Summer Palace is in the basement of the Shangri La Hotel on Hong Kong Island. The large room has thick blue carpet, large chandeliers and very comfortable chairs. The wine list skims the world, with choices such as the Lebanese Chateau Musar 2000 at HK$ 800 for a wine that costs about HK$ 170 retail, Felton Road Pinot Noir 2007 at HK$ 900 for a wine you can buy for around HK$ 190, and even a Chinese wine, Great Wall Cabernet 1992 at HK$ 680. For those on expenses the great Vega Sicilia Unico 1994 is listed at HK$ 6,800 – this wine will set you back over HK$ 2000 in the shops.
We began with some soups. Hot and sour soup was a superior version of the classic, the flavours clean, the tastes coming through strongly, the sharpness of the vinegar just right (15/20). Sweet corn and crab meat soup was also nicely made, though perhaps not as striking (14/20). Live prawns in XO sauce were tender, served with asparagus and spring onions and a little red chilli. I felt the sauce was a little muted in flavour but the prawns themselves were excellent (15/20).
I thoroughly enjoyed the Peking Duck. The skin was carefully removed at the table and served in ultra-thin pancakes, each pancake with a little bundle of spring onions tied up in a red chilli string. The skin was superb, crisp yet yielding on the tongue, quickly melting away leaving a lingering delicious flavour of the duck. It was interesting that each component here was of a high standard, not just the duck. Even the plum sauce was superb, a million miles away from the norm. The duck meat was then served as a second course in crisp lettuce, the meat having superb flavour. The duck was the second best version of this classic dish that I have eaten (the best was at Made in China in Beiing), and for me was 18/20 standard.
Gai lan was also terrific. The shoots had been carefully selected to be just the youngest and most tender, these very lightly steamed with garlic. This was the best gai lan I have eaten, a great example of just how good a humble ingredient can be made to taste if it is carefully chosen and then handled well by the kitchen (18/20).
Service was brilliant, our waitress (Carol) anticipating every minor need. A small example of this was that at one point my wife went off to the bathroom; without anything being said, a fresh hot bowl of rice appeared on her return. This meal really lifted my spirits during a week of frankly ordinary food in highly rated Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong.