When I first moved to Hong Kong, I missed my favourite restaurants in London. Even though there is no shortage of European restaurants in Hong Kong, generally, they’re pricey and not as good as the ones in London, which is no surprise. However, over time, I’ve come to appreciate the restaurant scene in Hong Kong. There’s a lot of variety and Asian food is particularly good. On top of that, Western food is also pretty decent and new restaurants can be very innovative, with lots of fusion food. The restaurant scene changes very quickly and there are always new restaurants popping up. I’ve barely gleaned the food scene, as I still have a long list of restaurant to try but here are my top restaurants so far:
This is a trendy Japanese yakitori (chicken skewers) restaurant and bar which is probably one of the most popular restaurants in Hong Kong. Yardbird is in a tight space and does not take reservations so we need to turn up at around 6pm or after 9pm and avoid going in large groups. An alternative is to leave your name/number and head out to get a drink in one of the nearby bars; they’ll call you once there’s space. The atmosphere in Yardbird is chilled out but also friendly, with lots going on.
If you’re a fan of chicken and grilled food, Yardbird is awesome. The restaurant offers almost every part of the chicken, from the neck to the tail. The skewers are grilled perfectly, with the right degree of seasoning and smokiness. My favourites are the meatballs (which come with a yummy egg yolk sauce) and oyster (a tender part near the thigh). Other things to try are the asparagus with onsen egg, Korean fried cauliflower and sweet corn tempura. Something else that’s not on the menu but available for regulars is the tonkatsu sandwhich – crispy deep fried pork cutlets in fluffy buns. Be sure to check out the daily specials as well. The cocktails in Yardbird are also very good. It’s not cheap though – a meal here with a couple of cocktails is likely to set you back by at least HK$500 (US$65).
Little Bao, Soho
I mentioned Little Bao in my 2016/17 tag, as I only discovered this restaurant last year. While I’ve heard of it before, having buns for dinner just never appealed to me. Boy, was I wrong. During one of our dates, we arrived at Yardbird and was told that the wait is probably an hour. So we left our name and number, and walked up the road to Little Bao, thinking that we would just have a little snack and drink while waiting. The food was so good that even when Yardbird called us, we decided to stay in Little Bao instead.
Little Bao is famous for burgers, but instead of the normal buns, the restaurants uses steamed Chinese buns. We tried three of the four varieties – chicken, pork and fish. The chicken burger blew us away and we went for seconds. The bun was warm and fluffy, complementing a piece of juicy fried chicken with a tinge of the numbing and slightly spicy Sichuan pepper. There were also other dishes such as salad, fried chicken, clams, dumplings and fries. We had the salad and fried chicken which were also good, but the star of the show was definitely the burger.
Yat Lok, Central
This is one of the few local restaurants which we frequent. It’s a small family run roast meat diner which has a Michelin star. The best dish is roast goose with soup noodles, which is the only thing I’ve had here because it’s so good. The roast goose is very tasty and slightly less greasy than most other places, the meat is also pretty tender. The noodle is nothing to shout about but goes well with the roast goose. Don’t expect a relaxed meal here; it’s all about the food. The space is pretty cramped, with shared tables and stools. It’s one of those places where you get seated, order within 5 minutes, the food arrives in another 5 minutes and you’re out the moment you finish eating. A meal in Yat Lok is reasonably priced, at less than HK$100 (US$13).
Mama San, Central
This is a great Southeast Asian fusion restaurant which is mid-range (US$40-60) and has a vibrant but also relaxed atmosphere. The food is very creative and seems to be inspired by a number of Asian cuisines – Malay, Indonesian, Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese, to name a few. Due to the creativity of the food, most dishes are unique to Mama San. I’ve been here many times with colleagues and friends, so I’ve had the chance to try quite a few dishes. The most memorable ones are:
- Sashimi of salmon with pickled radish edamame organic flowers enoki and yuzu dressing: super fresh salmon with lots of different flavours, including the sweet and sour yuzu dressing.
- Soft shell crab rujak salad with green mango rose apple mint peanuts sesame seed and tamarind chilli sauce: this is inspired by Malay fruit salad, and is strong in sour and spicy flavours. It’s a refreshing dish and the salad goes well with the crispy soft shell crab.
- Dendeng balado caramelized short rib beef with pounded chilli kaffir lime & lemon basil: my favourite dish and I’ve not found this anywhere else. The beef comes in tender cubes and is sweet and slightly spicy, with a hint of sour.
- Slow braised veal cheek with Indonesian rendang spices: This is a traditional Malay/Indonesian curry, but Mama San’s version is unique because the meat is very tender and it’s not too spicy.
La Vache, Soho
Hubby and I are fans of pure and simple good quality steak and there are quite a few of these in Hong Kong, such as Wooloomooloo, Tango and our favourite – La Vache. I like La Vache not only because of the food, but also the relaxed Parisian café atmosphere, unlike the other steak joints which feel more posh and uptight. Unfortunately, it has a no booking policy unless you’re in groups of 5 or more. La Vache only serves one thing – steak and frites with green salad. I always order medium well and unlike some other places in Hong Kong which tend to overcook the meat, La Vache does it perfectly. The steak is juicy and tender while the fries are crispy. Paired with a glass of red wine and I’m in heaven! La Vache’s desserts are also worth mentioning. You get to choose from a large selection on the dessert trolley, and most of the tarts and cakes that we’ve had have not disappointed. All in, La Vache costs around HK$400+ per person (US$50).
Kaika Teppanyaki, The One, TST
In general, I’ve been impressed by the quality of Japanese food in Hong Kong, from fresh sushi to slurpingly delicious ramen. Kaika Teppanyaki stands out in particular due to the quality of ingredients and great teppanyaki cooking. This restaurant is very expensive, with dinner costing around HK$1000 or above (US$130). Fortunately, it has a good lunch deal, which is a semi buffet menu for between HK$300-400 (US$40-50). For this price, you get to enjoy buffet appetizers (salad bar and small Japanese dishes), one or two choices of teppanyaki meat/seafood, rice, teppanyaki vegetables and coffee/tea.
The buffet is a good mix of Western and Japanese, such as smoked salmon, Spanish ham and mushroom/pumpkin/beetroot salads in the Western section, while the Japanese selections include oden (stew of tofu, radish, fish cakes), miso eggplant and potato salad. We’re usually pretty full by the time we’re done with the appetizers, but it’s important to leave room for the star of the show – teppanyaki. The menu is extensive, from all kinds of meat like US beef tenderloin and Spanish Iberian pork to seafood such as salmon, scallop and abalone. The chefs are skilled at cooking these quality ingredients to perfection. These are complemented by teppanyaki fried vegetables and either fried rice or diced sashimi on rice. As Kaika is located on the 19th floor, there is also a great view of Kowloon side.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed my brief culinary tour of Hong Kong. I’ll refresh this list periodically as I make my way through the food scene in Hong Kong.