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After our mediocre dinner at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon on Friday night, I didn’t have really high expectations for our Saturday night dinner at Hutong. Hutong came highly recommended by 2 friends – they both loved the view and said the food was great. Hutong is located on the 28th Floor of One Peking Road. This 30 story sky-scraper is located in the Tsim Sha Tsui area of Kowloon on the corner of Peking Road and Canton Road, adjacent to the Peking Road Metro Station (among other Stations as well).
I’ve said before, how I enjoy going to high places (buildings, hills, etc) to get a better view of the surrounding area, but I’ve never really found the food at these locations to really be worth it. If a restaurant has a great view, more often than not, you’ll hear people talk about the view and not the food. In any event, it came highly recommended so we gave it a try.
We had reservations for 20h00 and we arrived about about 15 minutes early. We were told to wait off in the corner until our table was ready. About 5 minutes into our wait we were offered a wine list, but the server never returned to take our order. At exactly 20h00 we were shown to our seats. I chose this reservation time because the Symphony of Lights begins promptly at 20h00 and this restaurant is designed to highlight this spectacular light show. The Symphony of Lights is a daily phenomenon in Hong Kong, organized by the Tourism Board to showcase the beauty of the Hong Kong Architecture and natural surroundings. This light show is timed to accompanying music that was piped into the restaurant as well as various viewpoints around the harbor. It was a bit cloudy when we were there, so my photos are pretty much crap – but if you Google the “Symphony of Lights – Hong Kong”, you’ll see what I’m talking about. The show lasts for 14 minutes. The show started as we were being seated at our table and the servers kept away for the entire light show. It was nice that they weren’t in our way or disrupting other patrons pictures, although, I would have enjoyed a drink during the show.
Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my camera to dinner this evening, so all my pictures are just awful – my phone didn’t do the venue justice. All the photos I’m including herein are the official photos from the Hutong website. To watch the light show we were seated on the same side of the table. When we sat down, I didn’t even realize that both place settings were on the same side, I instinctively sat across from my friend and everyone around me had a good laugh.
We decided to order family style and started with the abalone carpaccio. This was my first time eating abalone – I honestly didn’t realize it was a sea snail – when I read abalone on the menu, I thought “abacore” – a tuna species. The abalone was very good – served very clean, just with a bit of green onion oil.
We then had the thick cut pork belly which was served with cucumber and a garlic sauce. I thought this pork belly was great – sometimes I find pork belly just to be a big wad of fried pork fat, with very little meat and little enhancements to the flavor. This was a nice mix of fat and meat and a great flavor.
Next up, we had the Kung Po Style Chili Prawns. Of this dish, all I remember is the cashews that came with it. Not a winning endorsement, I know. For our main, we had the crispy duck, which was sliced and served with another green onion sauce and Chinese pancakes. The duck was my favorite item on the menu.
We had a nice Bordeaux wine with this dinner – I couldn’t stray from the French theme we’d been sticking with so far on this trip.
When we were finishing up our meal, there was another show – this time inside the restaurant. The chef entered the dining room and provided a demonstration on how to make Chinese noodles. The music turned up and he began flinging the dough around, rolling it, stretching it and within 5-7 minutes he went from one large ball of dough to dozens of feet of thin noodles. It was great to watch, except that everyone was pushing trying to get the best picture of the spectacle. I was interested in watching – and enjoying my wine, not taking the best action shot in history.
My expectations were low. The service was a bit shoddy. The food was very good and the two shows (light show and noodle show) were both quite enjoyable. I would recommend that first time visitors head on up to Hutong for the shows and a meal. It is definitely designed for tourists, but the food wasn’t of standard tourist quality. While I don’t think I’d go back on my own for a meal here, if I were traveling with a Hong Kong virgin, I would return to show them the spectacle.
I slept slightly better on Friday night than I did on Thursday, but not a whole hell of a lot better. I probably slept about 5 hours throughout the night. I was awake, showered and ready to hit the town by around 06h00, like the day before, EAD and I decided to meet at 08h00 for breakfast. The breakfast on Saturday morning was the same as it was on Friday morning – there were just about twice as many people eating on Saturday.
Our plan for Saturday was to visit the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas, then we would grab lunch and explore the Sha Tin neighborhood. Our second morning was a bit luckier as it relates to the use of Le Méridien Shuttle (we actually caught the shuttle this time). This was a much nicer ride into the Central Station on the bus than the taxi — the taxi wasn’t bad at all, just the bus was cleaner and more comfortable.
We decided to take the Metro to see the Buddhas – which required three train lines, but only took 45 minutes. We left Central Station on the Red Line to Prince Edward Station, where we transferred to the Green Line and then connecting at the Kowloon Tong Station for the Light Blue Line (East Rail Line) finally ending up at Sha Tin Station. We knew it was a short walk from the Station to the Temple, but we had heard this was a bit of a confusing walk. We had a guidebook that evidently gave great directions – that is of course until construction changes the streets/landmarks around the area.
We followed the directions as best we could – then we found a sign to the temple on the hill. There are hundreds of stairs leading up to the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas. Everything I read/heard was that the stair climb can be taxing especially in summer with the heat and humidity. We saw the stairs, then saw an escalator right next to it. I heard nothing of an escalator – we thought this had been installed after our friends had visited and our guidebook published. We continued to the top and found only a couple of locals hanging out. Inside the temple the ceilings were a couple dozen feet high and the walls were covered with thousands of cubbyholes – each holding a different Buddha.
We decided that our planned visit out here was pretty lame. This temple, while interesting, sure wasn’t worth a visit, especially on a quick 3 day trip. We snapped a couple final pictures, and headed out. As we walk out a different door, we saw this sign:
Well that makes a lot more sense. We were in the wrong place. We headed back down the stairs (the escalator only goes in one direction). We were laughing that we were ready to head back to Central Station thinking we’ve seen the temple. The signs were a little less clear once we got outside and back to the street, but we found it. To enter the temple you walk past a parking lot near a grocery store and pass between a small gate in a chain link fence.
We approached the main entrance to the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas and came across two monks waiting at the entrance. We read earlier that these aren’t really monks, there are just scammers dressed like monks wanting your cash for a fake blessing. I’m gad we read about this before our arrival.
After we passed the monks, we knew we were in the right spot. We saw a ton of stairs leading up a mountain — all flanked by different life-sized Buddhas all in different poses and with different expressions. Luckily, the day we visited the Temple it was only about 18C with no humidity – so we weren’t big sweaty messes. My favorite of the Buddhas are below. Be warned, some of my captions may be offensive to some, but these are the first thoughts that came to mind when I saw these statutes.
I enjoyed this little trek out to see the Temple and was really moved by the various statues, their expressions, their stances and sheer quantity of them. If you have a few hours to kill while in Hong Kong, take a quick trip out to see the Temple. Once you get off the Metro, ask for directions – don’t waste your time attempting to find the Temple on your own.
Have you been to the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas? Where you lucky enough to have cool weather while visiting?
We booked reservations at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon several weeks before our actual trip to Hong Kong. This three Michelin star restaurant was pretty high on my list of places to try – but I couldn’t find a single person who had actually been to the restaurant. I read a ton of reviews and was excited about visiting. The restaurant is right at the Central Station – just a quick walk from where our Shuttle dropped us off.
This isn’t like any other restaurant I’ve been to – the main seating area was a high top bar around the centralized kitchen where you watch the chef and the souses prep and plate the meals. There is an outer ring of high boy tables that offer additional seating – none of which was needed the Friday night we visited. The one main thing I constantly saw/read about L’Atelier was about their wine list. It was hugely extensive – with hundreds (thousands?) of bottles from all over the world, but a huge selection of French wines. The best part – the markup wasn’t the standard 3-5 times retail upcharge – much of the wine was increased between 25% – 100% (estimate). Definitely one of the best wine lists I’ve seen – and I hear one of the best in Hong Kong.
I was really digging the interiors – sleek, modern, dark, yet welcoming. I was not at all sold on the whole bar only seating area. I don’t like eating dinner at the bar – it isn’t conducive to a good conversation among friends and is nearly impossible if there is more than 2 people together (lucky for us, it was just two of us). I don’t mind watching the inner workings of a world class kitchen — in small doses. The idea of watching for the entire meal wasn’t too exciting for me either.
We sat at our bar area and EAD decided to order a couple glasses of Dom Perignon. The by the glass vintage was 2004, which in my mind is head an shoulders above the 2003 (which is served on Thai Airways A380 Flagship Service). This was EAD’s first time trying Dom. It was definitely good, but I think you are paying quite a bit for the name versus the quality of the product. I actually prefer Krug over Dom, but I’m not all that discriminating when it comes to bubbles.
While we finished our champagne, we reviewed the outrageously extensive wine list – dozens upon dozens of pages of wines. Since we were in a Three Michelin Star French Restaurant, I figured we should have a French wine and since I had just returned from Burgundy a few weeks prior, I figured we should stay within that region. We asked the sommelier to join us and offer some guidance. This is where the meal started to go off the rails.
We started by telling him which menu we had chosen for the evening and that we were looking for a Burgundian red. We further explained that we love Pinot Noir for the lightness, but want something bolder to fit well with the beef entree. We then quietly pointed out our price point — even though the restaurant doesn’t mark their wines up 5 times, there was a selection of bottles priced over $100,000HKD and we didn’t want to pick up one of those. The somm spent about 3 minutes going through pointing out several bottles (but not telling us anything other than “this one is good…so is this one.”) He pointed out items that were priced half what we suggested up to 4 times the price. He added absolutely no value to the experience. The interaction with the somm was something I was looking forward to. I don’t expect someone to know everything about all the wines on a 135 pages wine list, but I expected much more than we got. We ended up just picking a Burgundian wine in the price range we were reviewing with no further guidance. Disappointment number one (the service, not the wine).
For dinner we opted for the 6-course menu. Which started off with smoked salmon and pureed watercress. I am probably the only person I know who doesn’t like smoked salmon. That being said, whenever I am out and it is an option on a tasting menu, I will often try it. I’m waiting for the time that it just wows me. Growing up I didn’t like fish in general, but now we eat fish a few times a week and if I could eat just one type of food for the rest of my life, it would be sushi. The roe served with the salmon was salty/briny and had a great pop of flavor. I did not really dig the salmon. I also forgot to take a picture of the amuse bouche and since I can remember nothing of it, I guess my bouche was far from amused.
The next course was crawfish, which I found to be better than the salmon. It had a nice coralline emulsion with it and I will admit, I felt a bit like Babe, Pig in the City. I didn’t know what coralline was, so I Googled it. Seaweed. Got it. I thought this dish had started to put us back on track – following a rough start with the somm and the salmon.
Next up was the entree in which we had a selection of either lamb or Kagoshima beef. The beef had an up-charge to it and if we wanted to have the highest grade beef possible we could do so for a secondary up-charge. We both opted or the beef but without the secondary up-charge. I struggle with beef at restaurants. I blame my father – beef or steaks in general were always thought to be the best of anything one could eat. In my day job, we are often taken out for a meal and steaks are the go to option – it shows how important we are as clients if they pay for big filthy steaks — or so it seems. I don’t often eat beef at home or order it at a restaurant unless it’s a work function. When I do, I am often left thinking about how I’m missing out on the other item. I am never happy, I guess.
Unlike the previous dish, I knew about Kagoshima beef and while I’ve had it a couple times before, I figured tonight would be another good night to try it again. The black cows of Kagoshima are world famous. This dish also came with a portion of foie gras. Be prepared to roll your eyes — I’m not a big fan of foie gras either. I can handle it in a small portion as long as it is accompanied by something else — my perfect portions are 1/3 foie and 2/3 something else.
The beef was perfectly prepared and had very nice flavor as did the foie gras. There was a ton of foie on my plate – nearly 2/3 of the amount of beef. One thing I love about beef outside of the US is that you get a real portion – not an enormous 24 ounce cut of meat. No human should consume that much of anything in sitting.
After the beef and foie gras, our waiter mentioned that we could add a cheese course if we wanted. C’mon! Anyone who has eaten with me knows if a cheese course is offered, I will take them up on it. Plus, this Three Starred French restaurant should have a fab selection. The layout of the restaurant was not conducive to have the cheese trolley actually move from table to table. Instead it was set back in the corner and we were paraded in front of it. There were approximately a dozen cheese selections – goat, sheep and cow. Firm, semi-firm to soft. As we were guided through the various options, I saw on calling out to me. It was inside a small round wooden cheese box. I eagerly awaited while our host made his way to this cheese…but he never did. I saw the little box labeled Époisses and my heart skipped a beat (probably equally because after eating it twice daily over Thanksgiving in France my arteries were clogged and because I had missed this beauty so much). How could the cheese guide skip it? I asked him if there really was Époisses inside and he confirmed, but said that Americans really don’t like that cheese and they often see it go to waste, so he usually doesn’t mention it to us.
Ok – I get it. An unpasteurized, soft, aromatic cheese is a far cry from the Kraft Singles most people here eat, but c’mon!
I responded to him by saying: “Escusez-moi…mais j’aime l’Époisses. Il est le meilleur fromage bourguignon. Mon ami n’a jamais essayé. Nous allons asseyer” – or “Excuse me, but I love Époisses. It is the best Burgundian cheese. My friend has never tried it. We will have it”. Oh my – it was wonderful. It was stinky, it was runny, it was fabulous.
We split a cheese plate as we weren’t especially hungry at this point. Our lovely cheese guide took the liberty of sprinkling some herbs over the various cheeses to help expand the flavor profile. So good. Did I mention how great l’Époisses was? In the picture below it is in the 15h00 position — see it starting to melt at room temperature? Heaven.
Next up was the dessert. It was unmemorable. So unmemorable in fact, I have no idea what it is. I checked the current menu, which shows the dessert as Japanese Strawberries — this sure isn’t that. I ate most of this dessert, I know that. I have no clue what it is and I know when eating it I wasn’t really into it. It looks pretty though, right?
As we finished our dessert (whatever it was) and sipped the last bit of our wine, our check was delivered along with some petit fours / macarons. At this point in the meal, I was pretty full, but it sure didn’t stop me from eating a macaron or a Madeleine, both of which were very good. I wish every restaurant would leave you some of these little treats as they drop off your check.
Those who know me or read this blog from time to time know that I love fine dining, although I am equally at home at a Three Star Michelin restaurant as I am at a squat stool on a side street eating off of a semi-clean spoon (that was lunch the day after this meal here). I was very much looking forward to eating at one of Hong Kong’s only Three Michelin star restaurants (there are 3 others). L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon has three stars, but honestly, I have no idea why. The service was pretty good. The sommelier was very disappointing, the courses were almost completely forgettable. The cheese course divine. This meal was by far the most expensive per person meal I’ve had in my life. It ran us more than 500USD/person all included. Alinea, in Chicago – what use to be the world’s best restaurant – was cheaper. Let’s be clear – I am very happy I visited and I don’t regret the decision for a moment, but I just don’t see how this is a Three-Star restaurant.
I am very happy I took photos of (almost) every course and that the menu remains online, because almost everything we had that night at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon was forgettable (other than the unimpressive somm and the Époisses). When I return to Hong Kong – and I guarantee I will – I will not return to l’Atelier.
My body clock was all messed up on this trip, so the first night I slept about 3 hours and was awake from 05h00 on – showered and ready to hit the town by 06h00. The night before, we planned on meeting at 08h00 for breakfast, then head into the City and see Victoria Peak. No matter where I go, I want to go to the highest spot and just look around. I’ve done it in Cape Town, Paris, Shanghai and I always make visitors to Chicago do the same.
After breakfast and just missing the complimentary shuttle at the hotel, we hopped in a cab and headed to Central Station. From there we wandered aimlessly around the shopping mall, trying to find the best door to exit – dropping us off as close as possible to the Peak Tram. Once we made it outside (the wrong door, of course) we realized the signs were pretty clear on how to get to the tram. We walked up a bit of a hill (huge hill for a flatlander Chicagoan, like myself) and stumbled across St. John’s Cathedral – which warranted a quick stop.
I dig the Gothic arches and the colonial vibe of the fans in this Cathedral. We spent a few minutes walking around – I always take time to sit in the center pew and just be. I’m not religious, but I do dig the history. I think about the building of this structure, the people who toiled in it’s construction, the people who eagerly awaited it’s opening, the children who begrudgingly sat their listening to the priest yearning to go out and play – where are those kids now? Do they do the same thing to their kids?
We then walked over to the Peak Tram Terminus where I attempted to buy two round trip tickets with observatory access. I say attempted to, but something was lost in translation — we were sold a one way ticket.
We waited for the Tram and were surrounded by a surprisingly large number of Americans. I was a bit shocked. I was also shocked that the largest advertisement in this tram station was for the American chain Bubba Gump Shrimp. The large group of Americans around us talked constantly about how great Bugga Gump is and how they can’t wait until they get back from the Peak and can go their for lunch. Let’s just say we did not have the same conversation nor the same plans for lunch.
Once atop the mountain you disembark and then walk through a shopping mall (for some reason) to get to the observation deck (this is where we found out we didn’t have the full access ticket). We grabbed the audio guide, which I usually stay away from these because more often than not they go through painstaking details and I don’t have the patience or the time to listen. This time was different – my first visit to the City and I hoped this audio guide would give me a better lay of the land (and it did).
From Victoria Peak you have nearly 360 degree view of Hong Kong. The weather was beautiful the day we went to the Peak. At the top, it was a bit windy/brisk, but the warmth of the sun made up for it.
We spent about an hour at the top of the Peak enjoying the views, the sun and the peacefulness of the space. Such a quiet sanctuary in the middle of a crazy busy City. I’m very happy we paid the Peak a visit – it is definitely one of those check-list items you need to do when visiting Hong Kong. That being said, I can’t imagine making this a regular stop on my visit to Hong Kong.
When you visited Hong Kong did you visit the Peak? How about on subsequent visits, does it remain on the required stop list? Did you have the same issues I did with the tickets?
I’m a Starwood guy. Hong Kong has a few Starwood properties including the W Hong Kong, Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel & Towers and the Le Méridien Cyberport. I always struggle with the W (anywhere in the world) – I dig them initially, but then get annoyed after a day or two after walking through the Lobby and seeing all the uber-cool people hanging out in the lobby bar/club. I’m no cool kid. The service is often aloof which can be charming initially, but after a couple of days it wears a bit thin too. That being said, I figured the W Hong Kong would be a fun place to hang out. Unfortunately the rate was running about 350USD or 20,000 Starpoints per night. A bit too rich for my blood.
The next option was the Sheraton – which is just feet from my tailor’s shop. A couple friends flat out told me not to stay there. They didn’t add any details to their recommendations, but I trust them. Cross that off the list.
The final option was the Le Méridien Cyberport, which is on Hong Kong Island, but isn’t on a Metro Line and is quite far from the hustle and bustle of the Hong Kong life. I did receive some very positive comments from friends about this hotel and they assured me that even though this property is off the beaten path you were still connected to the City. The rate was about 200USD or 12,000 Starpoints / night. Sold – for that rate, I’ll bite.
We landed in Hong Kong about 20 minutes earlier than our scheduled arrival time, we made a quick visit to my tailor and a dinner a few blocks from his shop – after which we hopped back into a taxi and headed to the hotel. From the Sheraton it was a 20 minute taxi ride (with a fare of about 100HKD or ~12USD). The first taxi ride out here was a little disconcerting — not having any idea where we were going or how much longer we had, made me a little uncomfortable.
We pulled up to the hotel around 22h30 and were greeted by lobby full of hotel employees – all with enormous smiles and very big personalities. We headed to the reception desk and before I even reached the desk, I was greeted by name. I assume, based on my check-in time, I was the only person expected that night who hadn’t already checked-in. In any event, the check-in process was quick and easy: scanned our passports, mentioned some of the hotel amenities (included Platinum breakfast, workout facilities, free wi-fi, etc).
Our rooms were on the 10th floor. Our body clocks were all messed up – even though it was bed time in Hong Kong, it was morning in Chicago. We decided to drop our luggage off in our rooms then head down to the bar for a quick drink. The bar was pretty empty by the time we showed up and the service was a little spotty – I think everyone was ready to shut down and go home. We ordered a couple cocktails then around midnight headed back to the room.
The rooms were very large — the property only has two suites – and my suite upgrades didn’t clear, unfortunately. Luckily we each had a king room which was very sleek and modern. There was a seating area near the large windows with a couch and a chair which got a decent amount of use, considering how little time we actually spent in the rooms.
I had an ocean view room, with amazing views of all the shipping traffic coming in and out of Hong Kong. I’m a big transportation nerd and watching this traffic kept me enthralled while I was in the room…with a glass of wine of course.
Opposite of the bed, there was a large desk and a moderately sized flat screen TV. The desk area is much less blurry in real life than it is in the picture. There was plenty of space to work comfortably at this desk — unfortunately I had to get a few hours of work done while on this little vacation.
The bathroom was surprisingly large (hell, everything in this hotel was surprisingly large – considering the space constraints elsewhere in Hong Kong). A separate shower and a very deep tub were the focal points of the bathroom. The large vanity was topped with a glass counter top, which showed all sorts of finger prints and toothpaste stains once I was done with it – but the housekeeping service did an impeccable job of cleaning up after me. I did not take a bath — the idea of bathing in a hotel tub creeps me out (even though I did take a bath in Paris in November). The shower was HOT and the water pressure great — the issue was the drain. Before you knew it, you were ankle deep in shower run-off. Not good. I complained to the front desk both mornings I was there, but nothing came of it. At least it kept me from wasting water by taking a long shower. EAD did not have the same issue, so it doesn’t appear to be a systemic issue with the building, just my room.
We at breakfast in the hotel each morning and had the buffet. I love breakfast buffets in Asia. We had the option of ordering off the menu, but both decided the buffet made the most sense. While this buffet wasn’t as fantastic as the buffet at the St. Regis Bangkok, it was moderately expansive with traditional Western options (pancakes, bacon, waffles, omelettes) and Asian fare (tons of fruit, porridge, noodle soup). I had mostly fruit, dumplings and bacon — the pork pate sandwich was pretty tasty too. If the buffet hadn’t been included as a Platinum amenity, I wouldn’t have eaten here – I’d rather just grab a pastry and some juice while out exploring the City. It was a nice way to shave off some cost of the trip.
The hotel also offers a shuttle once an hour to the central train station. The complimentary shuttle takes about 15 minutes. The first day we missed the shuttle by about 10 minutes, so took a taxi into the central station. I’d recommend you plan to take the shuttle, it’ll save you a bit of money and the shuttle is more comfortable than the taxis. You can also get picked up by the shuttle at the station, but we failed to make it to the pickup point in time and ended up taking a taxi home each night.
I really liked this hotel. The service was good, the rooms were (relatively) huge. Everything was clean and despite it being 7km from Central Station, I didn’t feel separated from Hong Kong – quite the opposite actually. It felt nice to be away from the busyness of the City – you could relax a bit more, but were still extremely close to all the action. I would definitely stay at this property again.
My biggest complaints are that they have only two suites and that my shower drain was very slow. We are stuck with the former issue, but the latter can easily be fixed.
Where do you stay when visiting Hong Kong? Do you think the Le Méridien Cyberport is too far away from the action to be worthwhile?