Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Yummy Yummy La Mian
After a night of partying at Lan Kwai Fong, I woke up in our dark hotel room with the expected dry mouth and throbbing headache. Matt, who seems to have been hit harder by the vodka truck than I was, is lying motionless next to me, his body emitting what seems to be the harsh smell of gasoline. I knew it was almost noon and so we have surely missed our complimentary breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant.
So, as I await signs of life from my husband, I just lay there and fantasized about brunch. The moment I awoke, I was already craving for noodle soup and dimsum, and I knew exactly where to go.
I haul a semi-conscious Matt out of bed and into a cab at around 2PM for brunch at Harbour City. It was raining that day, so I thought it would be best to stay indoors. Besides, at the sorry state we were in, I don’t think either of us was in the mood for sightseeing and exploring.
We head straight towards Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao on the third floor of the shopping mall, expecting to be immediately ushered into a half-empty restaurant. “Don’t worry,” I reassure Matt, “It’s 2:30PM. I’m sure the lunch crowd is gone”. Boy, was I ever wrong! There were at least twenty people standing outside, staring transfixed at the number board, hoping that their number comes out next. We got our own number stub from the receptionist and we waited our turn, quite impatiently.
Now, it was bad enough to have to wait in line for a table. But, like a bad joke, the number board was doing this strange flip-flop with the numbers. 356, 357, 358, 359… And then it would go back to 90, 91, 92, and so on. Tired, hungry and hungover, Matt and I were about ready to pounce on that number board and tear it into tiny pieces. Before we knew it, we turned on each other and started fighting about going there. So, to end our madness, Matt got some spinach quiche from a nearby Starbucks to stave-off our hunger until we get a table.
After almost an hour, we were finally shown to our table. Despite the huge Sunday crowd, the modern and casual dining room was clean and organized. The wait staff was scurrying around as fast as they could, but it did not feel chaotic. We immediately order from the Shanghainese menu as if we were a table for four. We sip on some hot tea which was on the table when we arrived, assuming it was complimentary. We were shocked later on to discover that we were charged for it! I do not really mind, since I would have ordered hot tea anyway. But I just do not think it was right to serve customers an item which they did not order and then charge them for it.
Anyway, our food finally arrives, starting with some dimsum. I got myself some Xiao Long Bao (Shanghai Pork Dumplings) which is the restaurant’s specialty. The dome-shaped dumplings- filled with a savory pork filling and hot soup- are dipped in dark vinegar, and then consumed by first puncturing the thin wrapper with my teeth and then sipping some of the soup. When the contents have cooled, I suck the dumpling into my mouth, enjoying the strong flavors of scallions and the juicy pork. Obviously, I devoured this before realizing I forgot to take a picture. (Note: Actually, I think Matt asked me if I wanted to take pictures of the food, and I just grunted in reply. Oh well.)
What really made this meal note-worthy, though, was the La Mian with Spicy Beef Soup- another house specialty. La Mian are Chinese hand-pulled noodles cooked either in a soup (usually beef or mutton-flavored) or stir-fried in a tomato-based sauce. The one we ordered was in a steaming, spicy broth flavored with thin beef slices and big red chilies. The result was simply divine- the soup was aromatic and rich in flavor, the spice level was just enough to make you sweat a bit, not painful at all. The noodles were firm, almost elastic, to the point that it took some effort to cut them. For me, it was close to perfection, the best bowl of noodles I have had in a very long time.
Matt also ordered some dishes for himself but they were just ok. We both agreed that the La Mian was the star of this meal.
After our late brunch, we walked out of Harbour City and saw that it was still drizzling. With our stomachs full and our heads still buzzing from the night before, we just shrugged and decided to go back to the hotel for a nap. I was a bit guilty about wasting a whole afternoon in the hotel room when I should be enjoying the sights and the shopping. But then, with the cool, rainy day and our tummies full of delicious hot soup, I really could not think of a better thing to do at that point.
Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao
3/F Harbour City
Kowloon, Hong Kong
Tel. no. (852)26222699