*A Hong Kong style restaurant located on the busy strip on Dixon Street in Sydney's Chinatown Old Town Hong Kong serves Cantonese style dishes like noodles, roasted meats, congee as well as the intriguingly named "Typhoon Shelter" prawns or crab. *
There are certain types of knowledge that gets passed down generation to generation. For Mr NQN it is the ability to predict the weather just by looking at the sky while I usually reach for the app on the phone. For my father, while we were driving to Old Town Hong Kong he asked me, "So is lobster expensive nowadays? What's the current market price?" to which I looked back at him blankly. Clearly I don't possess the knowledge that I am supposed to.
Dinner at Old Town Hong Kong was chosen because my father is so staunchly patriotic that a place with his native Hong Kong in the title would surely appease him. They're even open during dad friendly hours-starting at 4pm which is when he likes to eat at home. There's no need to make a booking if dining early but after 6pm proves a busy time.
They pass us well weathered menus and we take a look. When we suggest some goodies my father puts his hand up. "No need, no need..." he says picking out some modest offerings instead. We go a bit order crazy and thankfully our table is large enough to accommodate the onslaught of food. "Let's try new things," my mother keeps saying as if by mantra.
The spring rolls are the first to come out. Some of the items have photos and when I saw these netted spring rolls I had to order them. They're superbly crunchy and delicious-I could eat dozens of these quite happily. They're also my mother's favourite.
The next item to arrive are the green beans. There's a bit of a gap between these and the other dishes so we munch of these beans given a burst of flavour through the pork mince. They're well cooked, not quite crunchy but nevertheless still tasty.
We usually order plain rice but were lured in by the Korean style fried rice. Although I'm not sure how Hong Kong it is, my father really enjoys the fried rice with plenty of seafood in it from prawns, scallops and mussels. It isn't very spicy at all despite the mention of chilli sauce.
The crispy chicken is delicious and best eaten with the skin peeled back and the tender meat seasoned with a squeeze of lemon. The prawn crackers are more a decorative touch as they're a little soft.
The tofu dish is a last minute addition while ordering. I had a terrible craving for tofu (does anyone ever say that?) and we all love the rich sauce and soft cubes of slippery tofu.
The congee is ordered more for old times' sake and even though it is a real stomach filler, it is wonderfully comforting. It reminds my father of home immediately and he wonders how they can get the congee this fine and smooth. It has a nice hint of ginger and submerged beneath the fried pastry triangles are pieces of fish and prawn.
We had really high hopes for the pippies but alas they needed a bit more flavour. The XO chilli sauce was also missing a little and tasted like regular chilli sauce over the distinct XO chilli flavour. We ended up adding some of the spicy bean curd sauce over the noodles to pep them up.
We were all curious to see what "Typhoon Shelter" style means -even my father who grew up in Hong Kong had no idea what it was (although he does tend to eat the same thing over and over again). All those little granules in the picture are pieces of crispy fried minced garlic along with dried chillies, chilli sauce, onions, green onions and fermented soybean. The prawns are served in their shell head on with a light batter coating and you fish each one out from under a layer of minced garlic. The dish was made famous with the use of crab.
The dessert menu is actually quite comprehensive with a whole page's worth of offerings. The sweet tofu pudding is flavoured with a barely sweetened coconut milk and sea coconut or nata de coco, a firmly textured jelly type of item. It's similar in texture to palm seeds. Although the tofu is smooth, the desert would be better with some sweetness to it.
Mr NQN's choice is the mango and pomelo sago sweet soup, a frothy sweet mango and condensed milk soup with pieces of mango and pomelo.
There are three versions of the deep fried egg white. We have no idea what to expect and it comes out as six large puffs of egg white filled with red bean and sprinkled with pink sugar. It's nothing short of strange and I can't eat anything more than a bite of this. "It tastes like an aerated boiled egg...with sugar!" Mr NQN says. The rest of us leave it while my father eagerly finishes his and then mine. "This is good," he says and packs these up to take away with him.
By the time we leave, the restaurant is completely full and we have several boxes worth of takeaway with us (including those strange egg white puffs). The clock reads 7:45pm and my dad notes with approval that he will be tucked away in bed by 8pm, his preferred bedtime.
So tell me Dear Reader, what time do you eat dinner and go to sleep at night? Do you have any skills that your family has passed down?
This meal was independently paid for.
Old Town Hong Kong
10A Dixon Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Lunch: 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Dinner: 4:00 PM to 2:00 AM
Open 7 Days