Finding a good mid-range Chinese restaurant in Central is not always easy, especially if you don’t wish to dine in a mall. Thankfully, Xia Fei fits the bill. On the edge of Lan Kwai Fong, but away from the madness, the space seems to have taken a leaf out of the modern China diner design handbook. It’s big, with low mirrored ceilings, polished floorboards, purple patterned carpet and some art and objects. The lighting is bright, but to our relief, not overly so. There’s an open kitchen one end and a handful of tables look out onto D’Aguilar and Wellington Streets at the other. Diners are a mix of business people, tourists, expats and local families.
Choosing from the extensive menu can be a challenge, even in a bigger group. There are sections dedicated to appetisers, soups, seafood, poultry, mains, dim sum, even fish maw and sea cucumber. And that’s before you get to the seasonal specials. Sadly, sharks’ fin is also prominently promoted. Steering well away from that, we place a mandatory order for xiao long bau and it’s among the better in town. The skin holds just the right amount of pork mince and a scalding hot soup. The Xia Fei signature pan-fried beef pastry filled with soup is delicious and reminds us of a liquidy mini meat pie, the pastry brown and flaky. Also worth ordering is the deep-fried minced shrimp ball with chicken broth centre, though these have a habit of spurting onto your shirtfront if you’re not careful. We were warned by the staff that the Sichuan poached giant grouper fillet in hot chilli oil was very spicy, but we dive into a sea of red regardless, in search of slices of fish, black fungus and vermicelli. The dish pulls no punches and brings out the masochist in us, landing major spice hits to our palate before being numbed by peppercorns. If you don’t mind the fat, a deliciously tender stewed pork belly with bean curd skin in brown sauce helps soothe the burning, as do the sautéed string beans with minced pork and dried shrimp.
The short, well-priced wine list leans towards France, with a sprinkling of New World producers. It contains several bottles in the $260-$580 bracket, and a handful of more expensive Bordeaux reds. Each wine is accompanied by tasting notes, though the selection by the glass is limited. Diners can BYO and a $150 corkage charge applies.
A team of no-nonsense staff run the floor, though it was difficult at times to get their attention and it took several attempts to get a bowl of steamed rice. You can almost feel their impatience if you take too long to make a decision.
A good value option, even with wine, with dinner for two coming to about $900 per couple, as long as you avoid the more expensive seafood dishes.