My Hong Kong/China vacation took place on April 29 – May 10, 2009. I know I’m way overdue on these posts but at least I’m writing it – in a sloth-like pace. This post is an overall review of the multiple times (four, if you need to know) I’ve eaten dim sum at Sportful Garden Restaurant, with my aunt and uncle or with a larger crowd of relatives. It’s mostly food porn rather than a useful review, perhaps. I’ll let you be the judge.
When my aunt took me to Sportful Garden Restaurant for the first time, I am a bit astounded how the decor isn’t garish unlike NYC’s Chinese restaurants. It’s understated in neutral color palate with a touch of gold and the expected fish tanks near the kitchen. (Note: The English name doesn’t come close to the translation of the restaurant’s Chinese name.)
The typical pot of tea (we like chrysanthemum) with roasted peanuts on the side for snacking. What is sort of unusual is the pot of hot water is served with the pot of tea – to reduce the amount of times you need the server to refill your pot. Good idea.
My aunt is a health nut and always order a plate (or plates, depending how large is the party) of wilted romaine lettuce with light soy sauce on the side. It’s healthy, fresh and it tastes good.
During the weekend before I left Hong Kong, one of the specials that day was pork congee for $9 HK (equivalent to $1.20 US). A bowl that is large enough to share with three people. It’s filled with lots of marinated salted pork meat and little bits of what I think is watercress. Delicious and cheap.
The joong, a sticky rice concoction that’s wrapped in lotus leaf and filled with peanuts, salted egg yolk and meat (usually pork) is pretty damn good here. The rice is cooked properly, a good amount of filling and it’s fresh, as you’ll see the photo below.
The typical fried cruellers that’s served with plain congee is a favorite for the traditionalists.
As good as both were, I wanted something not so…plain. I do like clean, simple things sometimes but I wasn’t feeling it for the time being.
I like me some pan fried turnip cakes. Their version was crisp on the outside and the cake itself was firm yet soft enough to chew. It also had a good amount of pork flavor. Though, I still do prefer my mom’s homemade turnip cakes.
The steamed pork ribs were good nubs of pork. The serving is on the small side but then again, it’s not meant to be a large plate.
I haven’t seen this particular dish of fried dough strips (not an official name but that’s what I can think of). It’s pretty much what I dubbed it. It’s nothing particularly special except for the sesame speckled caramel sauce, as you see below.
I should mention, they don’t have ladies pushing food carts here. I think it’s a better way to serve dim sum. Food is fresher, as it comes straight out from the kitchen. From the restaurant business perspective, you cut down on labor costs as you just need a few waiters and waitresses to bring out the food and take orders (from a check-off menu or verbally).
The roast pork cheong fun tasted fine. I personally don’t like this combination, as it tasted different to me. The noodle is fresh and pillow-like as I bit into it and the ratio of filling to noodle is just right.
The beef cheong fun is my personal favorite of the possible combination of fillings for this noodle. As stated before, the noodle is fresh, warm, and pillow-like when bitten and the ratio of meat to noodle is good. I just like beef more because of the texture.
Finally, I found har gaw that I truly liked a lot. Too many dim sum restaurants in NYC can’t do it right in terms of this dish. The skin is not too thin or thick and the shrimp is cooked perfectly.
This particular chicken and vegetable dumplings were unusual for me. The skin is made of sticky rice flour that it’s gooey and sticky in texture and the filling is ground chicken and vegetables (like carrot); I don’t really like it because of the skin but it tasted fine for what it was.
This shu mai with abalone is a pricey plate since abalone is expensive. Though my foodie uncle snubbed it that it was canned abalone, not the fresh stuff but I can’t tell the difference (I don’t eat it often because of the price tag) and think it tasted very good. The shu mai itself is great. There’s a lot of filling in that dumpling and the skin isn’t too thick nor is this dish overcooked.
The spinach dumplings looked too precious to eat. However, I can’t resist having one. The skin is thin enough to have some chew and the filling is densely packed with spinach with a touch of what I think is, chicken.
The steamed beef balls were fresh. And a favorite around my table.
The steamed pork buns were great. Freshly steamed. A good amount of filling (actual meat) with the cake-y exterior is just thick enough to hold its contents.
As much as I liked the sauce on the chicken feet with barbecue sauce dish, I still don’t like chicken feet. Not because of the idea that it is a foot (I like pig’s trotters) but it’s the texture of the skin and there isn’t much to chew on except for the bones.
These little egg custard tarts were dainty and cute for its size. They were pretty damn delicious, as its warm, flaky and the custard is not too sweet and the custard just set.
My aunt loves this steamed egg custard layer cake because it’s light, fluffy, barely sweet, and it has some almonds floating around. I do like this dessert as well. It tastes like I’m eating an egg-y cloud.
My personal favorite were these swirled buns. I don’t know the English name to it but I call it a cute swirly bun because they’re small and swirled that I would think it’s cute. Anyway, this bun is amazing. The very thin, cake-like bun holds a large amount of coconut-flavored egg yolk custard that it just oozes custard while it’s hot from the kitchen.
The longevity buns were at the request of my aunt. These large buns (about 5 inches in diameter) were filled with lotus seed paste. These knew the keys to my dessert lovin’ heart because I’m obsessed with any Chinese pastry that’s filled with lotus seed paste (and it’s delicious paste, mind you).
Some of the unusual jellies I came across while I’m in Hong Kong were this dish of coconut jelly with corn kernels. I think there’s a more flowery name to this dish but this is how I remembered it. The smooth, coconut milk jelly contains corn kernel bits floating around. It kind of plays on the sweet factor but at the same time I think they’re trying to make this dessert a bit healthier.
This green jelly is actually coconut flavored. If I have to make this, I won’t have the patience to layer this and wait for it to set. It’s good and coconut-y.
I ordered this birds’ nest cake. As ignorant as I was, I ordered this dish assuming that I should see something that look like a bird’s nest. But it’s actually the bird’s nest that one would find in a soup form. And for those of you who buys this stuff know it it isn’t cheap. Oops. This cake, if you will, is actually a coconut flavored jelly (the bottom, white base) and the bird’s nest portion is on top with a gelatin base. Tasty but I wouldn’t have ordered it if I knew because I don’t get the actual texture of the nest.
So that’s the end of this food porn journey of Sportful Garden’s dim sum. If you were to visit this place, I suggest you get the traditional dishes (har gaw, shu mai, cheong fun, etc.) and the swirled buns and the egg custard layer cake. If you like jellies, order them.
Sportful Garden Restaurant
Tai Tung Bldg, 1/F
8 Fleming Rd, Wan Chai
Wan Chai, Hong Kong