Before the food, before the decor, before the absence of Michelin stars I want to tell a little tale. At the end of our lunch at Man Wah I ordered the shark’s fin, crab and broth dumpling which is in the picture below. When it was time the waiter brought it out with a massive smile on his face. Full of pride and excitement (and this was not some ingénue 20 year old but someone with 40 plus years experience) he flourished the steamer open and with joy showed it to Jen and I. When you have a restaurant which excites its own waiters you know you are in the right place.
But now, back to the beginning. Man Wah at the Mandarin Oriental looks like its “time” was probably 20 years ago. This is because in appearance it is the Chinese version of Dynasty or Dallas. Big pink tablecloths, elaborate but a bit faded gold and wood everywhere and a carpet of such 1980s or 1970s decadence that it is quite glorious. This is nothing like the IKEA and chipboard finish of David Tang’s China Club with its cut-price 1930s Shanghai theming. This is big and gilted and luxuriant. I liked it.
One thing you should know before you go is that it has no Michelin stars. Quite frankly, the decadence, the lack of stars, the diverse clientale who ocassionally scream into their blackberries are all irrelevant as the food is really very good. By now I’ve munched dim sum at a few of the places you are meant to munch at – Tim Ho Wan
, Lung King Heen
, Lei Gardens
, Dragon-i (well that should be in brackets) and Maxim’s at City Hall
– but my one meal at Man Wah stands heads and shoulders above them. In part it shows what an elaborate charade Michelin stars are in Hong Kong but, really, who cares as it means it is there for when you need it without any scraping for reservations.
So to the meal itself. This was 2 times the price of an equivalent meal at Lung King Heen but an equivalent amount better. Looking again at the bill the water is priced at an eye watering 100hkd but otherwise you are looking at 70 to 90hkd for each portion of dim sum. The only reason it got quite so pricey as we enjoyed it so much we kept ordering.
I’ve already discussed the shark’s fin dumping but there were two other highlights. One was a crabmeat and foie gras kataifi or fried dim sum. It did everything you can dream of. The rich and smooth nature of the foie gras and the crab complementing each other and being set off by the fried outer. Then there was a truffle and pork dumpling that used expensive ingredients cleverly rather than just in a flashy way. Ironically for all the flash decor Man Wah excelled for me because of this, it didn’t just throw foie gras at a dish for no reason but because it made it better.
The rest was the same, exceptional. The steamed dim sum came with a lightness of being that was almost Zen Buddhist and the Chinese steamed pork buns were so good that whilst I glanced at the view out of the 23rd floor windows I looked away and Jen had had two out of the three.
All in all I loved Man Wah as is demonstrated by an email I just sent to my best friend coming out to Hong Kong in a couple of weeks. I asked do you want to go good and 3* or great and no stars? Then didn’t wait for a reply and booked Man Wah.
- Price – 900hkd for two for a rather hefty meal
- 25/F, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road Central, Central, Hong Kong
PS did you know Man Wah is Cantonese for the Mandarin Oriental?