For a year or two I've wanted to try Lei Yuan (Lei Garden) because it got quite a good review from the Michelin guide. However I was fully aware that two of the restaurants were Michelin starred whilst another two were Bib Gourmands but Causeway Bay was not on the list of six (in the 2009 book anyway). However not having my trusty guide in hand we decided to try this branch anyway.
Why was I so attracted to eating here? Maybe because we've been rejected twice by the branch at IFC without a booking. This time they did ask us about a booking but as we were rather early they had quite a lot of empty tables. It was eerily quiet, we were not the only ones there, the small hall had at least five tables being occupied when we were seated but you could hear a pin drop - the room did start to get louder around 7. Whilst there was not a single moment where I was made to feel inadequate with my dress code, jeans and a t-shirt I did feel that the occasion required a suit. Before I start listing what I ate I just need to advise you - ask for a menu! There was a tiny little menu in a circular 'device' but I'm sure that wasn't the actual one but before we had time to ask for one we were ambushed by the floor manager keen to help with an order. He was very nice though but I just wished we had asked for a menu! This brings me onto the service. The floor manager was very pleasant and accommodating but the other waiters seemed efficiently bland, they did their job but like robots, I was just looking for a genuine smile.
This is going to be a challenge but I'll try my best to tell you what I actually ate! We were enticed to order a soup, my dad educated me on it and I think it's a red bean soup boiled with fish and pork - sorry for the rather vague description. We also ordered the Sha Cha Chicken, Heen Choi in a clear broth and a small steamed Snapper, though I'm not 100% sure what type of Snapper (fish) but it was 11 ounces.
We were served the chicken first which was very good. The meat was tender and moist and was complimented very well with the Sha Cha sauce. It was a bit of a wait until the fish and greens arrived. The snapper was delicious, what I come to expect from any good Chinese restaurant in Hong Kong serving any sort of snapper, however it might have been a second undercooked as it stuck slightly to the bone. The Heen Choi was cooked just right so it was not chewy at all but retained that freshness you expect from well cooked Chinese vegetables, the broth complimenting very well with the taste of it all. The boiled rice however was slightly too dry i.e. a bit overcooked, though still acceptable. The soup was fantastic! Ok I haven't drunk much soup besides my dad's but it was definitely amongst the best I've had.
At this point I'm just thinking, please don't break the bank. I was apprehensive that my dad had chosen to order without a menu and my fears were realised when the bill came back at $780~. OK, it doesn't break the bank but if you know my dad you'll know to even charge him £20 per person for a meal is a tough job but $780 is over £30! And in Hong Kong he's expecting to pay more around the £10-£15 region. I personally was expecting $5-600 but when I come to think of it we did order soup and fresh fish. My dad quietly accepted but I have a feeling he won't be coming back! I, however, thought it was a very good meal and that is the impression I got from my dad until the bill came but at $7-800 I think it might not be worth a revisit because it's more than double the price of what we usually pay in Hong Kong - if there is a next time we'll definitely think twice before ordering seafood and soup.
So my verdict is, Lei Garden serves traditional Chinese cuisine to a decent standard, I highly doubt you'll get a dud of a meal but at the price band it is at I think it's not somewhere you'd want to go every day. Try the more famous branches but be sure to book.