T’ang Court: Two Michelin Stars of Disappointment

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On Sunday, November 23rd, I had a reservation at T’ang Court, an award-winning restaurant in the famous Langham Hotel of Tsim Sha Tsui. Such a distinguished reputation creates an expectation of quality, so I walked in with pretty high hopes. (If you don’t want to read the whole review, here’s a quick rundown.)

At the entrance to the restaurant are signs on a small table denoting the multiple awards that the restaurant has won. My table was led up to the second floor, where there were fewer guests and a handful of private rooms. The room was well-lighted, the chairs comfortable, and the tables spaced apart widely enough to keep the feeling of privacy at each table. The restaurant dress code of smart casual did not seem to apply to one family, which included a sloppily-dressed pot-bellied man in a light grey deep-v cotton tee, old denim trousers, a ratty brown suede jacket, and a pair of close-toed slip-ons. Truly, this sort of crowd is the type a Michelin-starred restaurant in a nice hotel wants to attract.

When our table was seated, we were helped with our chairs and napkins, and asked to choose something to drink. I asked for a pot Pu’Er tea and a pot of plain hot water. The waiter repeated my order to me accurately, and returned with only a pot of Pu’Er. He poured the tea for us as we looked at our menus.

The menu at T’ang Court was quite extensive. (The online menu does not show the desserts, so I assume they change regularly.) With more than 15 pages filled with a myriad of choices, it was difficult to decide what to order. We asked the waiter to give us some recommendations, and he suggested two award-winning dishes and a popular entree: Stir-fried fresh lobster with spring onion, red onion and shallots, which won the 2002 Best of the Best Culinary Award – Gold with Distinction Award for Lobster (2002美食之最大賞 龍蝦組 至高榮譽金獎); Sautéed prawns and crab roe with golden-fried pork and crab meat puffs, which won the same award in 2001 for Seafood (2001美食之最大賞 海鮮組 至高榮譽金獎), and the Crispy Salted Chicken. We each decided instead to get the T’ang Court Tasting Menu (品味唐閣精選客餐, HK$650 each), a showcase of their best flavors; the Crispy Salted Chicken (HK$230 for half a chicken); and the 2001 award-winning prawns and roe (HK$420). We wanted to try the suggested lobster dish, but the Tasting Menu already included lobster and we were informed that our order was probably already enough for the two of us. No wine was ordered.

Our first dish was the Baked stuffed crab shell (釀焗鮮蟹蓋). Placed neatly in a cloth napkin pocket with a fork, the shell had a crunchy, moderately thick fried breading that did not smell or taste oily. The shell was served with Worcestershire sauce, but I preferred the dish without it. With a little aggressive poking, the breading gave way to a great amount of crab meat and slices of white onion. The crab meat was fresh, sweet, and flavourful, with no hint of fishiness while the onion slices were very pungent and crunchy, still white and not caramelised. Though the crab was a saltwater crustacean, the meat was not too salty. The shell was also cut into an appealing almond shape from the front of the crab body. This dish set my expectations fairly high for the rest of the meal.

Next came the Braised shrimps, crab roe and bean curd pumpkin soup (鮮蝦西施金湯羹). The appetizing orange color of the soup was decorated with a slice of soft, silky tofu in the centre, shrimp meat on top, and three different flavors of fresh crab roe. The soup was sweet, a little starchy (as pumpkin soup tends to be), but not too thick, with several pieces of shrimp meat and paper-thin Chinese broccoli stem slices in the soup as nice changes to the palate texture. The piece of tofu had a good dose of soy flavor that blended nicely with the soup. The three colors of crab roe had different flavors as well, with green being a little sweet, and black being the most pungent. Though this dish was very delightful, it was logistically difficult to eat, as the bowl was shallow, the spoon was a thick ceramic Chinese-style soup spoon, and the soft tofu broke easily.

The Baked sliced fresh lobster with mozzarella and garlic (芝香焗開邊龍蝦) was brought out next. The layer of cheese on the lobster was so light and thin that it hardly had effect on the flavour, while the finely minced garlic was spread generously and very flavorful, almost overpowering. The lobster was a local specie, smaller than their American cousins, but the meat was very sweet and not at all chewy, without being overpowered by the strong garlic taste. The garnish was fresh, with the sweet tomatoes cut on one side to prevent them from rolling around on the plate; quite adorable, really. Again, this dish was delicious, but immensely difficult to eat with the utensils given (fork and knife): the garlic and cheese separated easily from the meat. I resorted to using my hand with the fork instead of the knife, and a waiter gave us hot towelettes in response.

The Sautéed prawns and crab roe with golden-fried pork and crab meat puffs (金錢鮮蝦球), the dish that won an award 13 years ago, arrived in the middle of our tasting menu. The odor of frying oil was overwhelming. The taste of the oil, in fact, was overwhelming as well, especially with the puffs; the crab meat, though in decent amounts, could only offer texture and not flavour, and the pork and mushrooms tasted alright but were still very oily. The prawns and the crab roe were also soaked in oil; the entire dish was so fatty that there was a layer of oil at the bottom when we finished it. The only redeeming quality of the entire dish was the celtuce slices, which were a good crunchy texture and cut into leaf shapes. Distressingly disappointing.

Then came the Baked blue point oysters with port wine (砵酒焗美國蠔). We were each given a single oyster in a massive, cleanly shucked shell. The oysters were quite large, actually, and very sweet and juicy, but since oysters are also naturally salty, the sauce was a bit too salty and not flavorful enough to make up for it. However, it was baked just long enough to be done without shriveling or overcooking the meat, so the gills were not at all chewy. Still, there was nothing particularly special about the sauce, so the dish would have been pretty good by normal standards, but not up to my expectation of the standards held for a Michelin star restaurant.

The Crispy Salted Chicken (富貴鹽香雞) came after our oysters. The menu claimed that the dish was half a chicken, but we did not get a drumstick; there was almost no dark meat in the dish. The chicken was salty as expected, and the skin was sort of crisp for the most part, but the best part about the dish was that the white meat had a good texture. In general, I avoid white meat because the texture tends to be rough and dry and difficult to eat, but the chef was actually able to make chicken breast juicy and tender. Still, the lack of dark meat and drumstick was wholly disappointing.

The final savory course was a bowl of fried rice with Wagyu beef, avocado and olive kernels (牛油果和牛粒炒飯). This was an excellent way to close the meal: despite the tomato mixed in, the rice was just dry enough to counteract the oily feel from the previous three dishes. This course was flavorful but neither salty nor oily, even with the avocado, and the beef bits were buttery and beefy without being gamey. The aromatic, nutty undertones from the olive kernels added an excellent aftertaste to the rice. The texture of this course blended together in a mix of pleasant flavors that complemented each other, making this fried rice the highlight of the entire meal.

For dessert, we were served Fresh fruit and Chinese petit fours (鮮果配美點). We were presented with four pieces of fresh fruit, and glacé petit fours: a puff-skinned small egg tart and a tri-layer mousse. The custard of the egg tart was not too sweet and very smooth and eggy, and the puff pastry crust was light and a little nutty as well, but because the tart was so small, the proportion of custard to tart was too small. The tri-layer mousse was a much heavier piece, with a pungent sesame top, a subtle peanut middle, and a crust with coconut shavings mixed in. The sesame mousse was the biggest flavour ofthe mousse, and the roast sesame on top gave the texture a delightful crunch. The slices of cantaloupe, kiwi, pineapple, and strawberry were alright.

I am a slow eater, and my eating companion finished his rice before me, so the waiter brought out both of our desserts and removed my companion’s empty bowl before I finished my Wagyu fried rice. When I had finally finished my rice, I waited for the waiters to remove my bowl before I would start eating my portion of the dessert. They came with the cheque well before closing time, but never removed the bowl. I had to reach across the table to access my dessert.

Honestly, the service wasn’t awful; it was pretty good when we walked in. The utensils were added and replaced when needed, and they occasionally poured tea for us. However, it deteriorated as the night wore on. Our table was the last to leave, but that should not have been a factor in the quality of service. In fact, the employees removed the flowers and walked by our table with the cash box at 22:53, before closing time and before our table had finished. It was as though they were trying to rush us out without being overt about it. The service had gotten slower and slower as the night wore on, and though the hosts were nice, I still expected much better. At the end of the night, two gnats also appeared and hovered over the desserts, something that shouldn’t have happened at an establishment with such high honors.

The washroom was clean and looked nice, but the perfume smelled like stomach acid, and the stall doors were difficult to open, as they did not have any handles. They did have some neatly stacked hand-towels, but unlike their hot towelettes, they were stiff, thin, and coarse. If it were at any other restaurant, I’d say it was okay, but really, if this place is flaunting their awards, it wouldn’t hurt them to try a little harder.

I am having a lot of trouble believing that T’ang Court has two Michelin stars and so many other awards. Eating at Shang Palace at Shangri-La a few months prior set the bar for my expectations of a Michelin-ranked hotel restaurant, and the food and service was nowhere near the same level. However, one must take into account the cost of these meals; the bill for two at Shang Palace was about twice as expensive as that of T’ang Court.

 


Scoring

Parameter Score
Baked stuffed crab shell (釀焗鮮蟹蓋) 3/5
Braised shrimps, crab roe and bean curd pumpkin soup (鮮蝦西施金湯羹) 3/5
Baked sliced fresh lobster with mozzarella and garlic (芝香焗開邊龍蝦) 2/5
Sautéed prawns and crab roe with golden-fried pork and crab meat puffs (金錢鮮蝦球) -1/5
Baked blue point oysters with port wine (砵酒焗美國蠔) 1/5
Crispy Salted Chicken (富貴鹽香雞) 2/5
Fried rice with Wagyu beef, avocado and olive kernels (牛油果和牛粒炒飯) 4/5
Fresh fruit and Chinese petit fours (鮮果配美點) 2/5
Overall Food 2/5
Service 0/5
Cleanliness 1/5
Environment 2/5
Washroom 2/5
Menu Cost ($$$$$) 4/5
Total Score 1/5

Note: Because this restaurant touts itself to be a restaurant with a dress code, multiple distinguished awards, and two Michelin stars, I have reviewed and scored everything accordingly. And yes, there is a negative score.

 


T’ang Court
The Langham, Hong Kong
8 Peking Road
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, HK

Monday to Friday: 12:00 – 15:00 & 18:00 – 23:00
Saturday, Sunday and Public Holiday: 11:00 – 15:00 & 18:00 – 23:00

Reservations: (852) 2132 7898

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