The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Dimsum @ Hong Kong Tea House, Tokyo

I've often despaired over the lack of good authentic Chinese food in Japan. So when my friend Shan, who is also a Chinese Aussie, raved about the dimsum that she'd had at Hong Kong Tea House in Roppongi Hills, I got excited. Now, as much as Rob and I hate joining the throngs of gaijins (foreigners) in Roppongi simply because of the facts that a) it is gaijin-central and b) we hate following the crowd, the Hills is a fairly good place to eat non-Japanese food. Our experiences at Roy's Hawaiian and Joel Robuchon's L'Atelier have been pretty good, so HK Tea House held good promises just on virtue of its location. In addition, the food at HK Tea House are prepared and cooked by Hong Kong chefs, so I knew that at least we would be eating the real deal.

For lunch, we had three choices: all-you-can-eat-dimsum buffet for 3200yen (~AU$32), lunch set menus for 1500yen (~AU$15) or a-la-carte dimsum with prices ranging from 600yen to 1000yen (~AU$6 to AU$10). It is pretty pricey for dimsum (we are used to paying no more than AU$15 per person to get our fill of damn good dimsum in Perth), but so far we've yet to be disappointed with an expensive meal in Japan. In fact, my top two favourite Japan food experiences were the most expensive (but most excellent) in our dining experiences: Mametora in Gion, Kyoto and Yonemura in Ginza, Tokyo.

Back to dim sum. When we arrived for lunch on Sunday, we'd originally planned to go for the a-la-carte dimsum which would prevent us from over-indulging. However, we changed our minds since we decided that the buffet option was more cost effective. Now, the thing about most Japanese-style buffet is that unlike Western-style buffets which are all pre-cooked and laid out on a spread for you to pick and eat as you like, in Japan you order what you want, however many times you want, and the food is freshly prepared and served to you at the table. That's great, because you get the best of both worlds of eating as much as you want of freshly cooked food. This practice highlights Japanese high standards of food preparation and hygiene, one of the reasons why it is safe for pregnant women to eat sushi and raw fish in Japan.

The food was good and tasted authentic, but we disappointed ourselves by only ordering 13 dishes - my friend Shan and her husband ordered 21 dishes between the two of them! Even with only 13 dishes, we ate more than the worth of what we'd paid. Dishes included steamed pork and shrimp dumplings, deep fried glutinous meat dumpling, deep fried yam, har cheong (prawn rice rolls) and egg tarts. The savouries were mostly good with only one or two that didn't fare very well with our tastebuds. We ordered egg tarts and mango pudding for sweets, two of our favourite dimsum desserts (unfortunately they didn't have taufufar which is super-soft silky tofu in sweet syrup), but we were quite disappointed with them. The egg tart was too sweet with slightly undercooked pastry, and the mango pudding was only mango jelly in milk.

Here are a few shots of the yummy dishes we ordered (unfortunately lighting was pretty bad in the restaurant, and the table was backlit orange so the shots didn't turn out very well).

Overall, it was a pretty good dining experience. We've been craving for some dimsum for a long time now (we didn't have the time nor the opportunity to eat dimsum on our last trip to Perth a couple of months ago), so it's good to know that there is somewhere we can go to for decent dimsum.

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