at home in... w| Gerald Zhang-Schmidt

Look Closer, Learn More, #GetAtHome In This World

Tag: luxury

Lung King Heen (view from entrance)

Lung King Heen: 3-Star Chinese Family Eating

Foodies are still made fun of, but food is one of the great pleasures (and mere necessities) of life.

This alone would make it something to consider – and try – in any attempt to learn to be at home in this world, and at home in distinct places.

But then, there’s even more when an “Other” and the different ecology of a different place – as also reflected in the local markets – come into play.

When power dynamics and psychology make something both strange and simple, less-than-fancy… or luxurious…

Street Food, Sensory Overload

Street food, and the whole culture surrounding it, may easily be one of those things that make East Asia so particularly fascinating.

It is diverse, it makes for quite an assault on the senses (sometimes even just from the lights), it is oh-so-different.

Sure, sometimes you’ll catch a bug or outright food poisoning, some of the conditions in which the food is prepared – and some of the foods themselves – may not be so particularly appealing, but that just makes it all the more interesting.

We focus so much on those exotic things and potential problems, though.

If one picks well, however, chances are that street food will be safer than quite a lot of restaurant food; at least you can see for yourself how it is prepared.

Trends and Value

Street food has also become a (foodie / hipster) trend in ‘the West’, as well.
And in East Asia, some street food even gets good enough to warrant a Michelin star…

Still, we tend to focus on the strange, exotic, and potentially dangerous, just to – knowingly or unknowingly – keep in line with the view that sees Chinese food as cheap, lower-class fare.

Japanese food may be easy to find and comparatively cheap nowadays; you may still find some people who declare raw fish nothing but appalling, but Japanese has established itself as great and worthy of high prices.

Saying “French” will not even let you think of mere food, but of cuisine.

Chinese, though?

Chinese is greasy take-out, sketchy street food, Cantonese will eat anything.

As Krishnendu Ray points out in “The Ethnic Restaurateur,” China has not yet seen enough of a rise (in power and status) to change the perception of its food/cuisine.

Lung King Heen (view from entrance)

Lung King Heen (view from entrance)

Lung King Heen

And then, there’s something else entirely.

Lung King Heen, the world’s first Cantonese restaurant to be awarded 3 Michelin Stars (which is the best rating there is), one of the world’s very best restaurants

Unsurprisingly, the experience here is very different; elegant, calm, and unobtrusively cared-for. Luxurious, in other words.

Reservation

I tried to visit for lunch, when they have Dim Sum on the menu.

However, when I tried to reserve a table, only one in the middle of the week (on our very first day in Hong Kong) and for dinner was available for online reservation.

It was some two months in advance…

(They might well have had tables, anyways, but I just didn’t want to short-term try this.)

So, reserve well in advance, if you can.

Changing to come in a party of three rather than two people, and back again because our #3 couldn’t come, after all, would not have been any issue, though. And they make sure to send reminders and ask if everything will work out as planned.

Location

Hong Kong’s ifc mall is well-known and popular – and fancy – enough to be part of a visit to the city, and you can get right into the Four Season’s Hotel through that mall.

Lung King Heen is one of the restaurants in this hotel, officially at 8 Finance St. (but best reached going to Hong Kong or Central stations and walking the covered walkways into the mall, then following the signs to the hotel adjacent to it – or basically, in there).

The view offered is very nice, out away from Victoria Harbor, towards the west; the décor is elegant as one would expect, without overdoing it towards the kitschy or the cold.

The Food

The main theme of a restaurant, of course, should better be what you get to eat.

Presentation has become the name of the game in many 3-Star restaurants, to the detriment of actual food. Sure, the experience and the taste sensations are what is meant to count; if you just want to stuff yourself, you can go to any fast-food place.

Here, Lung King Heen was able to shine.

We ordered the (smaller) Chef’s Choice Appetizer Selection, including jellyfish which was quite tasty (and something to mention on the theme of trying things),

Lung King Heen Chef's Appetizer Selection

grilled eel (quite sweet from the sauce, but nice; very different from the Hunan home-style eel we’ve eaten quite often),

Lung King Heen Grilled Eel

lobster and sea urchin rolls (which were fine to my wife but too rich for me, in the sea food / fat / sea -way of the urchin),

Lung King Heen Lobster and Sea Urchin Rolls

which were brought out as first course.

Yes, we managed to overdo it there, already.

For a refresher in between, we had a hot-and-sour soup…

Lung King Heen Hot-and-Sour Soup

… which had a pretty strong flavor, but with nuance as well. Good choice, I think, for something quite typically Cantonese and in-between other courses.

Main course was decided to be Sichuan-style pork, which was too chewy for my taste (even if my wife says it’s as it should be), but very nicely aromatized in a distinctly Sichuan-style way that is, for once, not overdoing it with the typical spices, but elegant.

Lung King Heen Sichuan-Style Pork

Second main course-dish were wok-fried spicy prawns, with the perfect kind of spice and wok-flavor.

Lung King Heen Spicy Wok-Fried Prawns

These were quite a revelation to me; I enjoyed them immensely and am still waiting for more chile pepper use in more of the great restaurants, of which they were a fantastic example.

But, by this point, we couldn’t really eat anything anymore.

It was all simply but elegantly presented, and it was all not so little. Not like in some avantgarde restaurants, where the amount of food seems to correlate inversely with the price to be paid…

Our waiter only told us at the finish, and that sums up the approach there pretty well, that “We consider ourselves a fine family dining restaurant.

Indeed, there was a family eating at the next table; and we wished we’d had our friend (who hadn’t been able to come) accompany us and help finish off all the food. (Although for three people, we might have ordered even more.)

Taking out left-overs, as it turned out, is acceptable even here. Part of the family thing ;)

The Service

Perhaps the most noticeable difference to any other, cheaper and simpler, place to eat was with the way the guests are treated.

Of course.

As we’d also experience on the last leg of our flight home, happening to get upgraded to business class, unobtrusive pampering is the luxury you get if you have the money.

Tim Ho Wan’s 1-star may be alright for the food; I’d have no problem comparing my mother-in-law’s cooking to that even of Lung King Heen (Hey, I like it!), but the atmosphere and the service do set it all apart. A lot.

The waiters give their recommendations when and if appropriate, explain what it is they brought, are there should you look like you need them, but are unobtrusive otherwise.

Hardly do you even notice when the tea pot or your glass is refilled, but you won’t ever have to wait long for that – and the jasmine tea we had was one of the best we ever tasted, by the way.

The Price

Of course, there’s the question of expense.

3-star eating doesn’t come cheap, and all I want to say is that we’d ordinarily live off the money we left there for one to two months of buying groceries.

Here, though, I do find that “you should spend your money on experiences, not things” does work out (which I do not think does as unequivocally as often presented), as it was a memorable experience, and something quite different from our experiences so far.

Hot on the heels of finally having celebrated our wedding in China, it was more than just worth it (and in that context, it was also nice that it was just my wife and me).

Their website: http://www.fourseasons.com/hongkong/

Cross-Post: China, “Green” Tradition and Luxury

Before we dive further into ways that Chinese relate to their more immediate environment – my tagline is “how to truly live in this world” for  a reason – a pointer to one continuation of my discussion of luxury consumers in China, over at “The Ecology of Happiness:”

China, “Green” Tradition and Luxury

What could the rise of China mean for cultures of sustainability, for deeply better lives?

China’s impact is much-discussed, China’s problems maybe even more so, dire predictions abound. The common trope, even something of the official line, regarding the environment in China is that you first have to become rich, then you start to worry about nature – and have the money to do something about pollution.

Whether rich or poor, if sustainability is to be achieved, it needs to be a strong shift to ways of living and making a living that fit in with environmental and resource contexts as well as cultural backgrounds.

-> Continue reading at “The Ecology of Happiness”

The What and Why of Brands in China

China’s luxury consumption is in the news. A lot. In all the celebration of chances for sales growth (with maybe a bit of puzzlement over a still-developing country’s citizens having to have goods that middle-class “Westerners” would find too, well, luxurious), consideration of what (luxury) brands mean to Chinese is rather lacking.

Even as I’ve argued that it’s the younger generation who would be the ones to have grown up with the idea of brands, and who would be the ones who most want to shop, and show their status by it, there are complications… (as if the idea of “the wealthy who buy luxury” hadn’t already gotten more complicated in my last posts on it).

Read More

Conspicuously Hidden Consumption

A lot of talk about luxury and/or middle-class consumers in China is about their conspicuous status consumption. The “I Buy, Therefore I Am” of China’s better-off…

There’s something to wonder, though.

If the middle class is the main driver of luxury consumption, and a quarter of the population, then the majority of said consumption in China seems not really so conspicuous…

Read More

Luxury Shoppers – The Far Side of Chinese Society?

Not only has China become the world’s second-largest economy in terms of GDP, this country of famously high household savings rates has also become the world’s second-largest market for luxury goods.

Hot on the heels of the Japanese, who were avid buyers of luxury brand goods during the heyday of their economy, and continued to be so even during the “lost decade,” Chinese have taken over the position of the extremely brand-conscious for whom happiness seems to be the pursuit of handbags.

Even leaving aside the oddity of Chinese men carrying their girlfriend’s/wife’s purse (which is not all that odd) or having their own handbag (which looks worse to the foreigner, but also has its logic), one continues to wonder how luxury consumption in China fits in.

Read More

China’s “Odd” Markets–The Cultural Economy of Luxury

Housing prices in China can make Manhattan seem attractive; prices for antiques and artworks (let alone antique works of art) have gone through the roof; the country is quickly becoming one of the largest markets for luxury goods.

In all of those notable cases, China simply seems odd.

Housing that costs several times the average monthly salary; antiques that may be relatively recent works but aren’t thought to be by the buyers, and even contemporary works of as-yet-undetermined long-term value; a country that is still developing, yet single-handedly rescues luxury brands – not to mention a nominally Communist country that often looks rather like Manchester at the time it invented early industrialization’s capitalism.

Looking at economic aspects can clarify things somewhat, but it is in cultural logic – which economic life is really a part of – that things make perfect sense. Or at least, as much sense as human behavior ever makes.

Read More

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