Adding to a diverse range of cuisines in their existing restaurant portfolio (some more successful than others), local F&B group ZS Hospitality has recently unveiled its new high-end Cantonese dining concept, Ying Jee Club. For the operators behind such mid-range establishments as the celebrity chef-powered Moi Moi by Luke Nguyen and modern cha chaan teng Lee Lo Mei, Ying Jee Club represents a bold debut in the fine-dining restaurant scene, where dinner can cost upwards of HK$1,500 per person (the 7-course tasting menu is HK$1,680, to be exact).
The elegant dining room is situated along Connaught Road Central, in the same building as Moi Moi by Luke Nguyen. Compared to the anticipation that accompanied the grand opening of Moi Moi, Ying Jee Club has opened to considerable less fanfare and media hype — perhaps, in an effort to recreate the aura of mystery and exclusivity surrounding old-school, members-only Chinese restaurants.
Whatever the reason, this resulted in a nearly empty dining room when we visited on a recent Monday evening. A bit perturbed at the lack of customers, we nonetheless were able to fully appreciate the posh décor: elegant banquette seating lining the walls in a cool shade of turquoise juxtaposed with yellow and deep red leather armchairs, glass-panelled chandeliers and hanging gold lights, and abacus-inspired metal bars framing the windows and blocking out the street buzz. Tables are outfitted in expensive marble, and elegant emerald place settings set the tone for an extravagant meal.
The only break from tradition comes by way of the Western-style welcome bar that greets customers at the entrance, where guests can first savour a well-crafted Manhattan or Whisky Sour before settling in at their table. Altogether, Ying Jee Club seats a total of 104 guests including the grand dining hall, semi-private seating areas and four private rooms.
Food and Drink
Ying Jee Club’s main point of distinction is its head chef, Siu Hin Chi, an industry veteran who’s amassed 15 Michelin stars over a long and illustrious career. Having led some of Hong Kong’s finest Cantonese kitchens — including the three-Michelin-starred T’ang Court at The Langham and, most recently, two-Michelin-starred Duddell’s — chef Siu Hin Chi is a venerable name in the local dining scene, a master of classical Cantonese cooking styles with an eye for beauty.
We are introduced to the chef’s artistic disposition with our first course of the evening, steamed egg white with king prawn and crab roe (HK$420). Looking like a painting in a blue ceramic bowl, the bright orange crab roe bathes the dish in colour, with a judiciously placed flower topping off the artful arrangement. The scored prawn on top is juicy, plump and succulent, and the bed of steamed egg white flawless in its silky smooth texture. Unfortunately the roe lacks the savouriness and brininess we would expect to really punch up the flavours on the plate.
Next to arrive is the pan-fried crab claw filled with shrimp paste (HK$260). It’s a refined update on the fried crab claws of mediocre Chinese buffets, with the tender shrimp and crab meat topped with a teaspoon of caviar and paired simply with steamed broccoli florets. Again, it’s subtle and nuanced, with the only strong flavour coming from the drift of dried conpoy sprinkled over the top.
We continue our rather virtuous, seafood-driven meal with the stir-fried sliced lobster with shallot and red onion (HK$480). This is the most flavourful of the three, with the sweet lobster tails bearing the thinnest crispy sheath from a flash fry in the wok. The soy-based marinade lends a hint of sweetness, while the red onion slices are a clever touch, the raw acidity helping to reset our palate from the salty, savoury stir-fry.
By now, we’re ready to throw a bit of fat and grease in the mix, which arrives by way of chef Siu’s signature Australian M9 Wagyu beef with wasabi soy sauce (HK$780). It’s essentially a carbon copy of the version served at Duddell’s, albeit at a higher price point. The price is hard to swallow, but the dish itself is our favourite of the night, the premium tender and well-marbled cubes of beef melting like butter on the tongue. The contrast of soft fat with the sharp, sinus-clearing wasabi soy sauce takes the dish to another level.
Our final dish is the poached Chinese lettuce in fish broth (HK$140 per person), with lightly crunchy Chinese cabbage leaves bobbing in a milky, soothing fish broth, topped with translucent fish maw, tender steamed abalone and dried shrimp. The restorative soup is a soothing way to end the meal — again showing off the restrained hand of chef Siu and his familiarity with premium Chinese ingredients.
For dessert, we’re treated to chilled milk topped with a vibrant mango sauce, fresh fruit and bird’s nest, followed by a platter of delicate dim sum pastries. The latter includes a wonderfully light and crispy sesame ball with a core of lotus seed and banana paste and a golden, leaf-shaped pastry hiding a kumquat and pineapple filling.
Given the excellence of the pastries and chef Siu’s prior offerings at Duddell’s, we’re already excited to return to try the dim sum offerings. A first glance of the menu reveals a tempting selection which includes baked pastries filled with diced chicken and topped with whole abalone (HK$78 per piece), steamed shrimp and pork dumplings topped with scallops and caviar (HK$78 for three pieces), and crispy puffs filled with Wagyu beef and spring onion (HK$78 for three pieces). Meanwhile, Ying Jee Club’s wine list should give oenophiles plenty of cause to celebrate, an extensive library showcasing over 300 bottles from around the world.
A classical Chinese restaurant is just that: classic. Although the quality of ingredients is palpable and the skill of chef Siu irrefutable, with a similar menu it’s only natural to draw comparisons to other fine-dining establishments around town — particularly those the chef has worked at himself. Factoring in price and ambience, Ying Jee Club seems to fall somewhere in the middle, delivering glamour but falling short on enchantment, and serving top-notch food that lacks groundbreaking creativity.
Nonetheless, Ying Jee Club rests comfortably in the realm of classical Chinese cooking and chef Siu has proven time and again that he can draw out the purity and essence of high-end Chinese ingredients and prepare them with skill and aptitude. Although we wish the restaurant reached a bit higher to climb the slopes of creativity, the elegant décor, polished service and pedigree of the chef should give Ying Jee Club solid legs to stand on in the coming months.
Opening Hours: Mon–Sun, 11:30am–3pm for lunch, 6–11pm for dinner
Recommended Dishes: Steamed egg white with king prawn and crab roe; sautéed sliced garoupa with Chinese kale and golden-fried fish head; stir-fried sliced lobster with shallot and red onion; pan-fried Australian M5 Wagyu beef with wasabi soy sauce; and pan-fried crab claw filled with shrimp paste.
Price: Lunch HK$380 for 5-course set menu; Dinner ranging from HK$800–$1,200 per person, HK$1,680 for 7-course tasting menu
Noise Level: Quiet
Service: Well-rehearsed and formal
Ying Jee Club, Shop G05, G/F, Nexxus Building, 41 Connaught Road Central, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2801 6882