As much as I adore going out for dinner, there are times when going to crowded restaurants and being overcharged for mediocre food and poor service doesn’t appeal to me, and I’d much prefer to have a delicious and relaxed dinner party. Thankfully, Hong Kong is home to many private kitchens which maintain both the excitement of dressing up and going out for dinner, as well as the intimacy of a private dinner party.
For a girlie evening last Friday, we decided to try Gong Guan, a Shanghainese private kitchen in Sheung Wan. The three large private rooms, which can be connected to seat up to 24 people, each cater to a minimum of eight and a maximum of ten guests. The design and decoration, though perhaps not of the sort you would have in your own house, could in fact suggest that you are dining in the comfort of someone’s home.
Gong Guan does not offer a fixed menu, as it varies with frequency depending on the season and availability, but there will always be six starters, a soup, approximately six main dishes and a dessert.
Our starters included ‘Eggplant ecstasy’ (tender braised aubergine), spicy Sichuan beef, ‘Vegetarian delight’ (a pleasing mix of gluten, mushrooms, bamboo shoots and black fungus), soft tofu, ‘Cool crunch’ (jellyfish and squash julienne) and ‘Bamboo on the Bund’ (tender bamboo shoots seasoned in a delicious sesame dressing). Whilst each of these dishes was unique and inspiring, I was particularly taken by the tofu, the jellyfish (surprisingly) and the bamboo. My one complaint is that most of these starters were far too small for the number of people, meaning we were each only able to have a small taster of each.
Following these delicious starters, we were served a rather disappointing chicken and mushroom soup. The single mushroom which dominated the entire bowl was overpowering and chewy, and there didn’t seem to be a trace of chicken.
However, the pigeon spring rolls which followed pushed the disappointing soup far to the back of my mind.
Gong Guan’s signature dish of ‘Romance on the Rhine’, slow-cooked pork knuckle in a plum and soy brew, was again slightly disappointing as it was rather chewy and overly sweet.
To follow, a dish which should be their signature dish, was a ‘Crystal fish roll’ (pictured above), a beautiful grouper fish, flesh and bones removed and made into little parcels with Chinese vegetables wrapped in rice noodles: both visually and physically amazing.
The tea-smoked chicken with crispy seaweed was divine – succulent pieces of chicken that avoided the greasiness usually associated with Chinese-style chicken.
The ‘Crimson rice medley’, scallops sautéed with vegetables and Chinese cabbage in a cheese and goji berry sauce were also remarkable dishes which would certainly draw me back to Gong Guan.
Rather than finishing on a high, however, the dessert of ‘Pearls and Ambrosia’ left a lot to be desired. This consisted of mini glutinous rice balls, cooked with lily buds, longan and dates – a nice idea but left a number of disillusioned faces around the table.
In spite of the few disappointing dishes, Gong Guan on the whole serves delicious and unique food in a relaxed and ambient setting. For $380 per head plus a total of $100 corkage charge, no matter how many bottles of wine you bring, it’s definitely a good option if you’re looking to hold a dinner party without the effort of actually hosting it!
12/F Fung Woo Building
279 Des Voeux Road Central
Tel: +852 2577 9789