Revisiting Hong Kong

Saturday, July 30th , 2016

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I was curious to revisit a pair of restaurants that I had tried several years ago but had felt over-rated, to see whether things had developed and whether they now justified their three star rating. Tang Court is a long running Cantonese restaurant in a hotel in Kowloon, and serves pleasant food in a smart setting, albeit at a high price. I was pretty unimpressed when I came here last, but this time arranged a tasting menu with a local foodie friend who knows the place well, in order to showcase some of their best dishes so as to show the restaurant in the best possible light. The meal this time was a little better than the one I ate here previously, but only a little, and it still seemed to me to be so far off three star level as to be laughable. 

Bo Innovation is another restaurant that Michelin have elevated to three stars after a bumpy road in its ratings. My last meal here was pretty ordinary, but again it seemed fair to give it another chance and see whether the food had developed. This restaurant’s flamboyant chef/owner describes his food as “X-treme cuisine”, and it is essentially Cantonese food with molecular gastronomy techniques applied. To be honest this seems pretty dated now, however innovative it must have seemed a decade ago. It was decent enough food, but at an absurdly high price, and the half empty dining room suggested that I am not the only person to have this view. Again, this is absurdly far removed from the three stars that it possesses.  

I had more luck off the Michelin circuit. The Chairman has no stars whatsoever yet is highly recommended by locals for its cuisine and its unusual attention to trying to use local ingredients where practical, including from their own farm on the New Territories. A vibrant Sichuan chicken dish was boldly spiced and good to eat, as was prawn fried rice and carefully steamed gai lan with ginger. Service was friendly, and the although the dining room is quite nondescript the food was very enjoyable and good value.

Arcane is the new home of Shane Osborn, who used to be head chef of Pied a Terre some years ago. I had an excellent meal here, with several classy dishes including an excellent one with asparagus and black truffles. For this not to have a single star when so many places in the city don’t deserve their stars at all seems bizarre.

I have written before about how the Michelin Hong Kong seems to be far and away the least reliable Michelin country guide, and this trip further confirmed this opinion. Some ratings seem reasonable, others utterly barking. It is unclear to me what the underlying reason for these erratic ratings is, given that is now been running for several years. To allow such obvious problems to continue, whatever the true reason, seems to me to undermine the reputation of the Michelin guides in general.