I should confess I have a foodie crush on Anthony Bourdain after reading Kitchen Confidential (twice) and following his tv shows so when we decided to go to Hong Kong, I immediately looked for the No Reservations episode in HK.
So our first stop was Lin Heung Tea House, in the lively area between Central and Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Island. Actually, we landed, left our stuff in the hotel and then straight to Lin Heung's.
When we got there it was about 7pm, the place was crowded and loud, as we thought it would be, but we got a table right away even with "no reservations" (bad joke, sorry). Anyhow, as we were getting ready to savour one of HK's best dim and most traditional dim sum, we were hit with our first cultural shock: no dim sum here after 4pm! If for us dim sum is a more afternoon tea, lunch or dinner dish, in Hong Kong tradition says dim sum's serving hours are from the early morning until 4/5 pm. Of course there are other places in town that serve dim sum at all hours but since Lin Heung is a traditional place, no dim sum for us on the first day.
In this case the English menu isn't really helpful, I would suggest to see what others are having in the other tables and then point that to your waiter (no English is spoken here, but somehow you get through).
We had some strange noodles with pork and a couple of ther dishes also with pork that we are not sure how we ordered but they were good. A beer and the ever-present tea completed the meal. We payed cash (but I see they also take credit cards). - Only now I'm reading on ther blogs and reviews that the signature dish is the braised duck, wish we had that.
Since we had come a long way to have dim sum here, we decided to come back another day between 6am and 4pm but as usual, so many things to see/eat, so little time, we arrived by 3.30 pm and only got to taste few dim sum dishes. It was, however, an experience.
You arrive and try to find a seat, perhaps in a table with others. Then the waiter comes and gives you a piece of paper with some numbers that looks like a bingo card. The lady with the cart comes out of the kitchen and you go to her to get whatever there is in the bamboo steamers (don't even try to ask what's in them, they'll just give you the worst of looks) you point which ones you want and give her the bingo card, she'll put a stamp on the numbers according to the dishes you took. You'll then take that card to the cash register and pay when you leave.
Then go to your table and discover what you got, this is where the fun is. Since we were late, they were out of the more common dim sum we know, like shrimp or pork dumplings, ribs, etc, so we kept getting steamed chicken wrapped with bean curd, steamed beef meatballs and steamed custard buns - everything was delicious but boiling hot, except for the custard buns, which are considered the dessert, so that's the last thing that comes out of the kitchen in the cart.
Prices are low, and if you consider the tasty food and the dim sum experience, it's deifintely the place to go for authentic dim sum in HK. However, this kind of experience is not for picky eaters, hygiene-obsessed, romantic first dates, and over-sensitive people (if you do something wrong the lady in the cart will have no trouble yelling at you) so, you've been warned, if you still want to give it a try, enjoy!
Lin Heung Tea House162 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: (+852) 2544-4556
Nearest MTR sttions: Sheung Wan (Exit E2), Central
Opening Hours: 06:00-23:00 (dim sum only from 6am to 4 pm)