Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Graces Garden, Times Square

Beware of the Dim Sum restaurant with no one lining up on Sundays.

Not that there is anything obviously wrong with the food here at The Graces Garden. They really try to make an effort. They have a bilingual paper dim sum menu with over 50 items with color photos, which by the way, is the BEST thing about this restaurant. The restaurant is clean and presentable with the right amount of understated gaudiness. But where it counts the most, the food, it's just OK.

Housed in the probably the most expensive piece of real estate in Causeway Bay, on the 12th Floor of Times Square, you'd expect it to be better than average to keep up with other restaurants in the 'Food Forum'. Unlike other dim sum restaurants around town on Sundays, it's nice to be able to just walk in and get seated. We were welcomed with a small plate of freshly roasted peanuts ($10 per dish), which were delicious, and a pot of oolong tea. But the dim sum chef definitely needs to work on his dough-making skills.

The wrapper of the steamed rice sheet rolls with BBQ pork were too thick and doughy so although the BBQ pork was flavorful and in nice big chunks, its flavor got lost in the huge amount of wet gooey dough in my mouth.

Same with the steamed Chiu Chow dumplings - the filling of pork and peanuts were good but again the dough was too thick and sticky. A healthy dose of chili sauce added flavor to this dish but it didn't stand as a good choice on its own.

Even the fried egg-shape dumpling was a little disappointing. The outside was nicely brown and crispy but the dough was just a little too thick. The filling was a delicious minced pork and gravy concoction though.

The fried string beans with garlic sauce and fried e-fu noodles with prawns were very plain and limp.

The best dishes of the day? It's the Assorted Seafood & Mushroom Thick Soup ($38). Tasty, flavorful and no dough. Also, the sticky rice balls with taro filling and coconut shavings were very nice as dessert. The coconut overshadowed the taro flavour but the sticky rice balls were soft and melt-in-your-mouth so at least the meal ended on a sweet note.

This restaurant is recommended if you don't want to wait in line and want a menu with photos in english. Just don't order any dumplings or anything doughy.
Lunch for two came to HKD250.

How to get a discount for a Dim Sum Lunch

If you dine in Chinese restaurants regularly in Hong Kong, you'd know that they have a 'tea charge' as well as a 'snacks' charge per person and on top of that a 10% service charge. All of this can come up to a quarter of your total bill in extra charges. However, if you know the maitre d', they would waive the tea charge and/or snacks charge, but that usually means you'd have to be a regular customer.

So my advice is, when you visit a restaurant that you like and you envision coming back, make friends with the manager or maitre d'. Introduce yourself, tell them you live nearby (or that you live here and not a tourist) and tell them how much you like their food. Exchange business cards if you have them on hand. Then ask the the manager by name the next time you go. Not only will you get better service but you may also get a 'discount' on extra charges or some free desserts to go with your dim sum lunch!