Best Hong Kong Restaurants: Top 10 Culinary Experiences
By Ed Peters
Hong Kong Local Expert
Eating is a serious matter in Hong Kong. Every day the city warbles a symphony of frying, chopping and sizzling at more than 11,000 restaurants, ranging from extravagant seafood restaurants to intimate family-run Cha Chaan Tengs (tea food hall).
Some of the world's finest and most recognized Chinese restaurants are here. One example is Lung King Heen. The Four Seasons Hotel's affiliation is celebrated for its sophisticated Cantonese cuisine and was the first Chinese kitchen in the world to get three Michelin stars. The fine-dining space is the top choice for a dim sum lunch with a harbor view if budget permits.
The real Hong Kong flavor however, lies in the numerous neighborhood cha chaang tengs (tea food hall). This is fast food at its most delicious and creative. From a hybrid menu mixing Chinese, Indian, British and even Japanese, visitors can sample weird but extremely yummy dishes such as deep fried buns and macaroni with luncheon meat.
The city also has the most envied international food scene in Asia,with a vast array of cuisines that's like a United Nations smorgasbord. Some are helmed by celebrity chefs, others simply run with passion and good cheer by young up and coming men and women with a stong belief in the value of good food.
10 Ho Lee Fook
Inspired by old school Hong Kong restaurants and the spirit of late-night Chinatown hangouts in 1960s New York, Ho Lee Fook is a funky Chinese kitchen where guests can enjoy a fresh approach to traditional flavors in a setting that is simultaneously nostalgic and forward thinking. Chef Jowett Yu's inventive cooking style reinvents classic Chinese dishes with premium ingredients, modern techniques and a touch of humor. Plates such as the Hokkaido scallops, snow peas, pickled enoki and salmon roe and Yunnan-style steak tartar with hot and sour sauce introduce raw elements to Chinese gastronomy, whilst the Szechuan style Strange Flavour Chicken demonstrates the influence of regional cuisines on the menu. The façade of Ho Lee Fook offers a full view of the restaurant's open kitchen, with an army of chefs slicing, dicing and working their magic on the wok. A rock n' roll playlist featuring the likes of The Rolling Stones, ZZ Top and The Black Keys sets the tone as guests are escorted to the downstairs dining room. (852-2810-0860)
9 22 Ships
22 Ships -- a project by Michelin star chef Jason Atherton -- has a hip ambiance and comfortable neighborhood attitude. It is set to bring a unique flavor and vibe to Hong Kong, complementing Ship Street's casual and easy-going nature. The buzz focuses on Atherton's modern tapas menu, created especially for 22 Ships, representing the modern face of dining - outstanding food that is reasonably priced. The team at 22 Ships also provide a friendly experience, going the extra mile to suggest choices and explain dishes. The 1,500 square foot eatery adds a fresh and convivial atmosphere to the metropolitan culinary scene, intimately seating 35. Blending into the neighborhood with a balance of vintage touches and modern charm, the venue offers inside table and communal bar seating, as well as relaxed al fresco dining and drinking. (852-2555-0722)
In the throng of Japanese restaurants in Hong Kong, Nadaman, located in both Shangri-la hotels, is often rated as one of the best. Food is not cheap (a meal for two costs US$258 on average) but they come at its freshest and most artistic. Helmed by Chef Kenji Yanagita, the elegant and tranquil space excels at kaiseki cuisine, a traditional Japanese cooking style featuring colorful, seasonal ingredients and delicate, picturesque presentation. The Nadaman Assorted Sashimi Plate is the top choice on the a la carte menu. Nadaman houses separate teppanyaki, sushi and a la carte dining areas as well as private rooms. The restaurant is open for both lunch and dinner and practices a non-smoking policy. Reservations are strongly recommended. (852-2820-8570, 852-2877-3838)
7 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA
It sounds incredible but it's true: the yummiest Italian food outside Italy is hidden at the south tip of China, according to the Michelin Guide. Located on Chater Road in Central, fine-dining restaurant 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA in Central was the first and only Italian kitchen to be given three stars away from the gourmet country. The sleek 430-square-meter establishment was founded by Bergamo-born chef Umberto Bombana, who has endeavored to build the Italian food scene in Hong Kong for two decades. Food come in a simple and concise three-page daily menu. The restaurant also operates a five-course degustation meal for haute cuisine lovers. It can be hard to get a dinner reservation but customers can also order food at the bar. (852-2537-8859)
Pierre -- a stunning two Michelin-starred restaurant, situated on the Mandarin-Oriental's 25th floor offering floor-to-ceiling windows framing Victoria Harbour -- is Pierre Gagnaire's pied-a-terre in Hong Kong. Gagnaire is the wizard of innovative French gastronomy, and one of the mostoriginal and artistic chefs in the world today. His astonishingly intricate and elaborate dishes are often described as "modern French", although his style remains firmly rooted in the French cooking tradition, resulting in dishes that are exquisitely presented and utterly original. Under the watchful eye of Jean-Denis Le Bras, Chef de Cuisine at Pierre, the menuchanges seasonally, with express lunch and degustation dinner menus served alongside the a-la-carte choices. (852-2825-4001)
5 The Principal
The clean and modern design of The Principal's interior mirrors its culinary philosophy: refined, with color and texture working in perfect harmony. Designed by renowned Australian studio Hecker Guthrie, this bright airy space reflects a fresh approach to fine dining; sophisticated with a modern yet rustic feel to ensure a relaxed ambiance. The restaurant stands on the site of a former school, whose principal for 14 years was the late mother of one of the restaurant's founders. The name - The Principal - is a tribute to her legacy. Featuring the cuisine of The Principal Executive Chef, Jonay Armas, The Principal's menu stays true to the continual exploration of new tastes, textures and techniques, using the finest ingredients and methods both traditional and innovative. The Principal celebrates fine dining that is spontaneous and unchained by convention. (852-2563-3444)
4 SPOON by Alain Ducasse
Recipient of two Michelin Stars in the 2014 Michelin Guide, SPOON by Alain Ducasse features contemporary French cuisine inspired by Alain Ducasse, renowned as one of the world's top chefs. SPOON is an exciting combination of cuisine, decor, and service, which creates a modern and innovative experience for diners. Mix and match to your heart's delight at Spoon, Alain Ducasse's now-famous concept restaurant where guests are encouraged to design their own meals. Nothing is set in stone here. You choose from a selection of sauces, sides and condiments that may be influenced by Asian or Western cuisines, and the resulting meal can be as classic or nouveau as your taste buds dictate! As for the space, it ranks among Hong Kong's most stylish, with eel-skin upholstery, mink cushions and a ceiling that sports an artistic arrangement of more than 500 Venetian glass spoons. Plus, Spoon is one of only a handful of restaurants to receive Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence. (852 2313 2323)
3 Yung Kee
A three-story-high gold-crusted facade and rows upon rows of glazed barbecued meat hung underneath usher visitors into a mesmerizing eating experience on Wellington Street. Founded in 1942, Yung Kee grew from a dai pai dong food stall to a grand, lavishly decorated Hong Kong icon by one dish: its legendary roasted goose (US$19 for a quarter). The fowl is slow cooked in a coal-fire oven till reddish brown, and is served in chops together with the restaurant's sweet, sour and fruity dipping source. The goose meat is juicy and tender while the skin is crispy. In comparison, the restaurant's other signature is more challenging for Western diners: preserved eggs (US$1.3 per portion) with marinated ginger slices as the side. Yung Kee's menu also include various Hong Kong classics, such fried noodles, soup noodles and congee. Prepare for a long queue throughout the week. (852-2522-1624)
2 Fook Lam Moon
Don't be surprised if you are eating next to a celebrity or your waiter is good friends with Hong Kong's richest men. Fook Lam Moon, a family-run restaurant, has satisfied some of the most demanding taste buds over more than six decades. Food is expensive (an average bill stands around US$150 per head) but it's divine. All the Hong Kong seafood staples are on the menu: abalone, bird's nest and lobster. Roast suckling pig is a must-try which consists of melt-in-your-mouth crispy skin and savory juicy meat. The dainty lau sa bao is another signature, which is a soft steamed bun filled with liquid custard made with egg yolk, butter and sugar. Be careful, the filling can be piping hot. (852-2366-0286)
1 Lung King Heen
Cantonese food reaches its finest and most creative on the fourth floor of Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong. Lung King Heen, whose name means "dragon's view room," was the first Chinese restaurant to receive three Michelin stars in 2008. Formidable chef Chan Yan Tak went above and beyond to rejuvenate traditional dim sum menus. Ingenious creations, such as steamed Shanghai dumplings with scallops, have become the new objects of worship among serious local diners. Dim sum is ordered by piece(from around US$5). Although the dim sum lunch is highly popular, the 128-seat fine-dining establishment also serves exotic seafood dishes and glazed Cantonese barbecued meat. Books as early as possible for a table with a view towards the Victoria Harbour and Tsim Sha Tsui skyline. (00852-3196-8888)
About Ed Peters
Ed Peters has been based in Asia for most of his adult life, and counts Hong Kong as his second home. While he lives in a farming village on one of the outlying islands, getting to the city center takes only half-an-hour by ferry. And it's only 30 minutes by taxi to Hong Kong's futuristic international airport. These are just two of Hong Kong's many attractions -- the blend of urban and rural, and the ease of getting around what must be one of the most exciting cities on the planet.
Read more about Ed Peters here.