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Archive for the ‘Mongkok/Yau Ma Tei/Jordan’ Category

Last Friday a bunch of my friends and I headed to an interestingly-named Shanghainese eatery in Jordan. The Chinese name has nothing to do with its English name, Osama Tony. Cryptic, I know…is this the name of a new hipster band? I recall reading somewhere, though, that its meats are halal (or something like that) so maybe that’s where the “Osama” comes from? It’s also the sister restaurant of another Osama Tony in Kowloon City which, inexplicably, serves Japanese food. Ahh, the mysteries of Hong Kong.

In any case, Osama Tony caught my eye because on Openrice there were a bajillion photos of their wonderful “dim sum” selections, especially my favorites: xiao long bao (小籠包) and sheng jian bao (生煎包). They also have a variety of traditional northern and Shanghainese dishes such as stir-fried green beans with pork (乾煸四季豆) and stir-fried nian gao (炒上海年糕).

The reader’s digest version of this place is that the dishes are decent, but they’re a bit salty on their own. That being said, you must, must, MUST come here for their stellar selection of scrumptious baos and dumplings.

I went with a group of five friends and when we arrived around 7:30, the place was packed. They kind of have a front “VIP”-ish room with roomy booth seating all around the edge, but alas! I did not book. Anyways, the staff were quite accommodating and helped us cobble together a makeshift table after only about 10 minutes of waiting. We promptly ordered a variety of dishes and waited eagerly. (Side note: There is also an English menu!)

The first things to arrive were our dishes, including kung pao chicken (宮保雞丁), the aforementioned green beans, and hui guo ruo (回鍋肉), or twice-cooked pork.

The kung pao chicken impressed me because they gave us cashews instead of the traditional peanuts. I felt like that was really zhi, or good-value-for-money (it’s the Chinese in me coming out, I guess!). The green beans were pretty typical, though I wish they were a bit more burnt and crispy on the edges. The twice-cooked pork was quite salty (a problem that kept recurring, which I’ll discuss later), but the red peppers in the dish added some much-needed sweetness and tang.

Later on the ma po tofu came out, which was definitely not spicy. It was still good, but the flavor profile was basically the same as the others. In fact, my main concern with all of these dishes is that even though the portions were great given the prices, they were sal-TY! It’s what my parents would call xia fan cai, which literally means “dishes that help make the rice go down”! I think they’d have been better if we had ordered white rice. But, on their own, I definitely got the impression the taste was one-dimensional – all kind of the same soy-sauce-salt-garlic flavor.

So that was the not-so-good.

Here’s the GREAT: the dim sum selections! Order as many of these as you can, especially the xiao long bao! We got one for each of us and these little gems came out steaming hot, cutely dimpled, and oh-so-soupy. The thicker wrap perfectly cradles the abundance of soup, which comes crashing into your mouth at first bite. Heaven.

Another must-order is the sheng jian bao, or pan-friend buns. The wrap is fluffy and full, and the inside also has a little bit of the xiao long bao soup, making the filling moist. The bottoms of the bao were crispy and crunchy, and the toasted sesame seeds on top were a nice touch.

The gwok-tip (生煎鍋貼), or potstickers, were also a hit, pan-fried to the same crispiness. They were plump and pillowy, with the wrap a little bit thicker than many dumplings/potstickers I’ve had in Hong Kong.

Lastly, we got the spring onion cake (葱油餅). Even though it’s still called a bing, the difference from normal Beijing bing is obvious at first glance – I call this a 3D bing, a veritable ring of flaky crust and plentiful green onions. J told me this may be how the Shanghainese make their bing, as she’d seen it this way many times before. The onions were a bit salty when you got a mouthful but they seemed to be spread far enough to keep this dish balanced. I really loved the way the bing softly melted in my mouth.

So the conclusion is, if you’re a huge fan of xiao long bao or sheng jian bao, you need to visit Osama Tony. Their soup dumplings are on par with many in the city, including IMHO, those of Crystal Jade and – yes – even Din Tai Fung. Another added bonus is that each order of these dim sum selections comes in two, so it’s easy to eat on your own. Of course, who’s to say you shouldn’t get two orders on your own? With bao this good, eating four by yourself is a given.

Osama Tony
122 Woosung St.
2755 5090
Cost: ~ $60-80/person 

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With a name like Supreme Beef Brisket Soup, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. Fortunately, this little Yau Ma Tei noodle shop really delivers. J, P, and I happened upon this restaurant when we were heading to Mido Cafe. Since it was only the third day of Chinese New Year, Mido Cafe was closed, and the Supreme was staring right at us. There were a good number of patrons inside and outside, and we decided to give it a whirl.

The menu was in Chinese, English AND Japanese. The prices were a pleasant start to our morning; few things were over $40. I loved how you could get the signature brisket by itself, or with noodles, rice or noodle soup. Customization!

Choices, choices, choices

But let’s get down to what’s really important: the food! P ordered the beef brisket curry in noodle soup and it came out in two bowls: one with brisket and one with noodle soup. The curry wasn’t super-spicy, but had a nice kick to it. The brisket was so unbelievably soft. It came apart delicately in your mouth – definitely not something I was expecting at a corner shop in Yau Ma Tei, but they are “supreme”, after all!

Curry Brisket Beef and noodle soup

Ooooooh the curry brisket!

The broth for the noodle soup was the same for all three of our dishes. My other friend J, who lives nearly above the Supreme, told me the savory flavor has a certain je ne sais quoi because they use Chinese daikon. I have no idea if this is true, but the bottom line is: the broth was salty, savory, and light all at once.

My fresh prawn wonton noodle soup rested in this lovely broth, and the wontons were stuffed within an inch of their life. Each one seemed to have a prawn and a half, and with a little bit (or a lot) of the homemade chili oil on the table, the whole bowl dazzled.

Wonton prawns before the spice...

...and after

J’s pork ball noodle soup was also a win. And on a side note, the green onions in all of our soups were awesome. Just as you got into the savory soup, you’d get a crunch of freshness which offered a nice balance.

And this little piggie went into our soup

So next time you’re going to Mido Cafe, take a detour. With a mix of great noodle soups and its prime people-watching location (we saw so many accidentally fashionably old men in the half an hour we sat there), the Supreme is where it’s at – and they mean business.

Supreme Beef Brisket Soup
46 Portland Street
2771 9897
Cost: ~ $60/person

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A few weeks ago, C/G and I snuck away from work for an extra-long lunch. Our bellies craved a buffet. Openrice provided a coupon. Before we knew it, we were at La Scala.

And also before we knew it, we were bouncing around the buffet islands like happy schoolchildren on a sugar high, completely enchanted with the create-your-own-sashimi, carved roast beef with gravy, fluffy cha siu bao, grilled zucchini and eggplant, and TWO types of chocolate fountains! (White and regular chocolate, in case you were wondering.) Rest assured this is a buffet with something for everyone; from the Indian curry to salad fixings, make-your-own-noodle-bowl (pick from an assortment of raw ingredients and they’ll cook it for you) to blueberry crumble (!), the lunchtime deal at La Scala is worth the money. Their western food is quite authentic, and their Asian dishes are simply delish. You can also get unlimited cups of Nestlé ice cream and, from what I saw on the Openrice photos, Haagen-Dazs at the (slightly more expensive) dinner buffet.

Definitely a treasure for the shopping- and work-weary in the Mongkok area. Or those who just like good food.

La Scala
2/F, Royal Plaza Hotel
193 Prince Edward Road West
2622 6154
Cost: ~ $150 HKD/person (with coupon; otherwise, it’s around $180)

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(This may be the closest I get to writing a bad review.)

Going back in time, I must comment on a meal I had last Sunday. I was with C, a mainland-born, Canto-, Mandarin- and English-speaking friend, and we decided to have lunch at Nuocmam in Mongkok. It was about 11:30, and we were the first ones there. I spoke to the hostess (in English) and we were promptly seated with our menus. We ordered a bowl of pho, some spring rolls, and a chicken vermicelli (typical, I know), and waited.

Mango madness

Let's spring for some rolls

First, some cursory comments on the food: it was generally quite good, especially the pho broth. It had a bit more mint than usual, giving it a kick of freshness. We ordered the rare beef pho, which came out as two entities: First, there was a bowl with noodles, beef, and sprouts. Then, the waiter came with a tea kettle of broth, which he poured in front of us. I’d never seen this done before, but accordingly, the rare beef cooked before our eyes. Very neat! The spring rolls were nice, too, with mango (quite original!) and chives.

The food was yummy, yes, but the thing that really stood out about this meal was language discrimination. That’s right, we were slighted based on our speaking English! Like I said, we were the first ones there, but soon, families and couples filled in around us. We noticed everyone else had a blue sheet with boxes to tick; I was craning my neck the whole time to see what they were, but to no avail. Finally, at the end of our meal, C asked the captain in Cantonese for a copy of the sheet. We found out that, on Sundays and public holidays, Nuocmam has a deal where, for $75 HKD a person for an hour-and-a-half, you can order as many items as you like off the blue menu! Naturally, we demanded why we didn’t get a menu and the captain initially said, “maybe they forgot you” but we immediately dismissed that – we were the first (and only) customers for a while. She then admitted that they thought we only spoke English and, as the buffet menu was all in Chinese, we wouldn’t understand it. I was slightly miffed. C asked ever-so-nicely if we could get a discount on our meal. No dice, but the captain said she’d bring out free desserts (which were good as well).

Fortunately, our bill was about $80 HKD a person, so not an egregious difference, but still! We felt slightly cheated. The experience left a bad taste in my mouth (figuratively), but the buffet is quite a deal, so as much as I’d like to remain indignant, I may be back sometime in the future with a Canto-speaker.

Still, this kind of language discrimination surprised me. I’m used to people giving me short shrift when I speak Mandarin, but never before had I missed out on something great simply because it was assumed I/we only spoke English. Hmmph.

Nuocmam
Shop C, 6/F, One Grand Tower
639 Nathan Road
2628 0331
Cost: ~ $80 HKD/person

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The greatest aspect of having a visitor is the excuse it gives you to play in your own city. I had that opportunity this past week: Mr. B, father of one of my high school classmates, came to HK for business. He wanted to tour the city and sample local food as well, so I’d decided a little yam cha was in order.

TIM HO WUN

Our first stop was celebrated dim sum restaurant Tim Ho Wun (thanks to C/G for the pronunciation!) in Mongkok, opened by the dim sum chef from the Four Seasons. Finding the place may seem a little tricky, since the storefront is only in Chinese (添好運點心專門店). Just look for the white sign with green characters (or, the window with all the newspaper and magazine clippings).

Fried cha siu bao = The meaning of life

Fried cha siu bao = The meaning of life

Last time I was here, the restaurant just opened and endless fans queued for hours (literally), even in the middle of the afternoon. This time, Mr. B and I arrived around 11:30; we must have been lucky because we were seated right away in an otherwise full dining room. I must confess I’m not a huge fan of dim sum, but I will heartily chow down at this place. The cha siu cheung fan is the perfect combination of sweet and savory, and the ha gao are nice and plump. And here’s a dim sum pop quiz for you: What’s better than cha siu bao? That’s right – FRIED cha siu bao. If you’re here, you’ve gotta order these. I would travel from HK island on a weekly basis to get these for takeaway if I wasn’t afraid of turning into a little bao myself.

I’d recommend coming here earlier in the day to avoid a long wait. Also, while there is now an English menu, sometimes the dishes get “lost in translation”. Therefore, I think it helps to have a Chinese speaker, or at least someone who knows what to order for dim sum (and how to communicate it to the waitstaff). Although, I’m pretty sure everything is good, and for the quality of food, this place is a steal!

LITTLE SHEEP

Another recession-friendly dim sum establishment is Little Sheep, a chain originally from Mainland China, known for its hotpot. However, on weekends from 2-4pm, there’s an all-you-can-eat dim sum special for $45 a person! Judging from the packed dining rooms, word is definitely out among the locals.

"A rose by any other name...": Chicken feet are called "phoenix claws" on most dim sum menus

"A rose by any other name...": Chicken feet are called "phoenix claws" on most dim sum menus

Upon being seated, you get an order slip where you can tick off as many dishes as you like. Mr. B and I came to this place with C/G, and he selected all the classics – cha siu bao, siu mai, ha gao, cheung fan, and chicken feet. In addition to the order sheet, there’s also a buffet table with more northern-style dim sum choices, which pleased my palate. I raided the spread at the first opportunity and came back with some Shanghai-style fried ricecakes, fried tofu cubes, and sesame balls filled with green bean paste.

A handful of bamboo steamers, soy-sauce-drenched plates, and teapots later, we were all in a major food coma. It’s worth mentioning that when the fluffy, steamed cha siu bao appeared, my salivatory glands automatically kicked into overdrive. And I know I deemed fried cha siu baos the best.thing.EVER., but the original version at Little Sheep reminded me there’s definitely space in the dim sum world for both.

Am I a total cheeseball if this made my day?

Am I a total cheeseball if this made my day?

PS: Little Sheep seems to only have a Chinese menu, so brush up on your food characters!

PPS: This restaurants gets major points for having little male and female sheep in Mongolian-wear on their bathroom signs.

Tim Ho Wun Dim Sum Juen Moon Dim (添好運點心專門店)
G/F, 2-20 Kwong Wah Street, Mongkok
2332 2896
Cost: ~ $70 HKD/person

Little Sheep
G/F, 1/F-4/F, Mongkok Commercial Centre, 16, 16A, and 16B Argyle Street, Mongkok
2396 8816
Cost: ~ $45 HKD/person


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