Despite the jejune font of the Kowloon Tang logo, the inside of this new Chinese restaurant at Elements is decidedly grown-up and old-fashioned. The sister restaurant of Island Tang in Central, Kowloon Tang is extremely similar in decor, down to the glass partitions, bright yellow couches and geometric carpeting. Old Mandarin classics piping out gently over the sound system, ceiling fans and heavy leather seats give Kowloon Tang the signature David Tang vibe of a private member’s club that hasn’t changed much since the colonial days, even if the café-style alfresco seating and joviality of the other bars and restaurants on Element’s Civic Square roof right outside can be rather disconcerting.
Serving a classic Cantonese menu with some additional Dongguan favourites, Kowloon Tang mostly hits the mark on the flavour of its dishes. The signature crispy chicken does indeed have a very crispy exterior encasing juicy meat, but we found the bird unevenly seasoned. Some parts, especially near the bone, were aggressively salty, while the skin itself was bland. We preferred the sweet and sour pork: utilising juicy and marbled parts of the pig, the sauce tastes nicely gingery and homemade. We did find it a shame that it didn’t coat the batter more thoroughly, however. From the Dongguan menu, we try a glutinous rice with spare ribs: while we like that ingredients take pride of place in this spartan dish, those used to the sauces and strong flavours of classic Hong Kong dishes may find that a dash of soy wouldn’t go amiss. Another simple dish that we liked more was a plate of baby cabbage in fish broth: the sweet vegetable is contrasted perfectly with the broth, which is delectable enough to be drunk as a soup in its own right. Oddly, desserts are all Western ones, with none of the usual Chinese soups or puddings available. We try a chocolate brownie, which is not bad. It is a tad dry but it does the job of providing relief to those with a sweet tooth, although we would have preferred the classic accompaniment of vanilla ice cream rather than the passion fruit sorbet it came with.
The wine list at Kowloon Tang is not extensive, especially if drinking by the glass. Only one red and one white are available by the glass: while the staff are happy to let you try the wines before ordering, they are not especially familiar with the idea of wine pairing. Wines by the bottle fare a tad better, though the selection is still pretty standard, ranging from HK$380 to HK$2,900 a bottle.
The staff to customer ratio is high at Kowloon Tang but the service is not flawless yet. Some of the staff can look flustered, unsure where to place a new dish on an already crowded table or forgetting an order of white rice. The wait between dishes can also be long.
A dinner for two without wine comes to about HK$1,300. While this is a pricey considering the location and petite portion sizes, Kowloon Tang does provide a pleasant dining experience along with some very decent Cantonese dishes.