The evening I arrived in Hong Kong, I joined fellow Xangans Gary and Rudy for dinner at Sunning Restaurant in Causeway Bay. Sunning is a long-time favorite of locals, dating to 1948, and specializes in Western food. It is the type of place where local families go for special events or weekly Sunday dinners, a chance for “fancy” food that today feels reminiscent of the era of Julia Child.
Despite its lengthy history, the restaurant moved not long ago to Lee Theatre Plaza, a modern building in Causeway Bay. The new interior is tasteful, clean, and modern. The white linens are starched. The waiters dress in tuxedos. It is easy to imagine that you have entered a time warp and landed in the 1960s Hong Kong celebrated in director Wong Kar Wai’s film In the Mood for Love.
Gary ordered (and shared, thankfully) a dish of escargot. Unlike all the other escargot I have eaten, this dish wasn’t drowned in butter and garlic. Instead, the snails were served with a rich brown sauce and rested on a layer of broiled, molten mashed potatoes. They were tender and scrumptious.
I ordered foie gras on toast, a very basic pate that was tasty but not fancy. The taste of the foie gras reminded me of the Oscar Mayer liverwurst my grandfather used to serve me for lunch on Triscuit crackers.
As the main courses arrived (Rudy had the lamb chops and Gary had the sirloin steak), the waiter brought a plate with baked potato toppings: sour cream, bacon, and chives. Classic!
I ordered the Spanish Kurobuta pork served with the special house sauce – same the was on Gary’s steak. All of our dishes were garnished identically: baked potato, half a roasted tomato, and a floret of cauliflower. The simple presentation reminds me of the food at Uncle John’s in Bangkok, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant where a former hotel chef turns out Western classics in distinctly hotel banquet style. The Sunning version was tasty, well-cooked, and completely unimaginative. That isn’t a complaint, though, because the restaurant serves exactly what is promised at a reasonable price. No molecular gastronomy is needed here.
The three of us shared two desserts. The first to arrive was a lemon soufflé, perfectly spongy and light with a dry middle.
The second dessert was a Baked Alaska. This Betty Crocker classic is something I haven’t seen in a long time and was eager to try. It was the expected show-stopper, a meringue covered Mount Vesuvius with two maraschino cherry nipples served en flambé.
Here’s a brief video showing the flaming dessert in all its glory:
The inside of the dessert was different than I had previously had. In addition to the yellow cake base and ice cream, there was fruit cocktail. While unexpected, it lent additional retro credibility to the dessert and I’ve decided that I will have to prepare Baked Alaska one of these days soon.
(For a more complete review with better pictures, visit Gary’s entry about the restaurant.)