Before our super epic trip, I’d mentioned to my cousin Charing that I wanted to dine at a private kitchen.
Speakeasy, also termed private kitchen in Hong Kong (Chinese: 私房菜), is a term in modern Hong Kong referring to an unlicensed, restaurant-like establishment for eating. Some of the perceived problems with running a restaurant in Hong Kong—high rents and the common practice of landlords extracting profits from restaurants through clauses in tenancy agreements—have led to the establishment of this type of eatery. Owners also have the additional benefit that many government regulations concerning restaurants can be avoided.
A typical speakeasy will be based in an ordinary apartment in a block of flats. Customers gain access by ringing the bell before the door is opened from the inside. Inside, the flat will be set out as a simple restaurant. Usually, it provides not only quality home-made food and drink, but a sense of being at home. Advertising is usually by word of mouth—it’s often not possible to have prominent signs outside to advertise the business’ presence, as with a normal commercial establishment.
She knew just the place to take us to. Instead of a small private kitchen meal, the entire population of my maternal family (that was in Hong Kong at the time) joined us. It was super epic!
The address we were given took us to the ground floor of an apartment block. Here we had to buzz ourselves in and although there was a guard at the door, he paid no attention to us. I suppose when you have a private kitchen in your building, you get used to unfamiliar faces. We had reserved a whole private dining room for the occasion as there were around 30 of us. My mum is one of 7 children and all 7 were present.
There is no menu and you pay per head. The dishes are brought out one at a time and they keep coming throughout the evening. This private kitchen was a vegetarian one but I swear that the lack of meat was not felt whatsoever. Actually there were many very good faux meat dishes.
Sushi with a delicious salad topped with pomelo. The pink slices on the right of the salad were slices of what tasted like ham.
Dumpling in broth.
Deep fried something with mayo.
Mushroom packed with what tasted like a hamburger patty.
I don’t know what this was. It was chewy and kind of gluey and topped with gold.
Rice cooked in a lotus leaf.
Sorry, memory doesn’t serve me well.
Turnip topped with mushrooms in broth.
Gold gelatin treats.
Gee Ma Wu or black sesame seed soup. This is a sweet dessert and is served hot.
12 dishes later, we were full. We’d had a bit of BYO red wine and after a mandatory family photo shoot, my Uncle Eddie took some of us to smoke Cuban cigars and drink nice whiskey at a spot overlooking Times Square. What a night!