John Anthony: modern Chinese dim sum classics
Walk down the flight of stairs at Lee Garden Three, and you’ll find yourself at John Anthony, a gorgeous and intimate Chinese restaurant with arched passageways, wooden dividers and a rococo colour palette of light blue and beige. The menus mostly focus on modern versions of Chinese classics, with a few dishes taking inspiration from the historic trade routes between the East and the West.
Dim sum delights
We started with a curious plate from the a la carte menu, air-dried duck with ginger and yellow mountain honey in the form of gorgeous and energetic sugar art. We nibbled on the melt-in-the-mouth duck, which reminded us of bacon, with the hardness of the honey giving the dish an interesting crunchy texture. It also let us have a bit of fun, poking through it with our chopsticks — like an ice-breaker to the beginning of our meal.
First of the dim sum to arrive was, tiger prawn har gao with Chinese chives. The colour showing through the wrapper reminded us of jiaozhi Beijing style dumplings, but the flavour is very much the har gao that we know and love.
While the black truffle vegetarian siu mai looks like the original it tastes completely different. Filled with bite-sized pieces of mushroom, with a texture similar to a Chiuchow dumpling. Lightly flavoured with black truffle, the result was delicate and non-greasy.
From the pan-fried section, we picked pan-fried minced lamb dumplings with cumin, with the filling reminding us of a European-style lamb stew boldly flavoured with cumin.
We finally got to John Anthony’s instagram favourite and signature, BBQ pineapple and pork puffed buns. These were absolutely glorious. Like the nostalgic memory of 7am fresh pineapple buns of our childhood, but filled with the most moreish char siu that was just sweet enough to balance harmoniously with the already sweet topping of the pineapple bun. As professional eaters we also managed a helping of wagyu beef brisket puff. Similar to that of the lamb dumplings we had previously, with the flavours of a European stew rather than HK-style beef brisket. Nonetheless we loved them!
The highlight of the meal was hands down the soup. We chose the standout braised fish maw soup with Chinese perch and tangerine peel. With luxurious ingredients, the portion was quite small, but it did have a delightful citrusy aftertaste.
Forging his way
We ended the meal with two lunch-only dim sum desserts, cardamom Portuguese egg tart and fried banana bao. While the cardamom in the egg tart was a little too strong for us, the fried bao, filled with bananas and served with condensed milk, was an absolute treat. Non-traditional versions of Chinese classics don’t always have the best reputation in Hong Kong, but head chef, Saito Chau, does not heed to the norms of the ‘fusion’ or ‘contemporary’ badge, but rather, chooses simpler ways to differentiate his dishes from traditional fare. First, by incorporating unconventional ingredients, such as cardamom, into traditional recipes, achieving unusual and delicious flavour profiles we have not tried before. Second by sticking to sustainable eco-friendly kitchen practices, he sources ingredients as carefully and ethically as is possible.