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Hong Kong restaurant reviews

Restaurant review: Lao Xue Yuan – classic Shanghai dishes that are comforting, and generally full of flavour

The decor has some odd touches, such as a painted plate of Xi Jinping and Peng Liyuan, but on the plates that matter there is plenty to admire – avoid the xiao long bao with their bland filling, though

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 July, 2017, 12:33pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 July, 2017, 5:11pm

As I hurried down the street on my way to Lao Xue Yuan, I saw signage outside that said the restaurant was still in its soft opening phase, although it had opened more than two months ago.

The news of a good new restaurant gets around fast, it seems, and as I walked down the stairs to the basement space, I saw that the large dining area was almost full, and filled primarily with Mandarin speakers.

The room was elegant, with a few odd touches, such as the painted plate with a portrait of Xi Jinping and Peng Liyuan waving against a blue sky, and too-large bolsters for the banquette seating, which we had to set aside to make room for ourselves.

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Almost every dish we tried had the icon next to it indicating that it’s a speciality. This proved good strategy for the starters. The home-made salty chicken (HK$98) didn’t look like anything special – just ungarnished shredded chicken, with no attempt at presentation, but the subtle seasoning showed off the inherent flavour of the bird.

Crispy eels in Wuxi style (HK$128) were fantastic – crunchy but not overwhelmingly sweet or sticky, while the smoked duck eggs (HK$40 for two) were very well done, with a firm white and runny yolk.

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Fried prawns with salted egg (HK$220) was another good dish. The prawns were large, crunchy and sweet, and there was a thick but delicate layer of salted egg. Stir-fried rice cake with Tientsin cabbage and shredded pork (HK$88) was a comforting classic Shanghainese dish.

The oddly named grandmother vegetables with green bean (HK$88) needed more time in the wok – the green beans were too firm – but we liked the flavour, which came from salted vegetables.

Braised pork belly with potato (HK$120) was disappointing. The pork belly was well layered, with a sufficient amount of fat, but some of the meat was hard. Signature pan-fried pork buns (HK$48) and the xiao long bao (HK$48) were let down by the bland filling that was too firm and not juicy enough.

Lao Xue Yuan, Basement One, South Pacific Hotel, 23 Morrison Hill Road, Wan Chai, tel: 3705 9136. About HK$225 without drinks or the service charge.