Another day, another “really difficult to get a table at” restaurant. Rocking up at 8:30PM on a Sunday night, we asked for a table of two and were horrified when the receptionist said that it would be about 1.5 hours. Thinking she was exaggerating the exceptionally long wait time, we went nearby to get a few cocktails and came back around 9:15PM. Sure enough, we stood waiting for our names to be called until 10PM. The receptionist was not exaggerating, she was spot on. Hong Kong really does not sleep it seems…
Ho Lee Fook is located smack bang in the middle of SOHO, just a 5 minute walk north of Central MTR station. The location explains at least part of the difficulty in getting a table… but you’ll understand the rest after reading through our dining experience.
“Ho Lee Fook, meaning ‘good fortune for your mouth’ is a funky Chinese kitchen inspired by old school Hong Kong Cha Chaan Tengs and the spirit of late-night Chinatown hangouts in 1960’s New York. Taiwanese-born chef Jowett Yu’s inventive approach to Chinese flavours is best enjoyed with an open mind and a strong appetite.” – About Ho Lee Fook
The entrance is an experience all on its own. The wall of waving lucky cats is the first thing you notice, but I promise it won’t hold your attention for long. The open-plan kitchen showcases a long line of chefs and dishes that are plated there and then. I must admit, this is one hell of a propaganda tool as a restaurant owner. As anxious on-lookers stand on the sidewalk waiting for their table, this in-your-face overload on your senses will 100% make your mouth water and your stomach rumble at this glorious sight right when you’re at your hungriest (and most vulnerable!).
Heading down the stairs, you enter into a restaurant that is part Cantonese comic book nostalgia, part opium den. It is pretty dark inside (which is not ideal for food photography!), but it does leave you in quite an intimate setting. Great for dates, though the crowds were quite rowdy on the Sunday night we went! I can’t tell if it’s because the cocktails at Ho Lee Fook are fantastic or if this is just normal Hong Kong. Not at all what we expected for a Sunday dinner, Hong Kong clearly parties way harder than Beijing – Ho Lee Fook at 9PM on a Sunday night was as bustling as a nightclub!
To warm ourselves up (it was raining outside), we shared a strawberry tequila cocktail named Kowloon City, which was a pretty kickass cocktail. Sweet and spicy, it was really nicely balanced and didn’t overwhelm on either end of the spectrum. With cocktails between HKD$118-148, we just decided to share and stick to one! Though everyone else around us was getting well-smashed!
Clearly the most expensive of all the restaurants we ate at, we decided to be a little more conservative with how much we ordered. That means we limited ourselves to only 5 dishes total between the two of us (oh, the restraint!).
We started with the cauliflower, sprouts and chili jam. I never thought that I could get this excited about cauliflower or brussels sprouts. People rave about Ho Lee Fook and this dish exemplifies how innovative and amazing Chinese food has the potential to be. Step aside all stir-fry veggie dishes I have ever eaten in my entire life, and enter this new sensational creation! I guess the presentation can’t really be helped because the photo doesn’t do this dish justice – you’ll just have to try it to believe it! #mindblown
In a league of its own, the combo of the chili jam, the bacon and the bitter veg is just a winner.
I am eternally grateful to the waiter who took the time to chat and explain that the wagyu short rib is “their thing” and that we would be remiss not to try it. You can also take a hint from the cue of short ribs lined up on their open kitchen as every table who dines here will have ordered a portion too!
After one bite, we were sold and were ready to shout HO LEE FOOK at the top of our lungs! This place absolutely, 100% deserves to stake claim on such a bold restaurant name!! The hype is real people. This dish is on my list of top dishes ever eaten. Ever. It is THAT good. Now I understand why there was a 1 1/2 hour wait time on a Sunday night at 8:30PM. The ribs is why we waited until 10PM to eat dinner. And it was 100% worth the wait. #mindblownAGAIN
There’s not too much more I can say about it really, other than the fact that there was a couple sat on the table next to us who didn’t finish their portion of wagyu ribs and it made us both wonder what on earth was wrong with them. #whatawaste
From the cauliflower to the wagyu ribs, we were getting carried away. When we were next served the Taiwanese Lu Rou fan, we were brought back down to reality as it was just fine. I have a soft spot for this dish and will order it at any chance I can get, but this version didn’t stand out. Again, obviously good quality ingredients, but I prefer the versions that I’ve had in Taiwan. To be fair though, we had this right after the wagyu beef and I think anything would have paled in comparison! The lasting impression in my mind of this dining experience at Ho Lee Fook will always be the wagyu short ribs. Cauliflower is a runner-up.
Still feeling a bit peckish and curious to see just how good their other veggie dishes were, we added this garlic chives dish. We were intrigued by the name more than anything and while the dish was excellent, our minds were not blown by this one either. But this is quite disingenuous of me as the cauliflower was phenomenal.
We rounded things off with a cheesecake soufflé for dessert. We were recommended their “Breakfast 2.0” with Horlicks ice cream, cornflake honeyjoy, dried longan and cocoa coffee crumbs, but I generally love cheesecake so I went rogue on our dessert choice. While I’m sure it was fine (we still polished off every last crumb), it was just not that memorable compared to the magic they worked up with the ribs.
Service was excellent throughout – they were happy to explain dishes in detail and gave some great advice. While I’m sure this was just a temporary problem, their toilets were out of service on the night we went, so we had to walk up the street to another sister restaurant of the Black Sheep Restaurants group, a Vietnamese restaurant called Chôm Chôm. Surprise surprise, they also had lines of people waiting for a table out their door.
Your meal at Ho Lee Fook is going to be a splurge (especially when you order their wagyu ribs at HKD$498), but when you discover something as unique and as exceptional their ribs, it’s worth the wait, it’s worth the month and it’s worth traveling for! The wagyu ribs alone are worth a trip to Hong Kong!
A Happy Ho Lee Fook Dining Experience!
Ho Lee Fook Contact Details:
- Address: G/F No. 1-5 Elgin st, Soho, Hong Kong
- Tel: +852 2810 0860
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Opening Hours: Open Sunday-Thursday from 6PM-11PM, Friday-Saturday 6PM-12AM
Kristen Lum has an accomplished background in PR, communications and events in China. Born and raised in California, Kristen has been based in Beijing since 2006 and is founder of the lifestyle blog called LumDimSum, covering mostly restaurant news and reviews alongside upcoming events around town that relate to Beijing’s muti-faceted, quickly-developing creative industries like art, music, film, health and fitness, fashion, nightlife, charity events, and travel tips.