Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Members-only Home-style Cantonese

You are unlikely going to see HKUAA Restaurant being listed as one of the best restaurants in town, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn't. In fact, I have always put them as one of those restaurants that are well-worth a detour despite not having a star, and from my few previous visits, the place never disappoints with solid and consistent execution of tried and true classic Cantonese dishes.

I guess one of the main reasons for the place operating under the radar was that, to start with, it's not exactly a restaurant, but a members-only dining facility for the Hong Kong University Alumni Association at their clubhouse in Central, at the foot of Lan Kwai Fong. A group of us went there recently for a casual dinner after scrambling to find a place to eat at the last minute and the name of this place came up.

We began with their signature almond and pig's lung soup served in a big bowl. It's not an unusual item on the menu of many Cantonese restaurants in town, but only a handful made this as good as the one we had here, with the creamy white soup loaded with umami flavors and a hint of sweetness from the almond, and the chunks of soft and tender lungs added to the texture. The shrimp toast was another classic Cantonese dish, with the piece of shrimp butterflied, put on top of a small slice of bread along with a small piece of Chinese ham, then battered and deep-fried. It made great snack to go with some refreshing rose wine we went with our meal.

We went for a few other home-style Cantonese dishes. The salt-baked chicken was outstanding with crispy but not oily skin and succulent meat underneath, and I also loved the offals that were served on the side. The Pei Pa Tofu, deep-fried mashed tofu and minced fish meat, has the right texture and with good flavors from the fish meat mixed inside. The sweet and sour pork was done with the seasonal young ginger root in addition to the usual sweet pineapple chunks, added to the refreshing taste of this mouth-watering dish - our only complaint was the pork wasn't marinated with hawthorn juice as in the most traditional recipe.

The fried rice, usually served as the last of the savory course, normally became just an after-thought of a long meal, but the one we ordered, with finely diced green onions and char siu, won praises across the table. The rice was well-mixed with bits of fried eggs and the extra-fatty char siu in every bite. The dessert of the sweet walnut cream was equally impressive, with the right portion of the grinded walnut mixed in with evaporated milk giving this sweet soup that velvety texture and excellent flavor.

This is a textbook example of a perfect comfort meal, with nothing particularly fancy, but everything done just right. In case you wonder how to make a reservation... just find someone who is an alumni member of HKU to go with you, but don't ask me who was the one at our table.

When? September 12 2016
Where? HKUAA Restaurant, 1/F Yip Fung Building, 2 D'Aguilar Street, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Almond Cream and Pig's Lung Soup, Salt-baked Chicken

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