3 Michelin stars for shark's fin restaurant

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 December, 2010, 12:00am

Shark's fin soup-serving Sun Tung Lok has been named Hong Kong's third Michelin three-star restaurant - a move that angered environmentalists but further cements the city as a gastronomic capital.

The top honour comes after three local Chinese Michelin guide inspectors ate at the restaurant eight times.

Jean Luc-Naret, director of the Michelin guides, said he understood the controversy surrounding shark's fin soup but the three stars were awarded to recognise the restaurant's fine Cantonese cuisine.

Environmentalists found that hard to swallow. 'Excessive consumption is driving sharks to extinction, and the award will indirectly encourage further consumption,' WWF Hong Kong marketing officer Silvy Pun Yuen-yiu, who is responsible for the shark's fin campaign, said.

Michelin should explain if its ranking policy took sustainability into consideration - and, if not, should introduce it, she said. 'It is an increasing trend for restaurants to take shark's fin off the menu,' Pun said, 'and more and more of them are offering alternative menus, too'.

A total of 52 restaurants and hotels have pledged to offer at least one banquet menu without shark's fin soup.

Sun Tung Lok executive director Victor Yuen said business had not been affected by the calls for sustainable dining.

The addition of Sun Tung Lok, which has operated in the city for about four decades, breaks the stranglehold of the Four Seasons Hotel, which is the only hotel in the world with two Michelin three-star restaurants - Lung King Heen and Caprice. The former - Hong Kong's first three-star restaurant when Michelin began covering the city in its guides in 2008 - also serves shark's fin soup.

A total of 75 stars were bestowed on 60 of the 215 Hong Kong restaurants in the 2011 guide. That's up from 31 stars when the first Hong Kong guide was released. Macau has nine starred restaurants, the same as last year, out of 38 in the guide.

By comparison, only 57 out of 715 restaurants in the 2011 New York guide received stars. The 2010 guides featured 40 starred restaurants out of 450 in London, and 63 starred restaurants out of 420 in Paris. The 2011 guides for the two European cities are not yet available.

Of the 60 starred restaurants in Hong Kong, 13 are new entries this year, including 10 new one-star restaurants, two two-stars and the top-ranked Sun Tung Lok. But Fook Lam Moon in Wan Chai, dubbed the 'canteen of tycoons', the Island Shangri-La's French restaurant, Petrus, and Shang Palace in the Kowloon Shangri-La went from two stars in 2010 to one star in the new guide.

Among the new additions is one-star Hin Ho Curry in Shau Kei Wan, the city's first Indian restaurant to receive a rating.

'When I opened the restaurant 19 years ago, it was the first Indian restaurant in the Eastern district,' owner Andy Tse Tim-fong said.

Tse employs Indian and Nepali chefs but adjusts the curry to suit local palates. Nepali Laxman Subedi, a staff member for 15 years, said Tse disagreed with the way he made naan and other dishes for the first 10 years. Now the restaurant tried to combine traditional flavours with local tastes. The price of a lunch set is HK$42, with dinner about HK$100.

'Eateries in Chung King Mansion put a lot of spices into their dishes... for those who do not eat curry every day. Such dishes may smell as strong as medicine oil,' Tse said.

Akiko Suzuki, 57, and Shigeo Fukushima, 64, eat at the restaurant almost weekly. Suzuki loves the spices in the curries while Fukushima is fond of the naan, which is served hot and crispy. 'Considering the prices of the dishes, I give the restaurant 95 points (out of 100),' Suzuki said.

Another new budget-friendly one-star eatery, Lei Bistro in Times Square, offers three steamed pork buns for just HK$15, while soup with baby abalone is priced at HK$58 per person. At Lei Garden, owned by the same operator, the soup goes for HK$238 for two people.

The chain's senior marketing manager, Michelle Ng Mei-wai, said dishes at Lei Bistro were more affordable because of higher turnover.