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Despite its reputation as the Cantonese eatery of choice for some of the city’s most high profile players, the décor at Fook Lam Moon is modest, even a little dull, with its deep gold and brown theme. Upon entering the buildings lobby, you are ushered to the elevator, which takes you to one of two levels where the dining halls are located. Glass cabinets proudly showcase delicacies for a traditional Hongkongese clientele: bottles of cognac, grand cru Bordeaux and lavish dried seafoods like abalone, fish maw, and unfortunately, shark’s fin. Further along, fish tanks display a variety of live marine life. A suite of private rooms are available for those clandestine deals that might give the HKEx a nudge after lunch break.
Fook Lam Moon is firmly rooted in its Cantonese heritage, with classic and often elaborate recipes passed down through the generations. The whole barbecued suckling pig is a long-time favourite of the city’s gourmands for its almost creamily tender combination of fat and meat below a impossibly crispy skin, and is available with prior booking.
Cantonese barbecue is done incredibly well here, and if you’re not with a large group (to finish a whole suckling pig), you could also opt for the char-grilled crispy pork belly, (or go for both, as we were inclined). A small plate of neatly lined up cubes arrives with delicately alternating layers of meltingly delicious fat and juicy lean meat, topped by perfectly light, brittle skin.
Fook Lam Moon’s “famous crispy chicken” falls short, with the bird having been reheated and overcooked, resulting in a tough and dry meat, although the skin did retain its crispness.
A chef’s mastery can often be seen through the most basic of dishes, and as far as quintessential Chinese utensils go, you can’t go past the wok. The dish of fluffy scrambled egg with local ‘Kei Wai’ prawns, “centurion” (century) egg and spring onions is as simple as it sounds, however, simple faults such as the century egg being hacked into large chunks, which fall away from the scrambled egg, and slightly overcooked prawns, makes the dish less pleasurable, but it is saved by the airy, softly curdled folds of scrambled egg and the ‘breath of the wok’ emanating from them.
The “crystal noodles in soup flavoured with dried flounder and Chinese cabbages” is in fact, mustard greens with vermicelli in dried flounder soup, sprinkled with dried shrimp roe. It is the least successful dish of the evening, arriving in a messy heap, the roe clumping on the vermicelli, making it impossible to combine with the vegetables. The soup does have, however, an intense, delicious umami and sweetness.
Dessert of sweetened almond soup with egg white is a rich and luscious homemade almond milk thickened with whipped egg white.
There is surprisingly no premium tea menu, although the wine list is extensive with names that even those who only dabble in wine will recognise. Naturally, such famous bottles don’t come without an appropriately hefty price tag. However, there isn’t a sommelier to assist with splashing your cash. Wines by the glass come from considerably more generic labels.
At a restaurant as storied as this, it is disappointing to see a level of service akin to the roughest of cha chaan tengs. It’s extremely difficult to get a server’s attention and once service is flagged down, the exchanges are less than pleasant, with nary a smile throughout the meal, as well as a couple of unexplained disappearances mid-order.
A meal for two with a glass of wine each comes to around $1500, while the food isn’t bad, for the money, one can get much better service elsewhere.