Roast goose is one of those quintessential Hong Kong foods that definitely falls on the "must-try" lists for any visitor to Hong Kong. Goose is generally hard to find in a lot of countries. In the US, I hardly ever see it in the super market or on restaurant menus. Even in Hong Kong, it's noticeably more expensive than duck or chicken, so it's still a special treat here too.
The most iconic, historic, and well known roast goose restaurant in Hong Kong is Yung Kee Restaurant.
Founded by the late Mr. Kam Shui Fai in 1942, Yung Kee Restaurant has served all sorts of people for generations and is synonymous with roast goose in Hong Kong. The historic building has one of Hong Kong's only charcoal fired ovens (grandfathered in before new regulations) and its roast geese have that unique flavor.
Yung Kee imports its geese from a very specific farm in China. The restaurant uses traditional cooking techniques passed down from founder Kam Shui Fai.
Yung Kee was awarded one Michelin star in 2009 but lost it in 2011, and has failed to regain it since, though it is still recommended in the Michelin guide. An ugly battle between the founder's two sons following his death in 2010 may have contributed to this alleged drop in quality. You can read more about this in my post about Kam's Roast Goose, one result of the "split" that occurred after Mr. Kam Shui Fai's death.
We booked lunch at Yung Kee Restaurant because we had a large group of visitors from the US. We needed a place that served an excellent version of Hong Kong's quintessential roast goose yet also took reservations for large parties (in our case, including a 5-year old child). Yung Kee fit the bill perfectly. The restaurant is large (two stories!) and has lots of larger tables that can easily accommodate a group our size. Furthermore, the service is good and we had plenty of space to spread out.
We started with an appetizer of their thousand-year-old egg, or century egg, paired with pickled ginger.
Because we were there with a large crowd, we were able to order several other things off the menu, such as their century egg salted pork congee, which was good.
We also tried stir fried bamboo pith with tofu, which was also quite tasty.
The Charcoal Roasted Goose is Yung Kee's signature dish. They make the goose according to the original recipe developed by Mr. Kam Shui Fai. They only use black haired goose of a specific size and roast it over charcoal. Because Hong Kong no longer grants charcoal licenses, the number of restaurants that still roast with charcoal is quite limited. Despite the added cost of using charcoal, Yung Kee believes it's worth it for the sake of tradition and for the increased quality.
We thought the charcoal roasted goose was very good, definitely juicy and full of flavor.
Their siu yuk, or roast pork, was also great, with a nice crispy skin.
Finally, we got charsiu BBQ pork for the table. It was solid, not the best or most tender we've ever had, but still very good and authentic.
Yung Kee Restaurant - General Thoughts
The food was good and definitely gave our guests a taste of Hong Kong. Was it the same experience as queuing up for an hour at Kam's Roast Goose or Joy Hing Roast Meat for that hole-in-the-wall type experience? Not at all. For my friend with the child, this was a GOOD thing. The ample space, air conditioned rooms, and efficient service made the experience much less stressful and much more enjoyable.
Many have argued that the food at Yung Kee is no longer as good as it used to be, partly because of the family turmoil that rocked (and split!) the restaurant, partly because the new restaurant (Kam's Roast Goose) took many of the chefs that used to work at Yung Kee. All that may be true. I have not dined at both places enough to really be able to confidentially tell you my personal assessment. All I can say that the goose at Yung Kee is authentic and still very enjoyable. Our table of 10 was very thankful for the opportunity to taste iconic roast goose in a historic building while enjoying the larger tables, higher-end service, and the luxury of a pre-booked reservation (aka, no 1-hour queues outside in the searing heat).
Win win I say.
That being said, if you only have one chance to eat roast goose in Hong Kong and you are willing to brave the lines in the heat, I'd recommend going for the full-on "local" experience and lining up at Kam's or Joy Hing or Yat Lok (which I've heard great things about but haven't tried).
Yung Kee Restaurant (Yung Kee Roast Goose)
32-40 Wellington Street,
Central, Hong Kong