Bangkok Post reviews
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: January 11, 2013 at 8:15 am
Despite its obscure setting, newly opened Chinese eatery pulls in the punters with its modern twist on a classic cuisine
To go with the contemporary concept of cuisine, the resataurant with three private rooms and a show kitchen is decked out in classic Chinoiserie hues of red and dark brown with some modern touches.
The location seemed banal. The arcade where it's situated is almost unheard of. And the Chinese cuisine it offers sounded run of the mill. But when I learned about Hong Bao's management, my enthusiasm was quickly kindled.
Hong Bao, which opened a couple of months ago, is run by the same discerning investor who owns Water Library, one of Bangkok's most highly respected dining establishments. Surprisingly, the place has received little media attention. So far Google only lists seven web pages related to this Cantonese restaurant on Sri Nakharin Road. But if you arrive on a weekend, you'll find the 200-seater completely packed with keen gastronomes _ and not hungry shoppers.
The restaurant occupies a large private space on the first floor of the street-front building of the quiet 17-rai, five-building "modern eco" complex. At 5pm, it already enjoyed a number of customers, most of whom seemed over 45 and urbane.
Deep-fried snapper with sweet chilli sauce.
Positioning itself as a contemporary Cantonese restaurant, Hong Bao serves up typical Cantonese cuisine _ dim sum, barbecued meat and stir-fries _ with a modern twist.
To go with the concept of the cuisine, the place is decked out in classic Chinoiserie hues of red and dark brown, and lulled by traditional Chinese tunes. It also features three private rooms and a show kitchen with an extensive glass facade run by a team of seven chefs, all from Hong Kong or Macau. The menu comes only in Thai and Chinese and features 17 dim sum items (available for both lunch and dinner), five options of barbecued meat, 30 a la carte dishes and a choice of desserts.
A set of piping hot dim sum (a variety of steamed dumplings, buns, baked and deep-fried delicacies) kicked off our meal nicely. My favourite had to be the ham sui gok, or golden glutinous dumplings (85 baht), which came adorably shaped like carrots and tasted as lovely. The trio of airy dumplings exhibited a light, soft and clinging shell that revealed a tasty filling made with barbecued red pork, spring onion and shiitake mushroom.
Following the addictive dumplings was guay tiew lod goong, or rolled noodles with prawn filling (120 baht).
Arriving on a long plate was an extensive roll of steamed rice noodle sheet wrapped around prawn tempura similar to that of the currently super popular Chef Man restaurant at the Eastin Grand Sathorn. The half extra soft-half brittle roll was enjoyed with a dribble of the salty sweet soy sauce which came on the side.
The crispy roasted pork with super crispy golden skin intact.
The other noteworthy dim sum item was listed on the menu simply as salapao sai cream (85 baht). Yet it's actually a more visually exciting version of the typical cream bun, with a lava-like filling made with salted egg yolk. Obviously, this salty sweet treat with its photogenic pirouette design is regarded as the restaurant's signature dish.
From the barbecue selection, we were impressed by moo krob, or crispy roasted pork (350 baht for a small portion). Instead of the usual chunks of fatty pork with black soy sauce were neat cubes of hygienic-looking pork with translucent white fat and thin and super crispy golden skin intact. The flavoursome meat was accompanied by three choices of condiments _ salty sugar, mustard and thick hoisin sauce.
We also very much enjoyed Hong Bao's roasted duck (350 baht for a small portion). What made it different from what is provided at most roast duck joints was the quality of the poultry and the cooking expertise. The duck was properly broiled until the exterior of the thick skin (you'll most likely find thin, paper-like and tasteless skin at other eateries) became crispy yet retained its suppleness. The meat, in thick cuts, was firm with a pleasant flavour and intermingled nicely with the sweet and salty gravy.
The service staff suggested that we try fried prawn coated with salted egg (500 baht). Since I am no fan of any modern-day delicacy that's "ingeniously" leavened with salted egg (like pla muek pad kai kem and som tam kai kem), I only had a little nip of the five-prawn dish and was quite gratified by the taste. However, my foodie son swore that he would be back mainly for this particular dish.
The salapao sai cream with a lavalike filling made with salted egg yolk.
Next up was a less eggy but much saltier prawn dish _ fried prawn with herbs and chillies (800 baht for a medium order). A generous portion of prawns came thoroughly hidden beneath a big pile of brittle crust made with garlic, salted soy bean, spring onion and chilli.
If the toppings had been a lot less salty, I'm sure it would be a great and addictive accompaniment to the top-grade seafood.
You will never regret ordering wok-fried kale with garlic (220 baht). The dish, which looked very much like kana nam man hoy, or boiled kale with oyster sauce, brilliantly played up the fresh quality of the vegetable via masterly cooking. As a result, the crunchy texture and naturally sweet flavour of the green that was not overwhelmed by the sauce was highlighted.
Another fine seafood dish was deep-fried snapper with sweet chilli sauce (850 baht). Served whole, the meat of a large fish was nicely filleted, before being battered, deep-fried, placed back on the bones and graced with the spicy sauce. Inside the crispy and airy golden coating was supple white fish meat that was enjoyable both by itself and with rice.
Since desserts can be ordered from Bistro Marone, a fine Italian restaurant under the same owner next door, we decided to settle on its panna cotta with homemade herb chocolate ice-cream (180 baht) and were truly pleased.
Reservations are highly recommended as the restaurant is packed on weekends.