Sat, Feb 16, 2013 - Page 12 News List

Michelin on the cheap

Gastronomes are surprised to discover inexpensive starred restaurants in Hong Kong, which is better known for courting top-dollar luxury experiences. But some critics say the financial hub’s cheaper restaurants can’t compare to Europe’s Michelin-starred equivalents

By Aaron Tam  /  AFP, HONG KONG

Tim Ho Wan is famous for its steamed dumplings and its barbecue pork bun, all staple dim sum selections, while Pang’s Kitchen serves home-style renditions of Cantonese cuisine with specialties including baked fish intestines in a clay pot and seasonal snake soup.

However, the guide is not without its critics, who question whether the most deserving eateries have been recognized or if the food quality of Hong Kong’s cheaper restaurants can compare to ones in Europe despite the price difference.

“I’ve eaten at the one-star Benoit in Paris, and it’s on another level, in terms of quality of food, service and ambience, to Tim Ho Wan,” wrote the South China Morning Post’s food and wine editor, Susan Jung, soon after the 2013 guide was launched in December.

The Michelin guide has for more than a century recommended restaurants throughout Europe and now covers 23 countries across three continents.

It gives one star for “a very good restaurant in its category,” two for “excellent cooking, worth a detour,” and the top three stars for “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” Hong Kong has four three-star restaurants.

“After our restaurant got one Michelin star, we have seen a lot more people come in, not just people from Southeast Asia, but people from Europe and the US have also increased,” Patty Ho said.

Ho Hung Kee has braved the city’s notoriously high rents to open a second branch in a gleaming shopping mall to handle the influx of customers who discovered the restaurant through the guidebook. The new branch offers a wider selection but at the same price range.

“We hope that by increasing the selection, customers will spend more,” she said.

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