Lung King Heen is a fine dining Cantonese restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong. It is helmed by Chef de cuisine Chan Yan-tak, who came out of early retirement in 2002 for the Hotel. And promptly, he became the first Chinese chef in the world to be awarded the 3 Michelin Stars in the 2009 inaugural Hong Kong and Macau edition.
The culinary journey of Chef Chan Yan-tak
In an age when chefs are lauded for their indomitable passion and commanding personalities — for the doppio zero flour and grandmotherly lore that supposedly sprinkled their heads as children and sowed the seeds of culinary genius — Chan and his crew are guffawing, plain spoken, back-slapping anomalies. They came to the job simply through economic necessity as adolescents, then inadvertently fell into a celebrity that doesn’t concern them. Like an arranged marriage, it’s a love that came to be, but wasn’t necessarily meant to.
Becoming a chef was never Chan’s dream. He grew up in the tough, impoverished Hong Kong of the 1960s. His father passed away young, forcing him to drop school and start working at 13. With no formal education in English, Chan used a dictionary to cross-check words he heard from American music and films.
He never received a formal culinary education either. In a time predating laws against child labor, he spent his early teenage years at the Dai Sam Yuen—a Cantonese restaurant in Hong Kong’s red light district of Wanchai. For seven years, he cleaned and prepped ingredients to support his family in Kowloon. He eventually made it to stove number five, where he got to fry noodles and rice. During his little free time, he would go the movies, a hobby he maintains today.
In 1975, he landed a similar position at Fook Lam Moon—one of the city’s most prestigious eateries, and a favorite of tycoons and celebrities—before rising to the post of sous-chef at Lai Ching Heen at the luxurious Regent Hotel in 1984. Things were going well. After just one year, Chan became Lai Ching Heen’s executive chef, a job he held for the next 15 years, during which he helped give the restaurant an international reputation. In 2000, however, everything came to a tragic halt with the death of his wife. His son was 20 years old at the time, but his daughter just 12. With only him to care for her, Chan quit and became a stay-at-home dad.
He was fully retired when the Four Seasons approached him to help build its own Cantonese restaurant in 2002. Chan initially demurred. But an old Regent friend, Alan Tsui, was tapped as general manager of the Four Seasons, and wouldn’t relent.
There will be critics who claim that there are other Cantonese restaurants in Hong Kong whose food is the equal of Lung King Heen and charge fare less. They may be right – although Lung King Heen has very convincing claim to the Cantonese crown – but dining here is not simply about the food. It’s often said that the clutter, noise and wandering service is all part of the experience of eating in Cantonese restaurants, where all the focus is on the food. Lung King Heen proves that you can have both, with superb food delivered alongside first class service in a sleek, comfortable setting.
Mushroom Tasting Menu
Did you know that Yunnan is home to more than 800 edible wild mushrooms? It’s summer and mushrooms are in season, so they came up with a mushroom-themed degustation menu.
1/ 上湯焗釀花枝巻 simmered cuttlefish in soup
Cuttlefish can turn chewy very quickly. This was executed flawlessly with the crunch still with every bite, yet the stock has fully infused into the tasteless invertebrate. An unusual starter per se.
2/ 黑松露龍蝦釀蟹鉗 deep-fried crab claw stuffed with lobster and black truffle
This has been a signature dish that has been paired in many of his degustation, a less fancy version of the stuffed crab shell but in my humble opinion a better version. Although a frozen crab claw has been used, the umami is found with the lobster and enhanced with the introduction of black truffle. If the cuttlefish was a humbler starter, the crab claw just turned the whole dinner up a notch.
3/ 松茸雙耳冬瓜湯 double-boiled winter melon soup with matsutake mushrooms and fungus
After a very rich second course, we are back on earth with a clear soup to ease the palate and the first introduction of mushrooms (if you don’t count the truffles in the previous course). White fungus, winter melon and chicken stock are perfect together in a soup, something that I would cook at home. And then there’s Matsutake mushroom.
Matsutake is the common name for a highly sought mycorrhizal mushroom that grows in Asia, Europe, and North America. It is prized in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cuisine for its distinct spicy-aromatic odour. The one they used is from Japan, with its clear piney fragrance.
4/ 羊肚菌彩椒爆澳洲特級和牛柳粒 work-fried superior Australian wagyu beef with capsicum and morel mushroom
Superb Wagyu beef was immensely tender and had scrumptious flavors. As a complement, the beef was cooked with fresh vegetables, bell peppers, and morel mushroom. These distinctive mushrooms have a honeycomb appearance due to the network of ridges with pits composing their caps. Morels are prized by gourmet cooks, particularly in French cuisine, lesser in Chinese cuisine. But because of a little resemblance to truffle, these fungi have started to appear in stir-fry beef dishes, like this one.
5/ 籠仔雞樅菌梅菜蒸法國鱸魚柳 steamed sea bass fillet with termite mushrooms and preserved vegetables in bamboo basket
Termite mushrooms, or termitomyces is a genus of basidiomycete fungi belonging to the family Lyophyllaceae. There are 30-40 species in the genus, all of which are completely dependent on termites to survive. The termites collect and plant the seed-like fungal spores on comb-like structures in their underground nests and fertilize them with their manure. Although these termites feed on wood, they also receive valuable nutrients by eating the underground “roots” or mycelium of the mushrooms from their “fungal gardens.”
Fresh mushrooms are absolutely delicious with such a distinctive mild flavour – reminiscent of green beans or asparagus. But usually they are found dry, heavily salted and work as a flavour ingredient for other courses. Like this steamed sea bass fillet, it provided the wordy mushroom flavour and combined with the preserved vegetable, form the flavour profile for the sea bass.
6/ 鮮白菌腰果炒帶子 wok-fried scallops with white mushrooms and cashew
7/ 崧子蛋白蔬菜炒五穀米飯 fried multi-grain rice with vegetables, egg white and pine nuts
While there’s no mushroom in this course, it’s a very healthy multi-grain fried rice, rich flavours from the roasted pine nuts.
8/ 雪耳百寶腐竹露 chilled sweetened tofu sheet soup with snow fungus, gingko, lotus seeds, sago and lily bulbs
The last mushroom is the snow fungus, which is often used as a dessert. Here, the classic sago with coconut milk is upgraded with beancurd skins, lotus sees, lily bulb and snow fungus.
The Michelin Connection
Front of house, Lung King Heen is meticulously Michelin. For lunch, an average meal per head is about $90, and dinner is $190. Reservations need to be made weeks in advance, and the highly coveted window seats overlooking the famous Victoria Harbour and the Nine Dragon Hills are for VIPs only (Lung King Heen means “View of the Dragon”). The staff of 34 is trained to follow over 150 service steps from the start to the finish of your meal. If serving a western table, for instance, women are served first. But at a Chinese or Japanese one, the guests of the host are served first, irrespective of whether they are male or female. Shoulders should never twist too fast when presenting a dish. If a glass breaks on the floor, the first problem that’s addressed is whether or not any shards have scattered over the nearest woman’s designer handbag.
The food is elegant, refined, and delicious. The service is excellent, and the wine selection is quite good. For me, this place stands out because of the whole experience, not necessarily just for the food. In all honesty, the standard for good dim sum is quite high in Hong Kong, and there are many places that do it very, very well for a fraction of the cost.
But it’s still special to come here. You come here for the whole unique package, which you really can’t get anywhere else. You come for the amazing signature items, like that abalone puff that I still can’t stop thinking about. You come for the stunning views of the harbour and the extremely good service. You come for that celebratory meal or that special dinner with out-of-town guests. You come to be pampered and also to enjoy fabulous food.
Lung King Heen 龍景軒
8 Finance Street, Central | Podium 4, Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Tel : +852 3196 8888
Date Visited : Jul 2019