Every major city has landmark restaurants, time-honored addresses serving up plenty of nostalgia that are known as much for the setting as the cooking. In Hong Kong, Luk Yu Tea House, Lin Heung and Yung Kee attract plenty of tourists, but for good reason: They provide an inimitable sense of place, an increasingly rare commodity in city that changes as fast as Hong Kong.
Entering this exquisite tea house is like stepping onto a movie set. An abacus sits on the cashier’s desk. Ceiling fans rotate slowly. In a secluded booth, men talk business. A large mirror reflects a room full of dark wood and stained glass.
First opened in 1933 on Wing Kut Street, Luk Yu has been a fixture on Stanley Street since the 70s, a club-like spot known for fine tea, dim sum and timeless atmosphere. Most people go for yum cha (tea and several small courses) during the morning and afternoon, but Luk Yu serves dinner as well. Some diners swear by its pig lung and almond soup. 24 Stanley St., Central, +852 2523 5464
It’s not the most refined dim sum in town, but this well-known tea house — operating since 1926 — is always full with loyal locals and visitors alike. Restaurant critic Charmaine Mok says, “I love how the waiters ask you whether you’d like your tea to be served in traditional lidded bowls or regular old teapots, how the trolley ladies still call out the contents of their cart in a brusque but somewhat sing-song way, and how spending an hour or so here is so strangely foreign, and comforting, in a city that has become often far too sterile and anonymous for my liking.”
Lin Heung is chaotic, a noisy sea of tables, teapots and trolleys that’s lit with harsh fluorescent bulbs. Ceiling fans push around the conditioned air and steam, and the staff members (who are generally indifferent to the establishment’s place in the tourist pantheon) send around carts loaded with char siu bao (barbecue pork buns), siu mai (pork dumplings) and the beloved ma lai go (steamed sponge cake). But to get the best items, you’ll need to catch them as they come out of the kitchen. It’s all part of the experience. “There’s a thrill that comes from procuring a particularly popular steamer basket of dumplings from the inevitable scrum around the trolleys,” Mok says. 160-164 Wellington St., Central, +852 2544 4556
The imposing gold facade of this decades-old restaurant belies humble origins: Founder Kam Shui Fai first served his famous roasted goose from a street stall. He opened his inaugural brick-and-mortar operation in 1942, on Wing Lok Street in Sheung Wan. That location didn’t survive the Japanese air raids, but the business did, moving to Pottinger Street in 1944. In 1964, Kam bought the building at 32 Wellington Street, which houses the restaurant to this day.
It’s a favorite with local businessmen and VIPs who colonize the upper floors, but also a food-loving tourist’s destination. The interior is modern and comfortable, trimmed in gold and dragons, and the expansive menu features Cantonese luxuries such as bird’s nest and abalone. But everyone, VIP or not, orders that goose. +852 2522 1624
Photo Courtesy of iStock-leungchopan