The new Lai Bun Fu is a hot addition to the rapidly mounting array of restaurants in the new building at 18 On Lan Street (it is called On Lan Street, although it also is on On Lan Street….we’re confused too).
The restaurant offers traditional Chinese cuisine in the new building on Level 5, in Central. In Cantonese, Lai Bun means “hospitality”, while “Fu” refers to “sifu” or master chef. Helmed by former Government House Executive Chef Chung Kin Leung, Lai Bun Fu aims to present diners with exquisite dishes served with conviviality.
The food would have been marvellous, if we had just tried fewer deep fried dishes. We began with a twist on the customary ‘prawn toast’, a whole fresh prawn encased in deep fried breadcrumbs with sesame seeds that were layered on to crispy bread, spread with foie gras ($240 for 3 pieces). The second, and one of our favourites, was a crab leg wrapped in crab cutlet ($160), with a crispy outer shell. The amount of prawn was rather pleasing in this course. The finale of the deep-fried works of art included baked crab meat and a bird’s nest in a shell ($338).
The soup, a glutinous corn and crab number ($168), while challenging to prepare incorrectly, was very tasty and seasoned nicely, barely needing the vinegar accompaniment.
More progressive Chinese restaurants have obviously heeded the recent protests surrounding the use of shark’s fin, and we were delighted by the vegetarian interpretation ($480) of the dish, with eggs, shredded abalone and bean sprouts parading as the stars. This one was also flavoursome enough to make the soy in its little white bowl redundant.
The lazy susan in the middle of the table soon was laden with a collection of colourful dishes ranging from a more rustic Sichuan style spicy clay pot chicken ($198) to the more avant garde steamed bamboo fungus, elm fungus and asparagus roll ($228) (this one was particularly pretty and seemed to be tied together with a garlic chive). Deep-frying made another valiant attempt at menu dominance with an angus beef brisket that came with a curry sauce ($288). This was tasty but a little tough. Two standouts included a sautéed-minced pigeon with lettuce cup ($228), which, despite being too salty, made clever use of the pigeon and the plum sauce was unbelievable, and the sautéed prawns with sweet chilli ($348) (but were again deep fried).
Dessert was a hearty and healthy walnut and lily bulb broth with glutinous rice balls ($68) filled with sesame. The walnuts are hand ground by sifu and are particularly comforting during the winter months. This healthy finisher was addictive, and we gladly scalded our tongues gulping great measures of the viscous, nutty liquid.
The East meets West ambience, and nostalgic aura with a modern twist, exemplifies the past, present and future of Hong Kong. The vintage record player hums gentle tunes that enhance the eating experience, which we think harmonises tradition with tasty dishes that will tickle the palate of all who dine here.
Lai Bun Fu, 5/F, 18 On Lan Street, Central / 2564 3868