The Ma Lai Go i had at Jui Dim Fong@Sheung Wan was so good (http://www.openrice.com/restaurant/commentdetail.htm?commentid=2156981) that it had motivated me to start a search for other local yet decent dim-sum houses in Hong Kong. Having read food reviews on the Man Fa Hung Restaurant along Peel Street, which is within the footage distance of my place, I decided to give it a try right on the next morning after my Dim-Sum dinner. I arrived at around eleven in the morning and the place was halfway full with elderly customers scattered among tables - i was the youngest in the place and some customers were staring at me The interior was quite old and the ceiling was low, and there were only large round tables around, so do not expect much privacy if you go in a small group. Be prepared for a noisy place with ah baks and ah pors sharing and debating their views on current affairs at the top of their voices. Services were not great too, and I was kinda pissed off by the slow and irresponsive services we got from an absent-minded waiter. Apart from the far-from-perfect eating environment and services, the choice of dim sums was quite wide and only the most traditional types were offered. There were two combos available however-dim sum and buns- and we ordered one of each. We also ticked the famous Ma Lai Go.
We waited for around 10 minutes before our food come-a relatively long wait for a dim-sum place. They came piping hot, so i thought they were freshly steamed from raw to finish. We started with the Dim Sum combo - a shrimp dumpling, a siu-mai, a shrimp fun-guo and a chinese parsley dumpling. The dumplings were not particularly impressive however, as the fillings were just mediocre. I personally liked the dumpling with chinese parsley as it had a refreshing herbal taste in it and the combination is quite rare among mainstream chinese tea houses. The fun guo with shrimp was so-so as the fillings were too finely chopped - i prefer something coarser and more chewy. Siu mai was alright but it was a bit too small; the har ji on top were crunchy and burst as i bit into them. Last, the shrimp dumpling was okay with the fresh and bouncy shrimp paste as the filling. Nevertheless, none could be tasty enough to be the reason why i would pay this place a revisit - you can basically get something of the same or even higher quality somewhere else than here. Next we tried the Chinese bun combo. What i really like about going yum-cha is that you can sample with a great variety of food, let them be steamed, baked or fried, vegetarian or meaty, light and healthy or oily and heavy. Yet such privileged could only be enjoyed when you go in a big crowd - one could easily choke with just one or two orders of dimsums, especially fulfilling buns. It is often painful to finish two or three buns having exactly the same filling cus thats the normal serving size per order. Such fallacy of dim-sum eating has given room for dim-sum combos to emerge - a greedy bun-lover like me would instantly fall in love with what's being offered here! How hearty and accommodating this place is towards customers who come in small numbers like me. Back to business-we have the roasted BBQ pork bun, vegetable and meat bun and mushroom and chicken bun. The kitchen has apparently mastered the techniques in bun-making as the buns here are all smooth on appearance, soft to touch, easy to tear and sweet to taste. As different from what i had tasted before, the buns here are of the appropriate texture and volume that it is neither too satisfying (like what's served at Lin Heung) nor too light as if you were biting into thin air. The BBQ pork bun was nicely 'burst' and the filling was of the correct fluidity, having chewy stripes of BBQ pork in the sweet-and-savoury BBQ sauce. The slightly elongated vegetable and pork bun was okay although it tasted a little bland when compared with the BBQ pork bun. Still it was really refreshing and hearty to eat as breakfast early in the morning. Last, the mushroom and chicken bun was great, with the juicy fillings inside the soft bun, having absorbed the broth flowing out of the ingredients. Lucky that i did not have to place three separate orders just as to sample with three varieties of Chinese buns! At last we tried the traditional Ma Lai Go famous for its authencity. Ma Lai Go is not on the list of my must-have dim sums as I had experiences of really awful cakes which were either bland in taste or soaked wet and awfully mushy in texture. Not until I had a seriously well-steamed interpretation of this traditional cake had i realize that something as simple could taste so heavenly. What they have here at Man Far Lau is darker in colour when compared to what i had the night before, and it was significantly larger in size. Cakes usually get soaked wet with the dripping waters from bamboo cages above yet what they have here was completely dry - a sign that the dim-sums were only steamed-to-order. It was of a fluffy texture but not as light as what Jui Dim Fong had, yet the taste and sweetness of maltose was much more condensed. An aftertaste of maltose and the unique aroma of lart lingered on in your mouth after taking each bite, seducing you to take another chopstick-ful of the gorgeously steamed delicacy. The dried nuts on top were tasty and the crunchy texture served as a sharp contrast to the sweet steamed cake. We added an order of Lai Wong Bau and it arrived very quickly, just after 3 minutes of wait. They did not look attractive on appearance as all had been burst open during the steaming process, leaving ugly and open scars on their originally smooth white surface. Pipping hot, the golden fillings inside shone and looked delicious. I quickly took one and tore it apart - the fillings were solid of course(this is lai wong bau not lau sa bau, the two things being so different from each other) and was quite mushy to taste. It was more subtle than the lava-like fillings in most lau sa baus and was significantly less sweet and oily. Nice attempt but judging from an objectively point of view, Lin Heung House@Central steams lai wong baus which taste way better and looks much stiffer than what's served here.
We sat back and relax ourselves by reading, trying to shut our ears from the busy discussions in the background as we sipped tea and ate. The special morning pricing mechanism ended at 11:30 so we kinda hurried to meet the deadline (the difference in price was ~$15, quite a lot as in the context of a budget, local tea house). At last we paid $67 for everything we ate and drank, and there was no service charge.We left at 11:35 as the next batch of lunch-goers rushed in.
To conclude - a decent place for dim-sum in the morning indeed, and the 'ma lai go' is something you definitely have to try if you happen to be a big fan of the simple yet hearty chinese sweety. The rest of the dim-sums were not as glamourous however. Not sure if i would ever come again just for the steamed cake tho as it was really good.
Recommended Dish(es): 馬拉糕 Date of Visit: 2011-03-23 Spending per Head: HKD39 (Breakfast)
Rating : Taste4 Environment3 Service3 Hygiene3 Value for Money5
Good local experience 2010-03-14 BonVivant (253 Review(s))
Friend from out of town visiting and wanted to try a local dim sum place. As he's already been to the quintessentially gweilo-designated City Hall Maxim's, I decided to bring him to this restaurant in Soho. Soho? He asked. Isn't that where all the rip-off places targeted at unsuspecting westerners are? Ah, I said wisely, wait till you try it.
This place does dim sum in the afternoon, with very reasonably priced rice dishes with various toppings, such as spare ribs, fish fillet in sweetcorn sauce, steamed carp fish etc. which is a big hit with the workers in the neighbourhood who requires a quick meal of substantial portions at an affordable price. At night it transforms into a family style restaurant serving authentic Chinese dishes. And of course the winter warmer snake dishes are wildly displayed on posters all around at this time of the year.
The place isn't big, maybe 5 or 6 small tables and a big round one inside, a few foldable tables on the slope outside, and everyone cramming in and sharing tables. Then we did the first thing all local people do best: queue. After 15 minutes we managed to get half a table. The other 4 people on the other half of our table were a little surprised to see 2 tall Westerners and a little Chinese girl amidst this crowd.
Tick away at the green and pink dim sum sheets, which includes all the staples, which gives you about 40 varieties to choose from. The must try "ma lai go" was a rich sugary brown colour, spongey and fluffy in texture, rich in taste, with a few slices of toasted almonds. It was heavenly. The "har gao" shrimp dumplings had fresh, decent sized prawns, and not the mushy, fat-laden gunk you might get in other places. The skin wrapping the dumplings were just chewy enough but not sticky, mildly opaque but still translucent enough for you to see the blushing pink from the shrimps shine through. The char siu bao was a hefty pipping hot bun with a good amount of barbequed pork inside, and the sauce wasn't too sweet or too gooey, which was something I very much appreciated. All the other dim sums were well executed, no frills, spot on and very satisfying. We also ordered a stir fried broccoli with oyster sauce, which came in a large plate of chunky green broccoli with a light oyster sauce drizzled on top. The last thing we had was the stir-fried glutinuous rice "sang chau lor mai fan" (For those who would like to order the dish and speak no Cantonese, I hope this helps). It was one massive plate of glutinous rice flavoured with soy sauce, generously flavoured with diced Chinese dried sausages, liver sausages, dried game meat, some egg and lots of chives and parsley. There was enough for 6 people to share, and naturally after all those dim sum, we couldn't finish it despite our best efforts. A doggy-pack took care of the remaining.
The service could be described as quick, snappy, efficient, probably because we were first time customers, but you could see that this place is a jovial and welcoming restaurant where families of grandmas with grandkids in tow come for a meal, where regulars come for their usual orders, and occassionaly you might see a couple of Westerners venturing out of their comfort zone.
Date of Visit: 2010-03-13 Spending per Head: HKD80 (Lunch)
Rating : Taste4 Environment3 Service3 Hygiene3 Value for Money4