Restaurant review: Old Bazaar Kitchen in Wan Chai – well-made Chinese/Southeast Asian dishes
An old Hong Kong favourite returns, with an unusual minimum charge and menu restrictions. The service didn’t match the high price, but the food was delicious nonetheless
Foodie friends and I remembered with great fondness a restaurant called Old Bazaar Kitchen, which served an unusual mix of Chinese and Southeast Asian dishes in its various locations, first in Tin Hau, then in Wan Chai. It closed several years ago, before reopening recently in a new spot in Wan Chai. This time it is being backed by a group with deep pockets, Lai Sun Dining, which also has high-end restaurants such as 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo, China Tang and Howard’s Gourmet.
One major change that is sure to put off a lot of people: at dinner, there’s now a HK$700 per person minimum charge, and you need to order the menu in advance. Before you eat there, the staff will compose a menu and email it to you for your approval or alterations. The first menu proposal sent to me would have cost HK$900 per person, but I wanted to see what they could do with the minimum amount. Despite the price, the restaurant was full.
We liked almost every dish, but at this price, there were service mistakes that shouldn’t have happened. They forgot to serve us the first course of chilled sliced pork and cucumber with crushed garlic until we pointed it out. It came towards the end of the meal and the meat – pork neck, instead of the more usual pork belly – was tender, but the cucumber hadn’t absorbed much flavour of the marinade. Also, the staff should have changed our plates more frequently.
Drunken foie gras, served with cream crackers, was soft and creamy, although it could have been marinated a little longer in the rice wine. Pan fried bite-sized beef pieces were tender and went very well with the delicious sweet onions cooked with the meat. Crisp fried marble goby was skilfully cooked so the skin was slightly crunchy and the meat was moist. It came with shredded spring onions and a rich, flavourful soy sauce.
Marinated lamb rack with stir-fried onions was fantastic. The lamb ribs had been braised with chopped cabbage, then topped with a large amount of minced spring onions that had a sweet, mild flavour. Fried kale with ginger was fresh and crisp-tender. Hainan chicken with steamed rice in clay pot was our second favourite dish (after the lamb). The chicken was moist and had a nice layer of jelly between meat and skin. The rice, cooked with lemon grass stalks, garlic cloves and sliced ginger, was fragrant and delicious.
For dessert, the menu read “ice cream sandwich” but it turned out to be an ice cream cake, with a choice of lychee, mango or durian. I chose the latter, and while it had a good durian flavour, the texture was too icy, rather than smooth.
Old Bazaar Kitchen, 32-38 Cross Lane, Wan Chai, tel: 2871 1993. Minimum of HK$700 per person at dinner.
While you’re in the area: