Tseung Kwan O Popcorn

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Had it not been such a rainy night last night, I might have tried to get some outdoor photos to show a bit of Tseung Kwan O, one of HK’s so-called “new towns”.  In this case, the new town consists almost completely of huge blocks of apartment towers sitting above interconnected shopping malls.  I lost count of how many malls are there.  The newest one opened just last week.  It’s called Popcorn.  Apparently that’s the best name that some marketing genius could come up with, possibly to facilitate the heavy marketing they were doing all over HK with semi-celebrities and pseudo-models handing out free popcorn to draw attention to this spot.  All the marketing worked – last night, a rainy Good Friday evening, the mall was pretty busy.  One promotion right now is free parking – so there was even a line-up to get into the car park.

People are going on and on about how this is an upscale mall – too upscale for the area.  Perhaps those people have never been to IFC or Elements. I’d say it was vaguely mid-scale and that was more because of what isn’t there – no fast food chains like McDonald’s (though there are branches within 20 feet of the mall in every direction), no supermarket or other obvious anchor store.  While I did spot a Rolex-branded shop, mostly it was chains like Royal Sporting House, Optical 88, Mannings, blah blah blah.

Over at Optical 88, they were having a sale on choosy frames.

There’s no Broadway or Fortress but a few smaller scale electronics shops.  There’s a New Vision selling Apple stuff and this place which had signs for the Nikon D4 (but none on display) and the new Fuji X-Pro1 in stock.

While the mall has a multiplex cinema, one other thing it seems to be missing is the usual over-sized Cantonese seafood restaurant.  The two largest restaurants here appear to be California Pizza Kitchen and Crystal Jade, both of which had huge crowds waiting for tables.

Crystal Jade was the draw for us.  Having a branch of this Singapore-owned chain just 20 minutes from where we live was irresistible.  I love the food here – mostly Shanghainese and bits of Sichuan and other Chinese cuisines represented.  It’s fresh, it’s relatively cheap and always quite tasty.  But with the line-up to get into the car park (parking garages at the surrounding malls were also full) plus the 30+ minute wait for a table, I told my gf it would have been quicker for us to drive out to the airport and eat at the branch of Crystal Jade there.  We weren’t the only ones tired from the long wait.

Eventually we did get a table and we did get an enjoyable meal (6 dishes for HK$385) but something went wrong with their normally world class xiao long bao (or “soup buns” as Americans call them).  The wrapper was a bit thicker then usual and all four of them fell apart when we tried to pick them up.  On the other hand, their Sichuan style hacked chicken bits with cashews had a sweet smoky flavor and just a little bit of heat (could have used more actually).  The winner was a huge bowl of sliced beef and noodles (I think these were made from potato flour – broad, translucent, slightly yellow in color) that was middle-of-the-range spicy and tasty as all hell.

What strikes me as really odd is that there are going to be two hotels attached to this mall.  Two hotels?  In Tseung Kwan O?  Whatever for?  It’s not a business district and it’s not a tourist area.  The closest thing to a reason for staying here would be that it’s convenient to the MTR for getting the hell out of Tseung Kwan O and going some place else.  I can only guess that these hotels are going to be pitched at mainland tour groups.

And that’s where things get a little funny, Hong Kong style.  There is a significant segment of the population that is concerned about the growing “China-ization” of Hong Kong and takes very vocal offense to any perceived slight against local HKers.  When Popcorn opened up last week, the mall’s branch of Agnes B Cafe had signs in English and Simplified Chinese, but not in Traditional Chinese, and people took to the internet to voice their discontent.

agnès b. café uses simplified Chinese in residential area, which is humiliating the dignity of Hong Kong culture. Everyone please don’t tolerate. Take action to defend the dignity of Hong Kong. We all have been humiliated enough. It’s time to act now. Fellow Hongkongers, let’s shout, “agnès b., brand of shame!”

And sure enough, while almost every restaurant and shop in the mall was crowded, there were only two customers seated at Agnes B.

Verdict?  We’d go there again for Crystal Jade but I don’t see any other reason to return.

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6 thoughts on “Tseung Kwan O Popcorn

  1. william

    What the f..are you going in TKO if you so much dislike and ignore everything about. 14 years in HK and you go visiting a new mall the day of the grand opening?? you=super smart guy! indeed. FYI the hotels will definitely be a very good thing for the TKO industrial area a few kms away, and for all the business people not finding a single hotel in the whole saikung district. You are perhaps in the top 10 blogs in HK per the SCMP (what a pedigree!! impressive) but you indeed know nothing at all about HK and NT life. SO FOR SURE stay away of TKO. So long!

    1. Spike Post author

      So you were just looking for some random stranger to insult today and you found me. How lucky for you!

  2. Loz

    Spot on with your observations about the new mall. I have lived in TKO across the road from the mall for a few years now.
    Firstly, let me say that it is not a “bad” mall at all. The layout and the finishings inside look fine. Howevfer, I do suspect that the cutesy novelty factor of the name “PopCorn” (which looks more at home on Main Street Disneyland) may become dated and tacky sooner rather than later though.

    The one thing my wife and I noticed in the first few weeks it opened is that there are heaps of people window shopping, but not that many actually buying things. The only shops that seemed to do real business are the restaurants and cake shops.

    For the life of me, I don’t know how local clothing stores like “Initial” which take up enormous chunks of floorspace, with sparce merchandise, and few if any shoppers buying from them, is going to survive.

    1. Spike Post author

      Thanks Loz. I don’t think it’s a *bad* mall, I just didn’t see any reason to return aside from Crystal Jade. Everyone is telling me the same thing about the amount of business there – “wait till the hotels open.”

  3. Jan

    I also disagree with William. William does not fully appreciate the area though there are elements of truth in his observations. Being a Chinese banana (grown up and educated overseas) but having lived in Hong Kong for the past 17 years, i like to see myself as a hongkie having managed to blend in quite well. For the past 5 years I have lived in tseung kwan o. I must admit I also shy away from busy shopping malls and mekka’s for tourists. I couldn’t help visiting Popcorn though in the first week it opened. Sun Hung Kai has been marketing the place as a center point for Kowloon East seeking to assimilate the Elements (also Sun Hung Kai) and trying to redefine shopping and build a true haven of relaxation for East Kowloon. I must admit for all the hype Sun Hung Kai created, I was quite disappointed. With the shops that were represented, I simply could not see how it seeks to differentiate itself from neighbouring malls with perhaps the exception of the cinema (if you’re too lazy to go to Metro City in Po Lam). The open area outside the mall is now under construction but is destined to be a walking pedestrian lane towards the sea with restaurant terraces and all (think Stanley). Don’t know if this is going to an argument strong enough to attract tourism but in general I do think building the 2 hotels there are good. Firstly Yahoo (and presumably Google as well) have bought a plot of land and are thinking of relocating there (so they say), if this is true it might become a magnet for potentially an IT hub. Then there is the Kwun Tong area which will be revamped as a new industrial business district where you simply don’t have any decent hotels. Well time will tell… In the meanwhile, sit back, relax and enjoy all the blessing HK has to offer.

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