May 28, 2015
From slurping noodles at roadside cha chaan tengs to nibbling haute cuisine at fine dining establishments, if there’s one thing Hong Kong diners have in common, it’s that they’re serious about their food. You may think that feeding the rumbling stomachs of seven million foodies would be enough of a challenge for Hong Kong’s best restaurants, but that’s just the half of it. In a city that burns the candle at both ends and then sets fire to the middle too, hungry Hong Kongers expect to be able to sate their appetite wherever, whenever and however they choose. Add to that the fact that approximately a seventh of the population are expats, which makes for an awful lot of homesick tummies to comfort with dishes from a multitude of different countries.
It’s safe to say that trying to pick the top ten places to eat in the city is a near impossible task (but one that nevertheless, every Hong Konger has a strong opinion about). So, while we may not be able to cover all of Hong Kong’s best restaurants, we can guarantee that a meal at any one of these eateries will be a stellar addition to your culinary itinerary.
If Michelin-starred restaurants put you in mind of penguin-suited waiters and starched white tablecloths, reset your expectations before you visit Tim Ho Wan. To say that the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world looks unassuming is a bit of an understatement. Set in a neighbourhood better known for hardware stores and oil-streaked garages, you may only notice you’ve reached your destination when you spot the queue snaking around the block. Come well before hunger strikes, as you’re likely to be queuing for an hour or more, but dim sum of this calibre is more than worth the wait. Once inside, expect to be seated elbow to elbow with local pensioners, lunchbreaking construction workers and perhaps a tourist or two (Tim Ho Wan’s reputation has always preceded it, but its Michelin accolade has taken things stratospheric). Décor is basic, service is surly and the menu’s a green piece of paper that you score your selections on, just be sure that one of those selections is the Cha Sui Bao. Buttery golden, flaky baked buns that melt in your mouth to give way to a generous splodge of sticky, sweet BBQ pork.
Tim Ho Wan, G/F, 9-11 Fuk Wing Street, Sham Shui Po.
At the opposite end of the scale is Amber. Set your Michelin-starred expectations back to fine wines, foams and emulsions, as this two-starred temple to French haute cuisine flawlessly executes multi-course menus of culinary art. Interiors are modern and understated in warm walnut and bronze, an elegant backdrop against which the food plays the starring role. Culinary Director, Richard Ekkebus describes his menu as classic French cooking kept light and fresh with an inventive twist. The sort of food that dazzles and amazes, yet allows you to “get up from the table and still be able to dance”. And dancing’s exactly what you’ll want to do as you sample course after course of unspeakable deliciousness from the amuse bouche foie gras lollipops (an Amber signature dish) right through to petit fours almost too beautiful to eat. Almost.
Amber, 7/F, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, 15 Queen’s Road Central.
Located at the very edge of Soho, this laid-back no-reservations Izakaya is the ideal spot for a low key dinner and a couple of seriously strong cocktails. Yardbird‘s USP is nose-to-tail chicken yakatori which means that along with the familiar breast and thigh cuts, you can sample more adventurous skewers from tail and knee to heart and gizzard. Polished concrete floors and a stainless steel bartop lend the perma-buzzy space an industrial feel, while the knowledgeable, stylish staff are always happy to have a chat while they shake up a mean Shochu cocktail.
Yardbird, 33-35 Bridges Street, Sheung Wan.
The New York outpost of American-Italian restaurant, Carbone, is an A-list favourite with the likes of Lady Gaga and Beyonce shimmying to Greenwich Village for a bowl of Carbone’s legendary meatballs and a slice of the pizza-sized veal parmesan. So it’s hardly a surprise that since opening in Hong Kong late last summer, Carbone has been the hottest table in town. With Godfather-esque interiors and a fleet of attentive Captains decked out in maroon velvet tuxedos, the New York export manages to make even a casual lunch feel like a special occasion. Come hungry as portions are generous, and be sure not to skip dessert – the banana flambé, which is cooked up tableside, is not only a culinary spectacle but also quite possibly the most deliciously naughty dessert in the city.
Carbone, 9th Floor, 33 Wyndham Street, Central.
For the best sushi outside of Tokyo, nab yourself a reservation at Sushi Shin. Sit at the counter and order Omakase, Japanese for “I’ll leave you to it” and the surest way to enjoy a feast of dishes you’d never know to order. While the décor is standard issue sushi joint – all zen, blonde woods and overly bright lighting – it’s the sublime, ocean-fresh fish and the precision skill of the chefs that makes this one of Hong Kong’s best restaurants.
Sushi Shin, Shop 1-2 Ground Floor Wing Hing Court, 110-114 Tung Lo Wan Road, Tai Hang.
Some like it hot? Chachawan serves it hotter. Wander past the antique stores and temples of Hollywood Road until you reach a giant pair of emerald green sliding doors, behind which is Hong Kong’s hippest Thai restaurant, also home to some of the city’s most fiery cooking. Chachawan works a strict no reservations policy, but propping up the bar with a cocktail or a Singha Beer is hardly a hardship and gives you the chance to take in the restaurant’s décor – a riot of beautiful Thai murals, vintage floor tiles and a giant poster of a dinosaur cleaning his teeth. Don’t expect Pad Thai and creamy curries though. Chachawan draws on the cuisine of the North-Eastern Isaan region of Thailand with a menu focused on charcoal-grilled meats and seafood, as well as plenty of colourful, fragrant salads with that all important spicy kick.
Chachawan, 206 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan.
Perfect for the homesick English gent, a dinner at The Chinnery, preceded by a gin & tonic in the Captain’s Bar downstairs, is the closest most Brits can get to home in Hong Kong. With a refined club-style atmosphere and one of the world’s most extensive whiskey libraries (choose from a collection of over 100 single malts), little has changed since the days when the Union Jack flew over the harbour and the only method of transport up and down the Peak was a rickshaw. The menu features a host of staunch British favourites, from pork pies to the celebrated arctic roll, with an array of comfort food and the city’s best curries in between.
The Chinnery, Mandarin Oriental, 5 Connaught Road, Central.
It’s hard to imagine a better start to an evening than sitting perched at the low-lit bar of this petite Soho gem, sipping on a Negroni while perusing the mouth-watering menu hanging on the wall – think gnocchi with braised beef cheek and crispy sage leaves, and ravioli fritti stuffed with homemade buffalo ricotta. Dishes change weekly to make the very most of the best produce available and many breads, pastas and cheeses are made in-house. The menu is fresh, inventive and served in tapas-like portions ideal for sharing. Service is charming and the cheerful staff are always on hand to help pair your food with one of 121 BC‘s impressive Italian biodynamic wines.
121 BC, 42-44 Peel Street, Central.
Sitting in the fading rays of a sun-soaked day, cucumber and jalapeno margarita in hand, curled up in the cushion adorned aquamarine snug of Limewood, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in Tulum or the Caribbean, or at the very least, Sydney. The menu draws its influences from a melting pot of cuisines with a focus on fresh, bold flavours and barbequed meats. The spicy tiger prawn roll and charred corn fritters are the perfect snacks to help soak up those eye-wateringly strong margaritas, before moving on to BBQ lamb rack with peanut coconut sauce or ginger, orange and pineapple-glazed Hawaiian roasted baby pig leg. Leave a corner of room for dessert though, you haven’t lived until you’ve devoured every last crumb of the house-made churros with salted caramel dipping sauce and coconut ice cream.
Limewood, Shop 103 & 104, Ground Floor, The Pulse, 28 Beach Road, Repulse Bay.
No culinary tour of Hong Kong’s best restaurants would be complete without a Cantonese feast of epic proportions served up in a brightly lit dining room to the soundtrack of clattering dishes and high-decibel chatter. Safe in the knowledge that Yung Kee has been sating Hong Kongers’ appetites for almost eighty years, you can settle in around your Lazy Susan and let the Cantonese fare flow. The glossy, bronzed roast geese strung up in the restaurant’s street side windows, gives diners a preview of the evening’s main event before they’ve even crossed Yung Kee’s threshold. Just one bite of the juicy, succulent bird encased in crisp, honey-glazed, smoky skin and we’ll wager you’ll be booking a return trip back to Hong Kong before you’ve pushed your chopsticks together in satisfied defeat.
Yung Kee, 32-40 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong.
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Did we miss any of Hong Kong’s best restaurants? Which are your favourites? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Natalie Robinson