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Hong Kong's best restaurants
From slurping noodles at roadside cha chaan tengs to nibbling haute cuisine at fine dining establishments, if there’s one thing that 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 a significant number of expats, and you’ve got 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 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.
Tim Ho Wan
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, construction workers on their lunch break 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, giving way to a generous splodge of sticky, sweet BBQ pork.
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 for award-winning dishes. 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 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 delights from amuse bouche foie gras lollipops (an Amber signature dish) right through to petit fours almost too beautiful to eat.
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 alongside the familiar breast and thigh cuts, you can also 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.
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, Carbone has been one of the hottest tables 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.
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 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.
Sitting in the fading rays of a sun-soaked day on the aquamarine snug of Limewood, cucumber and jalapeno margarita in hand, 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 pork. 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.
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 the 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.
Written by Natalie Robinson