Yung Kee: A new look at the iconic Cantonese eatery

By Roberliza
Mar 17, 2022

In a city where restaurants rise and fall according to the admittedly fickle tastes of its discerning diners, Yung Kee is a singular success story. Indeed, the Cantonese eatery is something of an institution, having recently celebrated its 80th anniversary. Despite being internationally renowned today, its roots, however, are humble to the extreme.

yung kee 2022 80 year anniverary gafencu dining renovation
Newly renovated dining room at Yung Kee

Having begun as a dai pai dong in 1936, Yung Kee moved to a sturdier location in Wing Lok Street in 1942. Two years later, though, during Hong Kong’s occupation by the Japanese, the site was razed by US bombers and had to be rebuilt. Two decades on, Yung Kee finally found its forever home on Wellington Street, and to mark its landmark 80th year, the restaurant underwent significant renovations.

Yvonne Kam, Third-generation owner yung kee 2022 80 year anniverary gafencu dining
Yvonne Kam, Third-generation owner of Yung Kee

“With the new refurbishment, we’ve ensured that each floor provides a different type of atmosphere to suit diners’ different needs,” says third-generation owner Yvonne Kam. “The ground floor is more for light dining, while the first floor has a ’50s / ’60s teahouse vibe. At the top is our formal dining area, replete with a stunning Dragon Phoenix Hall. We’ve even interspersed various pieces of memorabilia and artworks from Yung Kee’s past, so it’s almost like eating within a majestic living-history museum – one that has evolved alongside the city’s rapid culinary development.”

Multiple nods to the restaurant’s legacy are indeed to be found, from the painstakingly restored handcrafted Italian tiles that were fitted on the first floor in 1964 and the original signage that now graces the contemporary bar area, to the beautifully maintained gold-plated, traditional dragon and phoenix statues and custom-made art punctuating the second-floor grand hall.

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Yung Kee steamed shrimp and scallop dumpling

Amid this august environment, we kick off our own tasting with a duo of signature dim-sum dishes – Steamed Shrimp and Scallop Dumpling and Supreme Soup Pork Dumpling. The former encompasses delightfully delicate oceanic flavours, while the latter features a single oversized dumpling brimming with soup and a soft pork stuffing.

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Yung Kee Roasted Pigeon Legs and Stir-fried Pigeon Fillet

Next to arrive is Roasted Pigeon Legs and Stir-fried Pigeon Fillet, an updated combination of two disparate dishes. Here, the plump bird’s legs have been deboned then sewn up, so not one iota of flavour or moisture can escape. Roasted to perfection, each mouthful combines succulent meat with crispy skin. The fillets, meanwhile, are beautifully tender, with the accompanying asparagus slivers and lily bulb petals adding a welcome textural element.

yung kee 2022 80 year anniverary gafencu dining
Yung Kee Crispy Toast with Mixed Shrimps and Lobster Tail

Another new addition to the menu then hoves into view – Crispy Toast with Mixed Shrimps and Lobster Tail. An elevated interpretation of a dim-sum favourite (shrimp toast), this particular iteration sees the base layer of bread covered with a decadent lobster tail, which is then sprinkled with sakura shrimp for a dash of added texture. Crunchy yet subtly flavoured, this is a guaranteed hit for any shellfish aficionado.

yung kee 2022 80 year anniverary gafencu dining goose
Yung Kee Signature Charcoal Roasted Goose

Rounding out our delicious tasting is a return to that Yung Kee classic – Signature Charcoal Roasted Goose. “The secret behind our iconic roast goose is our Chinese charcoal grill,” explains Kam. “We have the last remaining one in the CBD area, as the government no longer issues new licences for them. By slow-roasting the goose in it, the meat retains a succulent flavour while simultaneously being given a uniquely fragrant smokiness.”

That’s not all, though. The bird in question is no ordinary goose. It’s a purebred black-maned Chinese goose, carefully chosen for its juicy flesh, which is then bathed in a secret marinade that locks in extra flavour. The result is an explosion of fat, meat and saltiness with every bite – a powerfully addictive combination that keeps you coming back for more. Small wonder, then, that this dish, more than any other at Yung Kee, has kept eager epicureans in thrall across the decades.

Yung Kee. 32-40 Wellington Street, Central. (852) 2522 1624.


(Text: Tenzing Thoundup)