Dim sum is such a part of Hong Kong life.
Originating as tea houses set up along the Silk Road for weary travelers, dim sum has evolved into a feast of small plates and bamboo steamers filled with a dizzying array of dumplings, buns, braised meats, pan fried cakes, noodles, and much, much more.
So it's natural that when my friends came to visit us in Hong Kong, we spent virtually all of our meals exploring local bests that Hong Kong has to offer. We sampled wonton noodle shops back-to-back, tasted our way through traditional Hong Kong breakfast joints (what they call cha chaan teng, literally a "tea restaurant"), discovered roast goose, ate way too many egg tarts, and had lots of dim sum.
After trying several places, Lei Garden has turned out to be one of my favorites for dim sum (thus far!). The food is very good, execution quality is excellent, service is fast, and there are many locations around the city, which makes it super convenient.
I should start off by saying that this write-up will only focus on Lei Garden's dim sum, not the entire menu. Lei Garden is a full-fledged Cantonese restaurant that serves all sorts of dishes at night - everything from abalone and roast meats to all kinds of double boiled soups and a wide variety of seafood (check out the tank!).
Lei Garden holds one Michelin star and is well recognized throughout Hong Kong. Established in 1973, it started out as a single Cantonese restaurant but soon grew to become an upscale international chain. It now has locations all throughout Hong Kong as well in China, Singapore, and Macau.
I've gone several times to different locations. Below are some of the dishes I've tried.
Taro puffs are airy, light, and super delicate.
Bamboo leaf wrapped sticky rice is nice and small (which I like!).
In general the dumplings are excellent. We were actually more impressed with Lei Garden's shrimp dumplings than we were with the ones from Tim Ho Wan, which were a bit too loosely wrapped and slightly overcooked. The carrot dumplings are pretty to look at and tasty as well.
Soup dumplings are very good, and I really enjoy the vegetarian Teochew dumplings, which are filled with peanuts, water chestnuts, chives, and mushrooms.
Steamed shrimp dumplings (shumai) are great, and Bryan really enjoys the chicken feet (I'm not a huge chicken feet fan so I typically abstain).
We’ve tried meat-filled deep fried glutinous rice balls (like salty meat-filled mochi balls!) along with traditional steamed chashu (BBQ pork) buns. Lei Garden does not have the sweet baked BBQ pork buns like Tim Ho Wan and Fu Sing do. I personally prefer the baked ones, but these are great as well.
I love steamed rice rolls, and the ones here are great.
I was very impressed with perfect execution of their fried eggplant with bonito flakes and scallions. I love how they preserve the beautiful deep purple color by not overcooking it. It is excellent.
On one occasion, they had a special of the day - stir fried rice rolls with bean sprouts. I loved the intense charred wok hei in the dish. The resulting flavors were fantastic and I wished it were a normal menu item so I could order it again.
General Thoughts - Lei Garden Hong Kong
I really like this place. Yes, it's a chain, but I think it grew to become a chain because it was such a successful concept. They had to keep building more to meet the demand! The food is great, the service is efficient, and the locations are super convenient.
Lei Garden Mongkok Branch
Definitely make reservations if you want to dine here. The restaurant is VERY popular. You can book online through their website (which is pretty handy) but it's always worth calling even if you can't see anything online. I once got a reservation because I agreed on the phone to give up the table within 1.5 hours (it was plenty of time - they are so efficient!).
Six Lei Gardens worldwide currently have a Michelin Star: three in Hong Kong (Mongkok - original location, North Point, and APM Millennium City), two in Shanghai, and one in Singapore. I've been to both a "starred" one (Mongkok) and a "non-starred" one (Tsim Sha Tsui), and frankly I thought both were very good.
I'm not yet an expert on Lei Garden (ha ha, not like the way I know my Din Tai Fungs), but so far I've been very pleased with the meals I've had and the couple locations I've visited.
Lei Garden Hong Kong