Lung King Heen, Four Seasons Hotel, Hong Kong

Is Lung King Heen the best Chinese restaurant in the world? Terry Durack finds out

Hong Kong's grand hotels have fallen for the celebrity game. The hottest tables in town are Alain Ducasse's Spoon at the InterContinental, and the glamorous Caprice at the Four Seasons, offshoot of the three-starred Le Cinq in Paris. At the Landmark Mandarin Oriental, fêted designer Adam Tihany has installed golden organ pipes to hover over the Gagnaire-influenced food of chef Richard Ekkebus.

Pierre Gagnaire himself is soon to set up at the newly renovated Mandarin Oriental, Nobu comes to the InterContinental, and Joel Robuchon is casting around for a site. All of which is fine - if you want to travel to the Far East in order to eat the Near West.

But there is one restaurant that has turned fashion, trends and Hong Kong itself on its head. The Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons is a sleek, contemporary restaurant dedicated to the timeless art of Cantonese cuisine, with its fanatical emphasis on freshness, uncluttered flavours and contrasting textures. It's a throwback to the city's pre-celebrity era, when the hotels brought a new refinement to the Cantonese dining experience by adding sweeping harbour views, precious jade place settings, silver chopsticks, hierarchical service and fine cellars. Without the Mandarin's Man Wah, Shangri-La's Shang Palace, the then Regent's Lai Ching Heen and The Peninsula's Spring Moon, London's Hakkasan and China Tang could never have existed.

Lung King Heen means "view of the dragon", no doubt referring to the views of the harbour. Unlike most restaurants with extraordinary views, you are not forcibly made conscious of it; instead, it gives a sense of space and light to the understated modernity. Wooden floors, leather chairs, silver-leafed ceilings and tables under such exquisite damask I live in fear of soy sauce, add to the sense of contemporary luxe.

Fellow diners at today's lunch barely glance at the harbour, with eyes only for their food and the inevitable business papers from the nearest Wealth Management Conference. There are no glamourpuss tai-tais here (rich businessmen's wives); this is too serious for them, too much like eating.

While imported luxuries such as truffles, Wagyu beef and foie gras sit beside local delicacies such as shark's-fin, bird's-nest, abalone and double-boiled soups, there are also simpler, more modest dishes, including a short but highly seductive dim sum list.

But first things first: a tray of three house-made chilli sauces (broad bean, XO, and soy/garlic) land on the table. Then a little appetite-teaser of lightly fried scallop sandwiched with fresh pear - a perfect balance of crisp and tender, sweet and savoury.

I choose three delicacies from the dim sum menu, and find them flawless. One, a deliciously bright and bouncy steamed lobster and scallop dumpling (£2.20 each); two, a steamed seafood and scrambled-egg-white dumpling (£1) that is like eating clouds; and three, a golden sesame ball filled with roast duck and taro (£1) that is a total textural treat. Yauatcha and Hakkasan, I love you still, but you have serious competition here.

Chef Chan Yan Tak, who cooked for 16 years at the Lai Ching Heen, has a particularly light hand with fish. Small fillets of star garoupa (£22) are lightly steamed, belted with green chive and topped with pearly flakes of pure white crab meat. They are so moist, fresh and sweet, it is like eating warm sushi.

Crisp frog's legs with spicy salt (£12) served in a basket fashioned from hundreds of tiny crisped whitebait, are better than crisp-fried chicken and more interesting than chilli-salt squid.

A humble dish such as beef brisket hotpot (£10) becomes noble, the full-flavoured meat so silky you could spread it. Tempted to push the boat out, I order a whole small chicken baked in clay with black Périgord truffle (£15), which comes still sizzling in its rendered golden fat, though slightly overcooked. At least the chef is human; I was starting to wonder.

Desserts, a greatly misunderstood aspect of Chinese cuisine, are quite exquisite. The Lung King Heen dessert sampler (£6) brings a fluorescently orange chilled sago cream, rich with mango and pomelo; a baked walnut puff that's the dead spit of a real walnut; and a pretty, pink diamond of osmanthus jelly studded with wolfberries.

While the well-endowed wine list includes a 1975 Petrus for £1,270, most tables keep to the equally well-endowed tea list. Xifeng Lung Jin green tea (£6) is fresh and refreshing, while Super White Peony (£3) carries the lingering fragrance of water lilies.

Cantonese cuisine has always deserved its place as one of the world's most complete, confident and creative cuisines, with a purity and healthfulness that goes far beyond the renditions found in our local neighbourhood Chinese. I have long feared that its principles and practices would no longer be upheld in these days of Pot Noodles and crispy duck, but today's experience - and its remarkable value - gives me hope for the future. Lung King Heen is the new point of reference for Cantonese dining, and I feel honoured to have eaten there.

18/20

Scores 1-9 stay home and cook 10-11 needs help 12 OK 13 pleasant enough 14 good 15 very good 16 capable of greatness 17 special, can't wait to go back 18 highly honourable 19 unique and memorable 20 as good as it gets

Lung King Heen, Four Seasons Hotel, 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong, tel: 00 852 3196 8888

Lunch and dinner served daily. Around £125 for two, including wine and service

Second helpings: Other hot Hong Kong tables

Caprice Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, 8 Finance Street, Central, tel: 00 852 3196 8860

This Hong Kong outpost of the three-starred Le Cinq in Paris is the hottest ticket in town. The glam crowd comes for the harbour views, killer wine list and bespectacled chef Vincent Thierry's crayfish and pork-belly gratin with Sichuan pepper, and "thin tart of virtual coffee".

Amber The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, 15 Queen's Road, Central, tel: 00 852 2132 0188

Future shock comes to dinner in this dramatic, Adam Tihany-designed dining room. Prepare to be amazed by the computerised touch- screen wine list, and by chef Richard Ekkebus' transparent oyster ravioli and sesame oil-seared tuna with crisp chicken skin.

Opia Jia hotel, 1 Irving Street, Causeway Bay, tel: 00 852 3196 9100

Highly regarded Melbourne chef Teage Ezard has made himself at home in this striking Philippe Starck-designed boutique hotel. The Asian-influenced, modern-Australian menu runs from Japanese-inspired oyster shooters to Sichuan-peppered duck and sumac-spiced lamb.

Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
David Hasselhof in Peter Pan
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'