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Established since 1980, Maxim’s Palace is a cavernous Cantonese restaurant located in City Hall in Central, hence it is more commonly known to locals as just plain City Hall. However, the clientele is usually just half local. The other half are tourists, keen to sample one of the last remaining dim sum halls in Hong Kong. The main dining room is huge, grandly decorated with chandeliers and recessed ceilings, and free of any pillars or other obstacles likely to get in the way of the dim sum trolley ladies. Dinner is a quieter experience, and those seated along the edge of the dining room are treated to a view of the continuing land reclamation of Victoria Harbour.
Seeing as dim sum is what Maxim’s Palace is most famous for, we duly go at lunch to sample some of the dim sum ladies’ offerings. Spring rolls, steamed pork dumplings known as siu mai, taro puffs and glutinous rice are among some of the dishes sampled and not all are equally successful. The spring rolls are on the small side and have a slightly odd taste of plastic, while the siu mai are underseasoned. The taro puffs are more enjoyable, with a nice gooey filling encased in deliciously crispy puff. The glutinous rice dumplings are also very good: sticky and generous with its fillings. Along with dim sum, another measure of how good a Cantonese restaurant is can be judged from its roast meats. Here, Maxim’s Palace does not disappoint as the roast pork char siu has a perfect balance of sweet syrup and smoky flavour, which highlights rather than overwhelms the pork’s natural flavour. A signature seafood dish of crab cooked with vermicelli in a pot is less impressive: the crab itself is sweet and succulent, but the vermicelli is excessively greasy and lacked salt. If dining there at lunch, there is no better way to end the meal than with traditional Cantonese desserts such as egg tarts, tofu pudding served with ginger syrup or Malay steamed cakes.
Despite the impressively long bar lining one side of the dining room, the wine list at Maxim’s Palace is rather brief. All wines are split into three countries (France, Australia and Chile) and one state (California). There are no wines by the glass, though half a dozen reds (mainly Bordeaux) are available by the half bottle. The austere list means that bringing along your own bottle is a much better idea, and the corkage is only HK$100 per bottle.
Efficient if perfunctory, those coming here for lunch can expect to have to pipe up in order to get the attention of the dim sum-wielding trolley ladies. At dinner, the atmosphere is calmer and the staff attentively pop by routinely to make sure tea cups are filled and dishes are being cleaned or cleared.
A meal for two that includes a selection of dim sum plus more substantial such as roast chicken and crab but no wine comes to about HK$600. Considering its central location and the fact that this is a tourist hotspot, this is a reasonable price to pay.