By: Brooke Chenoweth
With such an attention-grabbing name we were expecting big things from this fusion Cantonese venue. Ho Lee Fook actually translates roughly into “Good fortune for your mouth”, which is exactly what Taiwanese chef Jowett Yu and his team deliver. The self-described “funky Chinese kitchen” is inspired by old-school Hong Kong cha chaan tengs and “the spirit of late-night Chinatown hangouts in 1960s New York”.
And it’s consistently cool. The stone walls are decorated with art by Jonathan Jay Lee, while classic sixties rock plays overhead. From the cheeky name to the dark wood furnishings and beautiful, well thought-out tableware, the vibe is funky and casual.
The menu is a reinvention of traditional Cantonese fare, with some Australian and European influences. While the wine list is surprisingly extensive, the cocktails are worth sampling; I had the Cooler, a delightful blend of oolong-infused vodka and fresh fruit.
To the food, and fried chicken wings with shrimp sambal were first up. They were crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, with a seriously tasty sauce that had just the right kick of chilli. Next came “Mom’s dumplings” (“mostly cabbage, a little bit of pork”), based on Chef Jow’s mother’s recipe; these delectable parcels held chunks of tender pork meat and mince. The fried cauliflower and Brussels sprouts with maple bacon chilli jam was too spicy for my tastebuds, though the vegetables were clearly very fresh and tender, and the jam a clever way to dress up two much-maligned veggies.
One of the specials for the evening, and a real highlight, was a unique take on fried rice. Made with risoni and shaved black truffles and scattered with pieces of tender, flavourful, roasted goose, it was fusion cooking at its best.
By this stage, we were already starting to burst at the seams and wishing we’d brought friends – the servings are very generous and best shared. But we somehow found room for the roast wagyu short-ribs, served with a jalapeno puree, green shallot kimchi and soy glaze. The delicate glaze allowed the flavour of the beef to shine through; the kimchi, though, felt superfluous. A dish of kurobuta pork char siu was outstanding; I’m not a huge fan of pork, but I went back for seconds. And the grilled calamari with leek and Chinese celery provided a light balance; it was tender and zesty.
Dessert is a must. We tried the three on offer; the granny smith apple granita was a particularly refreshing combination of sweet and sharp, and the perfect end to the meal.
Service was efficient and friendly, the food was excellent – ambitious and well executed – and the overall vibe of the place makes Ho Lee Fook an ideal venue for a memorable night out with friends.
MUST-TRY DISH: Kurobuta pork char siu
Ho Lee Fook
G/F, 1-5 Elgin Street, Central
2810 0860 | firstname.lastname@example.org