18, Nam Kok Road, Kowloon City
Having been to Kowloon City market and sampled the cheap, authentic Thai food there, I was keen to follow up on a recommendation for a proper Thai restaurant in Kowloon City. Especially after it was suggested that my dearly beloved Chung Shing in Tai Mei Tuk was ‘overpriced’ and ‘overrated’..
To Lung Jie Thai Restaurant I went. With high expectations.
This was perhaps the first mistake.
We found the restaurant fairly easily, and a few people were waiting outside even at 9pm. The couple next to us, who had evidently been waiting for a while, were complaining to the host outside about getting the numbers mixed up; they had been waiting for a table for two, but had been passed over with the host thinking they were a table for four. Oops. Thankfully, we got in quickly.
Seated directly next to the kitchen, on the one side we were privy to the loud metallic clangs and clatters of pots and pans and kitchen banter, and on the other side: the loud chatter of a standard small HK eatery. I was getting a headache, and I was starved. Where was the service? Buzzing around the restaurant but apparently ignoring us. It almost seemed intentional.
We started with chicken wings stuffed with sticky rice. The sticky rice was well-seasoned, with little bits of sausage and a good amount of soy sauce that it wasn’t drenched. The chicken was fine, slightly dry but the skin was not crunchy. The even-stickier sweet chili sauce that dribbled over the saggy skin was barely recompense. I’d pass on this next time.
The Pad Thai was one of the better ones I’ve tried, with big prawns. Unfortunately, it lacking the texture you’d usually get from some crushed peanuts, and terribly underseasoned… so we smothered this with the sour Thai chili sauce. As is usually our custom, anyway, so no harm done, I suppose.
Around this time – after managing to grab the aunties’ attention (a rare feat) and asking twice – we finally got our drinks. The mango lassi/slurpee Kowloon City standard was great, even if it was half an hour late.
Just in time for the long-awaited salt-grilled Garoupa:Pulling the salt-decked skin back revealed soft, moist and delicious white flesh. Stuffed with Thai basil, dill and lemongrass, the herbs infused into the grilled fish really well and we could not stop ourselves from devouring the whole thing. This was a nice note to end on, but we were expecting much, much more.
I also made the mistake of using the toilet there, and noticed how messy the kitchen was from the back. With overflowing rubbish in cardboard boxes being dragged wet along the cardboard-laden floor between the claustrophobic kitchen and mucky squatter toilet, I wasn’t sure this was the best environment to be ordering that raw Thai shrimp. I’m all for dubious, risky hygiene standards if the grub’s good enough, but this wasn’t good enough.
Our bill came up to about $350, which is usually just a little shy of what we’d pay at Tai Mei Tuk. We had to walk up to the cashier counter to get them to get a move on with our bill (it was just sitting on the counter with no one working to be seen). In conclusion: really terrible service, as some Openrice reviewers observed also. The whole experience was a little infuriating.
Save your money, keep your cool: if you want a Thai meal in the (only-slightly cheaper) Kowloon City, just head to the Cooked Food Market. Otherwise, my conclusion for Chung Shing still stands; head to Tai Mei Tuk for the best Thai food in Hong Kong.
Note: I am willing to give Kowloon City a third and final chance – if anyone has recommendations for somewhere better than the above, please get in touch.