There were a total of 9 Chinese restaurants that were awarded two stars in the Hong Kong and Macau Michelin Guide for 2016, but Tin Lung Heen is the only one that occupies a prime location in the World’s Highest Hotel, The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong.
As might be expected for a restaurant located on the 102nd floor, the views of Hong Kong are mesmerising. Dine at night and enjoy the sparkling lights of city life below with tiny orange twinkles of cars moving along the city’s busy roads way below.
The restaurant is elegant and modern in design but with classic touches. There are huge high ceilings with grand chandeliers, a matching pair of glass sculptures at either end signify dragon’s fire and pick up the red tones that run through the restaurant.
Service is exuberantly friendly and charming but relaxed and friendly, creating an atmosphere of familiarity; there doesn’t seem to be any standing on ceremony here.
The Vegan Food:
As we’d called in advance, a vegan menu had already been prepared by the chef and his team. It showed a good variety of interesting and intriguing ingredients prepared using traditional combinations but with a few twists like the use of Italian balsamic vinegar, not a typical Chinese ingredient.
We wait in anticipation for our first course ‘Chef’s Premium Selection’ which included braised bamboo fungus with spinach, golden leaf and ‘pan-fried potato cake with tomato’ and when it arrives we aren’t disappointed. The gold leaf garnish on the stuffed bamboo pith glitters and flutters slightly for a visual treat but it’s the taste that really stands out. The bamboo pith has soaked up the cooking broth like a sponge and with the spinach that is stuffed inside, the dish is juicy, moist and healthy tasting. The potato cake is made from two medallions of potato with an intense tomato filling that is rich and sweet and it’s been fried to give it a light crispy outside.
We decide that we could probably eat these all day long as they are so tasty.
Next, ‘Stir-fried Termite mushroom with bean curd and bean sprout’ arrives. It has a smoky aroma and turns out to be one of the tastiest beancurd dishes we’ve eaten in a long time. There are chunky sticks of juicy tofu which have a soft inside and a chewy outer skin and a meaty, umami rich and peppery flavour runs throughout each tasty bite. The beancurd is mixed with a plentiful amount of crunchy beansprouts that have small, slithers of dried mushroom which add another intense flavour hit.
The dish disappears as quickly as our chopstick skills will allow.
We’re happy to see a double boiled soup on the menu, this being an archetypal Hong Kong dish. ‘Double-boiled matsutake mushroom soup with red date and vegetable’ was as a good double boiled soup should be; a full flavoured, warm broth that has a lasting depth of flavour achieved from sealing everything in a special pot when cooking. The date was more savoury than sweet, the cabbage was soft and tasty mushroom floated in the broth waiting to be eaten, each giving their own distinct flavour and texture.
The soup was followed by ‘Braised bean curd sheet with yellow carrot in fermented bean paste’, a dish that really showed off the versatility of tofu and would silence any critic saying plant based cuisine lacks flavour. ‘Bean curd sheet’ is a form of tofu that has been dried and when it’s used in cooking it has an excellent meaty texture that bears almost no resemblance to fresh tofu. Covered in fermented soy bean paste (which for those who have never tried it is nutty, salty and rich) and then mixed with sweet earthy yellow carrots, this dish was deeply flavourful and deeply delicious.
Give us endless amounts of these chewy, tasty tofu leaves any day.
‘Stewed assorted mushrooms with Italian balsamic vinegar’ was one of the dishes that intrigued us the most, simply because we wondered how the chef would use this very untraditional Cantonese ingredient in a way that would compliment the classical dishes we’d been eating. We were hooked after the first mouthful of these exquisitely sweet and vinegary sour glazed mushrooms. They were glossy with sauce and the different flavours balanced perfectly producing a fusion masterpiece.
You might not be expecting fried rice on a two Michelin starred menu but Tin Lung Heen serves traditional Cantonese food and this is exactly what should be eaten at this stage of the meal; suffice to say, it wasn’t just an average fried rice. ‘Fried rice with pine nuts, taro and preserved vegetables’ was cooked with very little oil, using water instead apparently, which meant that it had a nice light texture which was crunch in parts from dry frying. There were small triangles of sliced taro for texture, sour salty almost crystalline jewels of preserved Chinese olive for flavour and an abundance of toasted oil-rich pine nuts.
The dessert course signifies the end of our meal and is the moment that we find out that ‘Chef’s Specialty Desserts’ includes sweetened almond cream with algae and a longevity bun. We are again intrigued but feel confident after the previous courses that something as unattractive sounding as ‘algae’ in the hands of this chef, will indeed be a delight.
The bun is a traditional steamed Chinese bun with a sweet gooey filling that is exceptionally smooth and tastes like toffee. The bowl of almond cream had a delicious marzipan aroma, it was thick and creamy yet light; served warm and sweet, and full of tiny globules of algae. They were like tiny, juicy spheres of pleasure that popped and disappeared when eaten, there’s no real overpowering taste, eating them is more of an experience.
Spoonful after spoonful of vegan dessert heaven.
Our meal is ended with an almost magical tea made from a bundled up dried flower that was submerged in hot water to bloom slowly before our eyes. It was a wonderful and fitting close to an excellent plant based meal.
The Vegan Food Quest Verdict:
Make a reservation at Tin Lung Heen for a two Michelin starred vegan Cantonese meal where the food will match the outstanding views. Eat traditional Cantonese food with excellent flavours, a few intriguing surprises and all completely vegan.
We were guests of Tin Lung Heen but please rest assured that their generosity in hosting us didn’t influence our views.
Tin Lung Heen
Ritz Carlton Hong Kong,
International Commerce Ctr,
1 Austin Road West,
Telephone: +852 2263 2270
Opening Hours: Lunch 1130-1500 & Dinner 1800-2230