Wednesday, September 7, 2011

the search for the best roast goose

Disclaimer: The photos below will cause uncontrollable food cravings. You have been warned.

Yung Kee Restaurant in Central, Hong Kong, was the second Asia's Top 20 restaurant that we visited on this trip, two days after Nobu. The reviews I read were mostly neutral or downright unfavorable, but through them all, Yung Kee managed to remain in the Top 20 for the past three editions of The Miele Guide, peaking at eighth place in 2008/2009. I just had to try it out myself. Otherwise, I would always wonder.

Yung Kee shamelessly touts itself as serving the best roast goose in the WORLD. Their goose is supposedly so good and so in demand that the term "Flying Roast Goose" was invented for it, because people love it so much that they bring boxes and boxes of it back to their home countries.

What balls, to call themselves the best. I like their attitude.

The world-famous Yung Kee Roast Goose. Makes your mouth water just to look at it.

Their barbecued pork is also very popular, so we ordered some.

Yung Kee's Barbecued Pork. Bad idea to be writing (or reading) this post on an empty stomach.

Before I put a single morsel in my mouth, I looked around. The place was a regular Chinese restaurant with regular Chinese decor. Round tables, white tablecloths, very plain china and crockery. The service was competent, but not outstanding. The noise level was normal for the Cantonese. It didn't seem like we were in one of Asia's Top 20. We could have been in any nondescript restaurant anywhere in Hong Kong.

As a result, my expectations went through the roof. The food must be good, I thought.

The Roast Goose looked perfect. Gorgeous color and sheen on the skin. Just the right amount of meat and fat.

How about this slice of Barbecued Pork? Very lean but still moist-looking. And that charred bit was lovely.

Both dishes were just meh. The roast goose was NOT the best I'd ever had. The barbecued pork was nice, but not wonderful.

Although, to be fair, the goose was not BAD. Just not something I would make a special trip for. I mean, if your hotel is in Tsim Sha Tsui, it's not necessary to go over to Central to have roast goose at Yung Kee. The Cantonese roast restaurant around the corner is just as good.

The order-taker lady wanted us to have some vegetables, so we ordered the fish and tofu hotpot. Tofu is a kind of vegetable, right?

The Chopped Garoupa & Bean Curd Hotpot looked like all the other hotpots I've had in my life.

A shivering, shimmering mass of soft tofu in my rice bowl. Garnished with a baby bok choy. 

I must say that I really enjoyed the fish and bean curd in the clay pot, but this really had more to do with being in a Hong Kong restaurant than being in Yung Kee in particular. We can never get quality like this outside of HK, why is that? The fish is sweeter, the tofu is silkier, the bok choy is greener, the sauce is finer. It's one of those dishes that doesn't cross borders well, like Bicol Express or Ilocano Bagnet.

We ordered some nasty bits for Pop.

Behold Yung Kee's Soya Goose Wings & Webs. A pile of brown braised stuff.

My father gnawed and sucked the life out of them. Ma and I helped by eating the boiled peanuts.

Verdict: Yung Kee is just ordinary. I think some people feel that it shouldn't be in The Miele Guide's Asia's Top 20 Restaurants because it's just adequate but not the best. Perhaps the violent disappointed reactions in the reviews and forums are not really against Yung Kee, but more likely backlashes against The Miele Guide itself. It is, after all, a list of the greatest, foremost, ultimate. Sorry, but Yung Kee doesn't deserve to be there.

It makes me wonder if I would've felt the same dissatisfaction if I had just walked into this place without any expectations. It's a decent restaurant, but I would not go out of my way, and that's that.

But if you still insist on forming your own opinion, or if you happen to be in the neighborhood: Yung Kee Restaurant is at 32-40 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong. Phone +852.25221624. Email I made a reservation through their website, highly recommended because they can get quite full. Ah, the power of marketing.

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