Traditional high end Cantonese restaurants in Hong Kong typically offer dishes made with expensive, exotic ingredients such as shark's fin, abalone, and bird's nest. They tend to make excellent roasted meats, like charsiu pork made with Iberian pigs or roast pork with perfect crispy skin. There are flavorful double boiled soups and oftentimes excellent Peking duck. There's usually exquisite dim sum, only offered on weekends.
After visiting several of these types of restaurants, they started to meld together in my mind because they were so similar.
This is why The Chairman was so refreshing and felt like a breath of fresh air.
The Chairman immediately struck me as different. The food was lighter, yet just as flavorful. Each dish was made with precision, focus, and care. The ingredients were top notch an the flavors outstanding. To top that off, the service was extremely warm and attentive. I fell in love with the place.
I later found out that The Chairman cares A LOT about ingredients. They actually source their chickens and pigs locally from The New Territories in Hong Kong. They have their own little farm in Sheung Shui, where they cure their meat, pickle their vegetables, and grow some organic produce. They work with local fishermen who bring them fresh fish and shrimp (caught that morning!) straight from the South China Sea.
The restaurant says that it serves no shark's fin, sea cucumber, or bird's nest on its menu, partly because it finds them less interesting, but also because it's less sustainable or "eco-friendly."
We visited The Chairman one Sunday during lunch. We had wanted to eat dinner there, but the place books out so far ahead (I'm talking weeks!), the only spot that was open was lunch. Thankfully, the dinner menu is also available (more or less) during lunchtime.
We decided to order the classic tasting menu in order to enjoy some of The Chairman's most well-known dishes. For parties of two and three, they only offer one tasting menu. If you come with a group of four or larger, you can order from some of the larger tasting menus. I definitely hope to come back some time to try one of those! This review will only cover the 2-3 person tasting menu.
Our first course was stir fried wild clams with a chili jam and basil. The sauce was spicy, probably using some sort of house made fermented bean paste, yet had a bit of sweetness. It was very nice.
Our next course was a deep fried crab meat and mushroom dumplings. The frying technique was almost like tempura, sort of, which meant it was lighter than a typical deep fried dumpling.
Soooo good. I love how there's a nice mix of crab and vegetables to balance everything out. Notice how thin and crispy the skin is!
Sadly for us, the signature dish that is usually the second course, the crispy taro cake with smoked duck, was not yet available during lunchtime. I was definitely a bit bummed. The server told us to pick another item from the menu. We chose the pan fried minced pork cakes with salted fish, which were pleasant and quite flavorful, but I kept wondering about the duck. I have a feeling I would have liked that better.
Update! We came back and did the same tasting again with three people and got to try the duck - woo hoo! It was AWESOME.
We absolutely loved the crispy taro puff with smoked duck, and it is definitely better than the minced pork cakes.
I can safely say this is the best taro puff I have ever had. The exterior was crispy yet light (not at all greasy). The inside was filled with smoked duck, celery, and scallions. I loved how the scallions lightened things up. Overall, it was fantastic.
It cost extra to upgrade to the Steamed Fresh Flowery Crab, but YOU SHOULD TOTALLY DO IT. THIS is what makes this restaurant special. A whole flowery crab is gently cooked with aged Shaoxing rice wine and fragrant chicken oil, and then served over a bed of flat rice noodles. This dish is AMAZING . . . It seems like a simple dish, and the ingredients list is small, but something about the way they execute this dish puts in above any other Shaoxing wine crab dish I've had in Hong Kong.
It is simply phenomenal.
Bryan really appreciated how they even crack the shells for you to make it easier and neater to eat (he absolutely hates getting his hands dirty). They even gave us some small utensils to pick out the meat from the claws.
The flavors of the sauce is incredible, and I was so thankful for the ribbon-like noodles to use as a vehicle to sop it more sauce.
Definitely get this!
The next course consisted of Szechuan spicy New Zealand crispy lamb belly stir fried with fresh zucchini, celery, and cilantro. It had a nice kick and wasn't too oily at all. All in all, it was done quite well.
Next, we enjoyed a rich and flavorful fish broth served with layered bean curd sheets, deep fried crullers, Chinese greens (I think it was choy sum but I'm not positive), and ginkgo nuts. The broth reminded me of soy milk, and the overall flavors were light and balanced. I felt healthy finishing up my meal with this virtually meat-less course.
On our second visit, instead of ending with the soup, we ended with stir fried Chinese broccoli (gailan) topped with flavorful "mei-gan cai" or preserved mustard greens. I loved the attention to detail that they placed on the gailan stems, chopping them all down to the same uniform length and shaving the ends down so that the entire piece would be tender.
The pieces were cooked perfectly and the dish was delicious.
We ended with rice, more specifically fried rice with fresh prawns, sun-dried prawns, and shrimp paste (a "trio" of prawns) plus gailan stems (ha ha, THAT's where the stems went!). It was light and simple. We were pretty full at this point, so we just tasted a bit and took the rest home.
Osmanthus & goji (or wolfberry) ice cream was interesting and fun. It was nice and light, and we enjoyed this with a small shot of almond cream soup, which was lovely.
We had a lovely time at the restaurant and have since returned at least once more. We aren't the only ones who love this place. It's HARD to book. Definitely call ahead, maybe up to three weeks in advance, if you want to book a table for dinner (especially on weekends). This restaurant is currently number 27 on Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list, and is recommended by the Michelin Guide (it previously had a star but lost it - not sure why).
They do offer alcohol, but you can also bring your own wine for a nominal corkage fee.
Highly, highly recommended!
The Chairman Hong Kong
18 Kau U Fong
Central HONG KONG