Lung King Heen is on the fourth floor of the Four Seasons hotel, with a fine view over the harbour. The dining room has a wooden floor and comfortable chairs with generously spaced tables. The tasting menu is HK$ 1,080, starters priced at around HK$ 80 – 160, main courses HK$ 140 – 580. The wine list has quite a lot of depth, with choices such as Kanonkop Pinotage 2006 at HK$ 530 for a wine that costs around HK$ 180 to buy, Au Bon Climat Chardonnay 2001 at HK$ 1,080 for wine that you can purchase for around HK$ 180, up to wines like Alion 2002 at HK$ 1,400 compared to a retail price of about HK$ 320. At the high end a bottle of Cristal 2000 will set you back HK$ 8,900 compared to a retail price of about HK$ 2000, and Petrus 1970 is priced at HK$ 65,000 for a wine worth perhaps HK$ 16,500 to buy if you could find it.
I had two meals at Lung King Heen in the same week, one dinner and one lunch, with quite different results. I’ll discuss the dinner first. An amuse bouche (or whatever the equivalent phrase would be in Cantonese) was a quail egg with a little crisp and julienned vegetables and a pool of lightly spiced soy sauce. Pleasant enough (14/20). Eel was deep fried and presented on a little basket for decoration, the eel itself tasting OK, the batter reasonable (14/20).
Hot and sour soup had clean flavours, well controlled spicing and avoided the gloopiness that can sometimes affect this soup; pieces of garoupa were in the soup and cooked quite well (15/20). Seared scallop stuffed with shrimp paste was served with a rather ordinary piece of asparagus and had a slightly gelatinous texture, but the scallop and its stuffing were tasty enough (14/20). The big let-down was a dish of mixed vegetables (carrots, sweet corn, sugar snaps, tofu, and cashew nuts) which were somewhat overcooked and were the kind of thing you’d expect to see in a much less accomplished restaurant (12/20).
Prawns with chilli sauce were tender and had careful spicing but with some rather overcooked beans (15/20 at best). They had run out of Peking Duck despite it being early in the evening and was directed to a dish of “paper duck”, whose skin was too hard and was heavily over-salted (it takes a lot for me to think something has too much salt), though the meat itself was tolerable (12/20). Walnut puffs were pleasant but extremely dry and would have been better if accompanied by something liquid e.g. a custard (13/20). Overall this dinner was really only 14/20 level based on the food alone.
Service was, frankly, poor. The waiter failed to bring some rice at a requested point in the meal, and even tried to take away a dish that we were clearly still eating. He would have not been out of place at a basic place in London’s Chinatown, which is all the more odd when I contrast with the service we later had at lunch.
We went back for lunch a few days later, partly as I had heard that the dim sum was particularly good, as partly as I believe that different chefs make the dim sum (just as pastry chefs in French kitchens tend to be different from the chefs making savoury courses). Three chilli dips are offered with the dishes: a chilli and black beans sauce, a vegetable tofu chilli and a spicier Szechaun sauce.
We tried a series of steamed dumplings, which were extremely well made. A shrimp dumpling with bamboo shoots had silky texture and good shrimp taste, while steam rice balls with lobster in black bean sauce was also excellent (16/20). Baked spicy beef puffs with morels had very light pastry and good beef (17/20). Pan fried rice balls with XO chilli sauce were shaped into rectangular slabs and served with shredded vegetables (15/20). Steamed scallops and lobster dumpling was also light and airy (17/20).
Wok-fried taro dumpling with chilli XO sauce had pleasing taste, the texture of the slab of dumpling almost like a terrine (15/20). Vermicelli noodles with crab meat were prettily presented on lettuce, and had good texture (15/20). Baby bak choi with garlic were excellent, very lightly steamed and retaining their youthful taste very well (17/20). For dessert a bun with lotus paste was delicious, coated with sesame seeds (17/20), a little cream custard puff was prettily decorated with the logo of the hotel and was very light (17/20). Osmanthus roll with green tea was essentially a jelly, and was nice enough, though I don’t really feel qualified to score this; a mango and sago soup was pleasant though I’d have preferred more mango flavour (14/20).
This lunch was a solid 16/20, with some dishes pushing into 17/20 territory. By contrast with the previous dinner, service was faultless. Staff greeted us by name, topping up of tea was perfect, and our waiter was excellent. It is remarkable that the same restaurant could produce two such different service experiences.
Given the dinner was a 14/20 and the lunch a 16/20, an overall mark of 15/20 seems fair, though clearly you can do both better (and worse) than this. The main issue for me is with Michelin rather than the kitchen. If this had a single star, similar to Hakkassan in London, then I’d have said that was fair enough, at least based on the lunch. But three stars? This accolade should be reserved for the ultimate in cooking, with faultless dish after faultless dish. Chefs who have deservedly gained two stars, such as those at the Caprice upstairs in this same hotel must find the 2009 Michelin Hong Kong scoring a kick in the teeth.