Eastern Promises 4: Lin Heung dim sum with Max and AFW
Lin Heung Tea House, 160-164 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong (Openrice link)
Catching up on my academic writing, finishing up 100 Dates of Summer ™ and settling in, there hasn’t been much time for what should be my #1 priority: writing this blog called Eastern Promises. And indeed, there have been promises fulfilled and promises made, both unreported.
Continuing the 100 Dates tradition, I got in touch with fellow travelers Max and AFW to have lunch last week. AFW picked Lin Heung, a joint known for its old school, rough around the edges vibe, tea program, and dim sum (probably in that order). It was written up as the number two thing to do in Hong Kong by Time’s travel division.
First, I should say that, due to ambiguity in the Cantonese name, there are some incorrect addresses for this place floating around the internet. Go to the one at 160 Wellington Street. We went to one of the wrong addresses, but luckily ran into a kindly man who broke down the meaning of the name and all but escorted us to the restaurant. It was my third encounter with extreme HK hospitality and I liked it.
Lin Heung was as advertised. A grumpy waiter showed us to a table we would share with a local family. There was middle-aged woman, a middle-aged man, a much older man and a woman in her 20s. I tried to determine what the exact relationship was, but they said nary a word, only sharing knowing looks when we made some gaffe in etiquette (which we did frequently).
The waiter slammed some bowls and tea cups down, showing us how wash them in a bowl of hot water. We eventually figured out that the carts would not come to us – we’d have to go to them, which were positioned like stations around the restaurant. With no discernible prices as guides we just grabbed what we could with little rhyme or reason.
In addition to a few things I could not discern (something resembling meatballs and beef wrapped in bean curd), we got the usual har gao, siu mai and cheung fun with beef. Given my lack of familiarity with the other items – which I did enjoy on an absolute level – the standard dim sum offers the only real point of comparison. And it’s been a long time since the Dim Sum Smackdown.
In terms of those standards, you really could do better elsewhere. While the siu mai were good, the har gao was not fresh and not at all the tender morsels of fresh shrimp you hope for. The cheung fun was overcooked and greasy.
Still, I really don’t think you come to a place like this for the quality of the dim sum, but to gather with friends and soak up an ambiance that hasn’t changed in 40 years. A lot of the locals seemed more interested in special teas than food.
We ended up paying only about $60HKD a head, which is about a quarter what you would pay at a fancy dim sum in Hong Kong.
I don’t know if I’d say this is the number two thing to do in Hong Kong, but if you come, give it a shot. And if you see me, say hi.