I was really looking forward to this outing. Our friends Susie and Simon had been telling us for a while about this fabulous Chinese restaurant close to their home. It had been dubbed ‘Chinese in the Cave’ and I was curious to experience this food in an unusual setting.
The first thing that you notice as you walk in is that the decor is indeed very cave-like, but also the clientele is almost exclusively Chinese, and there are various notes on the window (probably special set menus) that are not in English. This was a good sign because if Chinese people are happy to eat here, it points towards it being very authentic.
The menu is quite extensive and contains photos for some of the dishes, so that you know what to expect. We were certainly spoiled for choice because many of the dishes had our tastebuds tingling in anticipation.
We chose prawn toasts to start, quite good, but also quite a thin layer of prawns, and I would have liked them a bit fatter. Served with a sweet dip and very good on the crunch factor.
We also chose the fungus with chilli. This was a dish of cloud ear mushrooms served in chilli oil, and the waitress double checked with us because she knew that it would be spicy. It was spicy, but very very tasty, the only difficulty being that as you got nearer the bottom of the dish it was impossible to take a spoonful without scooping up a large amount of the super hot chilli oil. If you have ever tasted chilli oil, you will know that you only need a little !
Next to arrive was the young chow fried rice, a very tasty and slightly smoky ‘special’ rice containing shrimps, pork, onions, egg and many other little flavour bursts.
Next came the salt and spicy ribs. These were the star of the meal with an amazing depth of flavour and a definite umami kick. I could have eaten the whole plate of these and nothing else, and I would have been very happy (but we had to share).
We also ordered beef with ginger, another fabulous dish, full of flavour, with really good ‘melt in the mouth’ tender beef.
Next to arrive was the fish – a whole halibut with ginger and spring onion. I couldn’t fault this – very fresh and with delicate flavours that complemented the fish perfectly. Another star of the show.
I chose a claypot chicken dish with soy and oyster sauce. This was a dish that was full of flavour but at the risk of sounding like a spoiled brat, I found it hard to eat. All of the chicken was on the bone and every mouthful was 50% bone and cartilage. Cooking meat on the bone definitely adds to the flavour, but there comes a point where the pleasure of eating it is slightly spoiled by the effort involved, so although I enjoyed the taste, I would probably not order this dish again.
Rice can be ordered by the bowl, plate, or bucket. We ordered a bucket of boiled rice and found that the insulated bucket was very effective at keeping the rice warm.
At the end of the meal, the waitress brought fresh melon (which we didn’t need to order), jasmine tea was also included.
Well Hong Kong Cuisine was wonderful and I can’t wait to go back and have ‘Chinese in the Cave’ again ! I absolutely loved the fried rice, the ribs, the fish and the beef, and would probably order them again with a few different additional dishes. It was good value too, working out at less then $30 a head for such a huge amount of food. There is a tank of live lobsters at the back of the restaurant, so maybe lobster will be on the menu next time. Yum.