Food notes

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 March, 2007, 12:00am
 

These nuggets of information may come in handy when you next dine out


Reservations


Most sit-down restaurants accept bookings, so it is advisable to make one. The more popular places do two sittings, which means diners are given time limits (mostly reasonable) for their dinners. Some restaurants make you wait even when you have a reservation, but the wait should be much shorter than when walking in without one. With private kitchens, reservations are a must.


Dress code


While smart casual has become the norm, restaurants have their individual interpretations of the phrase. In general it means no to shorts, bare feet, sleeveless shirts on men, and sometimes jeans. A small number of restaurants require men to wear jackets; meanwhile, a black dress works almost everywhere for the women.


MSG


If you are allergic to monosodium glutamate you may want to avoid low-end eateries, because most use MSG as a flavouring. You should be safe at hotel restaurants, where the chefs are mindful of allergies of all kinds. If you do have an allergy problem, alert the staff before you order.


Vegetarianism


Let's be clear on this: dim sum is off limits if you are vegetarian, unless you have in mind one of a handful of places that specialise in vegetarian dim sum. Regular dim sum is filled with meat elements such as pork stock and even lard. Trying to explain vegetarianism at dim sum restaurants is pointless, because most of the waiters classify fish as a vegetable. Avoid soups; almost no tasty soups are completely meat-free (there is chicken stock in tom yum). Avoid foods from street hawkers - they may contain lard.


Picking a wine


Fish does not have to go with white wine, and beef isn't restricted to reds. Texture is the deciding factor: rich food goes better with full wines and light food goes better with light-bodied wines. In fancy restaurants, ask for the sommelier; even a wine buff can learn something from the professionals. Chinese restaurants tend to be BYOB, even some of the fancier ones. Hong Kong's legal drinking age is 18.


Smoking


Since the beginning of this year, smoking has been effectively banned at restaurants, but smokers can still puff away at outdoor tables not sheltered by awnings. (Note that some venues have obtained exemptions to the smoking ban until 2009.)


Credit cards


Credit cards are widely used, especially the popular ones such as Mastercard and Visa. Any restaurant that charges more than HK$100 a person for a meal is likely to accept them, but it is always safe to ask.


Tipping


The 10 per cent service charge in most cases ends up in the owner's coffers. If you like the service, leave a cash tip. Tipping is not required in this city, but people generally leave the coins.


Parking


If you drive but don't want to end up circling the block for a parking space, choose restaurants in malls or hotels. Otherwise, call in advance to find out whether the restaurant offers valet parking.


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