No matter how busy you are during the weekday, Sunday is always the day to let loose. In Hong Kong, with their excellent food choices among the best treats, families gather to eat out. This is clearly their ritual. Despite being very far advanced in terms of global trade and commerce, Hong Kong people still very much stick to the tradition. They go to a tea house, a yam cha place where they select their dim sum from the trolleys and bury their faces in the newspaper. There are so many dim sum choices in Hong Kong, but since I have read about Maxim’s Palace on 2F of the City Hall on Edinburgh Place street that it affords a good Harbour view, we go there and the above classic scene is what I see when we walk into the restaurant.
This place is a bit hard to find for someone not quite familiar with the streets around the City Hall area. First, you need to find the City Hall (a sort of a cultural center with restaurants, library, and performance auditoriums) which is a bit of a walk from MTR Central station (Exit J3). Then, the City Hall that has two wings also has in one wing another restaurant called Maxim MX which is the same Maxim you keep seeing at a lot of places, mostly shopping malls, here in Hong Kong. If you see that Maxim MX, you need to go to another wing and climb upstairs to the second floor. However, on the way to the second floor, you will see another restaurant called Maxim Cafe which is not yet the restaurant you are heading. Go up another flight and then if you happen to be there on a Sunday you will see throngs of people loitering at the entrance, waiting for their turn to get in. This is where you want to give them your name and wait. They obviously do not take reservation on Sundays. So if you are not very early, expect to sit or stand tight, like we did, for at least 20-40 minutes.
This place is a huge banquet hall overlooking the harbour, but on a crowded day like this, it is more likely that we are happy just to take any available table. We got a table right in the back, but still have a good look at the harbour in this clear sunny day. Looking at the huge crystal chandeliers hanging down from the ceiling, we can also roughly guess the price of the meal. But despite all glittering decor, they still serve their dim sum in old-style on trolleys with pushers calling out the dishes they are carrying for you to turn around and choose from. A friend chooses a plate of sun-dried and fried squid tentacles which are not as tough and chewy as we expect, but still not very tasty and definitely not a good choice for a meal where there are more other dishes to try. The plate is huge and if there are only a few of you, then, it will fill you up right away without leaving you a chance to have more fun with other different tastes.
But then, there are 6 of us (but all quite full from big breakfast, duh ^^) we get to try some steamed baskets – from the classic ha-gaw (OK) to soy miew gaw (steamed shrimp and veggie (good)), sa-siew pao (BBQ pork buns) which is excellent and my favorite, siew mai (pork dumplings) very good, deep-fried shrimp batters (OK), steamed shrimp batters in bell pepper (OK), deep-fried stuffed tofu skin (good) and steamed beef ribs (sinewy and tough but tasty thanks to the sauce).
What I like most at this place is their shredded pork + thousand year old egg congee (pei tan sao yok jok) which is ladled into a bowl with fresh sprinkles of very finely-julienned green onion, fresh ginger and a dab or two of white pepper, right out from the trolley. I am glad that even though I am quite full and about to turn down the offer of the lady, I decide to give the congee a try. While not as thick as the congee I normally find in other places, this bowl (half-pictured above the squid) is fragrant and smooth and soothing with its steaming temperature that will push away any fever you might have in your body. After all, this is the hidden benefit of this very dish, the salty shredded pork is supposed to rid away the feverish feeling while the preserved egg nourishing the system. This is a simple Hong Kong staple made perfect. And I guess if I ever come back here again, it would be the first and last thing on my big dim sum meal, too.
For all this, we paid about HK$700 (6 people). No special dishes nor grilled meats.
City Hall’s Maxim Palace is open daily. Mon-Sat: 11.00-15.00, 17.30-23.30, Sun and public holidays: 9.00-15.00, 17.30-23.30. T: (852) 251-1303. They also have a branch at Shun Tak Ferry terminal in Sheung Wan (MTR: Sheung Wan, Exit D).