If you randomly sample travel experts for their top Hong Kong hotel recommendations, you are guaranteed Mandarin Oriental will come out in the top 2 such is the iconic, revered status of this institution. However, they are not one to rest on their laurels and earlier this year undertook extensive renovations for their Cantonese restaurant Man Wah. With the stop-start nature of business in the last 18 months or so, plenty of establishments have taken the time to refresh their décor, refresh their staff training and their menus.
Interior design firm Silverfox studios have introduced a more sophisticated blue hue to proceedings. I was told previously it was more of a garish red colour to the restaurant. There are retro-lampshades and soothing Chinese paintings, but it’s all delivered in an understated manner. Instead, your eyes are invariably drawn to the jaw-dropping Hong Kong skyline being on the 25th floor of the hotel with uninterrupted views of the fragrant harbour.
The view might steal the show, but the cuisine served up offered stiff competition. Their set lunch menu is a great way to sample the best of Cantonese cuisine. The 5 courses with petit fours highlight the tremendous variety which you might not experience outside of restaurants in Hong Kong. A case in point is the exquisitely presented, crab meat, crab roe puff. It’s hairy crab season right now in China, so naturally, they’ve stuffed their pastry with juicy, sweet crab meat. The dumplings are dainty and understated; the scallop and beetroot dumpling only has a hint of red, whereas other dim sum restaurants often over-dye their food with zero subtlety. The next course was a particularly healthy yet tasty nourishing boiled soup. In this case, they’ve used heritage carrots of varying colours which have been simmered for a considerable time along with Chinese herbal/medicinal ingredients to deliver Hong Kong’s equivalent of a “hot toddy” which will guarantee to starve most illnesses like a common cold.
The stand-out dish is the stir-fried spotted grouper fillet with crab meat, crab roe. The first thing to note is Hong Kongers notoriously demand fresh fish. Rarely would you find frozen fish served in any top-quality fine dining establishments. The grouper was not cooked a second too long or short with a freshness that exemplifies why Hong Kong is arguably the seafood capital of the world. And the addition of the crab meat, crab roe adds that extra savouriness so you shouldn’t need to add further salt. The main course section was finished off with a braised rice and whole Japanese Yoshihama abalone. Abalone is very much a status-symbol ingredient much like truffle is in the western world.
Our lunch experience was concluded with elegant almond cream, egg white, sesame dumpling. Cantonese desserts are extremely underrated, if more restaurants would offer them outside of Hong Kong, people might learn to appreciate the culinary excellence of this undiscovered gem.
Make sure you put Man Wah top of your list for restaurants to visit when you next fly into Hong Kong