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Yung Kee in Central, Hong Kong (century eggs and roast goose) (1*)

This is the final post in my triptych (perhaps an over ambitious description) of posts on the restaurants you “must” go to when you visit Hong Kong. And out of all of them Yung Kee is the one people will rave about the most. Which is a shame as it is a mercenary experience which leaves you feeling a bit used at the end (even if the food is good).

Yung Kee in Central, Hong Kong

Yung Kee, in case you haven’t been to Hong Kong, is where you go for (i) century egg and (ii) roast goose. It is eminent enough to have its own Wikipedia page (like Mak’s Noodles) and has been serving its goose from at least 1942 onwards. You can apparently even get their century eggs in 1st class on Cathay Pacific. Oh and it has got a Michelin star.

Yung Kee in Central, Hong Kong

Like any brand it offers a tiered experience. You can eat with the proles on floors 1 to 3, VIP it on the 4th floor or ultra VIP it in the members’ club on the 6th. This is a review of floors 1 to 3 where I have now been several times and wouldn’t really go again. The 4th floor I will save for when I get dragged back every time a visitor comes to town.

Yung Kee in Central, Hong Kong

The big problem with it is that Yung Kee wants to get you in and out. It wants you to snack on a century egg, order its roast goose and fuck off. Take your pre-conceptions of Michelin starred service, bin them and think back to that last shonky serviced meal you had in any Chinatown round the world; that is what you will be getting. Ironically what I felt like each time I have been there is a mass manufactured tourist; stacked and processed a bit like the geese that are brought to your table.

Yung Kee in Central, Hong Kong

First, century egg, preserved egg, hundred-year egg, thousand-year egg, thousand-year-old egg, millennium egg or horse urine egg. I am in two minds about this. I have never had one before and *think* I enjoy them. Jen has shouted “Emperor’s new clothes” at me but I dispute that. It is a cultural artifact of a dish that, in small quantities, is still enjoyable. It is a frightening prospect to look at; every colour an egg shouldn’t be and with a faint wiff. The flavour is astringent and punchy with the yolk creamy and soft. But what is truly different is that your palette gets hit with a shot of ammonia half way which is completely shocking to Westerners. Overall I am for them, but only occasionally.

Yung Kee in Central, Hong Kong

Second, roast goose. Well this is the reason Yung Kee is loved and respected. The problem is on each time I have been the goose has come out late, it has been sitting around, it is a touch clammy, a bit cold. This leaves you with the end notes of its pungent aroma and a slightly saggy experience. Coupled with the fact that your rice and sides might be brought out at any time ten to twenty minutes either before or after you get the goose… this is not a complete experience.

  • Price – 700hkd for two with goose and eggs
  • 2-40 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong

10 Comments

  1. Lizzie

    I feel a bit bad for suggesting this place to you now, though we had markedly different experiences.

  2. Tom

    I've been three times, it is my own choice! I don't disagree that the food is good, it is just the experience is now 6 floors of trying to get as many people to eat roast goose.

    There is actually a massive family feud which is in the press atm and office mates are saying that it is affecting things badly. There have even been rumours it might close it!

  3. Mr Noodles

    Not been since 2004 when I detected a marked decline from when I first went in 1998. I think you've got their business model spot on, in that they want you in and out as quickly as possible. It's trading a bit on its reputation and its proximity to Lan Kwai Fong. I'm sure there's better goose to be found in HK. RE: century eggs, they're OK in congee but otherwise, I'm not a big fan.

  4. Razlan

    I have not been Yung Kee, but locals will tell you it is not worth the visit. Kinda like overpriced for something that is kinda mediocare. There is one place in TST a Mody Road which serves excellent roast goose.

    http://foursquare.com/venue/1749112

    I have been there. Reasonable price but remember to reserve your table!

  5. tigerfish

    Yung Kee Roast Goose – yes for me. But I never knew the century eggs were famous there. :O

  6. Cooking Gallery

    I love century egg especially in congee, and that goose looks great, very moist and tender!

  7. Wild Boar

    I used to hate century eggs when I was a kid. I remember seeing my granddad eat them with pickled ginger and I'll be like "Ugh". Weirdly, I now quite like them and the ones at Yung Kee are rather brilliant (although I guess I don't really look out for century eggs much). Anyway we bought a half-dozen home for mom-in-law to eat too.

  8. Tom

    Noodles – I am getting to quite enjoy some congee with meat balls so am not sure I want to risk it with century eggs. I should though.

    Razlan – thanks for the suggestion. I really want to have one of those roast goose experiences that people reminisesce about – all big aromas and joyous meat. Yung Kee has just failed so far so glad for another suggestion.

    Tigerfish – apparently Yung Kee's are some of the most renouned and a lot of restaurnats in HK just buy straight from them.

    Cooking gallery – as I said for Mr Noodles I need to toughen up and try it in congee!

    Wild boar – I think century eggs might be akin to beer as a kid. I used to hate the taste of it but you educate your palate and slowly learn to appreciate them and then love them. Though… it might be that I never quite get there : )

  9. Razlan

    Tom – I did Yung Kee. After more than a year living in the area, I was so looking forward to it, but overall it was major disappointment (I waxed lyrical about how bad the food was on my blog), with the exception of the century eggs… which I think you didn't really take to, heh.

  10. Tom

    Razlam – it sounds awful to say but I am glad you are in the same boat as me have had similar huh meals. I really don't understand the fuss.

    Bleurgh.

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