Sun Tung Lok 新同樂 (shark fin) restaurant is the world’s second 3 star Michelin Chinese restaurant after Lung King Heen (Four Seasons Hong Kong). It is the newest addition to the Hong Kong Michelin star group. Yesterday, I did a review of 3 star French restaurant Caprice (Four Seasons Hong Kong) and thought it would be interesting to do a comparison between it and Sun Tung Lok.
I was a bit skeptical going to this restaurant and trying the food. I'll try to explain it the best I can as it might make more sense and be more understandable to someone who has grown up in Hong Kong or any other Asian city and been to local restaurants.
|The usual: Jasmine tea|
The Michelin experience: you either got it or don't...
Everything but the food:
1. to award this place 3 stars is a slap in the face of chefs around the world trying to obtain such high prestige not only in Asia but around the world.
2. 3 star experience of staff is absent, it reminds me of any other kind of nice local eatery in Hong Kong that serves dim sum in the day and changes to a seafood restaurant at night
But then again perhaps this doesn't matter quite as much since the Michelin guide has been giving stars to REALLY GOOD hole-in-the-wall dim sum venues and dumpling restaurants in Asia.
The problem is, is not that Asian restaurants are not worthy of stars and the Michelin should just award imported European restaurants in Asia; of course not, but I felt that Western restaurants bring something new to the table, making customers eat the unordinary, give them something to think about, tickle their palette and basically at the end of the day, serve them food that you cannot get in your small local supermarket. Perhaps some people might be able to get certain produces in their food store but I think accessibility is more difficult in France.
At the end of the day, the customer is paying for food and not necessarily the decor so the real question is to see how good a 3 star Cantonese restaurant is compared to say, a French equivalent.
What do you look for in a 3-star restaurant? Something that you can find easily in your neighborhood/city just with a bigger price tag and some fancy sauce? Or innovation, you being brought on a journey of limitless perhaps even awkward tastes, letting the Chef go beyond the conservative, the traditional methods of cooking and just basically trying something NEW.
I think that is a key problem for Sun Tung Lok, and high end Asian cuisine. True, high end Cantonese food can be something separate from day-to-day Cantonese cuisine but the difference I feel is that it revolves around 3 expensive ingredients (abalone, shark's fin and bird's nest soup and likes to stay traditional. Those who have tried to innovate, have not been celebrated the same way as they do in Europe. Chefs like in Bo Innovation may fall flat on their face. Sun Tung Lok is definitely high end Cantonese dining with 4 decades of history and meals revolving around the various ways to eat abalone, and shark's fin. Tradition is much more important in high level Cantonese cuisine than it is in Western ones.
The price of the meals are calculated in reference to how many shark fins you'd like to de-fin and the quality of the dried abalone. The most expensive set menu I saw was about 7,000 HKD$ (700 euros) for 1 person. Those better be impeccable abalones. There has been some speculation that Michelin gave the restaurant 3 stars for their shark's fin but this has been denied by the group. If they did give them stars for the fin, I can gladly give them a list of my favorite Cantonese restaurants where my shark's fin was more tasty and more in quantity for 1/2 the price.
Perhaps I was expecting too much, perhaps I should have gone here first before eating at 3-star Caprice. But to be honest, I probably would have had the same reaction because I see innovation as key to a restaurant and Chef's development and success; and I know, I can find these elsewhere.
If you want shark fin and abalone, fine but know that there are just as good non-starred restaurants that can serve the same quality meal as Sun Tung Lok.
Sun Tung Lok
4/F, Miramar Shopping Centre, 132 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
Tel: 2152 1417
Subway station: Tsim Sha Tsui