A four-day staycation in Sai Kung with [grand]parents in tow demanded an authentic lazy Susan seafood experience. So, we took a table Chuen Kee – one of the seemingly identikit restaurants on the harbour front and ordered a mountain of prawns, clams, grouper and squid.
Now, there are a number of implicit rules you should follow when dining in “lazy Susan” restaurants. Top of that list is never, ever, for pain of death, look into the kitchen. You cannot unsee the sights. There’s usually always an elderly gentleman in white wellington boots and Beijing bikini hawking up a greeny and flinging it towards a waiting plate of food. So, in a city in which food hygiene is considered somewhat of an inconvenience, it’s reassuring to see that the key ingredients on Sai kung’s Seafood Street is fresh – albeit stressed – and in full view.
Although in the back of your mind you know they’ve had more manhandling and Airmiles than timeworn air stewardess, the fact the prawns were splashing about pretty much ensures good eating.
I had asked for them to be fried with garlic but, whether by incompetent luck or deceitful judgement, they arrived having had just a simple steaming. This really is the only way to serve good prawns. And these were bloody good prawns. Ripping off the head, wiping away the snot-like substance from the neck and dunking the naked body in some light soy sauce was wonderfully satisfying.
The salt and pepper squid was soft and succulent and the small clams were sweet and savoury. The only real shortcoming was the pitiful amount of gloopy black bean sauce the clams should have been swimming in.
We finished with a small steamed Grouper. Grouper is not a delicate fish but the white meat slid easily away from the bones on account of it’s perfect cooking. The chef had kindly make a little insertion to allow for easy extraction of the cheeks (the tastiest part of any animal). This small, considerate act characterised our evening.
Service and attention to detail exceeded my – albeit relatively low – expectations. If I’m perfectly honest, I’ve previously been a little underwhelmed by Sai Kung’s seafood restaurants. Like many a gweilo, my experience of Sai Kung dining is limited to summer evenings after sun drenched days at the beach. Dinner is usually taken during that disorientating transition between crippling inebriation and crippling hangover; post-junk when day morphs into night, pleasures morphs into pain and an affable English gentleman morphs into an obnoxious toerag. As such, it’s not surprising that I’ve never found the experience in any of the harbourfront seafood restaurants to be particularly memorable.
But this time was different. There were finger bowls (with lemon), happy attentive staff who delivered ice cold Tsing Tao and fresh chopsticks the second they were needed (which, owing to my parents chopstick ineptitude, they frequently were).
How the restaurant calculate the bill is a mystery, perhaps even to themselves. But one cannot grumble too much when the pile of seafood carcases at the end of the meal measures several inches high.
How much? $600 for the fish, $1,260 all in
Where? 87-93 Man Nin Street, Sai Kung
Who goes? Local Sai Kunger’s and Expats Junker’