The stereotype is that dining at a Chinese restaurant within a 5-star hotel is only applicable for client entertainment or for bringing tourists around, as these places tend to be a bit of a rip off. But as more and more high-end Chinese pop up everywhere (Cuisine Cuisine, Lei Garden), the price differential with the local Cantonese restaurant has really narrowed. After a movie at the shopping mall's cinema, we headed for Golden Leaf for its Chinese cuisine one late Friday evening.

I have always preferred Golden Leaf over Summer Palace at the Shang and Man Ho at the Marriott, I guess in part due to its hidden location and plush comfortable decor. Here one is able to relax over lunch or dinner while Summer Palace is a bit more noisy and Man Ho feels less special. The signature silver water containter greets you at the entrance with the selection of fine tea leaves.

The restaurant was buzzing with customers when we entered at nine-thirty but luckily there was an empty table for us. Since it was late, we plonked right in and ordered a few dishes on the captain's recommendation.

Cantonese people believe that Chinese soup has soothing nutritious benefits and serves as a health supplement in our diet. The best ones are prepared well in advance, letting it boil and simmer for hours so that all the nutrients and flavours sink into the soup. We opted for the daily special soup for 4 (HK$190), which was pork shank broiled with sea snail. It was tasty and full of flavour and not the watered down version you get sometimes at the lesser places. Every spoonful felt wholesomely good, warming to the heart.

We ordered a steamed fresh garoupa (HK$700) to share amongst the three of us. Fearful that we ordered too much, T asked the waiter to find us a garoupa that's below 1 catty (the equivalent of 16 taels). However when it arrived the fish looked huge and we were slightly concerned he went overboard with the measurement. As it turns out this garoupa weighed 14 taels, which is still quite heavy. The fish was very well cooked and irresistably good, with the meat remaining extremely tender and succulent and the skin not coarse and chewy. This coming from someone who normally doesn't like huge steamed fish is a great compliment. I used plenty of the yummy fish sauce to go with my white rice.

We also ordered half a portion of broth poached chicken (HK$170), which the waiter told us was Golden Leaf's speciality and was divine. Indeed it was extremely delicious - the chicken meat, even the white meat, was so tender and smooth, and the pieces were rich in flavour and juicy. D couldn't help but keep taking more and more slices and asking us to sample the chicken quickly before he swallows every single last piece.

T had a sudden craving for sweet sour pork (HK$118), which I have developed in recent years too, with an appreciation for the mix of flavours. The one here did not disappoint, not only was the pork extremely tasty and well-seasoned, the side ingredients like pineapple chunks and green pepper slices were also fresh and yummy. The Kailan in ginger sauce (HK$100) was a good balance to our meal (not pictured).

Dinner worked out at around HK$1,300 for three, but if we didn't order the fish, the cost would have come down dramatically, so it isn't really that bad, considering most Cantonese restaurants charge a premium for live fish. At least here at The Golden Leaf, the quality is assured.

Golden Leaf, The Conrad, Pacific Place, Admiralty, Hong Kong

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