An epicurean guide to the New York of the East
For those jaded by Macau with its sprawling hotels, spotless roads with not even a stone out of place and numerous casinos lining almost every street, Hong Kong comes as a breath of fresh air. Stepping off the ferry and onto our coach, we were instantly struck by how much character the place really has. On the Kowloon side, the roads play host to skyscrapers, shop houses and posh pubs, while on Hong Kong island, the financial district of the region, winding streets and bylanes offer everything from chic designer stores, slick coffee shops, vegetable and fruit markets and more. While it has been hailed as a major shopping destination in Southeast Asia, not much has been said about its impressive gastronomic offerings that include everything from artisanal cafes to little cha chaan tengs that serve up an eclectic selection of comfort food. We put together a guide on how to eat your way through Hong Kong.
No-frills eateries, termed cha chaan teng, are where Hong Kongers flock to for quick, affordable meals. The menus at such cafes include everything from local cuisine to staples like sandwiches, toast and snacks. Our picks:
Located on a busy stretch in Wan Chai, this spot is favoured by locals and is often on the tourist trail as well. The eatery (pictured above) is famous for its fluffy egg tarts, a popular treat in Hong Kong. A crisp, flaky tart shell holds a wobbly yellow egg custard filling that is mildly sweet. The satay beef in instant noodles is also a hit with diners. At Hennessy Rd, Wan Chai.
Tsui Wah Restaurant
This is arguably one of the most famous cha chaan tengs in Hong Kong. Frequented by locals and tourists alike, the place is known for its Hainanese chicken rice, fishball noodles and bio luo you — a Hong Kong favourite that is a hot sweet bun served with a slice of frozen butter. At Wellington Street, Central.
Another Hong Kong institution, Capital Cafe is the place to make a beeline for if it’s the best scrambled eggs you’re after. Their scrambled eggs with black truffle on toast is especially worth every penny. Take respite from the heat with another Hong Kong specialty, iced milk tea, which is basically chilled black tea with condensed milk and ice cubes. At Heard Street, Wan Chai.
The bean scene
The specialty coffee culture is strong in Hong Kong and coffee shops that make their own blends are hard to miss. Here’s where you can get your fix:
Knockbox Coffee Company
The cafe’s no-nonsense approach to coffee is refreshing. So if you want your coffee the way god intended, here’s the place to be. A fan of decaf or soy milk? You’re bound to be disappointed. Their single origin coffee is roasted in-house and the menu offers cappuccino, lattes, macchiato and espresso made with beans flown in from Ethiopia, Brazil, Panama and El Salvador. The cafe also hosts workshops on latte art, espresso making and home brewing. At Mong Kok, Kowloon.
The Cupping Room
That the coffee shop is helmed by a two-time Hong Kong barista champion should be enough to warrant a visit here. The coffees are especially roasted for the store in Colorado and the interiors take design cues from the cafes of Melbourne. Their flat whites (espresso topped with velvety foamed milk) are highly recommended as are the shots of Colombia Santa Barbara. At Queen’s Road, Sheung Wan
It’s no surprise that the city is home to some of the most trendy restaurants in the world, specialising in Japanese, Italian, Vietnamese and every other
cuisine under the sun. Here are some of our recommendations:
If like us, sushi makes you go a little weak in the knees, you best head to this famed sushi restaurant, which actually has its roots in Tokyo. Recently opened in Harbour City, a massive mall spread over two million square feet, the place is best known for its tuna-based offerings. The maguro tosaki, a temaki made with meat from near the head of tuna fish, is highly recommended. At Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon.
Le Garçon Saïgon
Started by chef Bao La, who was brought up in Brisbane, Australia, this restaurant seeks to put the focus on French-Vietnamese fare, all given a modern twist. Wicker chairs and blue interiors make it a relaxing spot to dine. Sample their charcuterie plate of pate, goi thu (head cheese) and shrimp butter for a truly authentic experience, or opt for their Rhubarb, strawberries and macadamia nut crumble with custard ice cream for something sweet. At Wing Fung Street, Wan Chai.
VEA Restaurant and Bar
Barely a year into its launch, this restaurant by chef Vicky Cheng and mixologist Antonio Lai has already been awarded a Michelin star. The two-level space offers a chef’s table-style open kitchen experience above and a chic bar with traditional Hong Kong snacks on the lower floor. The menu which is constantly changing is a blend of Asian and French sensibilities. Dishes include creations like tuna with Hokkaido uni (sea urchin), espelette (a kind of French pepper) and burnt cucumber jelly. At Wellington Street, Central.
Quirky and adorable at the same time, the Hello Kitty Cafe is a dim sum house that is inspired by the fictional character. Everything from the interiors to the dishes take inspiration from the ‘Kitty.’ We enjoyed an assortment of dim sums, all bearing Hello Kitty’s face, complete with pink ears, bow and whiskers. At Canton Road, Kowloon.
Can’t decide if you want coffee or tea? Want the best of both worlds? If yes, try one of Hong Kong’s favourite drinks — milk tea coffee. The recipe calls for a 20:80 ratio of brewed coffee and milk tea. Get yours from Shui Wah restaurant in the busy neighbourhood of Mong Kok.
— Rashmi Rajagopal Lobo
(The writer visited Hong Kong on invitation by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.)