Since starting The Dim Sum Diaries over a year ago, I have become much more adventurous and strive to travel further afield to feed my tum in areas I consider outside of my comfort zone. That said, I have, until now, kept my ‘adventures’ to still fairly well-trodden areas. However, last week, I ventured into the ‘ghetto’ that is Cheung Sha Wan to try Red Kitchen.
I say ‘ghetto’ because I was quite honestly surprised by how eerily quiet and empty the streets were, bar the odd pedestrian standing on a street corner, or group of drunk locals enjoying a game of cards and some dinner. Had I been in any other country, I might have been a little apprehensive about walking the unknown streets; in Hong Kong, however, we felt safe as houses. Though perhaps not as safe as the run down houses (slash apartments) that lined the streets as we came out of the MTR station.
After almost getting lost due to the restaurant being on the opposite end of the street than we had originally thought, we arrived at Red Kitchen, an unassuming, small restaurant tucked away between residential buildings. Signage is in Chinese, all menus are in Chinese and the staff speak only Cantonese; it is as local as they come. Fortunately we had a Cantonese-speaker amongst us, who was able to understand the descriptions of dishes given by the waiter, although some ingredients were so unusual that she was unable to translate them into English. We knew, therefore, that the meal would put our taste buds to the test to try to decipher the ingredients present.
As we were only four people, we were restricted to ordering the ‘Set A’ menu. A nine-course meal for a mere $200 each was fine by me, so although I had no clue what we were getting, I had no complaints about menu ‘Set A’.
It began with a cucumber and fish maw salad: paper-thin slivers of cucumber doused in rice wine vinegar were topped with jelly-like sheets of fish maw, a refreshing combination of flavours and textures that set the bar high for the rest of the meal.
To follow, a rather ominous-looking pot of black soup arrived. Rather like being in the sea and not knowing what’s underneath me, this deathly opaque soup frightened me a little bit. However, to taste, it was comforting and delicious, almost like a more flavoursome vegetable broth, rich with mushrooms and root vegetables. According to the waiter, this is a very healthy soup that is ‘good for the body’. Glad to hear it.
Next up, and definitely more appealing to look at, were some humungous deep fried oysters. These plump, creamy oysters were deliciously crispy on the outside, finished with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
The next dish, which apparently translated to something like ‘fish in a purse’, was hands down the best dish of the night. Little bundles of meaty, boneless white fish were wrapped around some smoked ham and abalone mushrooms, then encased in Chinese cabbage and served in a bowl of delicate broth.
A bowl of pork and bean curd sheets braised in fermented red beans followed. Although the pork wasn’t much to look at and was difficult to eat, it was beautifully tender and intensely flavoured. The bean curd sheets were just as tasty too.
We had high expectations of the signature stuffed duck, but were sadly let down by the blandness of it. The whole duck was deboned, stuffed with rice, chestnuts and salted egg, before being sewn back together and roasted. There was far too much rice, not enough meat and, although I feel like a total gweilo saying this, it would probably have benefitted from a sprinkling of soy sauce. It was the sweet chestnuts and salted egg that really stood out in this dish.
The tofu and baby pak choy was again not as good as it could have been: the vegetables were delicious and crunchy, whilst the tofu, although wonderfully silky, was lacking in flavour.
The last savoury dish of king prawns cooked in honey, though difficult to extract from their shells, were perfectly cooked and deliciously moreish; sadly there was only one each.
To finish, we were served a plate of red date cake. Although not everyone’s cup of tea, I loved this dessert, which was decadently sweet and wonderfully gooey. I was quite pleased not everyone liked it as it meant more for me!
Although Red Kitchen still has some imperfections, it has proven that trips outside of our comfort zone are very much worthwhile. The beauty of Red Kitchen is that, as dishes are prepared to cater for the exact number in your party, you are able to try nine different dishes without being overwhelmed or uncomfortably full. Where in Central would we find a comparative gem that serves a nine-course feast for only $200? Nowhere, I tell you.
542 Fuk Wing Street
Cheung Sha Wan
Tel: +852 6769 0299 or 9094 0584