Step inside the renowned Lin Heung Tea House, and one would be transported to the ’60s or ’70s Hong Kong. Not that I was born in that era, but it certainly does look like time stopped in this restaurant.
Walls are bright white, sparkling clean floors and not a sign of ageing or weary facilities – it certainly feels like the operators really wanted to maintain its rustic old charm just the way it was without looking worn-out.
Anyway, as we walked further into the dining halls of the moderately packed restaurant (the dining area is above the reception area), we were greeted by the bustling crowd of… middle-aged guests and seniors. None of them were of our age! Clearly, it feels like we don’t belong there. But that’s the charm isn’t it?
This place is really not catered to small groups of people, or couples like us – just to be more direct. Every table is a large 6-8 seater round table, and we were directed by the staff to share our table with two other middle-aged Japanese tourists.
Similar to other eateries within Hong Kong, staff are efficient and no-nonsense. It’s not about pampering the guests here; or pleasing them, it’s more of a “You want to eat here? Sit at this table, look at the menu, let me know what you want, ok?” kind of vibe.
Anyway that was it once seated. They’d ask what we wanted before we even got a chance to look at the menu. So we just went ahead to order the pu’er tea and tell them to give us time to look at the menu.
Communication was not as difficult as thought. Due to the large influx of mainland tourists, they are able to converse adequately in putonghua, albeit rather unhappy. Hongkongers are proud of their Cantonese! I did speak a little English, or just the basic reliance on pointing at the menu, which is written in English too.
We looked around trying to observe the system here (it might not be as straightforward as in other countries), and then Cheryl recalled reading somewhere that the dimsum auntie would push this trolley of dimsum around asking for what you want.
So we waited. Waited for the auntie.
Then a crowd gather at one spot, and voilà! The crowd of kiasu diners, all wanting the best dimsum dishes, crowding around this poor old lady. Ok, not “poor old”, she did seem strong for her age and with a booming voice to fight off the noise of the mainland tourists crowding and shouting around her.
So look out for the auntie with the dimsum trolley, or just literally, a crowd of hungry people gathering at one spot. Grab your dimsum there!
Anyway Cheryl took the pork ribs and the Beancurd Roll with Prawn & Chicken Stuffing from the trolley. I tried looking for the siew mai (my all-time favourite dimsum dish), but no, it’s not available then.
The pork ribs tasted like what it does back home in Singapore. The meat here is certainly more generous, with barely any bones observed. This should be how pork ribs are served, unlike in Singapore – I mean, who eats bones?! I don’t mind some, but the ones in Singapore are usually just scrap meat off little bone pieces.
This beancurd roll here is tricky to comment on. Love-hate with this one. I could taste the beancurd saltiness (?) in the skin, and also the gravy it absorbed. The stuffed chicken meat is so soft; and whatever they’ve put into the marinade or seasoning feels really good on the taste buds. Prawns were really fresh and juicy, but with all that flavours bursting, I wasn’t able to taste the sweetness of the prawns.
While I love how generous Hong Kong’s dimsums are with meat, as in this as well, be careful when chewing on it. When I had expected boneless meat from this beancurd roll, a surprise came in the form of a bone!
Thought maybe, ok, this might be a one-off situation. But no. Thankfully I had already grown wary of it in my subsequent bites.
Curious to try the other dishes on the menu, we settled for the Char Siu and Soft-shell Crab with Salt & Pepper.
This soft shell crab dish is really crispy. It’s really satisfying to munch on something that crispy. In some instances of deep-fried soft shell crabs, the crab’s shell were hard to chew, leaving a sharp and sandy feeling when swallowed. But not this, I assure you.
The salt & pepper flavour here can get a little salty, unlike the ones in Singapore. So I didn’t really finish off the crumbs as much as I had wanted to.
It looks so appetising that the friendly Japanese gentlemen we shared tables with asked what this was and whether it was good. We totally gave them the recommendation, especially since in my opinion, I felt like it could pair well with the cold beer that they were drinking.
And they praised it too.
Moving on, this right here is the star dish. This char siu is unexpectedly good coming from a dimsum place. The meat-fat ratio is perfect. The whole meat-fat piece melts in the mouth like butter – that’s how soft it felt. Sparingly, little pieces of fried peanuts in the dish was actually a good combination. This is the best char siu I’ve tasted in my life, no kidding.
The only complaint I had was that the cuts were very thick – it could be only slightly thinner. Not that I’ve got anything against thick cuts, but it just felt like a mouthful eating such a huge piece. The tenderness made up for the thick cuts, though.
It’s a “you get what you pay for” in terms of quality and the experience associated with Cantonese-style restaurants. When paying at the cashier, cash is king, and they do not accept HKD1000 bills. As it’s been a long time since we were here (December 2018), I can’t recall the prices, and didn’t manage to take it down either. But I do remember it being within the high HKD400s range.
I’ve read online prior to coming here that they might be closing down soon, so who knows when it might. Until then, this is still the most charming, the most elegant, history-rich eatery to experience in Central, Hong Kong.