In my younger and less vulnerable days, I marched past this restaurant in blind defiance knowing nothing of the glories that lay within. I was too hell-bent on getting to Sheung Wan to photograph buildings. These days, armed with slightly better taste, and the wonders of the internet, I happened to peruse the Michelin Guide to steer my radar, whilst spending a solid week of culinary hedonism in Hong Kong.
Yat Lok sprung out amongst a dilly-dallying list of potential disappointments. Carved into a tiny shopfront in the midst of suit and tie hell, shuffled past by eager tourists, woken from slumber by taxi horns and delivery trucks, this haven of goose carcasses welcomes the weary soul with half-extended arms. Nobody said Hong Kong wins at hospitality.
I groaningly descended into the MTR station at Mongkok after being kept awake all night by the riots outside my hotel. As a habitual despiser of public transport at the best of times, being sleep deprived and privy to a smattering of anxiety, I prefer not to be trapped in underground caverns with throngs of rushing maniacs hurtling under oceans in aluminium tubes.
Needless to say, I made it to the other side swearing to take the star ferry and bus combo on the way back.
Up the steps and alleys, through market stalls I finally made it to Yat Lok. The restaurant where Mr Bourdain lost his mind at the dizzying opium embrace of roasted goose, flesh melting away any transgressions placed on debit the night before, skin so dark and textured it flooded the mind with the possibilities of love. Moist, decadent, slightly sweet partner of gander, nestled aloft a bed of white rice speckled with the drops of roasting liquid.
I nearly lost my mind. Of all the meals in all the countless restaurants, the impact of that first bite was sublime. I was inwardly thankful that I had a corner spot so nobody could see my face exploding in odd formations of confusion, ecstacy and outright infatuation. Every minute I reminded myself to slow down and savour the taste, because I had limited time and finances with which to repeat this lechery.
Hands trembling I paid the stern woman, shadowed my glance towards the kitchen with tearful praise, and walked out into the harsh streets of business-side Hong Kong, sliding through open spaces and pauses in foot-traffic until I had pressed my Octopus Card firmly on the reader, taken my place on lower deck and exhaled as the half-empty star ferry ropes were unhooked and the ocean dragged us home to Kowloon.
34-38 Stanley Street, Central, Hong Kong