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Eating my way through ‘Asia’s International City’

By David Gruber, Digital Media B&BHG

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Earlier this month, I traveled to Hong Kong with a group of college friends. We stayed with one of my friends’s parents, American ex-pats living in Hong Kong. We built the trip around the Hong Kong Sevens, the event when “Hong Kong lets its hair down”. The secondary purpose of the trip was to eat. Call it market research.

 

I fielded restaurant recommendations for months before the trip. With few noted exceptions (namely, Yardbird), there was very little overlap in the restaurants recommended. Hong Kong is a city of endless options. It is no less than impossible to dine at all of Hong Kong’s best restaurants during a trip there. For the traveler, it’s perhaps easier to chart your eating by category rather than by venue.

 

There are a handful of dining experiences meant on a Hong Kong checklist; where you choose to dine is a matter of dispute. It’s sort of like choosing between bagels and lox at Zabar’s or Russ and Daughters. Every local has a favorite and you will never persuade him of the virtues of the alternative.

 

 

1) Peking duck. Originatind in Beijing and perfected during the Ming Dynasty, Peking duck is the unofficial national dish of China. And Hong Kong produces some remarkably delicious versions. I opted for duck at the China Club, a private—or, more accurately, semi-private—club located on the top three floors of the old Bank of China building in the financial district. (Hotel concierges are often able to make reservations, despite the members-only vibe.)

 

Though the club opened in 1991, it looks and feels like a relic of the 30s or 40s, pointedly decorated with colorful art of Maoist era iconography: heroic neon portraits of workers and soldiers. The China Club is a spectacle replete with musicians and live noodle making demonstrations. The spectacle alone is worth the trip.

 

Others swear by American Restaurant, a landmark that’s been around for half a century. Don’t let the restaurant’s name dissuade you, it was meant to lure American soldiers.

 

2) Thai street food. Few recommended Thai restaurants have names; they’re identified by their street corner. Expect to eat on plastic chairs or stools. The food will be produced impossibly fast; and it will be impossibly flavorful. Order the whole fish (we had Grouper) and the green curry (we had vegetable).

 

My hosts brought me to Shek O Thai, at the end of the Dragon’s Back hiking trail. Start with a beautiful view of the ocean and finish at the Thai restaurant of your dreams.

 

3) Dim sum: Hong Kong is riddled with Michelin stars. It also happens to offer the least expensive Michelin-starred experiences around the world.

 

If you’d like to have a separate stool for your purse while you eat dim sum, ascend a few escalators through the IFC Mall (connected to Hong Kong Station) to Lung King Heen in the Four Seasons Hotel. Lung King Heen is the only Michelin three-star Chinese restaurant in the world. The dim sum is presented spectacularly: seafood dumplings come in individual woven baskets and sprinkled with gold leaf. Main dishes of lobster and chicken offer familiar flavors distilled to the height of their sweetness.

 

Lung King Heen is more approachable (and less expensive) than its description—and the patrons carrying designer shopping bags—would lead you to believe. A hearty lunch will set you back less than 100USD.

 

Tim Ho Wan is the creation of a former Lung King Heen chef. It’s touted as the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world. It has two locations. One in Hong Kong Station and the other, the original, in the Mong Kok region of Kowloon. The dim sum is superb. Barbecue buns were a standout.

 

4) Modern Chinese: There are streets in Hong Kong (particularly Wan Chai, Soho, and Sheung Wan neighborhoods) that look and feel like they could be on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Restaurants are paneled with polished light wood and tout craft cocktails. Yardbird is the quintessential example.

 

The brainchild of Canadian ex-pats Matt Abergel and Lindsay Jang, Yardbird is a yakitori restaurant specializing in unexpected cuts of chicken. Yardbird was the most often recommended restaurant in Hong Kong. It also produced some of the tastiest bites of my trip: KFC (Korean Fried Cauliflower), chicken meatball, soft knee bone yakitori. Their newer sister restaurant Ronin, just down the street through an unmarked door, offers an extensive list of Japanese whiskeys. They’ve created a lifestyle brand in the model of Supreme. The Yardbird label sake is a perfect gift for food-obsessed New Yorkers.

 

After the break, find recommendations from Zach Allen, Executive Chef at Lupa in Hong Kong.

 

Mario's Picks

Hin Ho Curry Restaurant

One star Michelin Indian place.

Ronin

Hidden behind a black door, you’ll need luck finding it. But well worth the effort.

Yat Lok

Another great roast goose place.

Up 9

This is literally someone’s apartment. They serve killer Nepalese food, but it’s not for the timid of heat or cleanliness.

Sake Bar Ginn

Great sake list, food that is great for drinking, and a nice outside patio.