Food review: Shanghai bites
As the light streams into Yu Lei's dining hall, enjoy Chinese dishes with hints of Japanese cuisine, writes Susan Jung
Our expectations of Yu Lei were high, having been impressed by Messina il Ristorante, one of its sister operations in the KO Dining Group that is also on the fifth floor of the Harbourfront Landmark hotel in Hung Hom. And, for the most part, we were not disappointed.
The corridor leading to the Shanghainese restaurant is carpeted with red and gold. The dominant design theme is flowers and the private rooms (which cost HK$5,000 at lunch and HK$8,000 for dinner) reflect that, with names such as Peony, Osmanthus, Lotus and Lily.
We sat in the main dining room where, on a clear day, the view through the large windows is lovely. The whole feeling of the room was luxurious, with heavy chairs and comfortable banquettes, well-spaced tables and high ceilings.
The chef of Yu Lei is Miki Imagawa and the Japanese influence, in both ingredients and presentation, shows in many of the dishes. This intrigued us and our selection reflected that.
The signature appetiser (HK$250 per person, but we ordered only one and shared) was presented beautifully but we're not sure it justified the price. The five appetisers included traditional Shanghainese cold dishes, such as jellyfish with sesame oil and lo sui (master sauce) poached fish - however, we've tasted better versions.
The dim sum selections were more successful. Spring rolls with shredded chicken and mushrooms (HK$42) had shatteringly crisp fried wrappers. The Shanghainese pork dumplings with supreme soup (HK$48 for four) had skins that were slightly thick, but the filling was juicy and meaty.
A cold dish of Kyushu drunken crab (HK$580) should have been ordered 10 days before but the kitchen had one spare. The raw crab, with a hint of high-quality Shaoxing rice wine, was wonderfully sweet, with lots of roe in the back shell.
Sweet and sour pork (HK$190) with three kinds of vinegar was also good. The tender meat had a delicately crisp coating and the sticky sauce was rich and complex. Toothsome chunks of water bamboo (HK$140) had been cooked with a fine chiffonade of fried seaweed.
There was nothing wrong with the stir-fried crab with homemade miso sauce (HK$480) - the mildly sweet sauce coated the chunks of crab - but it didn't excite us. We had the same complaint about the scrambled egg with sea urchin and conpoy (HK$240). Although the scrambled egg - cooked in rolled layers, like Japanese tamagoyaki - was tender, the flavours were too subtle.
However, we ended with excellent miso noodles with shredded pork and pine nuts (HK$110) and a baked almond bun (HK$45 for three) which had a gooey, creamy filling. The servers, who had been attentive throughout, gave us small cups of bitter kung fu tea before we left.
Yu Lei, 5/F Harbourfront Landmark, 11 Wan Hoi Street, Hung Hom, tel: 3746 2788. Open: Tuesday-Sunday noon-3pm (from 11.30am on Saturday and Sunday), 6pm-11pm. About HK$550 without drinks or service charge