Operating a Chinese restaurant in Hong Kong must be a tall order given the fierce competition. Loong Yuen at the Holiday Inn is an old, established Cantonese restaurant that is sadly starting to show its age. The decor may have been inspired back when it opened in 1987 but now looks tired, with the carpet having seen better days.Thanks to its basement location, the restaurant may feel cosy to some and slightly claustrophobic to others. But at least unlike other Chinese restaurants in the area, Loong Yuen is noticeably less noisy and borders on tranquil, even during a busy dim sum lunch.
To start, the roasted Peking duck (HK$400) comes with thin but not too fragile pancakes, a welcome change from the coarser ones that pass for pancakes at other restaurants. However, the duck itself is poorly carved and definitely on the fatty side, which may be offputting to more health-conscious diners. One of the house specials - fried rice with shrimp and shrimp paste (HK$140) is slightly disappointing. Although the presentation is certainly attractive - the rice is served with an omelette delicately fried over the top and a smatter of fish roe - the dish is bland in flavour. Coming for lunch is a better idea as the dim sum dishes fare much better than those on the a la carte menu. The steamed pork dumplings (HK$38) are fresh and juicy. The restaurant also serves a traditional Cantonese dessert which is not often found at other restaurants - the flour puff with syrup (HK$48) which comes in a very large portion – there is no way of eating this dish gracefully as each ‘puff’ is palm-sized, however, all the other local diners seemed to relish the dish which is an acquired taste.
The wine list is thin on the ground though this is to be expected of a Chinese restaurant. There is a slim selection of Chinese rice wines, Western wines and cocktails.
The service at Loong Yuen is friendly, bordering on paternal. Some of the waiters look like they've been working here for decades and will not hesitate to tell you if you’re ordering too much or ask why you haven’t polished off every last crumb - an endearing quality.
Dinner will cost in the region of HK$400 per head not including wine.