“You can leave Hong Kong, but it will never leave you.” – Nury Vittachi, Hong Kong: The City of Dreams.
Under Colonial rule until 1997, Hong Kong has a unique culture, blending the best of the East and West.
With a population of about 7.3 million, the most common languages are English and Cantonese. Local transportation is efficient, and one has the choice of travelling by car, taxi, bus, MTR and of course the ferry, with signs written in both languages.
Having lived in Hong Kong for nearly five years, the city continues to grow on me. There’s something for everyone. Disneyland and Ocean Park for kids (and adults), an abundance of shopping, sightseeing, museums, temples, beaches, hiking trails, horse racing, bars, restaurants ~ what more can one ask for! By any standards, Hong Kong isn’t cheap so be well prepared to splurge……
Hong Kong is often considered the culinary capital of Asia with a world of fine international dining options. The city has about 63 Michelin star restaurants and counting. Name the cuisine and its available; all very authentic in flavour with some employing international renowned chefs.
Only if you’re a little adventurous, try the local dim sum and fresh seafood at local streetside eateries. The food is prepared using fresh ingredients and is light in flavour, palatable and definitely worth a try.
Being a foodie, I’m often asked by visitors to recommend bars and restaurants. The list being exhaustive, I’ve stuck to Hong Kong Island to start with, restricting myself to listing some of my favourite local joints which I have tried, tested and personally feel would not disappoint. Next week I’ll share a list of my favourite international restaurants in Hong Kong Island. The next in the Hong Kong series will be on Kowloon.
Best Places For Dim Sum
With two locations in Hong Kong, Dim Sum Library is where you get contemporary and traditional dim sum, prepared with modern day ingredients and flavours served all day in the setting of an elegant Hong Kong tea room.
Dim Sum Library blends east and west into their cuisine. Must-try dishes are the Dan Dan Xiaolong Bao, Black Truffle Har Gau Shrimp Dumpling, Wok Tossed M9 Wagyu Beef (very briefly, Wagyu is the beef from 4 breeds of Japanese cattle. Alos bred in Australia, M9 is the highest grade of Wagyu beef produced in Australia. Their gradings run from M1-M9) with Wasabi & Garlic Sauce and of course Steamed Hokkaido Scallops with Garlic.
I suggest making a reservation as both locations are in malls and very popular.
Also check out ‘The Chinese Library’ located at Tai Kwun (the old Central Police Station which has been redeveloped into a cultural and shopping destination, with a range of upscale restaurants and bars) by the same owners.
Maxim’s Palace has authentic Cantonese dim sum and dishes at affordable prices. The best time to go is for lunch. Make sure you get in line by 11.30am otherwise the wait could be about an hour!
Maxim’s Palace has pioneered bringing the traditional dim sum cart into a very pleasant dining ambience and is an institution in itself. The staff roam around the restaurant pushing their carts which they briefly pause at every table so that you can choose which dim sum suits your palate. There’s a choice for everyone but vegetarian options are limited.
Possibly the cheapest Michelin star restaurant in Hong Kong, Tim Ho Wan has six locations in Hong Kong. Regardless of the time, be prepared for long lines. Service is quick so while away your time looking at the menu and choosing what you plan on eating during the wait for a table.
Popular dishes are Baked Pork Buns, Steamed Dumplings Chiu Chow Style (with prawns and pork), Steamed Fresh Shrimp Dumplings, Baked Buns With BBQ Pork, Pan Fried Leek Dumplings, Supreme Soy Sauce Fried Noodles With Sprouts, Steamed Egg Cake apart from Rice Rolls with stuffed with your choice of meats.
Tim Ho Wan has gone international too, with over 20 outlets in 9 countries including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia.
Mott32 has always been one of my favourite restaurants to entertain at. Located in the original vault of The Standard Chartered Bank, the restaurant is beautifully decorated and serves contemporary Chinese food including delicious dim sum.
Although the Peking Duck (ducks are roasted using both the Cantonese and Beijing methods, a process that takes 48 hours from start to finish, only available by pre-order) is renowned at Mott32, I salivate for their Barbeque Pluma Iberico Pork with Yellow Mountain Honey, recreating a Chinese classic. The pork is cooked for over 40 minutes to give the pork its signature smokey, charred exterior with a glaze of Yellow Mountain Honey. Also worth trying at the Soft Quail Egg With Iberico Pork and Black Truffle Siu Mai apart from Signature South African Lobster “Ma Po Tofu”.
They are normally booked out well in advance so make a dinner reservation at least two weeks in advance or speak with your hotel concierge who could possibly get you a place quicker.
With branches in Las Vegas, Vancouver and Singapore, Mott32 in Hong Kong is a must-visit.
Everyone I’ve taken to Ho Lee Fook has raved about it and never been disappointed! “A funky Chinese kitchen”, the menu at Ho Lee Fook is an imaginative approach to Chinese flavours and plating.
With the kitchen being on the street level and seating in the basement, Ho Lee Fook has an awesome vibe with the servers being casual and very friendly.
Must-try dishes are their Chongqing-Style Chicken Wings With Heaven Facing Chillies, Dried Chillies, Sichuan Pepper; “Prawn Toast X Okonomiyaki” With Kewpie Mayonnaise, Bull Dog Sauce, Shaved Cabbage, Aonori; Wing Bean & Edamame Salad With Vegetarian XO, Garlic Sauce, Toasted Rice; Asparagus, Broccoli, Sugar Snap Peas, Garlic, Shaoxing; Roast Wagyu Short Rib, Jalapeño Purée, Green Shallot Kimchi, Soy Glaze (you just can’t go wrong with this one!); Wok-Fried Cheong Fun Rice Noodles With XO, White Garlic Chives, Toasted Sesame.
One of my all-time favourites. A quaint little restaurant hidden away below the escalator between Caine Road and Elgin Street in SoHo, the food at Monogamous oozes the spices and flavours of the Sichuan province in China, specialising in Sichuan and Peking recipes. The décor is dominated by modern Chinese art.
Dishes which are really worth trying are Minced Pork With Sauteed Green Beans, Kong Po Chicken, Peking Duck With Hand Made Pancakes (and accompaniments), Sizzling Sliced Beef With Scallions and not to be missed is their Crispy King Tiger Prawns With Dried Sichuan Chili Peppers (about 8 large prawns in a portion). Many dishes are available without meat for vegetarians.
Portions aren’t huge and it would be great to collect a group of 4 to 6 people so that an abundance of dishes can be shared.
No visit to Hong Kong is complete for those who love spicy food without eating either at Qi – House of Sichuan or Chilli Fagara. You will just love the numbing and burning flavours of the food served at these two restaurants. Their authentic Sichuan dishes reflect the “seven flavours of Sichuan” – spicy, aromatic, sweet, bitter, sour, peppery, and salty. Portions are large and value for money. Make sure you have a chilled beverage handy as some people really can’t handle the numbing flavours!
Both restaurants not only have a fair share of popular dishes which one can relate to amongst “desi” folks but a wide choice of dishes to choose from and elaborate vegetarian menus too.
Travel Update : Please note that there could be travel restrictions because of the ongoing pandemic. Before travelling, please always check the latest government advice about COVID-19 travel restrictions in your destination.