Hong Kong restaurant reviews

First impressions of Mr. S. Y. Punti in Sai Ying Pun – reinterpreted Hong Kong dishes fall flat on flavour

French toast aside, the bland dishes and drinks at this quaint little cha chaan teng fail to live up to some of their more traditional counterparts

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 May, 2017, 12:32pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 May, 2017, 12:32pm

Nestled at the end of a small lane in Sai Ying Pun is Mr S.Y. Punti, which its PR people describe as a “reinterpreted cha chaan teng” – which would be fine, if “reinterpreted” meant removing the flavour. Rare is it that we have visited a place that serves such bland food.

Once you find the place (look for the colourful foot massage sign for the turning into the lane), you’ll discover it’s a quaint, small cafe of the sort that could be filled with hipsters, but the execution of the food and drinks needs work before those ultra-cool kids come to hang out.

The menu features gourmet coffees and snacks that are for the most part either deep-fried or boiled. They might appear rather unsubstantial, but order a few of them and you’ll be stuffed.

The snack palette allows diners to sample a minimum of three items, from a choice of six. The pricing only allows you to choose an odd number of samples, but you can double up on the same dishes.

We tried five items (HK$125), including two orders of deep-fried dumplings, one meat and one vegetarian. The meat ones were too dense, with insufficient vegetables within, while the vegetarian ones were scant on filling.

The unseasoned deep-fried chicken wings were so bland that my dining companion – who loves chicken wings – was disappointed to the extent that she didn’t even bother fighting over the last one. A plate of deep-fried wontons was unremarkable, but the mini-slices of French toast were a saving grace – golden brown on the outside, fluffy in texture and stuffed with peanut butter. We dipped them in sweetened condensed milk and they took us back to cha chaan teng heaven.

We also ordered a large portion of boiled dumplings and wontons (HK$52) and the pan-fried lotus root cake with mini greens (HK$36). The dumplings and wontons lacked flavour, but we still preferred them to the earlier deep-fried ones. Meanwhile, we couldn’t taste much lotus root in the pan-fried lotus root cake, which consisted primarily of minced pork and shiitake mushrooms.

For drinks, the home-made lemonade (HK$32) tasted like iced water with a few squirts of lemon juice, and we couldn’t detect much almond in “Mrs. Punti’s almond tea” (HK$35).

For dessert, the sesame tong yuen in Iron Buddha tea (HK$35) featured the tea poured over four glutinous rice balls in a bowl. It’s gimmicky, but the tea had a lovely clean flavour.

The cafe is nice and bright and the French toast did cheer us up, but ultimately Mr. S. Y. Punti misses the mark.

Mr. S.Y. Punti, 4 David Lane, Sai Ying Pun, tel: 2915 8885.

While you’re in the area:

Restaurant review: Miss Saigon in Kennedy Town – go for the pho

Restaurant review: Zhen in Sai Ying Pun – tasty animal-shaped dim sum

First impressions of Happy Paradise in SoHo – who pimped that Hong Kong cha chaan teng?