Sai Kung has just two restaurants with Michelin stars: Sai Kung Sing Kee and Loaf On. Do they deserve those stars? We went to find out.
Both restaurants are owned by the Ng family, whose most prominent member is Council Chairman George Ng. (See separate story.) George said the family financed former employee Sam Chung when he set up Loaf On.
Our reviewers were Dr Robin Bradbeer, a certified physicist and former robotics professor, freelance photo-journalist Bruce Foreman, who has reviewed many restaurants in Hong Kong including for CNN, and Editor Roger Medcalf. We did not tell the restaurant we were coming.
Both Sing Kee and Loaf On retain their single Michelin stars in the 2015 Guide. It describes a One Star establishment as “a very good restaurant in its category”. We ordered the basic lunch set menu at Sing Kee:
SQUID CAKE: Delicious, crisp on the outside, bouncy on the inside. “The mark of a good fish ball is the mouth feel,” Bruce said. Clean taste.
DEEP FRIED OYSTER TEMPURA: Crunchy crispy batter clearly cooked in clean oil. Delicious, succulent. We asked the waiter where the oysters came from and were shown Jolly Roger-branded containers from the USA.
SCALLOPS: Served in a bed of noodles with vinagrette dressing. The taste’s so fresh, really good, Bruce said. Very good texture. Roger was struck by the long-lasting aftertaste.
ABALONE: This is the Sing Kee’s signature dish. Deep fried Australian abalone in a light flour batter with pepper and chili. Robin said she thought it a bit dry. Bruce liked it a lot.
GAROUPA: “Fantastic,” said Bruce. “Amazing texture, subtle. Succulent.” We were told the steamed fish was from the “South China Sea”. The sauce was light — “as it should be for fresh fish of quality”, said Bruce — flavoured with ginger and shallot. “I’ve had better,” said Robin. “I would prefer a bit more soy sauce.”
PRAWN IN CHEESE SAUCE NOODLES: “Mmm, mmm, mmm” from around the table. The most appreciated dish so far, at least for gweilo palates. The cornflower sauce was not cheesy, rather creamy. Dish reveals a lot of western influence. Bruce said he is not usually a fan of cheesy cornflour sauces on seafood that are popular in Hong Kong, but thought this was a particularly good one. Not “gluggy” as they often are and a nice stomach filler.
SUI TONG CHOI AND MUSHROOM: Two pieces of siu tong choi, cut like flowers, and two pieces of shitake mushrooms. An elegantly presented, minimalist vegetable dish garnished with roe.
REVIEWERS’ SUMMARY: “Not spectacular in terms of the creative bang you would expect from a Michelin awarded restaurant, but cooked with love and skill. A definite cut above almost all the other seafood restaurants along the Saikung waterfront.” Robin and Bruce agreed those were the right words. For the food, the Michelin star is deserved. For creativity and experience, they were not so sure. But Bruce said he didn’t think most foreigners were qualified to rate a Chinese restaurant’s creativity.
Sing Kee has a waterfront location at 39 Sai Kung Tai Street occupying an entire three-storey building that is one of the town’s better designs. The interior is looking tired and a walk-around all three floors revealed it is not as clean as you would expect in a quality establishment.
At $830 for three, all agreed the meal was very good value.