This past weekend, we flew to Hong Kong to enjoy a night of pampering at The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, which is now the tallest hotel in the world. Located on the 102nd – 118th floors of the ICC on the Kowloon peninsula, you can pretty much guarantee the restaurants here will become popular with locals and tourists alike. One of our most anticipated stops of the trip was trying dim sum at Tin Lung Heen, The Ritz-Carlton’s signature Cantonese restaurant.
The culinary world has been abuzz as since Chef Paul Lau, formerly of the Peninsula Hotel, was said to be the newly appointed Executive Chef of Tin Lung Heen. Situated on the 102nd floor overlooking the western part of Hong Kong, we were not at all surprised to see it fully booked at 1pm on Saturday (thankfully, we had made reservations several weeks prior).
We had requested a window spot when making the reservation and we were given a wonderful table overlooking the harbour and a portion of the Kowloon Peninsula. The floor to ceiling windows extend to the 103rd floor, maximizing the surrounding views and natural light. Although the restaurant itself is not that big, it feels quite spacious and includes a mixture of traditional dining tables and lounge style booths. To see the inner workings of Tin Lung Heen, check out the windows into the kitchen in the back of the restaurant. The design gives you a sneak peek at the chefs hard at work, surrounded by towers of steaming dim sum baskets.
We started off lunch by asking to see the premium tea menu — a must for me in any fine Cantonese restaurant. I struggle to understand how restaurants earn Michelin star ratings on their Cantonese cuisine, but do not even offer any premium Chinese teas!
Tin Lung Heen offers a selection of premium white, black/puerh, scented, green, and oolong teas that range in price from 40 HKD to 80 HKD per person. The selection of house teas are 20 HKD per person. We opted for the 15 year aged Puerh tea, which is a “black” or fully fermented tea — a gourmet tea quite popular here in Taiwan.
All of Tin Lung Heen’s teas are housed in a special tea room, nearly a mirror image of the massive wine cellar located on the opposite end. If you are unfamiliar with Chinese tea varieties, ask for a recommendation — don’t miss out because you are unsure of what to order!
We started our Tin Lung Heen dim sum exploration off with the Steamed Rice Roll with Barbecued Iberian Park and Mushroom Filling (68 HKD). The Iberian Pork was moist and flavorful, perhaps not anything too special or different, but a nice combination. The rice roll itself was better quality than many we have tried.
Next to arrive were the Pork and Shrimp Dumplings with Caviar (58 HKD), which are pretty traditional siu mai. These were one of our favorites — Brett is not normally a fan of these as they tend to have a rubbery consistency, but absolutely raved about these. The siu mai were perfectly steamed with a good blend of shrimp and pork — not overly strong, which made the caviar stand out.
Another menu item that caught our immediate attention was the Wagyu Beef Pot-stickers with Black Pepper (68 HKD). The pot-stickers were one of the best platings of the day. The black pepper was a bit overpowering for my palate, but otherwise they were good — a decent amount of meat and not overly thick dumpling skins. I’d love to see this done with something other than the black pepper to enhance the flavor of the Wagyu, not overpower it.
One dish we highly recommend trying is the Baked Abalone and Goose Puff (88 HKD). These were incredible and surprisingly easy to eat as the abalone was cut into several pieces. The rich mixture of the abalone and goose with the light and crispy pastry shell was heaven on a plate.
Deviating from the dim sum menu itself, we ordered the barbecue platter for two off the main menu. We had been sampling barbecue platters from several other 2 and 3 Michelin starred restaurants in the days prior, making it the perfect time to do a side by side comparison. I will readily admit going into ordering this, the Michelin two-starred Ming Court is my favorite suckling pig EVER! I am yet to find any that can hold a candle to theirs, which takes the chef two full days to prepare. Given that caveat, it was quite likely I was not going to like Tin Lung Heen’s.
Verdict? Surprisingly, the suckling pig from Tin Lung Heen is not too far behind Ming Court! Like Ming Court, the suckling pig at Tin Lung Heen is served with the skin and meat sliced separately so you lose that sometimes overly fatty and greasy layer. The consistency of the skin was similar to Ming Court’s and the meat was quite tender and lean. The main difference with Tin Lung Heen is the addition of a piece of Chinese puff between the skin and the meat. Overall, we were quite pleased. The char siu, or barbecued pork, was also good. Decent flavor, and it was moist and tender, with just a small amount of fat. Brett said his piece had more fat and gristle, but was still good.
The roast goose was excellent, with a nice sauce. The only potential downside of ordering a combo is the portion size. You order the combination platters by number of persons, and it is literally just one piece of meat each (100 HKD per person for 3 meats). If you are ordering a number of dishes and just want a piece of each then this is the perfect way to go. However, those wanting more than a nibble of each might find it better to order portions of the barbecued meats individually.
The next dish that arrived is one many might find quite controversial — Supreme Shark Fin Dumpling in Lobster Soup (88 HKD). Normally, we do not seek out and order shark fin, but if it is part of a tasting menu or is personally recommended, we will usually try it as not to offend the chef or our hosts. In this case, it came recommended multiple times by several of the staff who were eager for us to try it, so we opted to order it. The large dumpling had a nice thin skin, easily punctured, and the broth had a subtle lobster flavor. Be sure to try it with the red vinegar.
We inadvertently saved the best for last — Baked Barbecued Pork Buns with Tasty Crust (48 HKD). Move over Tim Ho Wan, there’s a new crispy pork bun in town! Known for their delectable crispy pork buns, 1 Michelin-starred Tim Ho Wan draws in 3+ hour waits for their cheap dim sum and crispy pork buns that are so popular there is a limit on the number you can order each day.
Tin Lung Heen’s crispy pork buns are very light and fluffy. The buns were thinly filled, but with just enough to taste the full sweetness of the barbecue pork. Personally, I would’ve preferred just a little more sweet pork filling, but they were still easily on par (if not better) than Tim Ho Wan. And the best part? No limit of four orders per day! Had these been on the room service menu…it could’ve been dangerous.
If the crispy pork buns were not enough, we still ordered two desserts to finish off — the Chilled Milk Jelly with Black Truffle (68 HKD) and the Chilled Mango Cream with Sago and Pomelo (48 HKD). I was shocked that the milk jelly was actually flavored with black truffle — not just the two slices on the top! Like most Chinese desserts, it was not overly sweet and the addition of the black truffle was a hit. It was very earthy and completely melted in my mouth.
Mango with sago and pomelo is another favorite of mine and the second dessert we ordered. The light texture and the bright fruit flavors are a great way to cleanse the palate and, for whatever reason, I always walk away feeling a little less stuffed!
Once we were done, one of the servers came over with another dessert plate. He said these were complimentary and for us to enjoy. On the plate were two black sesame rolls of some type and the other were heart shaped red bean and coconut jelly pieces (I think). Like the other desserts, these were good. I did not see them on the menu, unless they were the Chef’s special dessert for two. Had we known they would be bringing these, we wouldn’t have ordered two other desserts — especially since we had dinner reservations later that night at Tosca!
Overall, the service for opening weekend was excellent. For the most part, servers already knew the menu items by memory, had dishes and recommendations ready to go when asked, and they were attentive in pouring the tea, refilling the water, and staggering the dishes. Tin Lung Heen has a decent array of dim sum offerings and an extensive regular menu that may seem overwhelming when you are dining for two or in a small group. I lost track at how many menu items I want to come back and try — both off the dim sum and the regular menu.
Reservations are definitely recommended and I would try calling at least one week or more in advance to get your preferred time and date. Have you already tried Tin Lung Heen? What are your thoughts on the dim sum and their other Cantonese offerings? Do you see it as a Michelin star contender?
December 2011 Update: The 2012 Hong Kong and Macau Michelin Guide winners were just announced last week and during its first year of business, Tin Lung Heen was awarded one Michelin star. Congrats!