Above is our table at 10 a.m. (after we have cleared the first few dishes).
To your right is Hong Kong Lounge at 9:31 a.m., exactly 1 minute after the doors opened.
Every seat was filled. When we arrived at Hong Kong Lounge at 9:10, 20 minutes before the restaurant opens, a line had already formed. While we were eating, the line formed again outside and kids were pressing their face against the frosted windows to peak at people’s plates. I’d imagine it’d feel a bit weird if you’re seated by the window.
Luckily, we were safely tucked in by the back wall, and as common practice in every dining experience with Nancy (for example, here, here, and here), we brewed our own tea. Taiwan Beauty – citrusy and light; aged Baochong – plumy and coffee, subsequently smoky; Yushan High Mountain oolong – just light, Nancy detected a fantastic smell that I couldn’t because I was already in a food-induced stupor when we steeped this tea.
The food came out too fast for us to really sample the teas with everything. We had to focus on not oversteeping while clearing the plates for more table space. But some combinations stood out memorably: Taiwan Beauty + porridge (so floral), Baochong + egg custard (the Baochong brings out the pastry), and Yushan + egg custard (the Yushan makes it more eggy)
Marinated chicken “paws” ($6.50) – served cold with boiled peanuts. I like the texture but Kristen didn’t. And why serve it cold?
Baked pork buns ($3.95) – The winner of the day. These baked buns are better than the usual steamed BBQ pork bun. They look dry but didn’t taste dry. Minor setback: the inside is a bit too sweet and completely overwhelmed the Taiwan Beauty and the Baochong.
Egg tarts ($3.75) – very eggy.
Clockwise from top: Chiu Zhou dumpling ($3.95), steamed clam ($6.95), curry chicken samosas ($3.25) – The Chiu Zhou dumplings with their thick clear skin are extremely heavy and coated in oil, but their redeeming point is the actual big plump shrimps inside, instead of the usual dried shrimps in cheap dumplings. Steamed clam is flavorful, and I usually have fond memories of chewy things. Samosas are just samosa.
Pan-fried turnip cake ($2.95) – Much better than any turnip I’ve had. That said, turnip cakes aren’t my favs because of their oily, pulverizable mushiness.
Salted “meat porridge” ($6.50) – I don’t remember seeing any meat, but there were pieces of pidan (thousand-year egg). The porridge tastes very mild, the accompanying yau ja gwai are crisp and not too oily. Overall, a pleasantly light note in the middle of this butyraceous meal.
Shrimp chive dumpling ($4.95)
Pan-fried shrimp-and-chive dumpling ($3.95)
Lo mai gai ($4.25) – sticky rice with chicken wrapped in lotus leaf. The rice, surprisingly, did taste and smell like lotus. I liked it, but again, I’m not a fan of the sweet meat stuffing.
Coffee pork ribs ($6.50) – The ribs didn’t fall off the bone but their coating sauce made up for the toughness. Not visible in this picture is a dollop of whipped cream to spread onto the ribs. It’s weird, but it made the ribs creamy and milky, and strangely tasty.
Two setbacks at Hong Kong Lounge: they charge us for hot water (we needed hot water to make tea), and the xiao long bao didn’t contain enough soup (Shanghai Dumpling King’s xiao long bao are soupier than these). But if you don’t mind either getting up at an ungodly hour on a Sunday morning or waiting in line for forever, Hong Kong Lounge doesn’t disappoint.
Address: Hong Kong Lounge
5322 Geary Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94121
(They don’t take reservation, though)
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