King's Palace kitchen
7/F, Cubus, 1 Hoi Ping Road,
Tel: 2972 2000
Price: about HK$150 per person without drinks and the service charge
Ambience: the brightly lit, 80-seat dining room has a contemporary East-meets-West look, with alternating red and green velvet chairs, white tablecloths and framed images of Chinese imperial garb and furniture on every inch of available wall space. We were seated along the plush banquette by the window.
Pros: as indicated by the decor, this King's Palace outlet heads upmarket from its noodle-shop siblings located in Happy Valley, Festival Walk and the airport food court. We were excited to see that, besides the chain's well-known roasted meat dishes, the menu has speciality items such as braised fish head stew, roasted soft-shell turtle and slow-cooked game hen, some of which require pre-ordering.
Cons: about half the menu items were crossed out, mainly the dumpling, noodle and congee dishes the eatery is phasing out to make room for the more sophisticated choices mentioned above. Why they didn't just make a temporary printout of the dishes available is a mystery. The quality of service varied according to which of the two waiters we had - we quickly learned to ask for the one wearing glasses.
Recommended dishes: the grouper potage with puffed rice (HK$68 a bowl) was a tad thick, but the puffed rice gave a nice toasted crunch to the silky texture of the soup. The subtle flavour of the fish slices and julienned Chinese spinach was enhanced with a dusting of white pepper powder. Our platter of char siu and roast duck (HK$118) was small - there were just six pieces of each - but flavourful and tender. The skin on the goose had a nice translucence from all the fat rendered out; the char siu could have used a little more charring, but the thick slices had just enough fat to coat the mouth without it feeling greasy. The homey egg foo yung (HK$88) reminded us of a thin tortilla, soft and fluffy on the inside with the right amount of diced roast meats and sweet spring onion bits.
What else? Aside from the regular menu, there is a list of chef's recommendations available on request, in Chinese only. We were told that the list changes often, so be sure to call ahead for updates.