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Tim’s Kitchen in Sheung Wan – finally the right food (2*)

I am struggling a bit with high level Cantonese food at high level Cantonese restaurants.

This might seem a bit strange as Cantonese food is probably the most well known type of Chinese food and any podunk town in America or England has some “Chinese” restaurant effectively serving some Westernised form of Cantonese food.

But I am not talking about the basics of Cantonese cuisine such as steamed fish, noodles with wontons or fish balls, dim sum, siu mei or or various rice based dishes.  I am talking about those dishes which are at the highest echelon of Cantonese food and involve layers of drying and reconstitution and sauces which are slow boiled, triple cooked and have tens of ingredients plopping around in them.

I am also not talking about the kind of restaurant you wander into. I am talking about those select few restaurants in Hong Kong where the tycoons go, which have menus ranging to the hundreds of dishes and you have to know the “captain” or “chef” to get proper service or know which dishes to order.

Assorted braised snake soup

Quite frankly, it’s all a bit infuriating. And especially when everything else is so easy in Hong Kong. Like see random noodle shop, wander into noodle shop, eat good noodles and pay pocket change. With the high level restaurants it is go in, have crappy experience, order the wrong dishes and pay a load of money (like when I went to Sun Tung Lok, Hong Kong’s newest Michelin 3*).

braised pomelo skin with shrimp roe

I favour a more democratic approach to food. Where anyone can go into any restaurant which is supposedly “great”, order any dish which they have on their menu and it will be good. Each time. That is resoundingly not Hong Kong though. Cantonese restaurants will have menus which run the size of chunky wine lists and when you ask for recommendations the waiter will fob you off with soy chicken. Then when you discuss it afterwards with locals, everyone goes “you should have ordered this“. Or “that is terrible at that place“. Argh!?! Why is it on their menu then?

deep fried whole crab claw

All this meant was that before I went to Tim’s Kitchen – probably one of Hong Kong’s top 3 high level Cantonese food restaurants – I did my research. I even went there personally 2 times before to discuss the menu and pre reserved the dishes I wanted.

So what was the result. I got the right dishes. We had their famous braised assorted snake soup, crab claw poached with winter melon, braised pomelo skin with shrimp roe, stir fried giant glass prawn, deep fried whole crab claw and some average mains.

Thank god. The food was precise in that way Western cuisine doesn’t quite grasp. Dishes cooked to within a mm of perfection in that shallow range between over and undercooked. Only the mains, which I can barely remember now, disappointed but by then we were pretty much full anyway having gone crazy on Tim’s more renowned entrées.

Still as an overall experience is it a “great” restaurant? The prices suggest it should be, the cooking is accurate but… let’s put it like this; I’ll take my mum here next week. She will enjoy the food and recognise its complexity but won’t be in rapture to the overall experience.

Tim’s Kitchen is good but somehow doesn’t stamp its presence on me or evolve my understanding of food in way that some of Hong Kong’s more crappy and cheap offerings have. But then I’m still learning.

  • Price – HKD expensive
  • Shop A, G/F & 1/F, 84-90 Bonham Strand, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong (2543 5919)

PS apparently it is BYO. If I had known this and brought my own it would have been a lot less expensive and I would have probably upgraded it a notch.

7 Comments

  1. Awesome post! Too many times have we gone to a fine dining establishment without knowing what to order, and then found out that we ordered wrong…despite usually trying to do research online first! Usually we will now just go with the tasting menus now if we’re not sure and hope the chef will give us the best he has to offer. Thanks for the great tips of items to order here!

    • I think tasting menus work everywhere but… HK. Here tasting menus seem to be for the tourists or as a way to scalp people with the most expensive dishes!

  2. Very interesting write up. It shows the cultural, as well as culinary, differences between east and west. The importance of having privileged access and the right knowledge to really appreciate a place.

    I wonder if that exact cooking is down more of a concentration on texture as well as taste in the far east?

    Pondering aside, those starters look pretty amazing, particularly the pomelo skin and shrimp row. Now that is a novel combo in terms of taste, texture, construction, the whole shebang.

    • One thing which you suddenly realise is – doh – there is basically no use of herbs in haute cantonese cuisine. The focus really is on texture in a way which I am only beginning to gather.

      The pomelo skin is actually now one of my favourite dishes. It actually has the texture akin to the kind of food you would eat as a baby but with shrimp roe :)

  3. Tell us what mum thinks about it as well afterwards – just to hear from a 2nd opinion!

  4. i lurrrrve braised pomelo skin and crab claw with wintermelon at tim’s. have you tried kin’s kitchen in tin hou?

    • I haven’t but it is one of the places I have been meaning to go. I like the design and look of the place – it looks as though it might do stylish and good food together

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