Hearing about creative Cantonese cuisine mixed with a theatrical backdrop of martial arts references, dbHK went off to explore an imagined 1960s Hong Kong at Dragon Noodles Academy and serendipitously discovered the best Peking duck in town.
Enter the Dragon: Kung Fu meets Canto street food at DNA
The concept: Kung Fu meets jazzed-up noodles, lobster and dim sum.
The décor: Entering Dragon Noodles Academy (DNA) is a bit like being on a martial arts film set (she says, without any knowledge of what that would actually be like). Golden dragons grace the walls, lanterns cast scarlet hues, fierce lion dance costumes grin down at you and you half expect Bruce Lee to stalk you around a corner braced in cat stance and looking menacing or TinTin to pop out from a giant pot in The Blue Lotus. DNA unashamedly embraces all the gilded glory of Hong Kong’s Kung Fu history and street food days in a cavernous space with a theatrical, dancing-flamed open kitchen, secret dining areas and a long bar looking like something out of The World of Suzie Wong.
The cocktails: Drinks using the same ingredients as Chinese medicine doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence, despite the menu using this a selling point – imagine a tipple made with a packet of Fisherman’s Friends – but somehow DNA makes it work. Dragon Palm Strike – another Kung Fu reference – combines High West whiskey with ginseng honey syrup and the Chang-er’s Collins is a gentle, floral creation of rose and jasmine-infused Hendrick’s with rose syrup. The bartenders are also nattily decked out in white vests and Lee jeans in order to recreate that 1960s Hong Kong vibe.
Love-a-duck: The best in town
The food: The search for the best whole Peking duck in town is over. It’s here. Just even its arrival caused a scene, with a giant hand-painted porcelain plate placed on a wooden stand next to our table and much commotion among the servers as they set down all the condiments – plum sauce, minced garlic, sesame paste and raw cane sugar – as well as cucumber, melon, Chinese leeks and pink cabbage. The duck (a quacking bargain at HK$499) is smoked daily in the wood oven with Applewood chips and then is expertly carved up in three ways with thin, delicate pancakes. All decorum went out of the window and conversation ground to a halt as we all eagerly folded up our duck pancakes at breakneck speed.
The crispy lobster puff also deserves a mention for the sheer effort involved in making it. A deliciously sweet, crunchy roll of lobster pastry painted with carrot juice to resemble a lobster tail filled with plump lobster meat and coriander and winter chestnut. Also a prize has to go to DNA for the most beautifully presented vegetables. The baby cabbage florets in Chinese ham broth topped with Sakura shrimp looked like lilies, were tasty to boot and acted as as a buffer against the heaviness of the meat.
One way to get kids to eat their vegetables
Verdict: Jaded Hong Kongers might feel that the ritzy décor and Kung Fu references are a bit too much but the buzzy atmosphere on any given day of the week makes it a fun place to hang out after work, and ideal for what I imagine would be less-than-formal business lunches. For the portion sizes and especially that duck, it’s best for groups and to impress visitors like your parents or in-laws as you trot out your Hong Kong martial art film knowledge, Dragon Palm Strike in hand.
Dragon Noodles Academy, Shop G04, Man Yee Arcade, Man Yee Building, 68 Des Voeux Road Central, 2561 6688