Top Chef and Critic Go Head to Head on Hong Kong Eating

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Book Flights

Jul 26, 2017

by AKASH ARORA, Features Editor

Will our Hong Kong experts agree on the best Peking duck and hawker stall? We put them to the test.

The Chef

Richard Ekkebus

Culinary director at Amber, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental’s two-Michelin-starred restaurant.

The Critic

Charmaine Mok

Editorial director of food and wine for Edipresse Media Asia, overseeing Hong Kong Tatler Dining.

Is there one restaurant that really nails the Hong Kong vibe?

RE Luk Yu Tea House (24-26 Stanley Street, Central; +852 2523 5464) is one of Hong Kong’s oldest and most famous tea houses. It has featured frequently in movies and literature and is known for its Colonial style and loyal customers. Prepare yourself for tasty, traditionally prepared dim sum.

CM Lin Heung Tea House (160-164 Wellington Street, Central; +852 2544 4556) is one of the few dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong that still does the trolley service. It’s chaotic. You go in, you wait for a seat; the waiters are brusque but very efficient. They pour tea two feet above your table and the dim sum are super-fresh. They also do lots of classics that you don’t see anywhere else, such as sausage rolls and quail egg siu mai. I took [British chef and nose-to-tail pioneer] Fergus Henderson there once and he loved it. It was just all these offal dim sum that you wouldn’t get in a restaurant back in the UK.

SEE ALSO: An Insider’s Guide to Hong Kong

What’s the best fine-dining establishment in the city?

RE Belon. The food is fine dining but the ambience is a bit different – sort of a neo-Parisian bistro with extremely precise food. There’s a hidden bar upstairs where you can have a drink first and then go down and have food of impeccable quality.

CM Ta Vie is a small establishment run by Hideaki Sato, a super-talented chef. His food is an interesting mix of Japanese and French techniques. Hideaki uses local ingredients such as chrysanthemum flowers in his dishes, which are the most beautiful you’ll find in Hong Kong.

Do you have a favourite hawker stall?

RE Yat Lok (34-38 Stanley Street, Central; +852 2524 3882), which is sort of a hole in the wall. There’s always a long queue outside so you need a little bit of patience but the goose is amazing – the skin is extremely thin and not super-crisp.

CM Hawker stalls in Hong Kong are starting to die out but I’m going to go with Hong Kee Restaurant (Kai Yip Estate, 18 Kai Yip Road, Kowloon Bay). It’s a semi-open shack and the guys in the kitchen look like they’re straight out of a kung-fu movie. You can hear fire going all night and, in winter, it’s the best place for braised lamb brisket to keep warm.

Where do you go for the best dim sum?

RE I love going to Fook Lam Moon on a Sunday, when you have these tycoons sitting around the restaurant. The dim sum chef is a 76-year-old master so you definitely eat old-school dumplings.

CM I love Mott 32’s contemporary take on dim sum – the quail egg siu mai made from Ibérico pork and black truffle is, dare I say, better than the original.

What about a Western breakfast?

RE I’m a very healthy eater for breakfast so I like Grassroots Pantry. The chef [Peggy Chan] is well known in Hong Kong. She doesn’t use any dairy and it’s all vegetarian. It’s one of those breakfasts that you feel good about.

CM One of the most serene places for breakfast is Café Gray Deluxe at The Upper House, because it has a lovely view of Victoria Harbour – particularly if you are there early in the morning, when you can see the sunlight dancing off the ocean. There are fresh juices and really good fluffy pancakes.

What Chinese restaurant do you recommend?

RE I like Celebrity Cuisine in the Lan Kwai Fong Hotel (hotel.qantas.com.au/lankwaifonghotel). The atmosphere is a bit strange – there’s purple carpet on the floor and walls so it feels like you’re boxed in. But the food is so good that it makes up for the ambience. It also has a Michelin star. They do Hakka-style cooking and have dishes such as duck with taro, which you don’t see often in restaurants.

CM Kin’s Kitchen (5/F W Square, 314-324 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai; +852 2571 0913). It’s very low-key but they do fantastic authentic Chinese food, with amazing stuff like bamboo-kneaded noodles – they’re ultra-thin and touched with the most delicate soy sauce.

Where do you go for authentic Cantonese cuisine?

RE The Chairman. I take all the famous chefs who come to Hong Kong there. It’s a benchmark restaurant – all white, very retro in a way and the waiters are mature and knowledgeable. They do dishes such as flowery crab in oxidised Chinese wine and sticky crab that’s to die for. And they have some of the best spare ribs.

CM Happy Paradise (UG/F 52-56 Staunton Street, Central; +852 2816 2118). I know it sounds like a dodgy massage parlour but it’s doing really fantastic things with Cantonese food. The result is actually more contemporary Cantonese. It was opened by May Chow– who was crowned Asia’s Best Female Chef 2017 [by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list] – and John Javier, who came from Australia. They work well together; she gives him the foundation of typical Cantonese dishes and he puts his own spin on them. We have a classic Hong Kong dish of egg custard, usually done with some chicken broth – it’s steamed, really delicate and the epitome of Cantonese food. But John does it in a different way; he puts spring-onion oil on top and serves
it cold. It’s a brilliant twist, without the essence of the original dish being lost.

What about Sichuan?

RE Chilli Fagara. Their speciality is crab cooked Sichuan style – a real lip-burner. It’s very spicy and numbing but there are different levels of spiciness so if you don’t like it too hot, you can get away with something moderate.

CM Sijie Sichuan. It’s run by Sijie, who’s quite a character. She’s known for having beer-chugging competitions with customers. She does super-fiery but really delicious multilayer flavours.

Who does a great Peking duck?

RE Man Wah at the Mandarin Oriental is one of the most beautiful Cantonese restaurants and they do an amazing duck. They carve it at the table then serve it in pancakes with hoisin sauce, cucumber and scallions [green onions].

CM Yan Toh Heen at the InterContinental Hong Kong. Chef Lau [Yiu Fai] does really good Peking duck; the skin is crisp and glistening and cooked tableside, while the pancakes are soft and not too doughy.

Which restaurant offers the best views of Hong Kong?

RE Rech by Alain Ducasse is a seafood restaurant on the Kowloon side with the best views of Hong Kong Island. It has these high windows so regardless of whether you’re sitting at the front or back, you’ll have a great view not only of the harbour but also the skyline of Central.

CM The Grand Buffet in the Hopewell Centre building is the only 360-degree revolving restaurant in Hong Kong. You can see the mountains to the south then you turn and see the glittering skyscrapers. As far as buffet restaurants go, it’s pretty good. And it’s not just for tourists; locals love it, too. It’s probably harder to book than most fine-dining restaurants in high-rises.

What’s your favourite place for drinks?

RE Stockton is a hidden cocktail bar in a back alley in Central – very hard to find. But it has a wonderful feel, with dim lighting, vintage furniture and little corners where you can tuck away with friends and have a drink. It’s a bit speakeasy-like and I love their rum, bourbon and whisky cocktails.

CM One of the game changers is The Woods. The bar is owned by Victoria Chow, who uses Hong Kong ingredients, techniques and infusions to create interesting cocktails that are visually stunning and taste complex and layered.

And for a typical Asian-style breakfast?

RE Sang Kee (7-9 Burd Street, Sheung Wan; +852 2541 1099) is a congee shop so it’s all rice-based, with congee dishes that contain pig heart, chicken, liver, fish belly or vegetables. It’s hard to find and nothing is written in English but it’s an authentic place – sort of an institution here.

CM Sun Hang Yuen (38 Kweilin Street, Sham Shui Po; +852 2386 2748) is really small; you sit elbow to elbow with others. They do the best corned-beef sandwiches, which is a typical Hong Kong breakfast. You can ask for it toasted or untoasted and they cut off the crusts so you end up with fluffy white bread. And you eat it with a glass of really strong Hong Kong milk tea. It’s perfect.

SEE ALSO: Things to Know Before You Go to Hong Kong