Dong Lai Shun

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 November, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 November, 2004, 12:00am

Basement 2, Royal Garden Hotel, 69 Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East. Tel: 2733 2020

It seems strange to be eating hotpot in a comfortable hotel in serene surroundings. Almost all our other experiences have been at fluorescent-lit places where the ventilation is weak, the air-conditioning high, a television blares in the background and you feel compelled to wash your utensils in hot tea.

Dong Lai Shun is the first Hong Kong branch of a Beijing-based chain that specialises in mutton dishes. This theme is obvious from the menu: there's mutton hotpot, wok-fried mutton or beef with green onions, stir-fried mutton with XO sauce, mutton terrine, and deep-fried mutton fillet in sesame crust.

There are other dishes, of course, such as baked crab with salted egg yolk, or deep-fried crispy chicken with crispy rice cake, but after a glance around the restaurant, we decided to order what most of the other tables were having: hotpot.

The hand-sliced mutton ($70) made me envious of the chef's knife skills - it was sliced so thin it needed only a few seconds in the bubbling broth to cook. The deluxe beef had a good layer of fat, but seemed expensive at $120. We loved the succulent, tender mutton balls ($70), and the bean curd ($48) was so good we ordered a second dish.

We rounded out the meal with imported and local vegetables ($60 and $48 respectively) and shrimp balls ($80), which all contributed flavour to what we consider to be the best part of hotpot - the soup. By the end of the meal, it was so rich, deeply flavoured and complex it would have made the reputation of a Michelin three-star chef.

The bill, though, seemed expensive. One major charge was $38 per person for the homemade sesame dressing, which came up to $152. Service was pretty inattentive. Our waitress took our order, delivered the food then disappeared for much of the evening. The service improved as the evening went on and the restaurant emptied.

A meal for four was $1,071.