Guo Fu Lou is the Michelin one-starred Cantonese restaurant from the Fook Lam Moon group, which moved to a stand-alone pavilion at the Murray Hotel on Cotton Tree Drive when it opened last year. I have been several times to the pleasant — if sometimes hard to differentiate — Garden Lounge and Tai Pan in the old Murray Building proper, but, until last weekend, had not yet had the chance to try this more easily distinguishable offering.
As part of the Fook Lam Group, famous for its “cafeteria to the wealthy” reputation of the namesake Fook Lam Moon restaurants in Wanchai and Tsim Sha Tsui, expectations for its Guo Fu Lou brand are high. I went recently for a Saturday mid-day meal, and so decided on a mix of items from the dim sum and regular menus. My summary conclusion is that the dim sum was good if not extraordinary, while the menu items were excellent.
The dim sum menu (helpfully pictorial for hotel guests and other unfamiliar folks) contains 20 dim sum classics, along with four barbecue items and four dim sum desserts. My dining companion and I opted for the barbecued pork pastry (HKD80) and the deep fried glutinous dumplings with prawn and vegetables (HKD80), along with small orders of the honey-glazed barbecue pork (HKD160) and the sliced marinated beef shank (HKD160).
The barbecued pork pastry was a good version of this classic dim sum item, with bronzed packets of flaky crust encasing tasty barbecued pork within. Nothing out of the ordinary — but quite satisfying nonetheless.
The deep fried glutinous dumplings, on the other hand, were a bit sub-par. I ordered this item because it is one of my favorites and not on every menu. I like the chewy texture of the glutinous rice dough coated with a lightly fried surface and flavored with the protein within. The version at Guo Fu Lou tasted a bit greasy with too much oil in the coating that didn’t quite enable the usual balance of flavors to come through. Perhaps it had been left in the fryer just a bit too long on this occasion.
The two barbecued meat items were good, with the beef shank being the more noteworthy. The barbecued pork was tender and sweet from its honey glaze. I’d call it classic, high-quality barbecued pork. It wasn’t the best, and it wasn’t breaking any new ground — but it was solid and tasty. What distinguished the beef shank was its thick cut. Typically, this dish of marbled, marinated beef shank is served sliced thin, almost like a piece of ham for a ham and cheese sandwich. The thick cut provided more meat to absorb the marinade, resulting in more flavor and a more substantial feel to the dish. I would definitely recommend ordering this moreish dish.
From the “chef’s recommendations” section of the menu, we ordered two pieces of the signature steamed crab claw with egg white and Huadiao wine (HKD400 per piece). This dish was the highlight of the meal. A whole large crab claw, shelled and in two segments, seems to float in a pool of the creamiest egg custard, itself suffused with the distinctive flavor of the Chinese yellow wine. It’s delicious and satisfying and, but for the price, one might be tempted to order even more than one per person.
Moving onto the “meat and poultry” section of the menu, we opted for the sautéed jinhua ham and fillet of pigeon (HKD320), which was highlighted by one of the few pictures in the regular menu. I like pigeon cooked in Chinese styles, particularly whole with crisp skin or minced. This was quite different. The meat was filleted, browned and tenderized and had the look and quite honestly the taste of beef. I doubt I would have recognized it as pigeon if I hadn’t known that’s what I ordered. This is not to say it was bad — just different. The six thin rectangular slices of rich, cured, Chinese ham were a thoughtful accompaniment to the tender beefy pigeon, with the crispy breaded crust around each slice a nice touch showing the skill of the chef.
Lastly, we chose the vegetable dish of coddled spinach with wolfberry and cloud fungus in fish broth (HKD380) from the seasonal recommendations. This ample vegetable dish was the other highlight of the meal. The mound of bright green, tender baby spinach leaves is served in an attractive bowl of milky fish broth accented by black fungus and some cuts of carrot, all flavored nicely with the wolfberries. The coddling process allows the delicate leaves to retain all of their natural flavors and provide a great balance to the fish broth, which is itself flavorful but not overpowering.
After the items above, we were too full to try dessert. As you can see from the prices, the reputation of Guo Fu Lo, along with high-quality ingredients, location and skill, don’t come cheaply. You wouldn’t eat here every day, and it’s not the place to go when you want to try something new and eclectic — but for an elegant Cantonese meal and some truly outstanding dishes in a pleasant, serene atmosphere, you could do worse.
Guo Fu Lo is at The Pavilion, UG Level, The Murray, 22 Cotton Tree Dr, Central, Hong Kong
Open daily noon-3pm (lunch), 6pm-11pm (dinner)
Reservations +852 3468 8188
MTR: Central station
About the Hungry Lawyer: Marc Rubinstein, born in Baltimore, USA, has been in Asia for 22 years, 16 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, nine half-marathons, completed the Hong Kong Oxfam Trailwalker and won the U.S. National Debate Tournament way back in 1991.
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