“Pop It” Hot Dogs in Wan Chai’s Landale Street

On one of Hong Kong’s oldest days in twenty years (7 degrees Celsius), we still needed to walk and find ourselves a decent lunch. 

  
 The restaurants along Landale Street have been slowly renovating over the last six months. The older clay pot shops and Vietnamese noodle joints have been pushed out and replaced by more fashionable fare. 

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One of these is Pop It. Concrete slate grey exterior with matte powdered black window frames, it’s hard to tell what it’s selling without checking out the menu. Fortunately they had the good sense to display a menu by the doorway so that all passers by can peruse it without having to peer in at the menu hanging on the inside wall. 

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We went at 11.30am, there were no other customers yet. The interior was large and well laid out. High tables with high stools on one side and a table of normal height nearer the door. 

  
One of the guys in a black cap and heavy American accent greeted us warmly and invited us to sit wherever we liked. The small person chose the table furthest from the door… Less of a draught… I agreed. 

“Anything to drink?” He inquired. 

“A bit cold today for sodas or milkshakes” I said, gesturing at the menu.

“How about some hot water?”

What thoughtfulness and service. I liked him already. 

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I ordered a naked dog for the small person and a New Yorker without the 2 types of mustard for myself.

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A DIY kind of place, they filled their ledges with the widest variety of chilli sauces I’ve ever seen. It was very impressive. 

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The set comes with a hot dog and fries, you can also add a soda if you want it as a combo. 

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While we were there, the tables did fill up a bit. A group of young British and American men in suits came in for lunch, as did two very trendily dressed local guys. Then a fairly hip chinese couple wandered in after looking at the menu outside. 

The verdict? Hot dog buns were nicely buttered but the sausages were a bit on the small side. Fries were good but I ate half of the small persons so that means ordering just one set might leave you hungry quite soon after.

My sauerkraut was good, I liked it on the dry side so that it doesn’t soak through the bun. 

There was space for my stroller and enough corridor for the small person to wander around post meal.

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Ada Curry Fishballs and other Hong Kong snacks on Lockhart Road

My former Bodycombat instructor KevinL from Kuala Lumpur (KL from KL, haha) came to visit just before Christmas with his friends Vincent, Janelle and Nikki. They stayed in Mong Kok but I managed to get them to come over to Wan Chai for the morning. 

After a high caloried breakfast at Kam Fung Cha Chaan Teng, where between them they must have tried every variation of noodle and bread combo, we headed for a short time to the swings across the street. A short burst of energy to entertain the little one and a quick look around Wan Chai market got their tummies rumbling again after barely half an hour. 

“I remember a really damn shiok curry fishball place in Wan Chai” said Vincent. His eyes were bright with enthusiasm and suggestion. “Ya ya lets go find it” quipped Kevin. “I recall its near Wan Chai MTR”.

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So our little war party of six made our way threading through the hoardes of shoppers browsing Tai Yuen Street. 

At the MTR exit, Kevin pointed at the overpass indicating that we head up. “It’s over on the other side, near California Fitness” he said.

I encouraged them to look on either side as we made our way above Hennessy towards the Convention Center. 

Vincent got quite excited once we got into Lockhart, “I think that’s it” he pointed down. We descended via the newly installed glass elevator to street level and crossed the road.

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A shoplot stall comprising of a few sections selling everything in Hong Kong fast food you could want to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner is available here. It looked like a place that catered to the late night denizens, clientele and possibly taxi drivers plying the area for their trade. In the daytime it was relatively quiet. At 11.30amit looked like they were just opening up the stall for lunch business.

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Small steel vats contained various bubbling soups. One of these contained the curry Fishballs that they yearned for. The serving lady ladled the curry soup with its contents into a styrofoam bowl and supplied each bowl with a wooden skewer stick. 

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Each of them got their own bowl while I pinched a fishball of Kevin just to try ( I was still stuffed from breakfast…).

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Was it as they remembered? Kevin and Vincent ruefully said that the Fishballs used to be bigger and better textured. But they enjoyed the curry soup and slurped it all up while on the pavement. 

I wish there was a more decent place in Wan Chai that sold Hong Kong snacks more stylishly. A place where you could really bring guests and sit down to enjoy talking and savouring the snack. If they put one in the Blue House, I think that would really draw the crowd.

See you next time Kevin and co.!

Maureen’s Noodle Shop

In a presently more secluded and less commercial part of Wan Chai, some noisy and active renovation is taking place. The Blue House is surrounded by construction boards, stacks of steel re-bar and cement trucks. It should look good once the developers are done with it.

Across this temporary but rather messy environment, a purple canopy is extended Monday to Saturday between 10am to 9pm. Chef and owner Maureen Loh can often be found working behind the bar like kitchen counter in her matching purple chef’s shirt, checking her timers or temperature settings on her various sous vide machines. Her two excellent chef assistants and waitress start early, weighing noodle portions and setting up the kitchen for the day. 

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Maureen’s specialty is noodle sets with an array of accompaniments, all evenly cooked through a process of heated water 60 degree Celsius permeating its heat through a bag containing the meat. 

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The “Perfect” soft boiled egg with a won ton skin cracker

The proteins are uniformly teased into a palatable form and absorb the flavours of the accompanying herbs and sauces. 

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Delicious broth, served steaming hot

Almost everyone will find a meat that will work for them. Chicken, beef, lamb, duck, pork and salmon are the mains, while accompaniments are abalone in the pricier sets, the cheaper sets include an egg and simple salads.

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Lunch sets range start from about 100HKD and upwards. It includes soup, salad and the noodles.

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I’ve tried almost all the sets and all are good but it does depend on what sort of taste you’re after. I ordered the chicken set with the tangy lemon sauce. Unfortunately I ate it all before I could take a photo… But you can get an idea here.

I’m a huge fan of Maureen’s and am there at least once a fortnight. You can almost always get a seat before twelve noon but lunchtime 12-2pm can bring in the crowds and you may struggle to get a seat. 

Maureen has a daughter of her own who occasionally comes by the restaurant. She takes care that the food is wholesome and healthy. The restaurant isn’t designed for children, there are no high chairs or kids cutlery but the staff are very friendly towards children and will do their best to accommodate them. There’s only space for one pram in the restaurant so it’s best if you can bring your kids without one.

You can now also order her noodles through Food Panda for takeaway.

Sugar cane juice and five flower tea on Johnston Road

Situated between two property agents at the Southorn playground government building, a little shoplot plies its trade in simple Chinese herbal teas and the better known turtle herbal jelly.

 

Gong li herbal tea shop
 
Their specialty is sugar cane and the fresh sugar cane juice is absolutely delicious. I buy them in bottles. Refreshingly sweet, cold and thirst quenching. It’s a wonderful summer drink.

 

delicious five flower tea
 
In the wintertime, they can warm up any tea you want. Today we had the five flowers tea (五花茶) which was so good we had two cups of it.

 

Menu & price list
 
They were promoting a special sugarcane water chestnut dessert for Chinese New Year. 120 HKD a pack. I plan on giving it a try. They’re accepting orders already, usually for collection the same day.

If you need to rebalance your yin yang energy levels in Wan Chai, this little tea shop is a good stop. At least they have two or three small tables for you to sit and enjoy your drink… A luxury that most of these herbal tea shops cannot provide. 

Something Wild, Emperor Group Building, Wan Chai

I noticed a new restaurant had opened up in the Emperor Group Building about two weeks ago when some new placards and signs went up in the main lobby windows.  Called “Something Wild“, it really inspired me to carefully inspect the poster for what it’s specialties might be. The poster didn’t give away much, just a photo of a rather interesting looking salad.

It wasn’t until just 3 days ago when I was cruising the sidewalk along the building that I saw a lady handing out flyers on behalf of the restaurant. The flyer touted brunch, lunch and tea specials. 

Yesterday, after attending a birthday cooking class at Spring, we were at a loss as to where to go for lunch. The Japanese joint in Star Street that we’d wanted to try was shut on Sundays (why, why? Why?) so another toddler-friendly place needed to be found. So I suggested we lug the three kids and four adults over to Something Wild to check it out. Their Facebook page and website listing seemed inspiring… An outdoor theme reminiscent of caravans and camping trips.. Sounds kid perfect.

The lady on the phone confirmed that they are indeed open on Sundays but made a point that the buffet was not available. However the a-la-carte menu was alongside a special brunch menu.

So off we went.

The restaurant occupied a decent sized space on the first floor of the Emperor Group building. Escalators at the front take you up to the first floor, but if you have a stroller or pram, a cargo lift is available.

The restaurant had a front, cafe like seating section and a more communal like dining area for larger groups in the back. That’s where we sat.

  
There were solid wooden tables reminiscent of what you might get at Bavarian beer hall or Swiss wooden constructed pub in a ski resort. Nice checked cloth napkins and of course flasks of warm water to fill your metal camping cup. It was nice to be able to have as much warm water as we wanted. The staff were very polite and efficient, filling the replacement flasks discreetly and watching for table service. The lighting was a little strange… It was neither light enough nor dark in a romantic sense… It was kind of dim… I suppose it was lit like a winter time chalet at night.

  
There’s an open kitchen at the back so you can see what’s going on.

  

open concept kitchen
 Food wise, the menu included the weekend brunch specials and a fold out map menu. 

 

brunch menu
 
I ordered a sunrise breakfast for the small person and a vodka rigatoni for myself. 

 

the menu
  
 
It is important to note that this restaurant tells us it’s a BBQ restaurant so I should probably have ordered the ribs to get an accurate idea of the kitchen’s expertise. 

Anyway.

 

Vodka rigatoni & sunrise breakfast
 
The sunrise breakfast consisted of an egg, 3 sausages, a bit of a potato waffle and beetroot. Small person, who usually has a fondness for sausages rejected them after just one bite. “Too spicy” she said. When I popped one in my mouth, it did have a strong taste of Rosemary. Not in a bad way but I can see why it can easily overwhelm the taste buds of a toddler. 

My rigatoni was mediocre. The meat sauce didn’t impart much flavour one way or the other and I wasn’t convinced there was much meat to it either. Could’ve been a killer dish but it wasn’t.

  

Honoring HK’s hiker to Mount Everest
 When the bill came, I noticed that they employed a Starbucks attitude to wifi access. Pay and enjoy 30 minutes free wifi. The concept seems wrong here though. 

  
 Restaurant bills are usually settled when the guests intend to leave… Are they encouraged to linger on for another half hour occupying seats for someone else? They should just make it free for dine-in guests. 

Finally back to the lighting. In this era of digital media, restaurants and cafes would do well to spend carefully on lighting.. This restaurant was too dim to take good photos of anything so it probably looks worse in my photos then it is. Would I return? Not sure to be honest. I give it a thumbs up for service friendliness, kid friendliness (indeed several families were there) and general laid back atmosphere. The food we got was not exciting. If they incentivised me back for the buffet I guess I might be tempted to check it out again. 

Maxim’s new concept store on Hennessy Road

Opposite Southorn Playground on Hennessy Road, the row of shops there are slowly undergoing a makeover. A new HK style tea shop (Cha chaan Teng) has opened with the usual breakfast all day favourites and Maxim’s has launched their new bakery in an uncharacteristic but very striking Royal blue facade. 

  
The exterior windows are large and very attractive, they did a great job with the lighting and visual presentation. It’s much more spacious and an angle with a cake counter gave the layout a fresh and modern feel.

  
The pastry section seemed a bit thin on offerings but they carried the key essentials. Croissants, rolls and sliced bread packed in packets of four… Just for that packed lunch. We tried a croissant. HKD 16 each, it wasn’t bad.

  
The whole cakes looked too good to eat. The selection was decently wide and impressive. Certainly a reliable place to pick up the party cake.

  
  
They also had a short drinks menu for takeaway.

  
All quite reasonably priced.

  
Look for it near the overpass leaving Wan Chai Station.

Wheelchair and Stroller Access Closed on Lee Tung Street

After a cocoa-on-lemon cupcake at Passion bakery (Kayser doesn’t have cupcakes, Sift and Kisses are takeaway only), a stroll via Lee Tung Avenue was the best way to connect back to Queen’s Road East. 

 

Hopewell, please insert a ramp. Why the steel barriers? who are you keeping out?
 
I was disappointed to find that the MTR underground tunnel construction had eaten up the entire pavement. Plastic boards and dividers were slotted right up against the steps of the development. The contractors hadn’t thought of putting in a temporary disability access ramp for the stairway… Nor did the developers. 

 

no access to Johnston Road
 
Some shops have already commenced business, mostly selling cosmetics and pricey Japanese biscuits. They probably weren’t told that the access was going to be limited… Hopefully they get to negotiate on the first six months of rent until proper pedestrian access is restored. 

Digging beneath the dirt… To find the good and the gritty