Gourmet trail: the best places to eat and drink in Hong Kong
· 31 January 2024
Hong Kong stands firm as an epicurean’s playground with scores of new restaurants and bars to visit.
Hong Kong has long reigned as Asia’s gastronomic capital. What lies beneath the metropolis, replete with towering skyscrapers and a backdrop of majestic peaks, is a culinary sojourn that isn’t quite like anything else in the world. From revered establishments helmed by star chefs to everyday hidden gems, the ever-bustling streets possess the very essence of its culinary narrative — one that holds true to its rich heritage and cultural convergence — drawing gourmands from around the world. For a taste of the best places to eat and drink in Hong Kong, these tables should be on your radar.
In The Mood For Tofu
Vicky Lau needs no introduction. The award-winning chef is widely known for her impact on the culinary sphere. Ever since debuting the “Ode To…” series served exclusively over lunch at the lauded Tate Dining Room where she presents tasting menus that focus exclusively on one main ingredient, the humble tofu alumnus soon turned into an obsession. As part of the opening of Mora, a semi-casual restaurant focused on the exploration of tofu and soy, Lau had dogged determination – and even acquired her very own tofu factory. There, she invests her time in research and experimentation, from Champagne vinegar fermented tofu which peculiarly resembles textures and flavours of feta cheese to dried whey curds used as a substitute for almond flour to make cookies and financiers.
At Mora, tucked away in the trendy neighbourhood of Sheung Wan, Lau’s East-Asian-inspired creations honour the entire ecosystem of tofu production with cameos of successful experiments. Bean curd skin is meticulously baked into a tartlet and used to cradle a harmony of soy cauliflower cream, smoked eel and seaweed. Soy milk is skilfully interpreted into a velvety lobster bouillon that coats each bouncy strand of udon that comes robustly flavoured with sakura ebi. And a deftly sliced tofu — bearing resemblance to an anemone underwater—dances elegantly when steeped in a supreme broth delicately layered with fermented winter melon. Tofu has never been this cool.
A meal at Hong Kong Cuisine 1983 should be on your bucket list. Situated on an uphill bend, the Happy Valley stalwart has become a local jaunt for over a decade. But ever since head chef Silas Li took over, the humble nook has undergone a lavish facelift to evolve into a modern Cantonese restaurant. Since the tender age of 16, Li has cut his teeth in Western kitchens and is trained in classic French cuisine. This homecoming, together with Hong Kong Cuisine 1983’s new vision to revolutionise well-loved Chinese classics and celebrate its heritage, is Li’s answer to the gradual disappearance of traditional recipes — mainly due to the industry’s unwillingness to share trade secrets.
While the dinner tasting menu promises an encompassing experience, larger groups may opt for sharing portions in the a la carte menu that is studded with standouts. Li’s interpretation of crab and eggs is a starter not to be missed. Meticulously presented in an eggshell, the dish unravels with delicate layers of fluffy steamed egg whites, hua diao wine-infused Chiu Chow coral crab meat, and lily flower root foam. Finishing touches of homemade roast crab oil and crispy Japanese baby crab amplify the umami sensation with each spoonful.
For poultry lovers, the succulent tea-smoked soy chicken beckons with sweet and savoury flavours as well as a salacious ribbon of smoke that lingers long after the finish. Even the glistening glutinous rice ball wrapped in crackling chicken skin shows plenty of finesse and mastery.
Meal With A View
Jade, a 230-seater waterfront restaurant—boasting panoramic views of the South China Sea— is nestled in a private enclave of Fullerton Ocean Park Hotel Hong Kong in Aberdeen. Well respected chef Lai Ching-shing sits firm at the helm. His steady foundation in Cantonese cuisine and insistence on using the freshest seafood to deliver timeless dishes is worthy of the evident fanfare for Jade.
On Tuesday, lunch hour, the restaurant is teeming with an army of hungry diners — a clamorous mix of families, sharply-dressed professionals, and silver-haired retirees — all in search of classic Cantonese fare done right. As for Lai’s culinary philosophy, less is certainly more. Take the signature baked crab shell, for instance, where pillowy morsels of fresh crab meat marry with the sweetness of onions under a veil of melted cheese. Or the collagen-rich double-boiled fish soup, complete with spotted grouper fillet, scallops and fish maw, arrives jam-packed with rich oceanic flavours. For sweet endings, consider indulging in an excellent panna cotta imbued with the warmth of ginger and textures of peach resin.
Old But Gold
While these restaurants may not be the newest kid on the block, they too offer incredible dining experiences that are worthy of a shout.
On Hollywood Road, David Lai’s Neighbourhood is as relevant as when it first earned its Michelin star, where reservations — sometimes weeks in advance — are still a must. For many, the salt-baked chicken, accompanied by a bed of rice with creamy yellow wine and morel mushroom sauce, is the standout dish that sets Lai apart from the rest (tip: always put in an advance order for it before your visit).
Then there’s New Punjab Club, a stylish tandoor grill house in Central that has maintained its one-Michelin-star status since 2019. Here, traditional Punjabi cuisine is unapologetically expressed with flair and finesse — the murgh malai tikka (spiced yoghurt chicken) is not to be missed.
Another hot spot is the Grand Majestic Sichuan, a sultry modern Sichuan restaurant that transports diners to the heyday of 1970s supper clubs. Renowned Sichuan food expert Fuchsia Dunlop plays an integral part in the creation of Chengdu-style dishes together with Singaporean head chef Theign Phan.
One For The Road
If you can only fit one bar in Hong Kong to imbibe in, it has to be Bar Leone. After an outstanding run at the Four Seasons’ Argo and garnering a long list of awards — including an impressive debut on the No.3 spot at Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2022, Lorenzo Antinori makes another splash in the cocktail scene with a sexy Italian-themed bar that brings a slice of Rome to the streets of SoHo. The 70s is definitely in the house: think walls plastered with vintage posters of Italian pop culture, brightly tinted Murano glass chandeliers, ox-blood leather booth seats, and even retro arcade machines.
Unlike the maximalist interiors, Antinori’s approach to his cocktails is both minimalist and full of contrast. The Negroni, for instance, is honoured in three expressions: a bittersweet classic with Campari; a refreshing yuzu-laced white Negroni, perfect for beating the summer heat; and a lush coffee Negroni made using beans sourced directly from Nicaragua. The hallmark is most certainly the Leone Martini, which promises an ice-cold stiffer that drinks beautifully floral and savoury—thanks to a splash of dry marsala. For light bites to line your bellies, go with the memorable smoked olives or the Roman-stuffed pizza generously stacked with heaps of mortadella.
Text by: Dawson Tan
(This trip was courtesy of HKTB)