You don't need to be a keen follower of the Urban Renewal Authority's projects to know that Kwun Tong is under redevelopment. The district is punctuated with empty lots where buildings once stood, although the shopfronts that remain are vibrant with activity, much as they were in the 1960s and '70s when the area was brimming with factories and their employees.
Shanghai Wing Wah (Sye Chung) Restaurant, which serves cuisines from Beijing, Sichuan and Shanghai, opened in 1975. "These three were grouped together back in those days. We are carrying on those techniques and dishes," says Victor Yeung, who runs the outlet with his family.
These dishes are often referred to as "cuisines from other provinces". The family did not originate in these areas (they are Chiu Chow) but Yeung says they love the hearty flavours. "Our food is homely; we don't have any high-end dishes. We stick to our classic methods. For example, for our twice-cooked pork, we buy an entire pork belly that's as large as a dining table and break it down ourselves," he says.
Yeung had originally intended to work outside the family business after he graduated from university with a marketing degree. But his father challenged him to revitalise the restaurant. "This neighbourhood means a lot to my parents. The restaurant belonged to my father's family, and they took over about 20 years ago," he says.
Kwun Tong is a different place these days, Yeung says: "I'd say about 80 per cent of the shops around us have closed or moved. New immigrants have moved into the area, and office workers have moved into the new buildings nearby. They don't know what we're about. It certainly affects us." Yeung hopes to reintroduce young people to this brand of cuisine.
"We haven't refurbished the restaurant as we want to keep the vintage feel. The red glazed tiles around the front, for instance, are characteristic of Shanghainese restaurants back in the 1970s," he says. He's also started a Facebook page to interest youngsters. With over 4,000 likes he's not doing too badly. "We'll take it one day at a time," he says.
Shanghai Wing Wah (Sye Chung) Restaurant, 15 Shung Yan Street, Kwun Tong, tel: 2341 0583. Open: 11am-11pm