Hongkongers are no strangers to Sir David Tang’s empire. With his name at the end of most of his enterprises, the enigmatic businessman and socialite owns the high-end Island Tang restaurant in Hong Kong and he’s also the founder of fashion powerhouse, Shanghai Tang, as well as sporting a plethora of other businesses, including his China Clubs in Asia and his freshly opened Wan Chai lifestyle boutique, Tang Tang Tang Tang. But Sir David’s latest Hong Kong gastronomic venture comes off the back of his successful China Tang fine dining haven, which has been bringing in A-listers to London’s Dorchester Hotel for eight years now. Welcome to the first China Tang in Asia – and welcome to a high-end gastronomic treat.
China Tang mark II has just opened its doors in Central’s Landmark Atrium, one of the city’s most luxurious malls, making for a refined, exclusive atmosphere. The upscale surrounds are on a par with the original China Tang – far more Eastern chic in décor but also upholding that English classy feel. Think romantic Shanghai Bund meets London afternoon tea spot The Palm Court. The walls are lined with handcrafted wallpaper that matches the (thankfully) non-gaudy chandeliers. On the tables are crystal condiment sets housing soy sauce and lychee vinegar. It’s a regal atmosphere in here.
So the décor strikes the right balance between East and West – but does the food? And is it straight out of China Tang mark I or has it been adapted to the Hongkonger’s palate? We scour the menu and find a good mix of regional Chinese cuisine – and when we ask the staff about the signature dishes, there’s no mention of the Peking duck or slow-cooked lamb brisket that have lit up the scene in London. We order traditional dishes that have ‘new twists’, the menu boasts.
The China Tang char siu ($238) definitely impresses. Made from the belly underside of kurobuta pork, the fat distribution of the superior meat offers a springy bite with strong flavours. No hint of that saccharine taste you all too often experience with char siu. And the crispy rice roast chicken ($258 for half) also notches up another win, with the rice creating a playful picture on the golden skin, which crackles and hides plenty of soft, tender, juicy meat. We strongly advise you break out the lychee vinegar here to add an extra tang (pretty apt…) to the rich flesh.
The rest of the dishes we try are also just as luxurious. The simple Shanghainese dish of cabbage with goji berries ($138) comes in a delicate creamy sauce that soaks through the cabbage entirely, but is light and textured enough to balance the dish. And the dim sum – of which there’s tons to choose from – is top class, with plenty of twists to classic recipes. The har gow shrimp dumplings ($80), while a little small compared to traditional standards, contain chopped bamboo shoots, giving them a fuller texture and nuttier taste than usual.
Another classic, braised beef balls ($60) with bean curd sheets, gets a makeover, with the sheets being lightly fried and wrapped around the beef balls, creating new skins. Also recommended are the light marinated cucumbers ($68). Instead of being drowned in garlic and rice wine vinegar, China Tang uses Zhenjiang black vinegar, which makes it all a little milder than the norm. And ending the meal with the muscovado rice cake ($32) is the way to go. As the dark sugary aroma wafts from the steamer, you’re left wondering why this familiar dessert isn’t always this sweet and satisfying.
Sir David Tang has proven himself as an entrepreneur, scholar and celebrity throughout his career. And he’s been particularly shrewd in London by promoting Chinese cuisine and culture to the West. But at this new China Tang, he’s popularising the colonial elegance that can be achieved when it comes to serving Chinese food in China. And he’s doing a good job. We’re sold. Lisa Cam
China Tang Shop 411-413, 4/F, Landmark Atrium, 16 Des Voeux Rd C, Central, 2522 2148.