1/F Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, 1 Harbour Road, Wan Chai
Tel: 2582 7332
Open: noon-3pm (from 11am on Sunday and public holidays), 6.30pm-11pm
Price: about HK$350 without drinks and the service charge.
Ambience: we were initially seated alongside the plate glass windows overlooking the convention centre's soulless, vast entry area - proving that it's not always best to have a table with a 'view'. The bright, ever-changing colours of the neon lights outside the window were disconcerting, so we asked for another table and the servers moved us towards the centre. The high-ceilinged space, with a comfortable mix of retro and modern decor, was less than one-third full on the night we visited, although it's probably much busier during the day.
Pros: our servers were helpful and nice, and changed our plates frequently. Although the food came quickly, it was served in a logical order.
Cons: the appetiser of bean curd skin and Shanghainese wild vegetable roll (HK$58) was refrigerator-cold and had too much skin in proportion to the vegetable. The braised Ning Po-style spare ribs (HK$128) had good flavour and meat that was so tender it was almost falling off the bone, but it should have been served hotter.
Recommended dishes: shredded bitter melon with scallion and sesame oil (HK$48) was a refreshing cold dish we snacked on throughout the meal. Wuxi-style deep-fried eel (HK$58) was perfectly cooked so the small, sweet pieces were delicately crunchy. Sauteed chicken with spicy chilli (HK$98) wasn't that spicy, but the meat was tender, and the sticky sauce was well-balanced. Even better was the braised crab with chilli paste and rice cakes (HK$338). Again, it wasn't spicy, but the sweet, fresh crab meat, chewy rice cakes and rich brown sauce were delicious. A soup of whole river fish with shredded turnip (HK$148 for a portion that served up to four) was subtle and comforting on a cold night.
What else? There are three private rooms with minimum charges (about HK$4,000 at night) if you book them in advance, although if you're in a large group and one is available on a walk-in basis, there's no minimum.