Man Wah 800 by 600 (1 of 1) © 2010 . All rights reserved.

Man Wah at the Mandarin Oriental in Central, Hong Kong

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?

14 Comments

  1. Geoffrey Wu

    Hi Tom & Jen,

    Thank you for the wonderful review on Man Wah!

    With Thx
    Geoff

  2. Razlan

    You found quite a gem! Okay I should make a trip down this month. I adore dim sum, time to try something more "upper class"

  3. Tess

    Super-sexy photos, kids. Love it.

  4. Mochachocolata Rita

    gorgeous pics T&J!

  5. Wild Boar

    Crap, we totally missed this one. We won't the next time we visit HK.

  6. Mr Noodles

    On my many visits to HK, I'd never thought to eat at Man Wah. And I even bloody stayed at the Mandarin Oriental with work a couple of times in the 90's (in the days when we had a more lavish travel budget).

    The dim sum looks good and I think you're right about the Michelin guide in HK. I know there has been a big debate about its relevance ever since the guide was introduced for HK/Macau. When they launch (and they eventually will) in Beijing and Shanghai, I can see the Michelin man coming in for more stick.

  7. Tom

    Geoff – twas a pleasure visiting. Really glad to have gone there and we will be back in a week or so I think!

    Razlan – definitely try it. Was a wonderful way to start a Saturday.

    Tess – I still insist you come to HK

    Mocha – wierdly I think it was the pink tablecloth which just made all the pictures pop a bit.

    Wild Boar – I still find, on a weekly basis, that there are restaurants I just can't believe I haven't been to before. There is a hella lot of food over here. And we haven't even begun on the mainland, Taiwan, Singapore etc.!

    Noodles – despite my criticisms of Michelin over here I have found it useful in "orientating" on the classics of food over here (which generally have star or bibs). Their judgements on the respective quality are absolute nonsense so far though.

    I am yet to grasp Shanghainese food. I have tried it a couple of times and feel my ordering has let me down rather than the restaurant. So again woudl like it to "orientate" myself but beyond that… nonsense.

  8. Gourmet Chick

    I may have to stop reading this blog – it is making me too desperate to go to Hong Kong. All the restaurants sound fascinating!

  9. Tom

    See, I read your blog so I know you have been in Norway so you shouldn't be too jealous. But yes the restaurants are rather amazing!

  10. Anonymous

    Can't believe you ate shark fin not very ecologically sound.

  11. gastronomous

    and now i am craving dim sum! great pics! i love man wah too! ooo how i miss hk!

  12. Tom

    Anonymous – I have to admit I didn't think that much about it. I am not sure whether this was because of ignorance (I've no looked it up and how they get the fins) or that I am generally slightly amoral when it comes to food.

    Gastro – we are seriously sad, we haven't even visited Aus!

  13. sunfug

    Tom/ Jen, you make me ache for my home town! I’m really enjoying your posts, thank you. Without wishing to be pedantic I wanted to say that Man Wah means ‘wise man’ i.e. ‘Mandarin’ rather than referring to the hotel itself. My son is named Man Wah hence the pernickertiness. Apols. BTW Jen you have great arms!

    • Damn – someone at the Mandarin told me that that was what it means. I think perhaps it is just a nickname then. This is the problem with even understanding a touch of the language of the country you are in. Someone at work managed to persuade me that the Chinese name on the reverse of my business card meant “South African insect”… Though that may just me being stupid.

      I have to say that meal at Man Wah remains one of the best we have had in Shanghai. So great restaurant and name for your son!

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