The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong: Chocolate Afternoon Tea at the Chocolate Library

One of the highlights of the new Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong is definitely the Chocolate Library.  Located on the 103rd floor, boasting spectacular views of Hong Kong and down into the 102nd floor Tosca, the Chocolate Library is a chocoholics dream.  Whether you crave a delectable chocolate soufflé with iced raspberry (100 HKD) or an indulgent fondue with chocolate pasta and brioche croutons (100 HKD), they have you covered.

Not a big chocolate fan? Try one of the a la carte menu items like The Ritz-Carlton club sandwich (165 HKD), a Caesar (180 HKD) or Nicoise salad (170 HKD) and more.

Ever tried a savory chocolate dish?  If only I’d had one of these years ago for an office cooking competition that required me to create a main dish with chocolate in it!   The Chocolate Library has a couple of interesting items like duck foie gras terrine with coffee and cocoa nibs and toasted walnut raisin bread (185 HKD), or a smoked barberie duck breast with cantaloupe melon confit and chocolate balsamic dressing (185 HKD).

One note on the regular menu items — we did not find the chocolate pancake stack or the signature lobster omelet that Melanie Nayer wrote about in her Huffington Post article.  We were there for the soft grand opening and now that The Ritz-Carlton has had its official grand opening in May, the menu might be different now.  I was really looking forward to those chocolate pancakes!

We also inquired about the special chocolate humidor pictured in her article that you could have engraved and personalized, but alas, not yet available.  Not surprisingly, since it was the soft opening weekend, no one really understood what we were asking about.  Finally the manager came out and said they did not have the chocolate humidors.  He could not provide an expected date, but I have to guess with the official grand opening complete, they should be available now or relatively soon.  (We also asked Melanie when we saw her later that day, but she didn’t have any additional information either).

Since we struck out on the pancakes and humidor — it obviously meant one thing.  We were meant to come for the Chocolate Afternoon Tea rather than breakfast on Sunday!

Sunday morning, we nibbled a bit in the Club Lounge and asked about reservations for the Afternoon Tea since we now had someone joining us.  One of our favorite food bloggers from Hong Kong, 3starbackpacker, was eating at Tin Lung Heen that morning and we’d made plans the day before to meet up for an afternoon at the Chocolate Library.

Unfortunately, it turns out they were not taking reservations (even from hotel guests) as they expected it to be busy.  Brett and I decided to go early to ensure we didn’t miss out — they would not seat people for the tea until it was close to 3pm, so we sat in the lobby for about 30 minutes to ensure we snagged a table.

No problem getting a table and it was surprisingly still only about half-full when we left at 5pm.  One note though — I have since heard from several readers that it is impossible to get reservations now due to its popularity — in fact, I heard from one person they are booked out until August!  If the Chocolate Library is on your list, be sure to contact The Ritz-Carlton directly and find out what availability they have.  If they are indeed booked up that far out, you may be disappointed if you just show up with hopes of walking in.

Chocolate Library Interior

Now, for the food! 3starbackpacker decided to try their chocolate soufflé, and Brett and I ordered the Chocolate Afternoon Tea set of course.  As with any good soufflé, it takes 20 minutes so we started off with a round of drinks.

Eight words for you…

The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong Signature Dark Chocolate.

Oh…my….god.  It was hot chocolate nirvana.  Incredibly rich, decadent, and worth every calorie!

Dark Hot Chocolate

While obviously not as extensive as the Chinese tea offerings in Tin Lung Heen, the Chocolate Library’s tea menu is decent.  There are several selections of black tea (Puer’h included), a classic Tie Guan Yin Oolong tea, and several green tea varieties.  All specialty teas are 70 HKD each.  English style tea fans will find traditional selections available as well.

Tea Journey on the Chocolate Library menu

3StarBackpacker’s soufflé came out perfectly done and our Chocolate Tea Set was much more than we were expecting.  It was rather huge and I recommend coming hungry, otherwise you may experience some difficulty in finishing.  A couple of the desserts on the tea set were in the Club Level Lounge as well, so I knew which one(s) to skip if I couldn’t finish.

Chocolate Souffle

Here’s a look at the tea set — there are two savory sandwiches and the rest are rich, decadent, desserts that are worth every bite!

Chocolate Tea Set Box

Setting up the Chocolate Tea Set

Would we go back again? Absolutely, but I recommend if you are staying on a floor with Club Level access and looking to maximize your dining opportunities — skip the tea set itself (since many of the desserts will likely be available in the Club Lounge) and try some of the other menu specialties you can’t get elsewhere on the property.

The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong
Chocolate Library 103rd floor
International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road West
Kowloon, Hong Kong (Kowloon Station MRT)
Phone: +852 2263 2263
The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong Website

 

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Tin Lung Heen: Cantonese Dim Sum at The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong

Tin Lung Heen: Cantonese Dim Sum at The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong

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.

Tin Lung Heen

Tin Lung Heen is on 102nd floor of The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong

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.

Tin Lung Heen at Ritz Carlton Hong Kong

Interior of Tin Lung Heen at The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong

Tin Lung Heen View

View from our window table at Tin Lung Heen

Table Setting Tin Lung Heen

Place setting at Tin Lung Heen

Tin Lung Heen utensils

Chopstick and spoon detail at Tin Lung Heen

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.

Premium Tea at Tin Lung Heen

15 Year Aged Puerh Tea at Tin Lung Heen

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!

Tin Lung Heen Tea Room

Tea Room at one end of Tin Lung Heen

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.

Iberian Pork Rice Flour Roll Tin Lung Heen

Iberian Pork Rice Flour Roll

Tin Lung Heen Steamed Rice Roll

Close up of Steamed Rice Roll with Iberian Pork

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.

Shrimp and Pork Siu Mai Tin Lung Heen

Shrimp and Pork Dumplings with Caviar

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.

Dim Sum Tin Lung Heen

Wagyu and Black Pepper Potstickers

Dim Sum Tin Lung Heen

Close up details on one side of the potstickers

Dim Sum Tin Lung Heen

Bottom detail of the Wagyu Potstickers

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.

Dim Sum Tin Lung Heen

Abalone and Goose Puffs

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.

Dim Sum Tin Lung Heen

Three Meats Barbecue Combo Platter for 2

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.

Dim Sum Tin Lung Heen

Barbecued Pork on combo platter

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.

Dim Sum Tin Lung Heen

Goose on barbecued combo platter

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.

Dim Sum Tin Lung Heen

Supreme Shark Fin Dumpling in Lobster Soup

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.

Crispy Pork Buns at Tin Lung Heen

Crispy Pork Buns at Tin Lung Heen

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.

Tin Lung Heen Inside of Crispy Pork Bun

Inside of Crispy Pork Bun

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.

Milk Jelly with Black Truffle

Milk Jelly with Black Truffle

Close up of truffle slice on milk jelly

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!

Dessert at Tin Lung Heen

Mango Cream

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!

Tin Lung Heen Desserts

Complimentary desserts from Tin Lung Heen

Tin Lung Heen

Heart shaped dessert at Tin Lung Heen

Tin Lung Heen

Black sesame dessert

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?

2014 Update: Tin Lung Heen has been awarded two Michelin stars!

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