Institutional future of HK dim sum institution, East Asia News & Top stories

HONG KONG • Impatient eaters crowd around carts of steamy dim sum driven by fierce "trolley aunts" at Lin Heung Tea House, one of Hong Kong's most famous restaurants, now fearing for its future.

Lin Heung's traditional homemade dishes, including cha siew bao (barbecue rolls), har gow (shrimp dumplings) and ma lai go (sponge cake), have earned a loyal following of locals with a penchant for nostalgia and curious tourists.

The two-story restaurant in the bustling city center has several top offers in worldwide travel guides and serves customers from 6 am to 10 pm, seven days a week.

Diners sit elbow to elbow at shared round tables, metal spittoons still tucked beside them, the walls hung with decorative bird cages and traditional Chinese figures used for menu prices.

But the restaurant says that the new owner of the building has not yet contacted them about extending their lease, despite the fact that it will expire at the beginning of next year.

That has ignited the fear that Lin Heung is the latest culinary treasure of Hong Kong that will affect the city's thirst for redevelopment.

The owner of the building, CSI Properties, said it could not comment.

Concerned regulars say they visit the eatery as often as they can. A pensioner, who gave his name as Mr. Yip, says he will enjoy his favorite dish of pork liver siew mai and freshly made tea more often.

Dim sum is often combined with Chinese tea in a tradition known as "yum cha", literally "drinking tea".

The housing market of the city was crowned the world's most expensive last year, according to the United States-based Demographia, and developers are screaming for top-notch real estate.

The sale of older buildings and rising rents have meant the end for several family fair favorites in the city.

Lin Heung is one of the oldest Cantonese restaurant companies in Hong Kong and is run by the Ngan family, who arrived from the southern Chinese province of Guangdong and founded it in 1926. It now has three outlets in Hong Kong.

The Central venue on Wellington Street is the main restaurant and has been in the same place for 22 years.

Spokesperson for the Terence Lam restaurant said the current lease would end in March next year and he hoped the eatery would not close.

"It is not just a company, it embodies the legacy of the past," he said. "It represents the hardships of our ancestors."


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