It’s an odd time here in Hong Kong. On the surface, life seems normal. Sure, everyone is sporting a mask and we can’t dine in groups of greater than four. However, malls are crowded over the weekend, the streets are bustling full of people, and restaurants are even hard to book! Life feels normal, in one sense.
In another sense, it’s really different. There’s any underlying sense of uncertainty about the future. The world as we know it has changed, and it’s hard to know what the future holds. Recently, some of our friends, colleagues, and acquaintances have started to leave Hong Kong. The reasons vary, but I’m sure the past two challenging years did not help.
It’s always tough to say good-by to dear friends we’ve made in our (relatively short) time living here. One very small silver lining was the discovery of Liu Yuan Pavilion 留園雅敘, a fantastic Shanghainese restaurant recommended by some good friends who were moving away from Hong Kong.
It seems like I was the only one in the world left in the dark about this place. The rest of the world clearly knew about it. Liu Yuan Pavilion has one Michelin Star, and it appears on many English language travel guides.
Well, I’ve finally seen the light, and I’m thrilled this fantastic restaurant is right in Wan Chai, only a 10-15 minute walk from my apartment. We tried several dishes, and they were all very good. The jellyfish with black vinegar (pictured above) was fresh, “crunchy”, and had good flavor.
Another absolutely MUST-ORDER is the Giant Sesame Bread. This beautiful multiple layered bread is like a scallion pancake crossed with steamed bread 饅頭 mántou and a sesame 燒餅 shāobǐng. It is absolutely fantastic and worth coming to the restaurant alone just to order. Order it first thing while you are perusing the menu. It makes for an amazing appetizer and also bread that you can eat with everything else.
Don’t worry if you can’t finish it. The bread heats up quite nicely in the oven as leftovers.
Our friends told us that we were suppose to eat the sesame bread with the Eel with Yellow Chive, probably since the eel dish is quite saucy. I found the eel dish to be OK, though I wasn’t the biggest fan. I found it a bit slimy, and it tasted like the river(?) that it came from. There’s nothing wrong with it. I just didn’t love it. I had some with the sesame bread, but ended up eating most of the sesame bread solo.
I was a bit anxious when my friend ordered 8-Treasures Rice 八寶飯
bābǎofàn, a Chinese dessert consisting of sticky rice filled with all sorts of dried fruit, nuts, bean paste., etc. that I really, really don’t care for that much. However, my mind was BLOWN when he ordered a PAN-FRIED ONE! Whaaaat? It was the best thing in the world. They flatten a sticky rice “blob” and pan fry it until it is gloriously crispy on both sides. It was so good.
I love a good claypot rice or Korean dolsot-bibimbap (돌솥 비빔밥) where the rice on the edges of the hot clay pot gets super crispy. This was like that, but it was dessert! Though I dislike dried fruit, I still enjoyed this dish becausd there were portions that were mostly red bean paste (which I like). Like most Hong Kong desserts, this one wasn’t too sweet at all.
What can I say? I fell in love with this restaurant and can’t believe I’ve been living under its nose for YEARS without knowing about it (when every guide book and food award knew full well about it). I’m thankful to my friends who introduced me to this place. Even though I’ll miss them dearly, I’ll always think of them every time I go to Liu Yuan Pavilion, especially if I order the Giant Sesame Bread or the Pan Fried 8-Treasure Rice.
Liu Yuan Pavilion
3/F The Broadway
54-62 Lockhart Road
Wan Chai, Hong Kong