18 Tsing Fung Street, Tin Hau
Tel: 2570 0208
Open: noon-2.30pm, 5pm-1am
Cuisine: Oysters and Western
Price: about HK$400 without drinks and service charge.
Ambience: the interior design jarred, with lighting too bright in parts of the room and shiny accessories more suited to nightclubs, including bronze sateen napkins - not material you'd want anywhere near your mouth. The pop music was intrusive.
Pros: the first time we were here several months ago, we had a maitre d' who was overly garrulous but helpful in explaining which oysters were in season. In his absence there was an oyster menu with different varieties separated into three categories - light, medium and rich. We appreciated the warm house-made bread.
Cons: the service was patchy. Because the restaurant was full on a Saturday night, dishes took a long time to arrive, although the mains were served together and with an apology for the wait. Despite having cleared the table for dessert, the waitress left behind a sizable piece of mushy tomato. The pastry for the apple tart (HK$60) proved so unyielding that a waiter, seeing me making no progress with a spoon, brought a knife so I could saw through it. The apple pieces, however, were pleasingly sweet and sharp. The crepe suzette (HK$55) with caramel citrus sauce would have earned a thumbs-up had it not been cold in the centre.
Recommended dishes: as with the first visit, some oysters were excellent. This time we liked the Sunset Beach oysters (HK$32 each), which were light, as promised, but full of flavour. So, too, the Scottish Rock ($42 each), but the Divine (HK$52 each), from France, described as 'rich', fell short on creaminess. We also relished the spicy squid starter (HK$88), which came with an olive and tomato salsa and earned points for its chilli kick. Seafood linguine (HK$178), served with a house-made tomato coulis including tiger prawns, mussels, squid and scallops, was some of the best we've had in Hong Kong: the flavourful sauce was thick, the pasta was firm and the prawns were sweet and succulent. Also good was the recommended braised lamb shank (HK$198), served with Madeira sauce and porcini mushrooms, which, sadly, were a bit watery. The lamb could have been more tender but was delicious and comforting on a cold night.
What else? If you're after an intimate dinner, request the table closest to the oyster bar, which affords some privacy, albeit behind shimmery beads.