The first restaurant review I'm doing on the blog is on a long time favourite of mine. It's a good one (obviously!), but also a very controversial one.
Kau Kee Restaurant (九記牛腩) is a place I make a point of visiting every time I go back to Hong Kong. Their specialty, as the shop name in Chinese suggests, is beef brisket. In fact, they only sell beef brisket.
The controversy lies in that there are very varied opinions on the quality of food here... I absolutely love the food here, and would say that these are the best beef brisket noodles I've ever had in my 22 years of life. Yet, there are plenty of people who cannot understand why anyone would return, and bravely declares that anyone who praises them clearly knows not a thing about good food!
Their menu is basically either beef brisket and noodles in clear soup or curry beef brisket and noodles. There's also all the variations in between - just beef brisket, just noodles, just soup, different noodles, some really expensive cuts of beef (tendon?! maybe), vegetables...
Back to the beef brisket. If you've ever bought beef brisket and cooked it yourself, you'll know that its not the easiest cut of beef to work with. It'll turn out too chewy, too tough, too dry, too tasteless... That's why I truly appreciate the food here. The beef brisket is flavourful and tender, not at all dried out. It really melts in your mouth, yet doesn't feel oily.
There are a few different types of noodles to choose from. The white ones in the white bowl are called 河粉 (ho fun in Cantonese) and are flat rice noodles. These noodles soak up the soup like crazy and therefore taste really good. (Although they do tend to be overcooked and 'soggy'...)
The yellow noodles in the black bowl are 伊麵 (e-fu noodles). These noodles are fried egg noodles, and tend to be chewier. They don't absorb the soup as much, but this means the soup in your bowl is left a bit saltier and tastier.
I've mentioned the soup, and that's probably the ultimate reason for visiting. The soup is a clear broth that they (assumedly) cook the beef brisket and beef tendon and other beef bits in, and is delicious! It's rich in beef flavour and tasty and savoury (salty just isn't the right word). I always want more and more of it, but unlike many lip-licking dishes in Hong Kong, doesn't leave you thirsty at all afterwards.
The curry beef brisket noodles (not pictured) are worth a try too, especially since the portion sizes are on the small side. A curry sauce replaces the broth. It's surprisingly light yet still rich and flavourful.
In terms of price, these bowls of noodles have risen in value loads over the years, and now stand at around HK$40. Ordering beef brisket on its own will set you back about HK$100. However, I still think it's money well spent. =)
Now that the important things have been discussed, a little note about the place itself: It's crowded. Super cramped. You'll have to share tables with strangers. Expect 9 people to fit around a table that's meant for 4-6. Don't get comfy on the plastic stools (not that anyone would want to...) because you sit, order, eat, leave (and pay at the door) pronto.
Remember, Kau Kee is a local neighbourhood noodle shop that caters to the busy Hong Kong locals on their 45 minute lunch break. So don't get offended when the waiters breathe down your neck waiting for you to order, or less than politely point you in direction of the door as soon as you slurp up the last of your soup.
If you tolerate the mediocre (and that's on good day!) service, and 30 minutes in the sweltering heat while queueing, then you're in for a treat at Kau Kee.
Kau Kee Restaurant // 九記牛腩
21 Gough Street, Central // 中環歌賦街21號地下
Closed Sundays and public holidays
Under HK$50 per person
This noodle shop is great for (and only serves) beef brisket noodles that are loved by both locals and tourists. The key to a good experience here is to be aware of the terse attitude of the staff, rushed atmosphere of the place beforehand, and just focus on the delicious food served rather than those serving it!