Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Square (Hong Kong) and Xin Dau Ji

Michelin lost in translation

Ok, I always find Michelin hasn't got a clue when it comes to Asian food. Nobu London was average at best, while Yauctcha was created to have Chinese food that suited for the western palate, I enjoyed it but it really lacked the true soul and essence of Chinese cooking. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but I find it hard to consider it Chinese but rather: "Western Chinese" instead. (Which is what the Hakkasan Group, owner of Yauctcha, is aiming at anyway.)

The Michelin guide for Hong Kong is very hit and miss when it comes to Chinese food. Ming Court at The Langham Place Hotel, a two star venue, was wonderful while I can't say the same for the two star Ah Yat Harbour View.... It was very average and one star at best.... My mission this time was to pick two 1 star venues and compare the two and the results proved to me once again, Michelin is just so inconsistent in judging Chinese food.

So first came The Square in the Exchange Square II, Central, owned by the heavy weight restaurant group, Maxims. We picked from the al la carte menu base on their signature dishes and the waiter's recommendation on a dinner service. While it wasn't bad, I failed to find a single dish that stood out as everything I had apart from one dish I can find it at another place at a cheaper price and probably better tasting too. The BBQ meat platter was ok but really nothing special at all, the suckling pig skin on cracker has to be one of the most over priced dishes I've encountered, six pieces of thin meat at almost £20, that is a lot of money in Hong Kong, that is more than enough for a whole meal for 1 person in a standard Chinese restaurant. The pan fired beef fillet and roast pork ribs again were decent but no more than that, the signature deep fried King Prawn and roast giant conch tasted good but for the money you can most likely have something even better else where. The only dish that really impressed was beef cheek cooked in Chinese curry, tender and moist beef cheek in a sweet and well-balanced spicy curry was the saving grace of the evening. 

The Square front door
 Pan fired beef fillet
Roast giant conch
Beef cheek cooked in Chinese carry

The tea here was however, excellent. Large selections with great depth of aroma and lovely elegant tastes. But on the on the other hand, service was very very disappointing, unfriendly manners with absolutely no care at all, slamming dishes one after another then just walking off. This is the worst service I came across with a Michelin restaurant as of writing. To sum things up, The Square is a bit over rated, while it has moments of quality, the bad things are definitely more than the good here, and not to mention it is rather expensive for what you are getting.

Food 4
Service 2
Ambience 5
Value 3

£35 per head

Shop 402, 4/F, Exchange Square Podium, 
Central, Hong Kong

Up next Xin Dau Ji, a family run restaurant serving traditional Cantonese cooking in Jordan, Kowloon. The Xin Dau Ji brand is famous for their freshly roasted suckling pig, it is supposed to be the best suckling pig you can get in Hong Kong. And oh my, it really lives up to that expectation. Warm, and crispy skin with super tender meat, perfectly roasted. 
Xin Dau Ji
Suckling pig

And I really enjoyed all the other dishes that evening too. The lettuces cooked in a clay pot was an absolute delight. This dish perfectly showcases how vegetables can produce something that tastes so great. The freshness and crisp taste of the lettuces with a great mix of Chinese spices created an explosive taste in your mouth. Deep-fried fish fillet with sweet corn sauces is just as good with beautifully fried fish, this classic Cantonese dish was done brilliantly. 
Stir fried goose intestine again was also outstanding, smooth and tender with the right balance of seasoning. This restaurant showcased classic Cantonese dishes outstandingly, using inexpensive ingredients to produce good value everyday flavours. If you are searching for good value classical Cantonese cooking, this is a great place to explore.

Food 6
Service 4
Ambience 4
Value 7

£25 per head

G/F & 1/F,18 Cheung Lok Street, 
Jordan, Kowloon

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