On February 11, 2009, the first international hotel opened in Hong Kong’s New Territories in the form of the Hyatt Regency Shatin. Nine years later, I finally made it there, not once but twice, to check out Sha Tin 18, the hotel’s Chinese restaurant serving Peking duck and homestyle Chinese cuisine.
Hyatt hotels in Hong Kong and China have a strong reputation in general for their food and beverage offerings, including for Chinese food. Indeed, my personal favorite Peking Duck is at Made in China restaurant at the Grand Hyatt in Beijing, though admittedly I have not been back since 2011. Thus, it was with high expectations that I set out on the journey to the Shatin Hyatt Regency, 45 minutes by MTR or 30 by taxi or uber from Central.
On my first visit, two of us started with a pre-ordered half-Peking duck (HKD388 for the half). The preparation followed the pattern that I recalled from Beijing. First, the condiments were brought to the table: sliced spring onions, cucumbers, the traditional sweet bean sauce, granulated sugar and a sauce of crushed garlic. Then, the whole duck with its crispy brown skin is presented; the carver cuts it in half table side and the skilled knife-work begins. The crispiest part of the skin is separated and served first to be dipped only in the sugar. Then, the pancakes arrive and the breast meat is served without skin followed by the leg meat and its juicy skin attached.
The verdict is that the duck was good but did not quite live up to its reputation. The separated skin was not to the crispy standard that I expected. The breast meat was flavorful but a little dry. The leg was the highlight with a great balance of juicy meat, fat and skin all ready to be deliciously rolled in a pancake with the scallions, cucumber and sauce or even on its own.
Thankfully, Sha Tin 18 has a lot more to offer than Peking duck. An extensive menu of Chinese food includes dim sum favorites, barbecue items and cold dishes, soups, seafood, poultry, meats, rice and noodles and desserts. In addition, there is a long list of specialties from the industrial city of Dongguan in central Guangdong Province as the chef of Sha Tin 18 hails from this Pearl River Delta city to the north.
These Dongguan dishes along with a few others turned out to be the highlight of Sha Tin 18 and well worth the trip. The dish that was so good I ordered it twice was the steamed pork ribs with glutinous rice (HKD238). A generous portion of boneless short-ribs are served in a bamboo steamer, with the ribs thoroughly coated on all sides with perfectly cooked sticky rice. Each rice-smothered rib is topped with a single goji berry. The preparation produces super tender ribs that are full of flavor with the glutinous rice providing a well balanced texture.
The Houjie pan-fried fish cakes with Chinese cured meat (HKD238) were another item from the Dongguan menu. These patties — similar in concept to Thai fish cakes but with a subtler flavor and a texture more like a flattened fishball — come eight to the plate and nicely browned on each side. The dense combination of fish and sausage makes for a hearty dish and it was difficult for two us to finish all eight of them. I would get these again but only with a bigger party.
The stand out among the appetizers was the chilled spinach with spicy sesame sauce (HKD128). For this dish, dense layers of cool, steamed spinach are stacked together and covered with a thick, wasabi spiced sesame paste scattered with toasted sesame seeds. The lush flavor of the piquant paste complements the cool greens below. Without added oil, this appetizer is a good complement for the oilier dim sum or mains.
The dim sum itself was of an expected high quality for a five star hotel but not particularly noteworthy. That said, the addition of pomelo peel in the steamed pork rib (HKD60) dim sum was a nice touch with the starchy rind absorbing the rib-juice and preserved soybeans that flavor the dish. The steamed almond brown sugar cake (HKD58) was also nice; big and fluffy with the right amount of sweetener.
Among the vegetable options, Sha Tin 18 has a dish of mustard greens, bean curd and shallots (HKD178). The dish is exactly what it sounds like with each of the items present on the serving plate relatively unadorned by additional ingredients. The mustard greens served are not the leaves but the thicker stems for a taste that is notably more robust. The shallots are sautéed to a crispy brown and the bean curd sheets are thinly sliced and soft. The combination is a good one though the intensity of the greens may wear thin before the dish runs out; again this dish may be better for a larger group than a party of two.
In the end, beyond the duck, the Dongguan specialties and the rest of the food, what sets Sha Tin 18 apart is the comfortable and relaxed setting deep in the New Territories, several stations beyond Sha Tin on the East Rail Line adjacent to the Chinese University of Hong Kong at University Station. This means that tables are large and amply spaced, service is relaxed and it is a great place for a meal with family, a group of friends or even a twosome on an excursion. I won’t go every weekend but I am sure to be back before nine more years pass.
About the Hungry Lawyer: Marc Rubinstein, born in Baltimore, USA, has been in Asia for more than 20 years, with 15 of those in Hong Kong. He has split his career between banks and law firms, and is currently the general counsel of an Asia-based real estate and alternative energy investor. Marc is a co-founder and co-chair of the Hong Kong Gay & Lesbian Attorneys Network. In addition to being a hungry lawyer, he has run three marathons, eight half-marathons, completed the Hong Kong Oxfam Trailwalker and won the U.S. National Debate Tournament way back in 1991.
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