On the 25th floor of the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, Man Wah’s panoramic views take your breath away. Even on a smoggy day as this, Victoria Harbour looks as grand as ever. The interior has a sort of understated opulence, fine bone china and crystal ware adorn pink satin tablecloths, but in lieu of the usual chandelier light fixtures, the ceiling is dotted with humble red lanterns.
I was invited by MO to sample some of Chef Man-Sing Lee’s masterful dim sum creations. Formerly from Hoi Yat Heen at Harbour Grand Kowloon, Chef Lee has cooked for government officials and heads of state, and collected numerous awards along the way. I hadn’t experienced high-end dim sum in Hong Kong yet, with Tim Ho Wan being the FMOT, and looked forward to a refined, contemporary take on dim sum staples.
Almost immediately after we sat down, the food started arriving. I deferred to the chef and didn’t glance at the menu. All 14 dishes came out from the kitchen in perfect order, from lighter classic dim sum to some of Chef Lee’s signatures. The food was precise, with some of the most artful presentations of Chinese food I’ve ever seen, a reflection of the elegant setting. It’s refreshing to see such care taken to prepare what is too often presented as the two buck chuck of a la carte dining.
We started with a trio of beef tenderloin puffs, the pastry layers impossibly intricate, with tender chunks of peppery beef. I didn’t have time to take pictures of the inside, it was strictly a one bite kind of deal. We then had dim sum standards like shrimp dumplings, egg tarts and bbq pork rice rolls, as well as some contemporary twists like pork and abalone siu mai. No complaints about any of the dim sum but the standout far and wide was the egg tarts. These are only prepared by the chef on weekends, as the process is time consuming and here’s the best part- made to order. It isn’t possible to churn them for quick weekday power lunches. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted egg tarts straight out of the oven. At the best of the bakeries, they’ll have been sitting on the counter for a while before you pick them up. These were a revelation. A work of staggering genius, and I’m still thinking about them.
A dish of pork neck in chin kiang vinegar and osmanthus flavoured pear was different, innovative, and it just worked. Probably the only thing that I would skip next time is the xiaolongbao, these had thick skin and too little punch in the soup, and after achieving veteran status in Shanghai’s XLB world, as a general rule I don’t tolerate it in other cities. Man Wah would do better to stick with its Cantonese offerings. Like its desserts, double boiled pear in tangerine tea and silky soft tofu pudding in black sugar syrup, some more of the classic Hong Kong style desserts dressed up in contemporary garb. Light, refreshing, and exactly the thing to top off the meal.
25th floor, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong
5 Connaught Road, Central Hong Kong
T: +852 2522 0111