Rating: ★★★★☆

Address: 4/F, Hyatt Regency Hong Kong Sha Tin, 18 Chak Cheung Street, Sha Tin 沙田澤祥街18號沙田凱悅酒店4樓

Telephone: 3723 7932

http://hongkong.shatin.hyatt.com/en/hotel/dining/ShaTin18.html?itemDesc=fboutlet&itemId=1004345

The crispy, fire-blasted skin of Peking ducks is one of the tastiest, most addictive things in this world. Sha Tin 18, a restaurant in Hyatt Regency named after the hotel’s street address number “18” (also an auspicious number in Cantonese), is a restaurant that serves authentic Dongguan and northern Chinese cuisine.

The kitchen boasts an impressive crew of chefs hired from across China, each with their own expertise in Chinese cuisine. The restaurant was named one of “Asia’s Finest Restaurants” in 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 by The Miele Guide, and a recommended restaurant in 2010 and 2013 by the Michelin Guide.

Sha Tin 18 has a sleek, contemporary setting and is furnished in dark woods. Glass-enclosed open kitchens are excellent for guests to watch the chefs in action. Prices are not entirely budget-friendly, and a typical dinner costs around $400-$600 per head. The service was polite, but the restaurant was appallingly understaffed when I went – food arrived painfully slowly, tea cups were often left empty and our requests were forgotten or ignored, which I found very disappointing for a restaurant of such calibre.

(1) We started off with the traditional Peking duck 傳統北京烤填鴨 ($738, in three courses). The Peking duck has to be reserved, and was carved tableside by the chef.

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Popularised by Peking duck restaurants in Beijing such as Da Dong, Sha Tin 18 serves their duck three ways: skin from the underbelly of the duck dipped with granulated sugar; plain breast meat (without skin), and carved slices of legs and thigh with a thin layer of skin. The plain skin from the underbelly was heavenly – paper-thin, it melted instantly in the mouth and the bite of granulated sugar further elevated the experience.

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We also adored the thigh slices with a bit of skin attached to it, but the plain breast meat were on the dry side (unlike the duck meat I had at Spring Deer (my review here), which was deliciously moist).

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(2) The Peking duck can be ordered in one, two or three courses, and we picked the last option. Wok-fried minced duck with iceberg lettuce 生菜片鴨崧 was the second duck course. The finely chopped ingredients offered a fantastic range of textures and the flavouring also hit the right notes.

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(3) The third course made from the Peking duck was a duck soup with Chinese cabbage and beancurd 紹菜豆腐鴨骨湯 with a gentle duck fat flavour.

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(4) The waiter recommended the steamed squids with luffa cucumber and preserved shrimp paste 蝦膏吊片蒸勝瓜 ($218). The steamed squids had an enjoyable, chewy texture and the preserved shrimp paste was tangy, but overall the dish was nothing to rave about.

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(5) The roasted pork belly and sweet potato fried rice 地瓜燒肉粒炒飯 ($150) was also a recommendation by the staff. The roasted pork belly was gorgeously crunchy, and the soft, powdery sweet potatoes added a textural contrast with the other ingredients in the rice. The dish was completely moreish, and was commendably not oily at all!

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(6) We ordered some pan-fried pork belly and cabbage dumplings 胡同滷肉鍋貼 ($98), and these were fabulously fried and had a juicy, supple filling.

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(7) The steamed pork ribs with glutinous rice 籠仔糯米蒸腩排 ($198) were little bundles of joy – the pork ribs were meltingly tender, and the sticky glutinous rice added a delightful chewiness and also helped absorb the fattiness of the pork ribs.

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(8) The steamed minced pork with salted fish 鹹魚蒸肉餅 ($205) was lifted by the delicious hum of salted fish and the natural fragrance of lotus leaves. The minced meat, however, failed to stick together and fell apart as we tried scooping it up.

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(9) The two must-try items at Sha Tin 18 are definitely the Peking Duck and the desserts. The desserts were playful, creative and scrumptious, ingeniously incorporating Chinese ingredients into Western dessert recipes. We tried a range of desserts, and the housemade ice creams won our hearts – the Chinese wine chocolate ice cream 五粮液朱古力雪糕 ($38 per scoop) was chocolatey with a feisty alcoholic kick, while the sweet potato and brown sugar ginger ice cream 黑糖薑蕃薯雪糕 ($38 per scoop) tasted deliciously strongly of ginger.

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The Chinese preserved beancurd cheese cake 腐乳芝士蛋糕 ($58) was a renowned dessert at the restaurant. Even though the use of preserved beancurd in sweet foods is not a new concept (they have been used on condensed milk toasts in cha chaan tengs for some time), it is worth noting that the preserved beancurd tasted surprisingly harmonious with the cheesecake, and added a delightful, pungent zing to it.

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The papaya and silver fungus pudding 雪耳木瓜布甸 ($60) was not quite as controversial as the other desserts,  but tasted equally delicious and was sweet and soothing.

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Some of the dishes were less impressive than I had expected, and the unattentive service also significantly affected our dining experience. However, I adored the restaurant’s Peking duck and innovative desserts, and the melt-in-the-mouth duck skin will surely bring me back to Sha Tin 18 in the near future.