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Hong Kong restaurant reviews

Restaurant review: Tasting Court - best Cantonese food we’ve reviewed in years

The private kitchen in Jordan serves flower crabs, smoked Chinese bacon, delicate pomelo skin and more. The food, most of which needs ordering in advance, is refined and innovative

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 January, 2016, 8:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 January, 2016, 1:05pm

“Are you sure you want to review this restaurant?” my friend asked during the meal at Tasting Court. He was only half joking. His reason: the food was so good that he was afraid that if it became too popular, we wouldn’t be able to get a table. It’s by far the best, most refined Cantonese restaurant I’ve reviewed in recent memory.

Tasting Court takes the space that belonged to Dragonville, which has merged with sister restaurant Sen Hotpot, one floor below. It’s run as a si fong choi (private kitchen); it’s open to the public but bookings are required and you need to pre-order almost the entire meal at least one day in advance, except for some vegetables and starches.There was only one other group on the night of our visit, and the manager – also the sole waiter – was attentive to both parties.

We started with a seemingly simple dish of Chinese bacon (called “sealed smoked pork” on the menu, HK$88). The thick pieces of well-layered pork had a subtle, sweet-smoky flavour, and were served with lightly pickled cucumbers that balanced the fattiness of the meat.

Baby pigeon smoked with osmanthus and longjing tea (HK$128 each) was small but meaty, succulent and sweet, and served with delicious pickled young ginger. Char siu (listed on the menu as “Chinese grilled pork chop with soy beans”, HK$238) wasn’t like the pink-hued, sweet, glazed meat we expect; the fatty, tender Iberico pork was marinated with soya beans and miso, instead of maltose and rose wine. It came with yet another excellent pickle: this one was made with very fine slices of daikon radish, then shaped into a flower.

The dish we were most excited about was the flower crab with aged Shaoxing wine, fragrant chicken oil and flat rice noodles (HK$55 per tael; our crab – a large one – cost HK$770). The hard shells were full of sweet, succulent meat, and the sauce – light in texture but rich in flavour – was so delicious that the small amount that didn’t get sopped up by the generous amount of rice noodles was drunk straight from our bowls.

It would be easy for any dish after that to be a let-down, but what followed was just as good. Lion’s head (“slow-cooked mini meatballs in chicken soup, HK$88 each) was the lightest, most delicate version we’ve tasted. The manager explained that every bit of sinew and tendon had been removed from the pork before it was chopped, and that the meatballs had been steamed with chicken stock for seven hours. Braised pomelo with shrimp roe (HK$128) was, apart from the crab, my favourite dish of the night. It was a thick piece of skin, with no hint of bitterness, that had been perfectly cooked and served with a wonderfully intense, rich sauce.

Desserts were complementary: slightly rubbery jujube and coconut milk pudding, and refreshing 25-year-old huadiao wine with a delicious Chinese red date.

Tasting Court Chinese Cuisine

2/F Liberty Mansion, 26E Jordan Rd, Jordan, tel: 2377 2883. About HK$315 without drinks or the service charge