The best travel buddies are those who share your idea of adventure. Through each other’s eyes, you discover new things about a place you have visited separately many times over, making that place seem exciting and new again. Think Hong Kong.
It’s especially hard to enjoy a trip when you’re with people who just refuse to eat, for one reason or another—they’re “on a diet,” won’t touch anything that’s not familiar or are just plain picky.
In HK—foodie heaven, whatever your budget—you just can’t not eat. You can skip the shopping, my older and wiser self might say, but to say no to the gustatory delights this city has to offer is impious.
So it was that when Cathay Pacific flew us to HK recently, our small media group quickly found a common denominator: We all love to eat.
We had yet to leave Naia when, already, young Cathay Pacific exec Maiel Perez was bragging about the tan tan men in the noodle bar in CX’s The Wing lounge in Hong Kong. I haven’t
been to The Wing since it was renovated (and reopened in April 2012; it’s the airline’s flagship lounge), so I was psyched to see the changes and upgrades on our flight back; and frankly, to find out if that sesame-based tan tan men is as good as Maiel made it sound.
Cathay Pacific is introducing new Business Class and Premium Economy Class products. Truly among the premium international carriers around, CX’s new Business Class seat is beyond comfort, with the longest and widest seats that transform into flat beds, with wingbacks that provide utmost privacy.
The airline is also wooing customers who may want to upgrade and experience the added convenience of having a dedicated check-in counter, priority boarding, an increase in baggage allowance and, of course, more spacious cabin with a seat pitch of 38 inches, half a foot more than coach class, and bigger recline with the new Premium Economy Class.
November being Hong Kong’s Wine and Dine Month, CX is offering discounted fares from Manila or Cebu until Oct. 31: $135 for Economy, $360 for Premium Economy, $615 for Business, exclusive of taxes and surcharges, for a minimum of two passengers flying together. Flyers can also book air plus hotel packages starting at $283/person. (Visit www.cathaypacific.ph).
Ours would be a brief trip with nothing concrete in the itinerary, which made our home for two nights, The Excelsior in Causeway Bay, a suitable choice. The landmark hotel is in an area that has more than enough to satisfy our culinary cravings in the next 48 hours, even post-midnight hankerings, not to mention shopping.
It’s next door to World Trade Center and Sogo Department Store, and Ikea is just around the corner. Times Square is a short walk away.
The hotel itself, a member of the Mandarin Oriental group, has award-winning restaurants, and a swanky rooftop bar called Tott’s and Roof Terrace, which provides breathtaking views
of Victoria Harbour. We would’ve been perfectly happy even without setting foot outside!
But then again, HK awaited. In the next two days, we feasted on Peking duck (Jade Garden in Tsim Sha Tsui; the one time we ventured away from Causeway); ramen (Butao); ginger-flavored this and that (coffee, soy bean custard, soy milk, all recommendations of Manila Bulletin’s Marbee Go); and fantastic and cheap Michelin-starred meals (Tim Ho Wan for the famous barbecue pork buns; Ho Hung Kee for the wonton noodles and the salted egg buns).
I have my own favorite culinary joints in HK, but on this trip I was just happy to go along and discover new delights.
Some food spots don’t even have English signs, which calls for a little sense of adventure and discovery. Tip: Follow the lines. If you’re prepared to queue up, you will be justly rewarded.
Butao, in an alley near Times Square, is a tiny joint so you may have to share your table with total strangers. No dilly-dallying here; to save our table of five, three of us were asked to take our seats while two strangers at the cramped table rushed to finish their bowls of piping-hot Japanese ramen. (Lucky for us, Butao will open in Manila soon.)
At Ho Hung Kee, in its spanking new branch at Hysan Place, also near Times Square, we had the famous wonton noodle soup, reputed to have earned this joint its first Michelin star, the first noodle house to get one. It has reportedly dislodged Tim Ho Wan as the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant.
While we liked the clear, clean taste of wonton soup, we found the salted eggs buns unforgettable. (I’m going back for that.)
Tim Ho Wan
On the way home, we decided to take the cab to IFC for the airport express, and, of course, the Tim Ho Wan pork barbecue bun. Toff de Venecia of Philippine Star had been raving about it since we arrived—the savory-sweet barbecue pork filling and its pillowy bun with a crispy crust. Again, there’s no English sign here, but you won’t miss the mass that gathers outside.
The cashier is rather unfriendly; she sounded annoyed when Toff placed his order: 22 sets of pork buns (a set has three) to bring home to family and friends. If you’re prepared for a little
aggravation—we were—then it shouldn’t matter.
Right there, next to our suitcases, as we waited for Toff’s big order, we began attacking our tasting portions of the hot, fresh-from-the-oven buns, luscious amber liquid inelegantly dripping from the corners of our mouths.
“Ang sarap ano?” said the two Filipino women who came to pick up their takeaway: 36 sets. Why have we never heard of this before?
You would think we’d had our fill at this point. At the airport, we made a quick stop at The Cabin, one of CX’s business class lounges, where the others had the juice offerings at the
Health Bar, while I took advantage of the IT area to send an article to the office.
Then off to The Wing for the tan tan men. Was it good? I finished two bowls, on top of all the pork buns.
The food trip was capped by a portion each of McDonald’s crisp-fried chicken wings, which Toff swore was good. We were already eating in the lounge and yet he stepped out to buy some to prove his point. The guy knows his food. (McDonald’s sells them only in HK.)
Like sated pigs, we boarded our flights to sleep off our indulgences, happily cocooned in our roomy, comfy CX Premium Economy seats.