Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Peking Duck at Kowloon Tang

My friend from California Fro recently stopped by Hong Kong for 2 nights in his whirlwind "round-the-world in 30 days" tour, and we wanted to take him out for some classic Chinese food. Seafood at Sai Kung was our usual choice for taking out-of-town guests but this time we made a last minute change of venue to somewhere closer to town. At the end we managed to get a table at Kowloon Tang at the Elements shopping mall and better yet, they even had their signature Peking Duck available with such short notice - usually it required reservation 24 hours in advance. Lucky us.

I was reading our foodie friend e_ting's blog saying their Peking Duck is the best in town, so I was expecting something great even before we settled down at our table inside the posh dining room on the rooftop of this upscale shopping mall. Our duck - came 20 minutes after we sat down - was brought out and carved by our table and then served in four different ways - similar to many top restaurants in Beijing these days - and we were told to enjoy the food in the exact order with the right condiments they recommended.

First was the skin - sliced paper thin and to be eaten with a light dip of sugar on top. Second was the leaner breast meat, served with sweet soybean sauce (a.k.a. hoisin sauce), and third was the thigh meat, a bit fattier with some skin attached, which we need to fold into a crepe with chives and garlic sauce, like the conventional way we were more familiar with. The fourth dish from the duck was a small stir-fried plate of finely diced duck meat with root vegetables (carrot, celery and bamboo shoot) and sweet corn, and served in an iceberg lettuce wrap. It's our consensus that the skin was our favorite, with that melt-in-your-mouth sensation with the right crispiness. The perfectly done skin was what set their duck apart from the rest, I reckon. 

It's actually a little bit of a stretch sharing the whole duck with just 3 of us, so we only managed to order a few more dishes, all of which I found to be excellently cooked. Among which my favorite was the sauteed spotted grouper fillet with vegetables. I think it was a perfect example of what we called a dish with good "wok hei" - a term we often used to describe a good Cantonese dish, which loosely means it's cooked with "breath of the wok". Often that requires not only a red hot stove, a well-heated wok, and chef's quick hands to do the stir-fry with consistency and precision.

However, service was a bit mixed. People there were friendly and helpful when you managed to get hold of them, and were very accomodative despite we arrived way late for our booking because of traffic and the long line for a parking space. But serving speed was a major issue. I suspect this has more to do with under-staffing front and back, which I was a bit surprised given this didn't look like to be a particularly busy Friday evening. The tea order took like 15 minutes to arrive after a few reminders, and similar for some of the food we ordered. Took us almost 2 hours to finish the meal - not that we particularly mind as Fro and I have much to catch up on. It's not serious, but did put a bit of a dent of our overall experience.

Well we didn't order a lot of dishes this evening but from what we had, it seems like a delightful place that we would love to return for more classic Canto dishes, and of course, for their awesome Peking Duck.

When? June 27 2014
Where? Kowloon Tang, Shop R002-003, 3/F Elements, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon
Menu Highlights? Peking Duck
Web: www.kowloontang.com

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