Saturday, May 25, 2013

Restaurant Review: Tsui Hang Village 翠亨邨

Location: Lee Theatre, Causeway Bay
Type of food: Cantonese
Rating: *** (3.5 out of 5)

Tsui Hang Village is an institution in the local culinary scene. Operated by the Miramar Group (a subsidiary of Henderson Land), the restaurant chain has two locations in Central and TST. THV saw its hey day in the pre-Handover decade when it was a canteen for well-heeled bankers and businessmen to splurge on shark’s fin and bird’s nest. Three decades since it first opened, however, the restaurant that is named after Sun Yat-sen’s birthplace has lost much of its sheen. Today, it is little more than an overpriced dim sum parlor frequented by an aging fan base.

Tsui Hang Village, Causeway Bay

Just two days ago, a third location opened at the newly refurbished Lee Theatre where the bustling Uniqlo flagship resides. Having all but exhausted my dining options in Causeway Bay, I decided to give the newcomer a try. The décor made a strong first impression. It is clear what management is trying to do: steer clear of Chinese gaudiness – of red and gold and mirrors and crystals – and go for a more tasteful, muted palette of oak and beige. But the space ends up looking a bit like a Muji store. It being an upscale restaurant, the interior begs for a focal point and some white tablecloths.

My guest and I arrived at 8:30pm on a Friday evening. The restaurant was about half empty. Instead of seating us at a bigger, more comfortable round table, the waitress led us to a tiny two-person table all the way in the back. If my brother Dan were there, he would have stormed out immediately because that happens to be one of his restaurant pet peeves. I didn’t mind it so much, until condensation from the air-conditioning grilles above my head started to drip. And when I asked to move, the waitress gave me a “black face” (the local vernacular for visible annoyance) before she realized I was staring right at her and said “No problem!” with a big, over-compensating smile.  Hmmm.

A few minutes after we sat down at our new table, the manager brought us a complimentary plate of honey-glazed barbecue pork (valued at $128), a promotional offer during the first two weeks of opening. It was a very nice gesture. We then flipped through the pictureless menu and ordered three more dishes – half a crispy chicken, fried sea bass fillets and steamed tofu with shrimp and scallops – all standard Cantonese fare for which THV is known. The food was delicious, with an unmistakable taste of “high-end Chinese.” Timing, though, left much to be desired. The tofu dish didn’t arrive until about an hour after we placed the order. I had to chase three times. And what was the manager’s explanation? “We use very fresh ingredients here, and of course fresh ingredients take longer to cook.”  Wow.

Delicious barbecue pork

But the drama continued. Half way through our meal, a young waiter brought a piping hot casserole to the table next to ours. As he set the clay pot down, he knocked over a wine glass and spilled shiraz all over one of the patrons' blouse and handbag. Everybody gasped in horror as the waiter froze and the head manager rushed over to do damage control. Instead of offering to pay for dry-cleaning or bring the table free dessert, the head manager attempted to distract the victim by praising the secret recipe of the casserole. Double wow.

I suspect these incidents are not isolated; they probably happen every day at THV in different shapes and forms. Despite the better-than-average food it serves, the new Causeway Bay location has far too many teething problems to work through. Customers spending that kind of cash on food (dinner for two cost over $800) deserve better service and less drama. The Miramar Group needs to take a hard look at its restaurant portfolio – including such perennial duds as French Window (at the IFC Mall) and Room One (at the Mira Hotel) – or risk being squeezed out by formidable competitors like Maxim’s and Tao Heung.

UPDATE: A year after it opened, I decided to give the Lee Theatre location another try and went there for dim sum last weekend. The service has dramatically improved and many of the teething problems (like the dripping A/C grilles) were fixed. The restaurant still charges a premium for the THV name and superior ingredients, but the experience this time around was much more positive and the place is worthy of a three-star rating.

The $188 tofu dish that came after an hour's wait


  1. right. i ll be walking out if that happen to me. done it several times!!!

  2. Oh? I know the ppl fr the central shop v well n i was hoping the new place would b similar. Obviously they need time to run-in, but i know one of their best head captain who was to oversee the new place has resigned too. Hope it isnt awful.


  3. $188 tofu dish is a outrageous, i agree..


  4. Over $30 per piece for the tofu. Mmm...I'd opt for the "stinky bean curd" off the street instead. Hahaha....

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