1/F, Cosmopolitan Hotel Hong Kong, 387-397 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai
Tel: 3167 7833
Open: noon-11pm (limited menu between 2.30pm and 6.30pm)
Cuisine: Sichuan and Huaiyang
Price: about HK$265 without drinks and the service charge.
Ambience: the restaurant overlooks a busy intersection. It was quiet on the night of our visit, and all the other diners seemed to be hotel guests. Tables are large enough and set well apart.
Pros: the menu is divided into sections, such as Chengdu starters, Yangzhou starters and yu xiang dishes (with spicy garlic and chilli sauce), which makes it easy to ensure the diner can get a good mix of styles in the meal. We ordered only dishes marked as the restaurant's 'signatures', which turned out to be a good strategy - we liked everything we tasted. The dishes came at a good pace, so we didn't feel rushed, and in a logical order from milder to spicy.
Cons: when we arrived at 7.30pm, there was nobody to greet us, and we wandered into the restaurant only to find it empty. However, when the manager eventually came out, he was profuse in his apologies and, after that, service was attentive. We had only one complaint about a dish, and it was fairly minor: we really did expect 18 types of vegetables in the starter of potpourri of 18 vegetables (HK$58); the name was probably meant to be poetic, but we took it literally. The finely shredded vegetables, dressed in a light, sesame oil-scented sauce, were refreshing.
Recommended dishes: a Chengdu-style starter of sliced pork with garlic and chilli sauce (HK$68) had all the flavour of the classic dish, but it was a much more refined presentation: the pork slices were rolled tightly into a spiral before being drenched in the pungent sauce. Crispy river shrimp (HK$88), lightly coated in a sweet-sour, mildly gingery sauce, were so well cooked that the delicate shells were edible. Braised bamboo shoots (HK$150) were sweet and crisp. Spiced salt and pepper bullfrog weren't the meatiest or largest frogs we've eaten, but the dense, bony legs were flavourful and well fried. Our favourite dish was sauteed crab with salted egg yolk (HK$300) - we were so busy trying to extract the sweet meat and lick the salted egg coating from the shells that our table was almost silent until we'd finished. Spiced bean curd with minced pork and mushrooms (also known as ma po doufu, HK$78) deserved its three-chilli rating, but the spiciness was perfectly balanced rather than being one-dimensional. For dessert, we had black sesame dumplings in osmanthus soup (HK$25 a bowl) and perfectly cooked crispy red bean pancake (HK$48), which had a filling so rich and intense, it almost tasted like chocolate.
What else? He Jiang is a restaurant by Elite Concepts, which also runs Ye Shanghai and Cinecitta.