Thursday, April 2, 2009
Wan Chai, Hong Kong
If restaurants can become ‘institutions’, then this mad, frenetic, chaotic eatery certainly fits that description. This place is great fun, packed with gweilos on a night out, lots of noise, lots of laughter and heavenly smells as the food wafts by. Exactly what a great local Chinese restaurant should be.
The American Peking has been serving very decent northern Chinese cuisine to the masses of Wan Chai since the end of the last World War and is absolutely packed every single night of the week so I guess they are doing something right.
The restaurant sits on two floors, the locals tend to eat downstairs and the rowdy gweilos upstairs. Downstairs is very ornate, lots of golds and reds, upstairs is very basic, no frills at all which I think suits the slightly mad atmosphere of the place.
The staff are famous for being really quite rude and I am delighted to report that after an eight year absence they still remain as surly and uncommunicative as ever.
This is probably one of the best known ‘gweilo’ friendly Chinese restaurant in Hong Kong; there are very few unrecognisable dishes on the menu and meat dishes are from the cuts preferred by westerners and not Chinese.
As soon as you sit down little bowls of a kimchi like cabbage dish, peanuts and sweet pickled cucumber slices are thrown on the table, followed very closely by large bottles of Tsing Dao and a pot of jasmine tea.
The dishes not to miss are the Peking Duck, which it is very famous for, fried or steamed dumplings, spicy aubergines with minced pork, onion cake and their amazing Szechuan sizzling prawns.
The prawns are very lightly battered and arrive at the table on a red hot cast iron platter. The spicy sauce is then spooned over which creates the most unbelievable fug of cough inducing steam which sends the whole table, and those in the close vicinity, into fits of spluttering. Riot police tear gas has nothing on this stuff but my gawd does it taste fantastic.
Other popular dishes to try are the dry chilli beef which is served with little pockets of sesame bread that you stuff the meat into. Minced pigeon served with iceberg lettuce leaves and hoisin sauce. The hot and sour soup is hugely popular as is the ubiquitous crab and sweetcorn soup. Also try the Chinese mushrooms with bamboo shoots and one of their noodle dishes from the quite large selection. It’s all good!