat that were the braised spare ribs with preserved plums in caramelised black vinegar. The soy sauce half chicken was bog-standard by comparison. We enjoyed the silky meat on the bone, with its layer of fat and soy-sauce-dyed skin. While good, however, it was nothing out of the ordinary. Not sure why they call this a signature dish.
The pigeon with Longjing tea and chrysanthemum is a classic dish that never goes out of fashion in Hong Kong. Longjing has been prized since the Tang dynasty and is also known as Dragon Well. Here, the dark meat is impregnated with the rich flavour of the green tea combined with the sweetness of chrysanthemum. The breast was cooked to a notch past medium (more than our preference), but the other parts of the bird were at medium.
Portions at the Chairman are small, and in most Cantonese establishments these would’ve been family-sized dishes at this price point. But no matter: the atmosphere, excellent tableside service and retro-kitsch environment alone would be enough to see us coming back for seconds. By Angie Wong