It’s been on TV you know!
Bourdain knows best
In my ongoing search for cooked food perfection, there are some places that almost recommend themselves. Amid the uproar of the second floor, above the meat stalls and butchery of another Municipal Services Building, Tung Po Seafood Restaurant (東寶小館) at Java Road Cooked Food Centre ( 渣華道熟食中心) in North Point, may just well be one of them.
Featured on celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations programme back in 2007 and the subject of perhaps more write-ups than any other Cooked Food Centre in town, Java Road has a lot to live up to. Indeed, with its hour of TV fame making it the go-to destination for those wanting to sample the ‘dai pai dong experience’, you could be forgiven for thinking that all the hype is exactly that. But you’d be wrong.
You may have to wait for a table. But in the world of Hong Kong dining, ‘locals know best’ should always be the maxim to follow. It’s no coincidence that Hong Kong’s Cooked Food Centres are the most perpetually packed of all the city’s eating establishments. Even on weekday evenings, there will be no shortage of well-informed Hong Kongers at the Java Road place waiting to get seated and get eating. But just take a ticket, park yourself on one of the plastic stools outside, and be reassured that with squid ink pasta, bamboo noodles and marinated pig’s trotters amongst the specialities, your wait will not be without reward.
Having earned itself a reputation for dai pai dong with a difference, Tung Po Seafood Restaurant is by far the most popular of the Java Road Cooked Food Centre restaurants. Seafood, naturally, is the main thing here, with peppered fish, fried fish with corn sauce, razor clams in black bean sauce and the famous squid ink pasta amongst the popular favourites. Then there are the non-seafood dishes – fried spare ribs, the so-called wind-sand chicken, rice wrapped in lotus leaves and the very excellent roast duck are all too delightful not to order. Some say it’s fusion, and some of it is, but much of it is your regular Cantonese fare with the added twist of preparation or presentation that gets the talkers taking.
Dance music and free dessert
And it’s not only the menu that makes Tung Po stand out, there’s the beer in bowls situation too. Tung Po is also the only cooked food centre I’ve been to where you get a little ginger and sweet potato dessert thrown in for free, not to mention the clubbing music that starts pumping late on. It’s no wonder Java Road is a big birthday favourite. It gets boozy, it gets raucous, but that’s all part of the fun. Even the owner Robby Cheung, almost a Hong Kong ‘institution’ in himself, is known to knock back a bowl or two on the insistence of a table full of appreciative customers. All of which gives Java Road Cooked Food Centre a touch of the unique in the Hong Kong cooked food centre world.
All of this is not exactly cheap, however. At least compared to other cooked food centre restaurants, a night at Tung Po will see you paying a little more than you probably would elsewhere. I’m not saying it isn’t worth it. The food is great. But it’s been a long time since I went to a cooked food centre where the food wasn’t great. That’s why it’s only occasionally I’d venture down to Java Road to see if I’m missing anything new. Especially when Bowrington Road Cooked Food Centre is on my doorstep here in Wan Chai. But if you’re looking for a place to take your curious friends or just fancy a bit of dai pai dong with a twist, Java Road is the place to be.
Related Posts: For more Cooked Food Centre reviews see tag: cooked food centres
Get Involved: If you’ve been to Tung Po Seafood Restaurant or have your own cooked food king, let us know in the comments below.
How to get to Java Road Cooked Food Centre
Java Road Cooked Food Centre is located on the 2nd floor of the Java Road Municipal Services Building. Tung Po Seafood Restaurant is the largest of the restaurants within and occupies the middle five stalls.
Tung Po Seafood Restaurant 東寶小館
2/F Java Road Municipal Services Building, 99 Java Road, North Point
Tel:+852 2880 5224
MTR: North Point Station, exit A
Tram/Bus: King’s Road, North Point Station stops