Hong Kong: 5 Secret Foodie Hotspots
The colourful bar at Djapa, on Lee Tung Avenue, Hong Kong
Yet another reason to visit Hong Kong. The city is a magnet for explorers, adventurers, cultural enthusiasts and culinary fans.
Hong Kong is known for its food. And not just Dim Sum – although if you’re a fan, this is some of the best in the whole world. No surprise, as it is a tradition here. But, there are many chefs from the city itself, and all over the world who have been drawn to Hong Kong and its vibrant heritage – of celebrating many heritages, not just Cantonese.
“Hong Kong is a wonderful, mixed-up town where you’ve got great food and adventure,” says intrepid food hunter Anthony Bourdain. “First and foremost, it’s a great place to experience China in a relatively accessible way.” Bourdain is absolutely right. It’s accessible, and it makes some of the best food on the planet accessible to visitors.
The city is a magnet for explorers, adventurers, cultural enthusiasts and culinary fans. It features more than 50 restaurants awarded Michelin stars, and of those, six have three Michelin Stars.
But it’s the upstart chefs that are really making the food scene buzz here. We went in search of a few restaurants and bars and their creators that are breaking the rules, with flavour, with presentation and with a flair for the dramatic. And it’s not just about the food. The atmosphere of these places makes them true standouts, and most certainly feed the creative juices of the chefs and bartenders.
It’s part of the spirit that nurtures Hong Kong in its continual modernity quest. And it’s not that unfamiliar to Westerners. “At 13, when I arrived in Hong Kong after leaving China, I made a living by working in a restaurant,” says Martin Yan, the famous Chinese cookbook author and television cooking show star. For many of us, Yan was the first introduction to cooking Chinese food. (We all remember Wok with Yan, don’t we?)
Secret Foodie Hotspot #1: Alibi, at the Cordis, Hong Kong
Atmosphere: After-5 hangout elevated by innovative food and drink
Shared plates inspired by Asian, Italian and Spanish cuisine, a great wine list and reinvented classic cocktails are the draw at this meeting spot in the city’s Mongkok neighbourhood in Kowloon. Another draw is mixologist Leo Cheung (below, seen at the bar at Alibi) who handcrafts his menu and then tweaks it with innovative ingredients such as lemongrass incense, Montenegro bitters and citrus cues, such as fresh grapefruit and lemon juice. The evening we were there, he took the peel of a lemon and gently squeezed it over the glass, just as he served us the cocktail. The air was infused with freshness, and made the drink all the more appealing. Above, Cheung’s “Jack Rose” cocktail.
Secret Foodie Hotspot #2: Djapa (Brazilian-Japanese fusion restaurant and bar)
Atmosphere: Modern Brasilian/Japanese fusion meets modern art
Being the first Nipo-Brasileiro restaurant in Hong Kong, the bar boasts an impressive collection of more than 400 kinds of Japanese whiskies. The bartenders are very intuitive here, and a little cheeky. They assess your mood, and create one of their signature cocktails that they believe suit you. On the night we were there, the cocktail came dressed in a red-hot lacy g-string, wrapped to look like a subversive gift. Sexy, and the drink, delicious. Upstairs, the restaurant is helmed by chef Angel Romero, who works his fusion magic in an interior that’s a riotous mix of art and graffiti, based on Brazil’s colourful favelas, with more Japanese vibes thrown in. Vibrant art is a modernist’s dream, including Tomaz Viana, Yaiyo Kusama’s gold and black pumpkins and, one of my favourite Japanese visionaries, Takashi Murakami.
Address: Shops G18-20 & F18A, Lee Tung Ave, 200 Queen’s Rd. E, Wan Chai
Secret Foodie Hotspot #3: Tim Ho Wan (Dim Sum Specialists)
The Atmosphere: Where the locals go to eat
Well, perhaps Tim Ho Wan is not so much of a secret anymore, but locals still make it a habit, and the dim sum is habit-forming. The chefs here take the standard steamed bbq pork bun and give it their signature twist: they bake it, giving it the crusty topped appearance of another local beloved favourite, the pineapple bun. Our friends at Hong Kong tourism told me this: “Michelin starred and best-known local dim sum restaurant, provides a selection of dim sum made from fresh and premium quality ingredients and are also delectably fresh as made-to-order for retaining the dim sum’s flavour and texture.” They’re absolutely right.
Address: G/F, 9-11 Fuk Wing Street, Sham Shui Po
Secret Foodie Hotspot #4: Sohofama (All things organic)
Atmosphere: Locavorism meets industrial chic
Located in an artsy warehouse style building, Sohofama is known for its organic fare – including its cocktails. You walk in under the light of one of the coolest chandeliers I’ve ever seen – and I’ve seen a few – multi-coloured toy water guns bunched together. An organic mini farm lines the wall on the outdoor patio, and feeds the hydroponic cocktail bar, while the main dining room has an airy, unpretentious atmosphere. Head bartender Kit Cheung is a master mixologist, likes a bit of a show, hence the smoke, and he’s a bit of a charmer, too. Organic, indeed.
ADD: G/F, SG 12- SG14, Staunton Street, PMQ
Sohofama’s Drunken Monk
Recipe by Kit Cheung, head bartender
1 part Olmeca Reposado Tequila
1 part Chinese Yellow Rice Wine
Roselle and Siraitia (Luo Han Guo) Tea (at Chinese herbal tea shops or substitute rosehip and hibiscus)
Secret Foodie Hotspot #5: Deng G (world-renowned Sichuan cuisine traditionalists)
Atmosphere: Fine dining meets casual comfort
Enticed to come to Hong Kong from Shanghai by local restaurateur Paul Hsu of Elite Concepts, chef Deng Huadong and his bistro and “Baijiu bar” serves up traditional Sichuan dishes, based on recipes from his much-lauded Deng G located on the world-famous Bund in Shanghai. His cuisine is a favourite of culinary gurus, including Joël Robuchon, the “chef of the century.” We love the subtle spiciness of the dishes, including items we all recognize, but now can try from a true master: hot and sour bean curd soup, five-spice beef, Ma Po tofu and diced chicken with chilli and cashew are just the beginning of a trip to Sichuan province.
Address: 2/F, 147 Queen’s Road East, Wanchai