Hong Kong’s culinary delights on Lamma Island
Fish and Châteauneuf. Say what?
By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com
11 September 2015
Before I went to Hong Kong for the first time in May 2016, several connoisseurs told me how good the food is. Friends like Mike Lux, who travels there regularly.
Indeed, you can find many Michelin chefs working in this city of seven million people. I enjoyed a superlative lunch at Hong Kong’s top Italian restaurant with none other than Matteo Bruno Lunelli, CEO of top sparking wine producer Ferrari. And thanks to Wilson Kwok, for great bistro style food at his excellent W’s Entrecôte restaurant, with various winemakers from around the world. Wilson loves wine and food, and he and his sister manage the restaurant with style.
One of the most eye-opening meals I enjoyed during my Hong Kong séjour was at the Genuine Lamma Hilton Fishing Village Restaurant on Lamma Island, about 20 minutes from Hong Kong by boat. It was in late May, on the festival for Tin Hau, the goddess who protects fishermen. The restaurant was busy all day, having served some 600 customers, so the staff seemed a bit tired by the time we got there for an exclusive dinner, organized by wine enthusiast and friend Ronny Lau.
The main theme here was fresh fish and seafood, much of it caught that day.
The fried calamari was so fresh and savory, that I felt as if I were on a Greek island, only with (much) more humidity and heat, along with Asian spices and cooking styles. A noisy fan kept us cool, however, as each of us turned the rotating table our way to grab some of the delightfully delicious foods!
Things got off to a stellar start with meaty razor clams, and very savory, too, as freshly caught. Then we had bunny fish, cooked with mandarine peel and a fermented bean sauce. This is a scavenger fish that can be caught from the shores of Hong Kong, firm and flavorful – with few bones – and infused with citrus notes that came in part from the mandarine peel.
The crabs – caught that day – had been cooked just 30 minutes earlier in a subtle rice wine sauce. I could not get enough of those, either. Really, fellow participants (including fellow wine loving pals Ying Hui and Rita Toth among others) and I were quite silent throughout parts of the meal, digging into the food.
We also enjoyed delicious sweet and sour chicken. “Is this organic?” I asked restaurant owner Christina Keung. No, “we have had problems with Avian flu,” she replied with a bit of astonishment at my question. But the chicken, having been slow cooked for 45 minutes was so tender and savory.
By the time it was over, we were singing with much joy on the boat back to Hong Kong, our senses made even more gleefully gay by the alcohol in the lovely wines we enjoyed, which we appreciated on a rather cerebral level. And what wines, pray tell, did so much engage our grey cells?
They were from Chateauneuf du Pape. Specifically, Xavier Wines, both white and red.
What? Yes, you may be wondering what we were doing drinking high alcohol Grenache with fish on a sticky hot evening. It actually worked. Now, I would not say that the food and wine pairings were the most ideal, especially given the humid heat of the evening. I could have just as well enjoyed chilled, high quality Champagne throughout the meal.
But, as Xavier Wines representative Quentin Heller explained, the style from both the reds and the whites is quite mineral and iodine like, and there was a certain marriage in this sense with the seafood and fish. In short, we enjoyed the wines and the food!
My favorite wine pairing came from dishes with the most robust spices such as the aforementioned chicken, for example (as opposed to, say, the serving of shrimp).
There is no denying the talent of 40 year old oenologist Xavier Vignon, who, before settling up in the Rhône Valley, also had worked as a winemaker in Alsace, Champagne (at Moët & Chandon), Saint-Emilion, Burgundy and Languedoc-Roussillon.
Many thanks to restaurant owner Christina Keung for such generosity and good will after her staff worked so hard earlier that day, to Quentin Heller for the wines, and to Ronny Lau for the kind invitation.