Lei Garden Restaurant in Hong Kong

After spending almost 24 hours in transit I hit the ground running in Hong Kong. I wheeled my suitcase into Hotel Indigo with great haste and quickly checked my watch to realize I had a grand total of 11 minutes to “freshen up,” before meeting in the lobby for my first restaurant review. My clothes literally flung off my body as I bolted into the shower. As I squirted soap this way and that I couldn’t help but laugh as I vigorously lathered my exhausted jet-lagged self. This my friends is the unglamorous routine of a travel writer. While most would cuddle into bed after such an exhausting journey I found myself having to slap myself awake and immediately slide into work mode.

Moments later I buttoned up a my dress shirt and wrapped my still wet hair into a bun. I forced a tired smile, my skin smelled like fragrant eucalyptus as I stared at my zombie reflection in the bathroom mirror. Back in the hotel’s lobby I put on my “wake up face” and greeted my guide who marched us into the hectic streets of Wan Chai. I was mostly silent, borderline brain dead as we weaved through the neighbourhoods market to arrive at a wildly busy main street rammed with double decker buses, sky high office buildings and the glitz and glam of neon signs. It seemed like just hours ago I was mulling in the morning calm of Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach.

Scurrying down the street I soon found myself standing at the entrance of Lei Garden, greeted by a bubbling indigo aquarium home to whirling fish, sizes great and small. We plopped ourselves at a table in the centre of the dining room and immediately whisked our fingers through the restaurant’s menu. Hong Kong is home to several Lei Garden restaurants, a local favourite which has been given a nod by the Michelin Guide, adorned with one star. Rifting through the appetizers I couldn’t help but chuckle at a few of the dishes, a quick reminder that I had literally teleported half way across the world: pickled fungus, fried chicken cartilage in honey sauce and ground ginger marinated chicken feet.

I pretty much detached myself from the world the moment I sat in my seat. It took a great deal of strength just to keep my eyes open. My guide chatted in Cantonese with our host and ordered a selection of signature dishes. When asked if I wanted to try anything in particular I just waved my hands and said, “please just ensure that pork and some form of crispy poultry make an appearance.”

Highlights from my drowsy feast at Lei Garden include crispy roasted baby pigeon, preserved meat rice cooked in a clay pot and a steaming plate of classic sweet and sour pork which was lightly tossed in sauce rather than soaking in the cornstarch laden bright orange guk we are used to at Chinese restaurants back home. I had arrived in HK just in time for hair crab season. The steamed ocean critter was deconstructed at the table and a wee spoon was handed to me so I could scoop up the bright yellow roe, a local delicacy. A steamed whole rock cod arrived at the table, mouth ajar on the plate and sitting in sweet soya. With the light prodding of my fork, pink flesh whispered off the bone and steamed its way into my mouth. A buttery and perfectly salted sampling of the sea.

As I nibbled on my final pigeon wing I noticed I no longer even had my eyes open. I had apparently been spending the last ten minutes at the table eating with my eyelids clasped shut. My guide humorously noted my exhaustion and in an attempt to avoid a snoring fit at the table quickly grabbed the bill and marched me back through Hong Kong’s late night pedestrian maze. And so I found heaven, hovering like a halo over my bed. Slowly descending into my duvet and plush pillows, embracing like never before the food coma.

The Feast:

Chinese Francolin Soup with Coastal Glehina Root and Fragrant Solomonseal Rhizome

Preserved Meat Rice Cooked in Clay Pot

Steamed Hairy Crab

Steamed Whole Rock Cod

Stir Fried Baby Choysum

Crispy Roasted Baby Pigeon

Sweet and Sour Pork

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