NEVER AGAIN LIST – The Chairman Cantonese Restaurant in Central fails to live up to its hype


4th August 2019 – (Hong Kong) In the heydays, The Chairman Restaurant in Central received several awards, amongst others, a Michelin One Star in 2011/12, One of Asia’s Finest Restaurant 2011/2012 – Miele Guide, S. Pellegrino Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2012/13 and Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015. According to its website, Chef Kwok Keung Tung uses a network of high-quality growers on the mainland (many are organic) to secure the best possible seasonal produce, and has also taken the unusual step of banning MSG from his kitchen. The Chairman looks to small suppliers and local fishermen for its ingredients and much of the produce used is also organic.

The Chairman Restaurant remains at number 11 under the Top 50 Asia’s Best Restaurants in 2019. However, the restaurant lost its Michelin One Star and it’s now merely listed as a recommended restaurant under its Michelin Guide 2019.

Since we have heard so many good things about the restaurant from information online and other obsequious lifestyle guides in Hong Kong, we decided to give it a try.

As a covert food reviewer, we always order the simplest dishes instead of their signature ones because a good chef can make a dish out of any ingredients. We knew this restaurant is famous for its Spicy Peppercorn Flowery Crab and seafood but we intentionally avoided ordering them.

Baked Chicken with Szechuan Spices and Caramelized Shallot (HK$188)

The first dish we ordered was the spicy Baked Chicken with Szechuan Spices and Caramelized Shallot (HK$188). The chicken portion was extremely small but served with a generous amount of condiments and garnish. Just like any other Szechuan dishes, the oiliness and spices overpowered the taste of the chicken.

Stir Fried Rice Vermicelli with Satay and Shallot (HK$178)
Stir Fried Rice Vermicelli with Satay and Shallot (HK$178)

The second dish we ordered was Stir Fried Rice Vermicelli with Satay and Shallot (HK$178). Again, the chef was very generous in the use of shallots, garlic, onions and lemongrass. All these ingredients were meant to make the Rice Vermicelli flavourful. These are cheap ingredients you can easily get in local market but for the price of HK$178, we would rather eat a full meal for three at the local Dai Pai Dong stall where the street chef could whip up equivalent or better dishes. The rice vermicelli was indeed flavourful albeit too dry.

Fried Rice with BBQ Pork and Ginger (HK$198)

The last dish we had was a fried Rice with BBQ Pork and Ginger (HK$198). The fried rice was cooked with a lot of ‘wok hei’ but again, the rice tasted too dry, peppery and the portion was extremely disappointing.

The Chairman failed to recognise that it is after all a traditional Cantonese restaurant and food portions should be served generously unlike the nouvelle cuisine served at French restaurants. The service was so bad that our plates were never replaced throughout the meal.

A quintessential feature of Cantonese cooking, stir frying, the cornerstone of Cantonese cooking, is all about wok hei, that complex charred aroma that fleetingly cloaks the piping-hot stir-fries cooked over raging flame. We agreed that all their dishes had the distinctive wok hei and the ingredients used were fresh. However, to our dismay, the taste failed to live up to our expectation as in all 3 dishes, the food itself was overpowered by excessive use of spices and flavours. All three dishes lacked the degree of moisture and sauce needed to make them palatable. They were served too dry and we had to drink a lot of water in order to swallow our food, not to mention the tummy upset we experienced after eating the spicy Baked Chicken with Szechuan Spices and Caramelized Shallot. If this restaurant were to charge 50% less for its food price, we would have salvaged it from our NEVER AGAIN LIST.

Value for money : 2/5

Ambience : 3/5

Service : 2.5/5

Taste : 3/5

The bill came to around HK$620. Last but not least, we like to highlight that this restaurant charges a whopping HK$56 for a pot of simple Jasmine tea and it tastes no different from others.

To the Chairman who has lost its shine, we hereby give you our ‘NEVER AGAIN LIST’ AWARD to add to your existing pristine list.

The Chairman,

18, Kau U Fong, Central,

Tel : +852 – 2555 2202