I woke up in the morning without much idea of what I wanted to do. I rarely go on vacation without doing a bit of research but it wasn't so easy when my mind was occupied by New York City. I had a short to-do and an even shorter shopping list. In between all these tasks, I wanted to fill my vacation with sampling local delicacies! Of course Toronto has a vibrant Chinese community and a lot of these local delicacies aren't so unique anymore. However, there is something special about trying the best version that Hong Kong has to offer. Besides, most of these stores for the best-this and the best-that have been around for many many years. Even for the atmosphere, it may be a worthwhile trip.
Wanchai is a neighbourhood in Hong Kong full of restaurants old and new. I enjoyed a breakfast of iced milk tea and ham&chicken pie at 金鳳茶餐廳 Kam Fung Restaurant. This restaurant is famous for their iced milk tea and iced coffee. These are staple menu items in most Hong Kong-style cafes but what distinguishes Kam Fung's offering is the lack of ice cubes in the drink so the drinks are not diluted. It was really rich and milky as promised and such a refreshing start to my day! The cafe was tiny and crowded but there is an authenticity about the decor that the new spacious counterparts can't match.
I came back to Wanchai after visiting my grandpa in the morning. When Aunt M and I finished shopping for a mobile phone, it was time for lunch. The crowd was thick on the street even though it was a weekday and I couldn't help but think my aimless wandering did not quite fit in. I spotted a takeout counter at the front of 東方小祇園齋菜 Tung Fong Siu Kee Yuen Vegetarian Restaurant and had to stop for a look. Aside from the typical items such as gluten in various sauces and fried soy wrappers, I saw a large selection of puddings in an array of colour. There was black sesame, red bean, crabapple, coconut split peas, water chestnut...wow! I got myself a slice each of crabapple and red bean and started munching on them on the busy street. I love the tart sweet fruitiness of crabapple while the more substantial taste of red bean was very satisfying. These chilled treats were great in the hot afternoon.
A turn here and a turn there, I quickly found myself on unfamiliar streets full of mom-and-pop shops. There was a now-defunct cinema and in the same building, a large yellow sign beckoned. The store front boasted publicity from many magazines and it specializes in clear broth beef briskets. I went into 大利清湯腩 Tai Lee Restaurant with trepidation but the smell was irresistable once I stepped inside. Besides, it was busy with lunch crowd so they must be doing something right. I ordered a bowl of their signature beef briskets in clear broth with some lettuce lining the bottom of the bowl. The pieces of briskets on the very top of the bowl was absolutely delicious. They were not too fatty nor too lean and so flavourful from the long hours cooking in the broth! Unfortunately, as I worked my way down, there were many fatty pieces hiding underneath. :( The broth was also a bit more greasy than I like so it was a little disappointing toward the end. Nonetheless, this was a great treat and would work well with my regular training diet. Too bad I haven't found a comparable version in Toronto.
My dinner was one that I had been looking forward to for months. I have very fond memories of dessert buffets in Hong Kong from my childhood years and I read from many sources that the dessert buffet at Tiffin Lounge in the Hong Kong Grand Hyatt Hotel is in a class of its own. It is also one of the longest running dessert buffets in town. The setting was most elegant. The floor to ceiling picture windows overlooking the skyline and Victoria Harbour was breathtaking especially with all the colour lights. The star of the show was dessert of course. It was a feast for the eyes. From the precocious shot glasses of mousses, picture-perfect gateaux, the most luxurious sundae station with silver containers, intricately cut fruit plates, streamlined look of traditional wooden bucket for Chinese desserts, to the double chocolate fountains with little lollipops of marshmallows, madeleines, strawberries, pineapples...choosing your dessert of choice was not an easy task! I took my time to sample as many dessert as I could as you can tell from the slideshow above. :) My favourites were the banana souffle, mandarin orange rice pudding, mango guava stick cake, and marron cream cake (one of their signature desserts). I was surprised that a buffet would even consider serving souffle, a dessert that must be consumed immediately after baking. Tiffin's version was indeed very banana-y and so light and airy. The mandarin orange rice pudding seemed like an unlikely combination but it was harmonious. The floral flavour of guava matched the sweetness of mango and slendar stick cake was an edible trip to the tropics. The marron cream cake...oh the marron cream cake! I grew up on Hong Kong-style chestnut cream cakes and appreciate the differences from tradition French-style chestnut desserts. Tiffin's marron cream cake striked a fine balance between these two style of and it was one of the best dessert of the night. As for the other desserts, I found them a bit ordinary. Sure they looked magnificient but taste-wise, they are not too different from the many bakeries all over the city.
After such a decadent dinner, I took a stroll along the harbour to admire the view. The terrace was dotted with couples, photographers, and a few other tourists. It was quiet and certainly a very different side to the surrounding hustle and bustle.