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香港三日游; 3-days in Hong Kong 10/8 – 10/11/2008; 10/9/2008 – Hong Kong and Hutong Restaurant November 15, 2008

Posted by hslu in Travel.
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香港三日游; 3-days in Hong Kong 10/8 – 10/11/2008

Thursday, 10/9/2008 – Hong Kong and Hutong Restaurant

We got up very early today because Maria wanted to visit the Bird Market 鳥街, Flower Market 花街, and Jade Market 玉街. I wanted to go to Hong Kong Island for lunch and check out a few places there. We then have to come back to Kowloon because our big dinner at Hutong was at 8:30 in the evening.

I have already checked the map and decided to take the subway. We stopped by a small restaurant on the way to the Jordan station and had our breakfast there: a bowl of pi dan shou rou zhou 皮蛋瘦肉粥 , a piece of you tiao 油條, a small pan-fried cong you bin 蔥油餅, and a bowl of dou jiang 豆桨. It was okay but it definitely can be improved. Subway was convenient and was a little crowded with students and office workers. After getting out of the station, we only had to walk a short distance to the Bird Market.

We were early arrivals. It was on top of a small hill about several hundred feet long and 100′ wide. Only a few others with their bird cages had arrived before us. A few shops had just opened their doors to start today’s business. We walked around and saw about ten birds in their cages singing and chirping as if they were greeting their old friends. Later on, more shops opened for business as more people arrived with more birds. They all seemed to know each other and had their usual places to sit and hang their bird cages. Some birds had much clearer and beautiful voices and we could hear them from far away. What was more interesting to me was that the shops were selling insects, mostly grass hoppers big and small, and people were actually buying some in the hundreds to feed their birds. The green ones were selling for $18 HKD a bag. The colored ones were selling for $33 HKD a bag and the smaller ones were asking for $48 HKD a bag. I wasn’t sure how many grass hoppers to a bag but it must have at least 50 of them in each bag.

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I saw a guy preparing grass hoppers for his bird. He first cut out their feet and wings to prevent the grass hoppers from jumping or flying away. He then feed them to his bird through the cage. I also saw a post looking for a parrot that was lost on June 5th, completed with a picture and a detail description. It also promised a reward but didn’t give any amount. I didn’t bother to find out how many bugs a bird ate at a time. We left there after a half hour stay.

The flower market was just around the corner. Many shops had just opened for business and shop owners and helpers were still preparing their flowers before any customers show up. Some were unloading flowers from delivery truck while others were watering or re-arranging flowers. The place smelled great and looked very beautiful in the morning sun. It was a sharp contrast though to the sidewalk which was dusty and in need of cleaning. There were many kinds of flowers and they were all very pretty. The most unusual ones were Lotus flower buds and Lotus seed pods. There were also many orchid plants. They were all blooming nicely, a lot better than what we had at home. I wished I was good at raising orchids like they do.

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Before arriving at the Jade Market, we passed by five or six cars parked under an elevated highway. They were all from different driving schools and were waiting for students to come for road driving training. We also stopped by the tian hou miao 天后廟 or Empress Goddess Temple and paid our respect to guan yin 觀音. The temple was very small but the front yard of the temple was quite large. Many people sat under several old 榕樹 Banyan trees enjoying the nice sunny day.

When we arrived at the Jade Market on Canton Road 廣東道, I was very disappointed because the place was kind of running down and didn’t have quality stuff for sale. The open market was inside a large building with no walls. It had about 20 make-shift stalls selling stuff which can be found at 女人街. Maybe the owners kept the high quality jade pieces hidden and you had to ask to see them. Maria looked around but I had no interest at all. After we left the open market, we saw quite a few antique shops that were actually jade stores. Here the quality of the jade was much higher and prices were in the tens of thousands Hong Kong dollars. Maria actually had the nerve to stop by a store and asked to see a few jade pieces and jade ear rings. Since her knowledge and mine in jade were very limited, we wouldn’t dare to buy any. We looked around a bit more and decided to take the subway to the Hong Kong Island.

Although we had been in Hong Kong two or three times before, we only came to the Island once to attend a lunch in a huge restaurant about 10 years ago. Most of the time, we stayed at Kowloon because Damon, Maria’s brother-in-law, lived in Kowloon. This would be the first time we actually visited the island.

We got off at the Central Station 中環 and walked along Queen’s Road 皇后大道 and many side streets. Hong Kong is different from Kowloon in many ways. I now realized why Damon and people who live in Kowloon don’t want to come to Hong Kong Island. Hong Kong looks and feels like a business district while Kowloon is more like a huge busy shopping center. We decided to go to the restaurant I picked out earlier for a dim sum lunch.
While visiting Hong Kong, one has to try dim sum. The restaurant I picked out in Hong Kong Island was Lu Yu Tea House 陸羽茶室. It was touted as a unique, traditional and authentic tea house with changing weekly menus, traditional dim sums, stylish interior, and old waiters in their traditional white shirt and black pants. We sat down and the waiter asked us what kind of tea we like. I said “jv pu 菊普.” Do you know what he said to me? “We don’t have jv pu. You can have “pu er 普洱 .” I immediately said to myself”What kind of Cantonese restaurant is this? It didn’t even have my favorite tea.” Well, surprise aside, I took his offer and order a pot of pu er 普洱 tea. I then saw the menu which was printed on a sheet of whimsy paper; the kind of paper I used to see when was a little boy back in Taiwan. I glanced through the items on the menu and picked out several that I like to eat. I gave the order to the waiter who had been on my side waiting to take my order. I then said to him “I like to have an order of 鳳爪 (Chicken feet) and 荷葉飯 too.” Did you know what he said” We don’t have 鳳爪 and we don’t have 荷葉飯 either.” And he pointed to the menu and said “That’s all we have.” What? No more than 20 or 30 items? I can’t believe what I hear. Not to mention that their prices were almost twice as much as I would get in any Cantonese restaurant here in the United States.

It turned out that none of the dim sum dishes were special or worth writing home about but their specialty dishes looked interesting. I was totally disappointed at limited selections and disgusted at missing a good opportunity to try great dim sum that we like.

We then walked around the side streets but didn’t see anything special. The Grand Millennium Plaza 新記元廣場 was a nice place to take a break. The IFC Mall 國際金融中心商場 was very busy with many students on their way home from school. We stopped by for ice cream and enjoyed the view of the Hong Kong harbor.

Instead of taking the subway back to Kowloon, we decided to take the ferry since we are just a few blocks away from the Start Ferry 天星碼頭. The ferry ride was less than 20 minutes and it was very pleasant under a clear sky. We then walked back to the hotel and get ready for our dinner at Hutong 胡同.

Hutong is one of the most popular chic restaurants in Hong Kong. It is in the heart of 尖沙嘴 Tsim Sha Tsui, less than 10 minutes walk from our hotel. It is on the 28th floor of One Peking Plaza and I have reserved a window table for 2 at 8:30 PM.

The term hutong 胡同 refers to the small ancient alleys of Beijing’s traditional courtyard neighborhood. Although Hutong the restaurant bears no resemblance to Beijing’s hutong, the name reminded me of old world Chinese charm as if I am taking a leisure walk along the back alleys and immersing myself in the daily lives of people along the narrow streets. We took the elevator to the 28th floor and were met with several attractive hostesses in traditional Chinese dresses. We were a bit early and I told them about the reservation. The hostess asked to wait for a while at a private dinning room near the entrance. The ceiling to floor windows in the room provided a beautiful view of the gleaming skyline of the Hong Kong Island. The interior is traditional old Chinese with wooden screens and wooden doors completed with 門聯. The private dinning room has a 60″ round table just like what we have at our house. It was set up for ten guests with ten high back wooden chairs. After we had a chance to take a few photos, the hostess came and led us to a window table in the middle of the dinning room.

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The interior of the dinning room was dark with a few red lanterns. Long red silk curtains were draped from the ceiling. The tables and chairs were old style Chinese. The window is on one side of the dinning room and it is probably 12 to 14′ tall. There were 20 tables or so and the restaurant wasn’t very busy when we got there. I saw some flash lights when customers took pictures to remember the special occasion. I liked the interior of the restaurant because it is modern and trendy yet it retains the old charm of China. The wood screens were beautifully carved. From the entrance to the dinning room and then to the bathroom, all décor was traditional Chinese. There were a bronze Buddha’s head, a big bird cage and statues of a few Chinese warriors. The ceramic plates and bowls were heavy and nicely done. Of course, the awesome view of the glistening Hong Kong harbor night scapes provided a nice backdrop for a very romantic dinner. I especially like the menu with Chinese calligraphy and the smart use of Chinese phrases to name their dishes.

We ordered a bottle of Sancerre from Domaine Thomas and three appetizers:
• 雲海白玉 Yun Hai Bai Yu – White Jade in a Sea of Clouds
o Scallops with fresh pomelo or Chinese grapefruit,
• 芝麻苦瓜 Zhi Ma Ku Gua – Sesame Seed Bitter Melon
o Bitter Melon with Black Sesame Seeds
• 胡同小物 Hutong Xiao Wu – Hutong Little thing
o Braised Lotus Roots with Assorted Mushroom

For Entrée, we had
• 小蹄筋 Xiao Ti Jing; Small Pork tendons
o Pork shank Tendon fried with Golden Scallions and Pawn Roe
• 王府烤鴨 Wang Fu Kau Ya; Roasted Duck for Imperial Family
o Imperial Golden Crispy Duck Fillet

For 主食, we ordered
• 水滸擔擔面 Shui Hu Dan Dan Mian; Spicy Noodles
o Spicy Noodle with Minced Pork and Peanut Sauce

And finally for dessert, we had
• 黃面魚 Huang Mian Yu’ Yellow Face Fish (It doesn’t sound like a dessert.)
o Chilled Mango Pudding served with Mango Milky Sauce

White rice cost $18 HKD a bowl, Chinese tea went for $18 per guest and coffee was $38 HKD. All dishes were very tasty and nicely presented. They retained the northern Chinese flavor with a twist of fusion flavor. However, the Dan Dan Mian wasn’t very impressive though. The service was polite and tentative but not pushy. It took us almost 2 hours to finish our dinner and the wine. The meal cost us $1,965 HKD or about $280 US at a little better than $7 HKD/$1 US after fees.

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On the way back to our hotel, we noticed a nice looking restaurant called The Sweet Dynasty 糖朝. The name caught our attention and we decided to check it out. It turned out the place is famous for their sweets, thus the name 糖 or candy. We got a table upstairs and ordered 百合红豆沙 and 木瓜炖雪耳; both are excellent, way better than what we could get in the US.. The décor is simple yet quite trendy. It also serves hot meals and dim sum. The place was great and worth coming back to. Since it wasn’t very late, we strolled to the Temple Night Market again for a night tour. The place was still very crowded but many places had started to close for the day. We walked around a bit and returned to our hotel. Tomorrow would be our day to gamble in Macau. I couldn’t wait.

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