With a new year comes a major revamp for popular, trendy Chinese eatery Ho Lee Fook. Following the departure of Chef Jowett Yu, the restaurant underwent an extensive makeover, and it recently premiered its brand-new look, along with a new chef at the helm.
Opened in 2014 by Black Sheep Restaurants, Ho Lee Fook quickly built a cult following for its tongue-in-cheek take on Chinese cuisine. Leading the kitchen now is Chef ArChan Chan, one of the rare female executive chefs in a Chinese kitchen in Hong Kong. Her contemporary take on Cantonese cuisine lands more on the side of authentic, traditional flavours rather than the previous Chinatown-esque nostalgia of Chef Yu’s time.
Youthful with a touch of shyness, Chef Chan has over 13 years of culinary experience, beginning her career in Melbourne at Cantonese eatery Ricky & Pinky before making the move to Singapore as the executive chef at LeVeL33. Ho Lee Fook brings Chef Chan back to her home turf.
The revamp by Sean Dix gives the space a more sultry look, with red velvet seating, plush wallpaper, gold accents and a mirrored ceiling adding plenty of glitz and glamour. The culinary flourishes take place upstairs in the main kitchen that’s fiery with wok heat, while a wall of waving golden cats beckons guests downstairs to the main dining room, flanked by a bar on one side.
Old favourites such as the roast Wagyu short rib remain on the menu, but at our tasting we focused on some of Chef Chan’s new creations. The moreish salt-and-pepper tofu ($108), golden with a crispy crust enveloping a silky, piping-hot centre, is served under a sprinkling of fried garlic.
Assembled like a delicious flower, the Chiuchow marinated clams ($168) have plenty of flavour thanks to the mouth-watering combination of garlic, chilli, Chinese wine and umami clam juices. Each juicy little morsel of briny clam is accentuated with a touch of heat from the chilli.
Not just any char siu, the barbecue pork at Ho Lee Fook uses Kurobuta pork ($268) for more impactful flavour and texture. The pork features a crunchy, caramelised exterior thanks to the honey glaze, although we wished that the pieces had been cut thinner for a more tender bite.
The double-boiled soup ($88) is comfort in a bowl. Slow-simmered with chicken, aged ham and dried scallop, this very traditional soup proves that classic flavours prevail over time. We could easily slurp up copious bowls of this soothing broth, especially during the wintry months.
This dish should be named “you really can’t have just one” – these steamed razor clams ($228 for 2) are just so addictively moreish. Heaped on top are glass noodles and a mix of fried and fermented garlic, and the juicy live clams are steamed in premium soy sauce to bring out all their umami goodness. The glass noodles are the perfect vehicles to soak up the garlicky juices.
The crispy-skin three yellow chicken ($268 for ½ ) with sand ginger and spring onion sauce showcases golden crunchy skin and tender, flavourful flesh. In our opinion, the chicken is already so flavourful that we really didn’t need the extra dose of spring onion and ginger.
The hero of our meal had to be the steamed threadfin ($688) in Shaoxing wine and chicken oil. The succulent, tender fish is coated in a rich, sticky, collagen-rich skin, and the Shaoxing wine further accentuates the richness. A delicious headliner dish, though you definitely pay for the pleasure.
The wok-fried cheong fun ($168) feature plenty of caramelisation from the wok fire. Tossed in XO sauce alongside yellow chives and bean sprouts, this dish has comfort eating written all over it.
The mapo tofu ($158) with OmniPork has a satisfying hit of numbing Sichuan peppercorn and spices that stay safely within the boundaries of tolerability. The broad-bean chilli paste used in the dish makes this gooey, hot plate dangerously easy to eat with a bowl of rice.
Stir-fry King ($168) is another dish that gets a lot of its flavour from the heat of the wok. Classic Cantonese flavours abound with this combination of flowering garlic chives, yellow chives, chilli, bean sprouts, squid, crispy anchovies and sun-dried shrimp.
Another Cantonese classic, the prawn roe stirred noodles ($148) feature the umami-rich dried shrimp roe dusted over a mountain of chewy noodles tossed in spring onion and shallot oil. Crispy wisps of scallop add even more flavours of the sea to the dish.
The sheep‘s milk yoghurt, dragon-fruit granita, pomelo ($118) makes for an icy palate refresher, while the French toast ($118) is sinful decadence with the inclusion of peanut butter, smoked maple syrup and black truffle. In our view, the truffle is a tad excessive; we would have happily gobbled up every last bite of this golden toast even without it.
Ho Lee Fook’s new, sultry decor is matched with a timeless menu that stays faithful to traditional Cantonese flavours while still retaining a bit of whimsy.
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
For more reviews like this, like Foodie on Facebook