In what is probably the most beautiful square in Brera, among tourist places with cheap photos attached to the menus, stands Hekfan, the restaurant that I like to define as the Hong Kong gastronomic embassy in Milan.
It was 2020 when the first Hekfanchai appeared in Via Padova, such a great success that in a short time it multiplied in the city, always based on the idea of a street food style drink. In 2022 it was the turn of Hong Kong's first pastry shop in the young and beating heart of Chinatown, Hekfanchai Bakery. Later it was the time of Hekfan, a bulwark of Hong Kong haute cuisine.
Hong Kong's food culture is very fascinating and not without complexity. Its cradle is an Asian megalopolis, a very important international port, a meeting point between East and West with its own and well-defined identity. Labeling Hong Kong cuisine simply as "Chinese" is a serious mistake that must not be made, in order not to deprive it of all its uniqueness.
Hong Kong cuisine is true fusion, a mixture of European, Shanghai, Southeast Asian, Far Eastern and especially Canton influences.
Its origins date back to 1841, when the city became a British colonial outpost. Its maximum expression and identity completeness took place from the 50s to the 80s - it was in those years that the egg tart and the Hong Kong milk tea (which you can taste at Hekfanchai Bakery) became famous.
Although in 1997 the sovereignty of the city was transferred to China, everything that in previous years was defined in terms of values has remained alive and pulsating.
Thus we arrive in Milan, the city where the entrepreneur Eric Yip and the chef Kin Cheung (whose talent has also been recognized by La Commanderie des Cordons Bleu de France) have opened the doors of Hekfan, where dining means putting yourself in an immersive experience in another world.
More than a restaurant, it almost looks like the film set of a film set in those roaring 60s that made Hong Kong a point of global interest, in this case In the mood for love: this can be understood from the interior design of each room, from the curious but not kitsch ornaments, from the counter to the entrance with traditional objects, from the sentimental music typical of the iconic film by Wong Karwai. Just as the protagonists of the film, used to eat meals based on local specialties in intimate spaces, in the same way the customers take their seats in an enveloping, enchanted environment, which everywhere captures the curiosity of those who know how to observe it.
Throughout the dinner you are guided by the attentive and kind staff, but also by the chef himself, who makes sure that everything is in place and at the right time. Yes, because at Hekfan nothing is left to chance and as in the most recent and still too little understood art, that is cinema, also in Mr Cheung's Honkongese cuisine nothing is as it seems - after all Hong Kong has been portrayed in many feature films , just as cinema itself has its roots in magic and illusion.
The menu includes both tasting itineraries and free à la carte dishes. I chose for the second option - many dishes change seasonally.
My dinner started with an amuse bouche: a small fragrant sandwich with a shrimp in ginger sauce, as a garnish a thin honeycomb-patterned pastry with a honey flavor. Delicious in its apparent simplicity.
A trio of appetizers was then served consisting of foie gras with smoked stewed egg, a crunchy (edible) spoon with wild boar and vegetables and fried golden oyster. A symphony of flavors and textures.
Then the dim sum, specialties inherited from Canton: steamed crystal dumpling with shrimp filling, jade green dumpling stuffed with pak-choi and prawns (really unexpected in its explosion of flavor, usually the crystal dumplings with vegetables are rather disappointing), crystal dumpling with trio of mushrooms and the iconic steamed xiao long bao stuffed with pork, in which the broth has to be inserted using a pipette. And this is where you start to play, between amazement and surprise: with the steamed bun stuffed with mushrooms it seems to have a big mushroom in your hands, while it is a very soft baozi.
As an interlude, bull's tendons were served (whose very soft, almost gelatinous consistency leaves pleasantly dumbfounded) and aubergines with mustard and honey sauce.
Here is the moment I have long awaited: the cascade of fried noodles in black pepper sauce with vegetables. Once served it seems to be in front of a "sampuru", that is the perfect plastic reproductions of the dishes of Japanese restaurants shown in the windows. Instead, it is an edible dish! Once the noodles have been broken, they can be eaten crunchy like chips, or soft like spaghetti if mixed with the delicate hot sauce.
Then scallops with broccoli in a pan (whose cooking is anything but simple makes them particularly tasty) and the surprising caramelized pork bites served cold on a bed of ice cubes. I can say that I have never eaten something so unique, with the texture of glass on the outside and soft and juicy on the inside.
Yet another coup de théâtre, from ice to fire with the best dong po rou ever tasted in the city: the cube of meat and its sauce are enclosed in a cloche, then sprinkled with bamboo brandy which is set on fire. This process gives the pork meat an intriguing aroma given by the burnt alcohol and makes it particularly palatable. The very soft meat is ready to be used to stuff a small bao. Simply mouth-watering!
It all ends with an encore of desserts: fresh mochi tiramisu and sweet bao with taro cream.
Dining at Hekfan is an engaging and unconventional, fun and fascinating experience. Chef Cheung's talent has reached a new, even higher peak.
You can combine everything you have read with tea, wine (the winery is not particularly well stocked, but reserves some interesting labels) or cocktails.
In my opinion, the tablecloth is to be reviewed.
The final price places Hekfan in a high range, in line with the proposal offered. I recommend a dinner in this restaurant both for a romantic occasion and for a cozy outing with friends.