Friday, 21 April 2017

Restaurant Flogging its Michelin Past

A Michelin-recommended restaurant is on this street in Tsim Sha Tsui!
Yesterday a friend visiting from Beijing sent me a message on WeChat about where we should meet for dinner.

It was a Korean restaurant on a small street in Tsim Sha Tsui, both of which I had never heard of.

Thanks to Google Maps I was able to locate the place, and while I waited for my friend who was running late, I did some people watching. The restaurant is in a building full of restaurants on Hau Fook Street and there were many small local shops, such as old school stationary stores, small boutiques, a hip crafts store.

Finally my friend arrived with two others in tow -- including the local guy who suggested we eat here.

It turns out the Korean restaurant was mentioned in the 2013 and 2014 Michelin guide -- how did the inspectors even know about this place in an obscure street in Tsim Sha Tsui?

Here's how the guide described this restaurant:

Steam rather than smoke is more likely to fill the air at this bright, contemporary Korean restaurant because hotpot is the popular dish here, with the seafood hotpot being a particular highlight. Other attractively presented dishes include grilled yellow corvine, kimchee and pork pancake, and the noodles are good too. The restaurant is housed within a new building, standing in juxtaposition to its more traditional surroundings.

But when we arrived, the staff were sitting at the tables waiting for customers to show up, and even when we arrived, they gave us the impression we were going to be a burden for them.

When we asked for recommendations to choose between two dishes, the waitress (who gave the impression she didn't want to be there) looked sullen and just picked one or the two to just settle the matter than giving an enthusiastic or honest answer.

She must also be annoyed when people speak Chinese to her, because she would immediately say I speak English, not Chinese.

How could this place be mentioned in the Michelin guide?! Not only was the attitude lacklustre, but the service itself wasn't very good. And authentic Korean? Ban chan, or the small dishes didn't include kim chi, and there was even potato salad smothered in mayonnaise!

Admittedly I didn't take any pictures, maybe because I was so taken aback by how this place was run. And by the way copies of Michelin guides were placed haphazardly around the room just in case you'd want to flick through...

We ordered a kind of seafood salad that came on a massive platter covered in a red (but luckily not too spicy) sauce, while the other was a giant hotpot filled with sausages. Sausages?

These were the supermarket kind, sliced on an angle, and there were even those small weiners with fake cheese sauce injected into them! Again I could not help thinking, this is a Michelin-recommended restaurant?

Aside from the overdose of sausages in the hotpot, there were a lot of rice cakes in there too, as well as lots of cabbage, onions and mushrooms. The broth wasn't too spicy and made less so when more broth was added.

In the end we couldn't finish everything. Our dessert? Nestle vanilla ice cream in individual plastic containers. How classy is that?

I don't know how much the bill was, but it must have been quite reasonable, four of us sharing two main dishes, and only drinking tea and water.

Maybe the restaurant was good in 2013 and 2014, but what we ate and experienced last night was hardly Michelin worthy...

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