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Goldring Travel Experiences the “New” Windstar and its Star Legend Through the Orient – Part II (Eating My Way Around Hong Kong)

Hong Kong – Seen from the Windstar Star Legend
My trip to the Windstar Star Legend started, as usual, with a very early morning drive down the mountain from Truckee, California for a flight out of Reno, Nevada and then a long layover before boarding my 15+ hour flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong.  Fortunately, I was aware that United had installed its new Premier Economy seats thought it was not yet providing that extra cost service (which lies between economy and Polaris, or business, Class). So I scored the seats, albeit without the upgraded service on this and my return flight from Beijing, China. 
 

United’s new Premier Economy seat. Lots of legroom, a nice leg/foot rest
and, soon, upgraded service and amenities.
Here is a little hint:  When you are flying over a number of time zones, set your watch (phone?) to the local time and start putting yourself on that time schedule.  It really helps avoid or reduce jetlag and is so much better than saying, “OMG, it may be 9:00 PM here, but at home it is 5:00 AM” which just makes you more tired and expecting to feel wiped out.
So knowing I would be arriving around 9:00 PM, I slept early and then chilled out on my flight.  Upon arriving at my hotel, the boutique Mira Moon Hotel located in the Causeway Bay area of Hong Kong, I took a shower and headed out for a late night snack…OK, dinner…because (A) I want to get my body on a local schedule; and (B) I had every intention of eating my way through Hong Kong.
Mira Moon Premier Room

Just down the street and around the corner (good planning, huh?!) was Under Bridge Spicy Crab; well known for being “the” late night place to eat.  There are actually four of these restaurants, but they all are – I am told – pretty much the same.  (And, yes, Anthony Bourdain ate here.)  I started my dinner, I mean snack, with some tea and peanuts…
And then, along with a Tsingtao beer, a huge bowl of Clams in Fish Broth.  Superfresh, sweet, small clams in a subtle but flavorful fish broth with ginger, leeks, garlic, chilies, and spring onion.
Delicious Clams in Fish Broth
Under Bridge Spicy Crab, Hong Kong
When I arrived at about 10:30 PM I was pretty much the only person in the restaurant, but by 11:15 PM groups of young Hong Kong men started to arrive filling the large tables.  Loud talking, faces in mobile phones and food…all in excess…filled the restaurant. I finally felt like I was in Hong Kong!
It was then time for my main course: Spicy Crab ordered as “very spicy” as I had understood that in Hong Kong spicy is not really what spicy is in other areas of the world.  It is interesting (and tasty) to try spicy crab all over the world.  While in Singapore, where spicy is SPICY and they give you required disposable gloves to protect you as you dive into a saucy, spicy crab, and in Sri Lanka the local spicy crab has a warm curry spice, and in Hong Kong the crab is more stir fried with lots of oil but no real sauce results in a more smoky and “cooked” dish.  The added heaps of fried garlic and chilis with a smattering of spring onion added big flavors without overwhelming the crab.
Spicy Crab with fried garlic, chilies and spring onion
Under Bridge Spicy Crab, Hong Kong
After my first taste of Hong Kong, it was then time to wander back to the Mira Moon Hotel and, of course, the skies opened with a torrential downpour.  Glad I brought my umbrella with me!
After a lazy morning – with no breakfast! – the downpour lightened to intermittent showers, so it was a good excuse to get some work done as I patiently waited for my Main Event in Hong Kong:  A private food tour from street food to Michelin star!  
My guide: Melissa, of Hongnok Tours. A transplant from Singapore (and who wouldn’t know culinary delights from Singapore!) and with a great knowledge of Hong Kong real estate and its history, I knew this would be a great day…and it was!
Oh, but wait!  Before I met up with Melissa I wandered the area and found a small local market where the butcher, florist, seamstress and dry goods merchants, along with a very large local’s restaurant on the upper floor was located.  I quickly saw that old Hong Kong remains hidden, but in plain sight, among the hundreds (thousands, it seems) of modern hi-rise buildings.

Finally it was time! Melissa is a charming young woman who, as our day went on, opened up about how those she guides usually not being as open to Hong Kong cuisine as they say over emails.  Between the different textures and tastes that are, er’ um, foreign to Westerners, she usually adjusts her suggestions to accommodate the less adventurous.  Melissa quickly agreed that I was open for tasting anything and that I really appreciated the nuances of Hong Kong cuisine; something I was totally unaware of before our culinary journey which spanned about five hours!

Zhejian Heen place setting

We started at the top of the culinary mountain:  Zhejiang Heen, an fairly elegant repeat Michelin Star restaurant.  As it was early we were its first customers of the day, so the place was eerily quiet to start, but just as the night before, large tables of noisy lunchtime patrons soon started to fill the restaurant. I quickly learned (fumbled) that fine dining in Hong Kong is a bit different from, say, New York.  Rather than dining more communally, one uses the plain chopsticks and metal spoon to move food from the serving dishes to your personal ones.  Then you use the formal chopsticks and china spoon to eat.  My many prior experiences were one set of each…and GO!

We started with traditional Chinese pickles, followed by a twist on san choy bow (chicken with pine nuts wrapped in a very light rice cake rather than lettuce leaves), smoked eggs (a new favorite!), the best hot and sour soup I have ever had (literally had the texture of liquid silk with very subtle and complex flavors) and finishing up with soup dumplings with a far more delicate and complex flavors than those I had in Taipei, Taiwan,

Chinese Pickles

San Choy Bow

Smoked Eggs
Apparently the yolks create some textural issues for many Westerners.  I found them delicous

Hot and Sour Soup
Soup Dumplings

Melissa decided that since I was a  bit more adventurous and engaged than the normal Western tourist, as an excellent guide should be perceptive enough to see and do, she ditched the planned Uber to our next venue. Instead we walked, briefly visiting a traditional shopping street remaining squeezed in between the modern buildings and then hopped on a tram (locally called a Ding Ding) for more of a tour of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s local tram or Ding Ding

From an ancient building turned into a not so good restaurant to a modern building constructed to look like it is being hugged by koalas to the world’s longest escalator – all shown while sitting atop a very old tram – it was an enjoyable respite and something I suggest those with some time try out.

After disembarking the Ding Ding (which cost only HK$2.60 or US$0.33 a person) I saw one of the last remaining actual street food venues.  The government is pushing out these businesses, first by limiting the license transfer to family members and then further limiting them to the owner’s children…if at all.  The good news is that while the venues may change, the “street food” as a culinary experience is alive and well!

It was then time to try some local beverages.  My choice was some sort of fruit drink or an herbal concoction.  With Melissa telling me that most Western clients cannot even stand the smell of the herbal drink, no less drink it, you know which one I tried!  I actually found it OK; not that I would run out and drink it everyday.  I do have to admit that half a cup was a sufficient experience!

Yat Lok Restaurant 

Next up: Yat Lok; another Michelin noted restaurant, but quite a different experience.  We were seated right next to the kitchen in this frenetic restaurant famous for its roast goose and pork.  You can order either with rice or noodles, so we opted for Pork with rice and Roast Goose with noodles.  I honestly cannot explain how delicious and tender each was.  While the goose’s crispy skin was incredible, what baffled me was how the fat became rich and texturally luscious but not fatty.  The pork was incredibly tender, unlike any I have had before.

Roast Goose with Noodles and Spring Onion

Roast Goose’s crispy skin and  delicious noodles that absorbed the soup’s flavors. Yum!!!

The most beautiful and delicious Roast Pork ever!  Definitely a secret sauce.

We had the first of the day’s two milk teas to accompany our meal.  It was surprisingly similar to the ice coffee I enjoyed in Corfu, Greece.

It was a short walk to our next culinary experience:  Dumplings at Dumpling Yuan; a favorite of both locals and ex-pats.

I watched the owner make dozens of dumpling as we waited for our order.

And then it was time for steamed pork dumplings and fried mutton dumplings.  The fried ones were a favorite of mine.  And, by the way, it was time for a Tsingtao beer.

Steamed Pork Dumplings

Fried Mutton Dumplings

Me being me, I noticed a shop across the street that specialized in Wonton Soup.  And so, after our dumplings, we crossed the street and entered Max’s Noodles where I watched two men making shrimp wantons at breakneck speed…and then had a delicious and light shrimp wonton soup.

Making Shrimp Wontons

Seriously good  Shrimp Wonton Soup

Not done, we then headed to a small street food area where we were “getting sweet” signalling that my culinary adventure was coming to a close.  We arrived at a small shop for Pineapple Bun (named for the texture and color of the bun; not because it has pineapple in it), Hong Kong French Toast and a really good milk tea.

Pineapple Bun

French Toast

Milk Tea

We then make one last stop for sugar cane and sour plum drinks at Kung Lee Sugar Cane Drink

before doing a bit of more historic sightseeing

This sign struck me as the “typical” old school Hong Kong business
that sells everything and sends it everywhere
“Maverick, you screw up just this much and I promise you, you will be
flying a plane full of rubber dog s__t out of Hong Kong!”

An interesting coffee shop that only uses antique coffee cups

With a very full stomach, a far better understanding of the culinary scene, and therefore, Hong Kong, it was time to end this adventure, grab a taxi back to the Mira Moon to grab my bags and then an Uber to the Windstar Star Legend where I will overnight in Hong Kong.

If you have any questions or wish to discuss booking your own Windstar Cruise, give me a call, drop me an email or send me a Facebook message!

US: (877) 2GO-LUXURY (877-246-5898)
UK: 020 8133 3450
AUS: (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else: +1 530 562 9232

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