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Chinese Library

Tai Kwun is the former Central Police Headquarters, now extensively redeveloped and preserved to create a unique art and dining hub. Among its showcase dining venues is a trio of restaurants and bars recently opened by Aqua Restaurant, occupying the entire first floor of the Police Headquarters Block. These are Statement – a western fine-dining outlet, The Dispensary – a bar, and Chinese Library – our next gastronomic destination.

 

Chinese Library serves some of Hong Kong’s favourite dishes, drawn from the gamut of regional Chinese cuisines: Cantonese, its mainstay, Chiu Chow, Sichuan, Northern China and Shanghainese. An iron-balustrade staircase greets guests at the first floor, with plaques featuring police badges framing the reception. The dining room’s décor is colonial Oriental, the original wood flooring complemented by jade-coloured walls, ornate gold mirrors, backlit onyx screens and antique Chinese marble tops, in homage to a glamorous bygone era.

 

For our lunch we sampled several dim sum and signature dishes. These included Laksa Xiao Long Bao ($88) the famous Shanghainese dim sum which is a traditional favourite – the meat and soup broth inside the pleated wrapper is savoury and tasty; the Laksa soup adds a clever Malaysian twist and Jade Bitter Melon, Pork & Black Bean Dumpling ($88), another interesting concoction – the crab roe on top of the pork dumpling plus the bitter melon and black beans accent the pork flavour.

 

Another inventive dim sum is the Chrysanthemum “Thousand Cut” Silken Tofu in Chicken Broth ($108). The velvety smooth tofu skin, nano-thinly sliced, replicates a Chrysanthemum and we were impressed with the effort that went into slicing the tofu. A Sichuan-inspired dim sum, Chilled “Jade Power” in Green Sichuan Pepper Essence ($78) was an interesting addition. This zesty, vegetable dish nicely balanced out the savoury dishes already served.

 

Char siu is another local favourite, and Chinese Library’s premium version – BBQ Pork Loin glazed with New Zealand Manuka Honey ($228), was a treat: the honey-sweet roast pork is mouth-wateringly tender.

 

We were ready to sample the tour-de-force signature dish – Apple Roasted 45-day Imperial Peking Duck ($680), another iconic Chinese dish. The duck is aged for longer than usual, and the apple sauce covering the roasted duck refreshingly contrasts with the duck meat and the crispy skin.

 

The last dish before dessert was a Cantonese favourite – Superior First Extracted Soy Sauce Rice Noodles with Angus Beef Tenderloin ($198). Tender Angus beef slices nicely stir-fried with flat noodles in a hot wok is, for many, the essence of Cantonese wok cooking.

 

We finished this enjoyable meal with four delicious desserts, all shared among us, of course: Classic Egg Tart, Chocolate Lava Mochi, Tofu Panna Cotta, and Deep-fried Chocolate Hazelnut Ball, at $68 each.

 

As Hong Kong’s newest heritage attraction landmark, Tai Kwun is a must-visit destination. Be sure to also drop-by for a sumptuous meal at the Chinese Library – itself destined to be a culinary landmark.■

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