[HK] Kowloon Tang | 九龍廳 @ Elements

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The first thing that struck me upon entering this exorbitant looking Chinese restaurant located at Elements Shopping Mall's rooftop dining area was the nostalgic wood panelled walls, bright yellow sofa seating and the artwork by Wong Chak (creator of 'Old Master Q' or more commonly known as 老夫子).

Sister restaurant to the 1-Michelin starred Island Tang restaurant, Kowloon Tang similarly offered Chinese haute cuisine, characterized by the meticulous preparation and presentation of food, which of course came with a hefty price tag. The service staffs were attentive to our needs, such as the need to refill your cup with Chinese tea but I felt somewhat overwhelmed with their recommendations of dishes. As a side note, Kowloon Tang offered some seasonal dishes which were not stated on the menu (feel free to consult the server to your table), but apparently the 'must-try' was the traditional Peijing roast duck (there is a waiting time of about 30-40 minutes, so it would be recommended to place a reservation prior to visiting). It was advocated on their website that 'Rural country food highlights the simplicity' and the focus at Kowloon Tang is not just the dishes but the cooking methods to retain the original taste of ingredients without the usage of MSG to enjoy the freshness of food.

A Chinese restaurant serving fine-dining Cantonese fare with focus casted on Dongguan dishes, let us explore the authenticity of it all!

Cloud Ear Fungi and Bean Curd Sheet with Enoki Mushroom

First up was the above vegetarian starter. There were some finely sliced carrot shreds and enoki mushrooms (the golden coloured, slim and long mushrooms) wrapped inside a thin crisp bean curd sheet. Each portion was then served with an accompanying cloud ear fungi. The initially crisp bean curd sheet soaked up the tasteful broth and each bite was an array of food texture and 'mouth feel'. Do try to consume it as soon as it is served else the bean curd sheet would turn soggy after soaking in the broth. It was not your usual simple detox sort of vegetarian fare, but one that was strong in flavours and definitely a bold start to the ensuing courses.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Peking Duck

So, what makes Peking duck so special, one might ask. Being one of the dishes on the imperial court menu, roast ducks were prepared for Emperor of China since the Yuan Dynasty back in 1330, though the actual term of Peijing Duck was only fully developed later in the Ming Dynasty, with the dish being offered to commoners in 1416 with the opening of the first restaurant serving Peking Duck in Beijing.

The Peking duck was traditionally roasted in closed or hung oven, with the former being built of brick and fitted with metal griddles and preheated with Gaoliang wood, then allowing the duck meat to be cooked slowly through the convection of heat within the oven. It was later improvised by roasting over an open fire fuelled by hardwood from peach or pear trees.

Just about the most important part, serving the Peking duck.

We were just about to finish up our appetizer when a Chinese chef walked up to the side of the table with his push-cart. With a strong Beijing Accent, he briefly introduced himself and the dish that he was about to prepare. Amidst the cosy and quiet ambience of the restaurant, I must say his loud voice and words stood out pretty much, but anyhow let us get back to the prized Peking duck.

Traditionally, the Peking duck is carved in front of diners and served in 3 stages, with the first being the skin being served in sugar and garlic sauce. The meat is then served with steamed pancakes, typically accompanied by cucumber sticks, with sauce and sugar optionally being spread across. The remaining meat, fat and bones could be made into broth or prepared for another dish (which we will include later below)

The above picture depicted the three types of condiments which the chef prepared specially for the Peking duck. Starting from left, it was a self-concocted black sauce which tasted mildly salty, yet distinctly different from the standard dark soy sauce. It was rather viscous but not thick enough to resemble a paste. The second saucer in the middle was but coarse sugar. It was actually the recommended way to consume the Peking roast duck's crisp skin. The Beijing chef vouched for enjoying the crisp roast duck skin dipped in the coarse sugar. Much as it sounded dubious, it was surprisingly the best way to enjoy the dish! The sugar was infused into the fats underneath the thin layer of crisp skin almost instantly upon the first dip and it simply melted in the mouth, literally. It was about the first time that I tasted such a sublime version of Peking duck! The last recommended condiment was nothing too special to rave about, it was simply minced garlic sauce, which I felt did not enhance the dish as well as the coarse sugar did.

This roast duck was certainly not for the faint hearted, with such a thick layer of fat, but if you are after some worthy calories, this would surely fit the bill for making your calories count. Think no more, just close your eyes and sink into the fats....

The underlying roasted duck meat was tenderly cooked and certainly fell no short of being a scrumptious treat indeed. There was the option of the more modern way of enjoying the Peking duck with 'Hoisin sauce' but having tried that at almost every occasion where we savoured Peking duck, the alternative traditional options left much to be welcomed. The succulent duck meat slices coupled with the lusciously crisp roasted duck skin wrapped within a thin handmade steamed pancake was simply divine.

Verdict: 9.5/10

What really disappointed us was that this particular dish cost about HK$600, yet the portions served were pretty mediocre and the remnants of the duck was reserved for the restaurant's discretion and was not further prepared for another dish (which was a common practice for any Chinese restaurant). This was not reflected for our knowledge too until we inquired with one of the serving staffs. We were advised that we could request for the remnants of the duck (which was rather plentiful...) to be prepared into another dish, but nothing comes free apparently.

At an additional cost, we ordered the chef to prepare the remaining fats and meat of the carved roast duck to be further diced up and stirred fried with sweet bean sauce and served with defined cut-out slices of lettuce. Certainly a step towards achieving that much acclaimed Michelin star like their sister restaurant.

Verdict: 7.5/10
The dish itself tasted flavoursome but we decided to penalize the verdict score for we felt that this dish should be part of the Peiking Duck to begin with.

Home-made Soy Sauce Marinated Goose

This dish was slightly too salty for our liking, though the gravy would go well with plain white rice. One could taste that the marinated goose was slow-cooked to perfection without tasting overly dry nor stiff, but personally, I would have preferred a lighter dish, though it might suit someone with a preference for a stronger umami taste.

Verdict: 7.0/10

Simmered Minced Carp Fish Dumplings and Bamboo Piths in Clear Broth

This slow-cooked simmered broth stole some of the limelight from the Peiking duck with its effervescent form and the bubbly state persisted despite cooling off. It felt like a rich vitamins-infused broth with plenty of nutrients to spare with goji berries amidst other medicinal ingredients to boost one's immune system. And of course after all the greasy dishes, this light yet rich broth was a delightful change of tastes. The broth did not reek of the usual 'fishy' smell and the carp fish tasted very fresh and tender, soaking in the rich juices of the broth.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Shredded Crab Meat Fried Rice

The fried rice was individually portioned and served as such instead of being brought to the table as one big pot. Honestly, I frowned upon the dish upon being served for it failed pretty miserably appearance wise. I could feel myself beaming almost immediately with the first tasting; the 'wok-fire' of the fried rice was perfect and with the fried rice a slight notch below al dente standard, the thick and rich gravy with shredded crab meat complemented absolutely. The shredded crab meat tasted fresh, though the downside was that it was grade 'B' crab meat, just slightly inferior to those commonly used in superior shark's fin soup. It was however a very flavoursome and tasty bowl of fried rice no less.

Verdict: 9.0/10

Simmered Mustard Green with Dried Shallots and Bean Curd Sheet
This simple vegetarian dish was added to the order as we wanted more greens on the platter. The dried shallots brought out the fragrance and flavours of the dish and was undoubtedly the dominant ingredient. It was not overly greasy like how most restaurants would serve their greens but there was not much praise accredited to it either.

Verdict: 7.0/10

Given the variety of restaurants and particularly Chinese cuisines available at Elements Shopping Mall, it fared above average, a notch higher than Lei Garden in my humble opinion though the latter has one Michelin star in its name. An up-class restaurant with extraordinary customer service and traditional Dongguan and Cantonese fares to flaunt, it would be an ideal place for a business dinner or a quiet romantic meal.

Kowloon Tang
Shop R002-003, 3/F Roof Deck
Elements, Kowloon Station
1 Austin Road West,
Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: (+852) 2811 9398

Currently listening to 'How We Do' by Rita Ora

You Might Also Like