Sun Tung Lok 新同樂

Sun Tung Lok  新同樂 (shark fin) restaurant  is the world’s second 3 star Michelin Chinese restaurant after Lung King Heen (Four Seasons Hong Kong). It is the newest addition to the Hong Kong Michelin star group. Yesterday, I did a review of 3 star French restaurant Caprice (Four Seasons Hong Kong) and thought it would be interesting to do a comparison between it and Sun Tung Lok.

                                            




I was a bit skeptical going to this restaurant and trying the food. I’ll try to explain it the best I can as it might make more sense and be more understandable to someone who has grown up in Hong Kong or any other Asian city and been to local restaurants. 

The usual: Jasmine tea



The Michelin experience: you either got it or don’t…


Everything but the food: 
1. to award this place 3 stars is a slap in the face of chefs around the world trying to obtain such high prestige not only in Asia but around the world.
2. 3 star experience of staff is absent, it reminds me of any other kind of nice local eatery in Hong Kong that serves dim sum in the day and changes to a seafood restaurant at night


But then again perhaps this doesn’t matter quite as much since the Michelin guide has been giving stars to REALLY GOOD hole-in-the-wall dim sum venues and dumpling restaurants in Asia. 
The problem is, is not that Asian restaurants are not worthy of stars and the Michelin should just award imported European restaurants in Asia; of course not, but I felt that Western restaurants bring something new to the table, making customers eat the unordinary, give them something to think about, tickle their palette and basically at the end of the day, serve them food that you cannot get in your small local supermarket. Perhaps some people might be able to get certain produces in their food store but I think accessibility is more difficult in France. 


At the end of the day, the customer is paying for food and not necessarily the decor so the real question is to see how good a 3 star Cantonese restaurant is compared to say, a French equivalent.


What do you look for in a 3-star restaurant? Something that you can find easily in your neighborhood/city just with a bigger price tag and some fancy sauce? Or innovation, you being brought on a journey of limitless perhaps even awkward tastes, letting the Chef go beyond the conservative, the traditional methods of cooking and just basically trying something NEW.


I think that is a key problem for Sun Tung Lok, and high end Asian cuisine. True, high end Cantonese food can be something separate from day-to-day Cantonese cuisine but the difference I feel is that it revolves around 3 expensive ingredients (abalone, shark’s fin and bird’s nest soup and likes to stay traditional. Those who have tried to innovate, have not been celebrated the same way as they do in Europe. Chefs like in Bo Innovation may fall flat on their face. Sun Tung Lok is definitely high end Cantonese dining with 4 decades of history and meals revolving around the various ways to eat abalone, and shark’s fin. Tradition is much more important in high level Cantonese cuisine than it is in Western ones.


Appetizers…

Braised chicken feet in abalone sauce. The sauce was quite tasty and thick but not anything that I haven’t tasted before.

Fried string bean with mince pork and chili

Mock goose with mushrooms

Main dishes

I ordered XO chilli (as I always order chilli with my Chinese meal) and was surprised to find it staring at me on the bill at the end of the meal…

Ham sauce for the shark fin

Shark fin…the soup was very thick and had a nice consistency but a bit bland for me and nothing extremely spectacular




Braised prime rib of beef  – this was quite good, the meat fell of the bone
Deep fried crispy chicken (a usual suspect in Cantonese restaurants)




Braised pork with preserved vegetable in casserole. This was my favorite of the evening (not because I  love pork but because of taste) – but again something I grew up with

Fried rice with conpoy, shrimp and barbecued pork (it was good but usually there aren’t so many ingredients in the dish)




As I was eating my meal, I was thinking how smart Adeline Grattard’s 1-star restaurant Yam t’cha (in Paris; please see my comments as well) was. If she came up to investors in Hong Kong with her concept, no one would be interested. Why should people pay for the exact food they have eaten most of their lives with a huge price-tag? But she didn’t open this restaurant in Hong Kong; she opened it in Paris…a Cantonese restaurant serving steamed fish, crispy pork and bean noodles – you cannot find this in Paris, not all Parisians have been to Hong Kong, let alone Asia and they have opened their arms to Grattard’s restaurant.


The price of the meals are calculated in reference to how many shark fins you’d like to de-fin and the quality of the dried abalone. The most expensive set menu I saw was about 7,000 HKD$ (700 euros) for 1 person. Those better be impeccable abalones. There has been some speculation that Michelin gave the restaurant 3 stars for their shark’s fin but this has been denied by the group. If they did give them stars for the fin, I can gladly give them a list of my favorite Cantonese restaurants where my shark’s fin was more tasty and more in quantity for 1/2 the price. 










On my experience, it was an unimpressive way to spend on food (EXACT food that I can find in my favorite local Cantonese seafood restaurant minus expensive wines from Europe – but I don’t like to drink red wine from Bordeaux with my steamed chicken and white rice) where most of the courses were “cooked” in front of us by a waiter with a butane can.


















Perhaps I was expecting too much, perhaps I should have gone here first before eating at 3-star Caprice. But to be honest, I probably would have had the same reaction because I see innovation as key to a restaurant and Chef’s development and success; and I know, I can find these elsewhere. 


If you want shark fin and abalone, fine but know that there are just as good non-starred restaurants that can serve the same quality meal as Sun Tung Lok






In a couple of days, I will post an entry on Chuk Yuen

竹園

a local seafood restaurant that my family enjoys. For a third of the price, we can enjoy just as much if not more variety, taste and just a generally good atmosphere at one of our favorite local restaurants that Hong Kong has to offer. 


Sun Tung Lok
4/F, Miramar Shopping Centre, 132 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
Tel: 2152 1417
Subway station: Tsim Sha Tsui
Website: http://www.suntunglok.com.hk/

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Comments
2 Responses to “Sun Tung Lok 新同樂”
  1. G.Ginesta says:

    I liked this post. Its quite a contrast from all the other positive reviews. Keep it up!

    Now, I take it this place doesnt qualify for a follow-up visit then? haha

  2. Lisa says:

    Tried Bird Nest soup last year from like http://www.geocities.jp/hongkong_bird_nest/index_e.htm . Tastes really good… yeah, I thought it was gross at first, but wow, you won't regret it.

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