Some kinds of food are the types you turn to because they brighten your day. Chinese dim sum is one of them, long regarded by foodies around the world as unparalleled comfort food. In Tokyo, there are many good Chinese restaurants. After all, this is the city that did not invent gastronomy but instead took it to higher levels of sophistication.
WHERE TO EAT DIM SUM IN TOKYO
Among the Chinese restaurants in T0kyo, the Grande Dame in every way is the well-rated Hei Fung Terrace of The Peninsula Tokyo. It’s beautifully done with intricate details that remind you of an old Suzhou or Shanghai neighborhood of local shophouses. Furthermore, it’s perfectly placed both for men who work and ladies who lunch. The Peninsula Tokyo is a short hop from the business center of Otemachi and it’s just down the road from Ginza as well.
“Why do people like Hei Fung Terrace so much?” A friend asked me, when I suggested meeting up there for lunch. It’s really an old favorite in Tokyo, and such a comfortable place for a nice meal.
HOW TO VISIT OLD CHINA
At the same time, you feel like suddenly you’ve been transported to Old China without quite leaving the city. Maybe old Suzhou or Old Hong Kong. This is a very important factor these days, by the way, with many international borders still closed. So not only do you go on a food trip, but you also enter a time capsule of sorts into another time and location.
So the restaurant itself is cozy and charming, with details that make your eyes wander everywhere while you wait for your food.
MY FAVORITE ROOM AT HEI FUNG TERRACE
While the old-fashioned wooden tables around a semi-circular terrace are quite popular, my favorite is the private room at the end. It opens up to a view of Hibiya Road and part of the Imperial Palace Gardens and Hibiya Park. In these days of the COVID-19 pandemic, too, it feels like the safest place to be, with adequate social distancing.
It’s a bright and tasteful room with a round table for luck and good communications — if we are to follow the Chinese preference for round furniture over sharp angled objects. At the same time, the combination of greenery and a busy street outside offers movement and energy that contrast to the calm interiors of the room.
Steamed Tsushima chicken, wood ear, mushroom, yuba, ginger, green onion
Hong Kong-style congee, grouper, dried scallop
Chilled almond jelly with fig
PENINSULA-STYLE COMFORT FOOD
As for the food, it’s really everyone’s favorite Chinese comfort food. The connection to Hong Kong and Shanghai perhaps further puts the seal of authenticity on the Hei Fung Terrace dining experience, because this is definitely where everyone goes for an elegant taste of Old China.
Interestingly, the restaurant is headed by a Ryu Osaki, a Japanese chef who is passionate about Cantonese food. The result — particularly for the dimsum which has made Hei Fung Terrace famous in Japan — is authentic dishes with a touch of subtle Japanese refinement.
A TRADITIONAL DIM SUM LUNCH
We enjoyed all the traditional dimsum included in a weekday lunch set that included almost everything we wanted to eat. Then there were the non-traditional treats like barbecued pork pie and steamed chicken. Perfect in between two sets of carbs, with dim sum to start and congee to end.
The congee was flavorful in a low-key way, with most of the tastes derived from the grouper and scallop. Of course, no dim sum lunch would be complete without favorite sweets at the end. There are already standard sweets favored to end a dim sum meal.
One of the choices is the ubiquitous sweet almond jelly adorned with seasonal fruits and garnishes by the chef. For that September lunch at Hei Fung Terrace, we found a fresh fig in our chilled almond jelly — a nice harbinger of the autumn weeks ahead of us.