Sunday, March 25, 2018

Tea and Dim Sum to Start the Day.


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oday was a really long day and we kicked it off with a meal at a very traditional Cantonese tea house called Lin Heung Tea House (Chinese: 蓮香樓; literally: "Fragrant lotus")  located at Chinese restaurant located at 160-164 Wellington Street, at the corner of Aberdeen Street, in Central, Hong Kong Island.  We took the MTR to Central and then walked from there. 

It was our first time back on the island side of  Hong Kong and as a child, I never remembered walking the streets here though I am sure I did.  The first thing that struck me about Hong Kong today is just how much the area around Central looks like any other city in the world - full of tall buildings, lots of glass, steel and concrete.  It was early Sunday morning when we arrived so the entire place was pretty empty of both people and cars.  I was sure that would change as the day went on.

The streets of Hong Kong are in such stark contrast to those in Kowloon.  If I had to compare the two places in a single sentence, it would be Western (Hong Kong) versus Eastern (Kowloon).  I don't know if places like H&M exist in Kowloon but they most certainly do in Hong Kong.  There are definitely more upscale coffee houses and restaurants here, presumably catering to a sizeable expat community who live here because their places of work are located here.





I had the address in hand but as was the case yesterday, the moment we exited the station, we had no idea which way to go.  Instinct told me to walk up hill as downhill would take us to the water's edge.  Of course, Bro had his ideas.  Eventually, I spotted a man who looked like someone who could speak English. He pointed us in the direction of Wellington Street.

Incredibly, the moment we veered off the main road to Wellington Street, I felt like I was back in Kowloon.   I had barely stepped foot onto Wellington Street when I saw the large purple and yellow sign for Yung Kee Restaurant, the place that I had pegged for us to have dinner at tonight.  Yung Kee is known for its roast goose.  So....at least we know exactly where we have to come back to at the end of today 😁


No fancy buildings on Wellington Street though you can see them as you peer above the rooftops. The place gave me the vibe of Kowloon.  Perhaps it was all the building signs, overhanging the street, that made me feel like I was back in Kowloon.  You definitely don't see these things in a "Western" neighborhood.  Or maybe it was just all the small stores selling all sorts of Chinese goods.


We had to walk for quite a distance....okay, maybe it wasn't really all that far but it felt like it, before we arrived at Lin Heung.

Lin Heung Tea House was first founded in 1889 in Guangzhou, China. In 1926, two branches were opened in Hong Kong: one in Mong Kok, Kowloon and another in Central, Hong Kong Island. In 1980, Lin Heung Tea House moved to the current location and has been located there ever since.  This place is an institution so I had put it on our itinerary to come here for tea and dim sum.

Even if you weren't looking at the street address to try and find Lin Heung, there is no way you can miss it if you are here on a Sunday.  It's the only place with a steady flow of people coming and going.


Downstairs is a small bakery; the restaurant is upstairs.


The dining room is filled with large and small round tables.  It is general seating here so find a table with the number of seats you need and call them yours.  It was not even 8a when we arrived here and the place was already filled with people, mainly men.  Pretty much everyone was either chatting or reading their newspaper.   It the same scene you would find in a coffeeshop in the US, minus the iPads and laptops.  Not a single person was using an electronic device here....other than their cellphone.  It was old school here.....reading a newspaper or a book.


Lin Heung is first and foremost a tea house.  The moment you sit down and the waiter spots you, he comes over and hands you a piece of paper about the size of an index card.  On it are listed several (I think five?) different kinds of tea for you to choose from.  I opted for us to have the oolong.  Next think you know, the same waiter comes back with a small pot of the tea, two cups and then a larger cup which I didn't what we were suppose to do with.


At Lin Heung, they only offer a few different selections of dim sum, far fewer choices than a place that specializes in dim sum.    Overall, my Cantonese is really rusty but my menu Cantonese is still pretty good plus I know my food ingredients so I'm pretty good at being able to identify what a dish of food is.


I was expecting that larger range so we didn't get to eat as many different types as I had hoped.  Here, as is the case in pretty much all dim sum restaurants, the food is brought around on carts BUT here, things work a little bit different.  You can either wait for the cart to come to your table or you can go over to the cart and pick out the items for yourself.  Generally speaking, the carts that come around are serving up the less popular items though it doesn't mean that the dishes are not delicious.  We enjoyed a few items that we've never had before.  Sadly, I was too greedy eating and did not take a single photo of what we had!



At Lin Heung, you can literally help yourself.  You can remove the lids to check out what's in the steamer container.  You can even select which steamer container you want - perhaps one tray has a better looking egg roll than another.  Once you have made your selections, you just hand your cart to the server and she will stamp it accordingly. 



If you are not eagle eyed, you will definitely miss out on the carts serving up the more popular items.  I don't know how the diners know what the cart is carrying to rush up to it.  Perhaps they really don't.  Perhaps, they just go ahead and crowd the cart as it leaves the kitchen.  Whatever is the case, if you are a split second late spotting the cart coming out of the kitchen, you are too late.  Twice I spotted a crowd hovering around a cart and twice I missed out on the good stuff that Lin Heung is known for - the classic shui mai and har gow.  I took the photo below as I was approaching the cart dishing out the har gow.  I missed getting a steamer of the har gow by one hand.....yes, the person before me took the last steamer tray!! ARGH!!!



We ate quite a bit food though I would say that neither one of us was stuffed to the gills.  Lin Heung is a cultural institution, if you will, so it was good that we came here to experience what it's like to have tea and dim sum here but next visit to Hong Kong, I want just the dim sum meal.

With our bellies comfortably filled with food, we set out for a day of sightseeing.  Time to walk off a few calories!