Traditional Cantonese cuisine meets modern gastronomy in this delectable 9-course tasting menu (priced at an affordable HK$680/person) by Lai Bun Fu's Executive Chef Kin-Leung Chung. Previously Head Chef of the Chinese kitchen in Hong Kong's Government House, Chef Chung has personally cooked for the likes of Xi Jinping, Dmitry Medvedev, George Bush and Margaret Thatcher, among other notable world leaders. Lai Bun Fu's entire menu is a recreation of Chef Chung's signature plates, as well as VIP favourites from the government house. Naturally, we walked in expecting a feast fit for royalty, no less!
Lai Bun Fu is located on On Lan Street in Central, just a few streets over from D'Aguilar. The interior is like any classy modern Chinese restaurant in Hong Kong, save for some eccentricities like bowler hat lamps adorning an entire wall. If you have friends visiting the city who are up for trying something reflective of the "new Hong Kong", I would definitely recommend this tasting menu. The dishes are skilfully executed with traditional Chinese techniques and yet bursting with delicious, contemporary flavours.
If you're an August baby, you're in luck! Birthday celebrants can eat for free if you order the Summer Tasting Menu and dine with 4 people or more - only available during the month of August.
Interiors of Lai Bun Fu, which seats 52 patrons and an extra 12 in the private room.
To start, we were brought the Sliced Crispy Chicken and Avocado Toast with Caviar amuse-bouche. The chicken skin was nice and crisp, but the avocado could have been riper. Caviar added a nice, briny touch.
The Pan Fried Crab Cake with Matsutake Mushroom was probably one of my favourite dishes of the night. The crab cake was tender and rich, and the outside seared to perfection. You can tell that the matsutake had absorbed a lot of savoury flavours, and was impossibly juicy for its size.
My other new obsession of late: Chinese soups! I love the gentle and refreshing flavours of Chinese soup broth, not to mention the health benefits derived from the dried herbs, meat, seafood and veg used to make the soup base. This is Lai Bun Fu's gorgeous Daily Double Boiled Seafood Soup, served in a whole papaya with shrimp, mini scallop, conpoy (dried scallop) and bamboo piths. You can even scoop the softened sides out to enjoy with or between sips.
This felt like an interesting Chinese take on Japanese chawanmushi - and judging by the taste of the velvety-soft steamed egg, it was definitely done right. The egg is actually tinged orange because of the use of fresh beetroot, which I'm guessing is more for aesthetics because we didn't really taste it. Loved the texture of the garoupa fish, but we were taken aback by the blast of black truffle flavour, which we found to be slightly overpowering given the delicate nature of the dish. I just scraped a bit off, and all was well again!
Braised Fish Maw isn't something I would normally go for when ordering at a Chinese restaurant, so I'm glad it came up on the tasting menu because it was SO good - especially with the "Supreme" sauce, which is made with a chicken broth soup and soya sauce base, thickened with corn flour to pair with the springy texture of the maw. FYI, maw is the gas-filled organ of a fish that keeps it buoyant when it swims. Oh, and not only is maw delicious, but totally rich in collagen - so dig in for the sake of beautiful skin!
Next up was the Crispy fried Angus Beef Brisket with Curry Sauce. The beef is braised with sauce made up of dried longan, herbs, onion, ginger, etc. for around 3 hours before being sliced up and deep fried. It was extremely tender and well-flavoured, but was a bit oily for me.
This Poached Mustard Green with Layer Bean Curd brought me back to my childhood. The flavours of this dish didn't stray from tradition, and it was almost like elegant comfort food that I could keep on eating.
The Lai Bun Fu Signature Fried Rice was delicious, but same issue again with the dollop of black truffle paste on top - it just didn't really seem necessary because the fried rice on its own was already so good. The fried rice features fresh, premium ingredients like abalone, lobster and scallop, giving it a nice edge.
Normally, the last dish that would be served is the Sesame Balls Stuffed with Green Tea and Bird’s Nest Paste, but they unfortunately had run out that night. We were served Double Boiled Snow Lotus Herb and Snow Fungus instead, which is created with dissolved rock sugar, snow lotus, snow fungus and Chinese red dates, but it was too sweet for our liking.
Lai Bun Fu
Address: 5/F, 18 On Lan Street, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: 852 2564-3868
Hours: Mondays to Fridays: Lunch: 12:00 n.n. – 3:00 p.m, Dinner: 6:30 p.m. – 11:00 p.m
Saturdays: Lunch: 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m, Dinner: 6:30 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Closed on Sundays.
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