By George: natural flavours bring out the best in home-cooked Chinese dishes at George Private Kitchen
Unorthodox Chef Ip has earned a reputation for his ability to prepare traditional Chinese classics that are full of natural taste
George Ip isn’t your regular chef. Before opening George Private Kitchen, he had worked in the packaging industry. The accidental chef, however, is utterly professional in the kitchen, and has become highly celebrated. Having honed the skills he learned from his friends and mentors Chan Kei-lum and Diora Fong Chan - the respected husband-and-wife duo who have written a number of bestselling Chinese-language cookbooks together - Ip has gone on to develop a unique approach to preparing traditional Chinese cuisines.
George Private Kitchen is nestled in a quiet commercial building on Hillwood Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, in an area that is popular with local foodies for its old-school hot-pot outlets and hipster breweries. The restaurant can seat up to 40 diners in its two private dining areas, and the dinner menu can be tailored to whichever ingredients are in season and the number of diners. The menu - at HK$500 to HK$800 per person; deposit required - usually has nine courses. There is no corkage fee.
Ip’s approach is to highlight the natural flavours of the ingredients, which shine through in all of his dishes. Our starter of roasted gluten, for example, was deep-fried first and then braised with morel mushrooms to add extra flavour and fragrance to the traditional Shanghai dish. Another Shanghai delicacy, Lion’s Head meatballs, came in a delicious soup base and was served with bok choy. The steamed pork meatballs were deliciously tender.
One of the house specialities is the steamed mandarin fish served with fried crispy beans. The star of the dish was the delicious beans covering the fish. The soybeans were ground - but not too finely in order to preserve their flavour - and then deep-fried with a variety of spices to enhance the taste of the fish.
We really enjoyed the salt-baked chicken, not only for its taste but also for its dramatic appearance. The whole chicken was baked in a crust of salt and five-spice powder, and when it was presented to us, we had the pleasure of cracking open the crust to get at the chicken within. All the goodness from the crust had been absorbed by the meat during baking, and without sacrificing any of its juicy texture. We were also served chicken rice with the dish, which had been cooked in chicken stock.
There are many reasons why we plan to return to George Private Kitchen in the future, but one really big reason is so that we can get another taste of the red braised pork trotters stuffed with baby pigeons. Inspired by a traditional Chinese recipe, Ip braised the bird inside the fatty pork trotter to keep the pigeon juicy as it soaked up the sauces and fat from the trotter. The dish was served with blanched okra, chosen for its sticky, thickening texture. Our dinner was completed with a traditional bean curd sweet soup, which was smooth and hearty - and was possibly a bit too rich a note on which to end our sumptuous feast.
Foodies will appreciate George Private Kitchen for its traditional dishes - the kinds of dishes that fewer restaurants seem willing to invest the time, effort and money needed to prepare. If the restaurant was Ip’s private opera house, we wouldn’t mind getting a season ticket.
George Private Kitchen
9/F, Charmhill Centre, Hillwood Road, Tsim Sha Tsui