I’ve been studying Chinese part-time with a private tutor for several years now (started during the pandemic). Despite the fact that my Chinese has improved a lot, I’m still a bit nervous about eating at a restaurant with a menu that’s ONLY in Chinese. Not only is there the challenge of reading every word (often I can only pick out the basics), many dishes have artistic sounding names that don’t really tell you what you’re ACTUALLY eating.
Recently a new Chiu Chow restaurant opened literally right across the street from our apartment (1 minute walk from our entrance). We’ve noticed that it is ALWAYS packed. Multiple people have confirmed that it’s really good. But, alas, it’s very VERY local. The menus are only in Chinese, there are umpteen signs on the walls describing the menu, and it’s always crowded (aka hard to get in). Because of this fear, we hadn’t ventured into this very obvious excellent place.
A couple weeks ago, one of our local Hong Kong friends offered to take us there as a belated birthday meal for me. Finally! We had a chance to venture into this very local, very popular restaurant, for a taste of the favorites.
Our friend was clearly a regular.
“How often do you come here?” Bryan asked her.
“About once a month” she replied.
All of a sudden, she started waving at someone at another table. It was her close friends. This was clearly a popular hangout for the locals, so much so that they regularly ran into friends here.
“I’m excited, what shall we try?”
We looked around at the various tables around us. Almost every table had a dish consisting of stir fried chives, cashews, and dried shrimp.
“This is called “小炒王” our friend explained. It’s very good here.
Other popular dishes we could see around us included the winter lamb clay pot (which we did not get), oyster pancake, and soy sauce braised goose (signature Chiu Chow dish and also specialty of the restaurant). We also ordered deep fried shrimp (head and shell on!), fried fish cakes, and fried sea snails (!!).
The braised goose was excellent, and among the tops ones I’ve had at other Chiu Chow restaurants that cost a lot more than this “hole-in-the-wall.” (It actually kind of is a hole in the wall, since there isn’t really a door in the front . . .
The large fluffy fried oyster pancake was awesome. It’s certainly that largest, crispiest one I’ve had, and the flavor was very satisfying.
You must eat it with the fish sauce that’s provided.
The fish cake was nicely fried and enjoyable as well. It’s one of our friends’ favorites.
The sea snails are an acquired taste. I thought they were OK, but it wasn’t my favorite.
Similarly, if you are not a huge shrimp head + shell person, you may not want to deal with the whole friend shrimp (though it was quite delicious!). The shrimp is deep fried in a flavorful salted egg yolk batter, so you do need to either eat the shell or somehow spit it out while enjoying the crunchy salted egg yolk deliciousness.
If you want goose, though, come early. They only make a limited number each night, and once it's gone, it's gone for the night. The restaurant closes around midnight, but one time I arrived around 9PM and virtually all of the goose was already spoken for . . .
Service is fast, attentive, and good, though everything was done in Cantonese. I’m not sure how I would have fared if we didn’t go with our friends.
At least we’ve been initiated, and overall it was a really fun experience. The food is delicious, and the prices are very, very reasonable. I would seriously consider coming back at least for takeout of the soy braised goose, if not other dishes on the menu. My personal favorites this time were the chives + cashew stir fry, oyster omelette, and the soy braised goose.
Highly recommended! Even better if you speak Cantonese and read Chinese!
Wong Kee Restaurant 旺記打冷小菜館
G/F, 2 Triangle Street, Wan Chai