Restaurant review: Lai Bun Fu - feast for special occasions
Crispy chicken and stir-fried vegetarian shark fin are excellent, but some dishes will stretch the budget
Words of advice when dining at Lai Bun Fu: be careful about which soup you order. We thought we were getting the soup of the day — an already-expensive HK$138 per person, but ended up ordering the daily double-boiled soup — which was HK$268 per person. The fish maw with trumpet shell conch was intense, clear and comforting, but made the bill more than 50 per cent more expensive. Despite that, I'd return for special occasions (without ordering soup) because the food is delicious, served by friendly waiters in a comfortable, luxurious and eclectic setting.
Chung Kin-leung was previously a chef at Government House, cooking for world leaders at dinners where — presumably — the budget was huge. Although there are very expensive dishes such as the signature special hot pot (HK$1,980 per person), others are more reasonable.
Sifu's crispy chicken with five sauces (HK$260 for half) was impeccable. The thin skin was the best I've tasted in recent memory, and the meat was moist and tender. The sauces — lemon juice, green tea salt, red fermented bean curd, blueberry, and rosella, were not even necessary, although I liked adding a light sprinkle of green tea salt.
Also excellent was the stir-fried vegetarian shark fin with shredded abalone and scrambled egg (HK$480), which had a fine flavour and a subtle crunch from the bean sprouts.
The waiter recommended the giant grouper fillet (HK$388) with asparagus and truffle (it could also be steamed with mushrooms and Yunnan ham), but then came back to the table to say the asparagus was poor that day. We combined it with another dish, and the fish was cooked with gai lan and XO sauce. The flavours were fine, but the fish had a coarse texture.
Very tiny pea sprouts (HK$128) were delicious, primarily because the broth they were cooked in was so deeply flavoured — we ended up spooning it out of the serving dish. The special fried rice (HK$328) with lobster, abalone Yunnan ham and truffle oil, was another very good dish, apart from the chunks of too-salty lobster.
Lai Bun Fu, 5/F, 18 On Lan Street, Central, tel: 2564 3868. About HK$500 without soup, drinks or the service charge