If you think all dim sum are the same, The Chinese Library will enlighten you with their creative dim sum that celebrates regional flavours across Asia into seemingly traditional dishes where every bite offers a new surprise.
Located in the Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts (the former Central Police Station of Hong Kong), the high-ceiling space is decorated with unique lighting fixtures such as statement chandeliers consisting of a cluster of oriental lamps. Large mirrors adorn the pillars in between cozy, semi-circular booths, creating the perception of a larger space.
Large, soft cushions and plush velvet chairs invite you to settle in and relax to a cup of premium Dragon Well tea. Double door windows open up onto a balcony patio and draw in ample natural light into the dining room. The balcony overlooks the central courtyard of Tai Kwun, where the various buildings of the former Central Police Station has been redesigned to house characteristic restaurants, gift shops, and historic learning spaces.
Each of the items we tried from the menu offered eye-opening flavour, even though at first you may question “What can they do to make xiao lone bao special? Aren’t all xiao lone bao similar?” While we initially shared the same thought, that thought was quickly replaced with one of wonder as a burst of flavourful Laksa soup poured out from the xiao lone bao. The slightly spicy, sweet and creamy soup mixed in with the meat juices will leave you craving for more than just one.
The next dish is for those who love spicy dishes. Try to pick up the greens with your chopsticks, and you will see that the lush green tower is intricately carved into an endless ‘string’ - this is the first optical surprise; take a bite of the dish and you will discover the second surprise - at first a cooling effect will seem to envelop the inside of your mouth, slowly progressing to a numbing sensation triggered by the pepper essence. Instantly you will begin to salivate as your taste buds respond in earnest to the next level spiciness of the dish.
The Tai Chi Rainbow calms the sense both with its beautiful presentation and its curated ingredients. Winter melon, lily bulbs and wolf berries are all known in the Chinese culture to boost immunity, vision and is a source of antioxidants. Cut open the delicate winter melon shell to reveal the colourful yam and sweet purple potato inside; the overall taste of the dish is light and flavourful.
No dim sum session is complete without slow-roasted pork belly, and The Chinese Library’s crispy bites paired with optimal layering of meat and fat along with its house dipping sauce spells perfection in every bite.
The crystal river shrimp is served in a closed wooden box, and the lid is lifted as the server places the box on the table. The scent of inviting, toasty Dragon Well tea escapes from the box at this moment, giving us a first ‘taste’ of the dish. The crystal shrimp are buttery in texture and almost clear throughout, a delicacy to be slowly savoured with a premium tea or even a steaming bowl of rice.
The closing note of the tasting menu offers a multitude of textures and a sweet center. Where the filling for a traditional Chinese sweet would be sesame, lotus root or red bean, we cut open the deep-fried balls to reveal that a sweet hazelnut filling awaited inside.
The Chinese Library is a great place to sit down for lunch to rest your tired feet after a day of walking around the bustling Hong Kong Island and wandering the halls of the historic former police station, where you can learn interesting facts such as the various fitness and height requirements for one to qualify to become a Hong Kong Police Officer. For purveyors of art and design books, the Taschen bookstore in the building will attract you stay and immerse yourself in the heavy volumes. Whether you choose to experience the space on a solo or group outing, The Chinese Library and its surrounding space and buildings will leave a lasting impression.
Block 01, Tai Kwun, Police Headquarters, 10 Hollywood Rd, Central, Hong Kong
Photos by Florence Leung