Saturday, May 13, 2023

Neighborhood Canto at a New Spot

A stroke of luck got us a table at Hop Sze Restaurant a few weeks ago. We haven’t visited the restaurant for a while now that a table at this neighborhood Canto eatery became one of the most sought after in town, and it’s our first since they expanded to this second shop in Tin Hau, which they called “Hop Sze Speakeasy” 合時小廚私房菜. (Here's our last visit 2 years ago)

The setup of the restaurant at a small blind alley somewhere in between Causeway Bay and North Point was somewhat similar to their original venue, except it’s much more spacious – felt like it’s double the space with the same amount of covers. The menu was similar too – simpler “cha chaan teng” fare during the day, and a more elaborate dinner menu with some family style Cantonese dishes and seafood dishes that required advanced order. 

Just the four of us this time we only managed a few dishes, and we opted for some of our old favorites which were also their signature dishes nowadays. Deep-fried Abalone with Salt and Pepper is one dish easy to do but difficult to master, but they did a decent job in having the piece of abalone tender with the right bouncy bite, a thin coat of batter and the well balanced seasoning with salt, pepper, chili flakes and fried garlic. The Prawn Toast, another classic dish often seen in Cantonese banquet-style menu was like the version on steroid, with the mashed prawn in quenelle shape and the whole prawn placed on top of a piece of bread, battered and deep-fried and I like this generous portion with the nice bouncy bite and plenty of umami flavor. 

Hop Sze’s version of steamed threadfin fish (ma yau) set the standard of this dish in terms of overall flavor. The whole fish was butterflied and steamed with chicken oil and huadiao wine with those rich flavor infused into the meat known for the slightly fatty and delicate texture. On top was scallions and julienned ham which gave a hint of saltiness for balance. We haven’t found another place that consistently do this as good as they do. Not so much a “veggie dish” per se but we went for the “Stir-fry King” with dried seafood, squids, garlic chives and cashew nuts. Two different type of dried prawns gave the dish some chewy texture and the threads of dried silverfish and squid tentacles added on for the sea flavor. It’s a simple dish but they did a brilliant job. 

The place was known for its chicken dishes, and we went for the tea-smoked chicken this time. The bronze-color skin indicated the chicken was well basted with soy sauce and finished in the pot infused with tea smoke for the extra flavor, and I love the offals served on the side too. We came here to celebrate mom’s birthday so we ordered an extra dish. A big mud crab was served in a sizzling casserole with ginger and scallions, and the best of all was the steamed rice flour rolls underneath taking in all the flavors. Complimentary dessert was then served, and this time it was the sweet potato soup. 

Would love to come back more often, if only we could get a table at this ever-popular restaurant with an expanded clientele. 

When? April 25 2023
Where? Hop Sze Restaurant, G/F 18 Jupiter Street, Tin Hau, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Steamed Threadfin Fish with Chicken Oil and Huadiao Wine 雞油花雕蒸馬友
Web: (Facebook)

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