Following its renovation in 2013, the InterContinental’s Chinese restaurant has gone from strength to strength. In addition to upgrading the interiors with a sumptuous mix of beautiful jade details and elegant taupe fabrics, the restaurant has employed its own tea sommelier, Kelvin Ng. Meanwhile, chef Lau Yiu-fai’s frequent rounds of innovation has kept the menu thrilling and worthy of many a return visit.
Despite being housed in the basement level of the hotel, the dining room still enjoys a view out towards the Avenue of Stars and Victoria Harbour, the soft overhead lighting casting a warm glow over proceedings. This is luxury at its finest, we think, as we sink into the comfortable banquettes with an array of silk cushions and take a sip of perfectly brewed osmanthus oolong tea.
Chef Lau tends to pay special attention to interesting seasonal ingredients and produce that can sometimes be unconventional in classical Cantonese cuisine, rendering them with contemporary flair. His signature Peking duck, for example, comes with a myriad of accompaniments in addition to the usual hoisin sauce, cucumber batons and scallions; green papaya, yuzu and pineapple are suggested accoutrements, in addition to black garlic chilli sauce and osmanthus plum sauce.
Wok-seared cod with garlic, preserved olives and shiso leaves is a dish that floored us this year—the soft, silky texture of the fish is cloaked with an umami-packed sauce that features the herbal fragrance of shiso and the sweetness of the preserved olives. With more than 28 years of experience, chef Lau’s confidence in the kitchen shines through in some dishes that can be almost austere in their descriptions, but exquisite in flavour and presentation. Take, for example, the crispy diced pork belly with mandarin zest—the top-quality meat comes battered, yet feels absolutely greaseless, imbued with the telltale fragrance of aged mandarin peel. Topping the meat is a tangle of fiery dried red pepper strands, more often seen in the Korean kitchen.
Then there’s the showstopping dessert of chilled mango cream with sago and pomelo, which comes to the table in a swirl of curling smoke. The bell jar is lifted and the delicate bowlful is revealed—a simple but elegant presentation of a well-loved dessert that’s perfectly balanced with sweet, sour and bitter notes.
Each table is given a parting gift of jasmine tea, presented with humility by the front-of-house staff. It’s a sweet gesture and whenever we brew a pot of this fragrant tea, we’re reminded of those fine evenings spent ensconced in the cosseting surrounds of Yan Toh Heen.