九記牛腩 ‘Kau Kee Beef Brisket Noodles’
Recently, I reported from the high-end Restaurant Pétrus in Hong Kong. Read HERE.
In true foodie fashion, we swing to the other end of the scale – Kau Kee Ngau Lam Mein – an institution with 90 years of history currently located at 21 Gough St., Sheung Wan, Hong Kong.
If any experience was to prove that yumminess is not directly proportional to cost, then this is it! It’s not the most salubrious of venues nor does the decor engender any sense of urbane elegance.
Why then is this report even in AlphaLuxe webzine?
The answer, my friends, is that the “Cost of True Luxury is the Choice that it Affords”.
Trailing behind my guide through the streets of Central Hong Kong, we passed a section full of shops like these.
Was it a portent of what was to come?
Kau Kee is noted for creating beef brisket noodles in clear soup. It is unique compared with other noodle shops in that it only serves beef brisket either in a clear broth or curry beef brisket; it does not serve fishballs, beefballs and other dishes usually associated with noodle shops.
Brisket is a cut of meat from the breast or lower chest. Beef brisket is one of the eight beef primal cuts. The term derives from the Middle English “brusket” which comes from the earlier Old Norse “brjôsk”, meaning cartilage. The cut overlies the sternum, ribs and connecting costal (rib) cartilages. Essentially, its the central belly tendon and muscle attachments.
Braised with sweet spices and tangerine peel until it falls apart at the touch of a chopstick, the cognoscenti reckon this is amongst the top-2 beef brisket noodle shops in Hong Kong. The founder started in a tent and eventually the succeeding family members moved the facilities to a shack; and then to a shop. The owners now drive Mercedes Benz limousines.
Look for the Sign
Your first task is finding the restaurant. There is no table reservation procedure so avoiding regular meal times or getting in line early is recommended. The restaurant is on the corner of Gough Street and On Wo Lane. Look for the bright red sign in the street.
The bright red what?
The ‘Homeless” home furniture and hardware store next door is a good landmark for those who don’t read Chinese.
In reality, the restaurant is easy to find by spotting the waiting diners lined up outside.
Another clue to their arrogance is that they CLOSE for an hour at peak dinner time, ostensibly for “cleaning session” but really, folks, it’s probably because the staff are having their dinner! The queue starts early for lunch. This photo shows the waiting line at 11:30 a.m. and both floors are full already. Tourists with guide books joined the queue with locals.
The initial observation of meat parts in plastic tubs outside the restaurant did not give much confidence.
“Cost of True Luxury is the Choice that it Affords”….
In reality, the food is cooked for so long that it’s safe to eat. The high turnover means that fresh supplies arrive throughout the day and do not loiter long in the tubs. I just caught them on camera before the lunch time rush.
There is no exclusivity at tables; you sat wherever there was a spare seat.
Try to avoid the glare of the fierce lady cashier! Its not easy; she has developed it into an art-form!
The curry soup version is made from the the “rougher” cut of brisket but aficionados claim that it is the better cut.
Now, tell me: If it’s better, why do they mask it with a curry sauce?
Seriously, it was a tasty treat and for the tendon-inclined carnivores sitting with me, it was possibly ‘heavenly’. Their raptures were as if they were touching the face of God.
When the clear broth version arrived, it became ‘clear’ why its reputation precedes it. There was just a clean tasting beefy broth that had been ‘skimmed’ and superb noodles were al dente in texture. The meat and cartilage were so tender that it almost undulated off the chopsticks. Succulent unctuous morsels of perfection. We can all say the ‘M’ word together: mmmmm!
No doubt, these were the best beef noodles that I’ve ever had: ‘AlphaLuxe 3-Tongues’ award and even a hoof added to my score!
True Luxury is not measured by money alone.
Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He is also a moderator on PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelog ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous”, that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).