October 7, 2009

My favourite places to eat in Hong Kong

Here are some of my favourite places to eat in Hong Kong. It's a short list for now but I plan to add more once I decide which other places are worthy of recommendation. Suggestions also very welcome. You can probably tell from this list below that I'm quite a cheap person when it comes to food, except for occasional splurges. Actually, it's just that I'm not big into the expensive food in Hong Kong (shark fin, bird's nest, abalone) but I am crazy for street food and cheap eats.

(No photos here, but please click on the link to visit the restaurant's page on Openrice.com, where there are reviews and photos.)

Updated November 7, 2010

For a Special Occasion:
  • The Peak Lookout (The Peak) - A wonderful colonial-style restaurant with outdoor garden terrace with a nice view of the south side of Hong Kong Island. They have an international menu, with great BBQ/grilled items, Asian food, oysters/seafood, wines, desserts, and even cigars. A full 3-course dinner with wine/cigars comes to approximately US$100 per person. Don't get suckered into going to the much larger, noisier and equally pricey Cafe Deco across the road. The Peak Lookout is worth it because it's wonderfully romantic, the food and service are superb, and you can create lifelong memories here. Great to come here with that special someone. My boyfriend's still talking about the oysters one month after we ate there!
  • Caprice (Four Seasons Hotel, Central) - See this post for a review of our dinner at this 3-Michelin starred French restaurant.
  • Runner up: The Verandah (Repulse Bay) - Colonial style dining with fine food overlooking the beach.

For a real taste of Hong Kong:
  • Australia Dairy Company (Jordan) - Don't say I didn't warn you. This place is always packed, the lines are long (but move fast), the waiters are brisk almost to the point of rudeness, food comes within 60 seconds of ordering... definitely not a place to linger. However, it has the absolute best scrambled eggs that you'll ever have. Seriously. They are super fluffy and tasty on the cafe's thick white bread. Breakfast, all-day and tea sets include various combinations of fried/scrambled egg with toast, ham/BBQ pork with macaroni/spaghetti in soup, and tea/coffee/Horlicks/Ovaltine. You'll be in and out in less than 15 minutes and for under US$5.
  • Fantastic Ladies Cafe (Tuen Mun) - Fusion Italian place run by a local charity as a social enterprise. The restaurant and kitchen are staffed by workers both young and old who have difficulty finding gainful employment. The restaurant provides training and income to workers in this industrial, slightly run-down part of Hong Kong. It's way out in the suburbs but if you are in the area, make sure to check this place out, if only for the cute decor. The food is quite good too and reasonably priced, and very Hong Kong in taste (pork chop with tomato sauce and pasta; spicy seafood chili pasta stir-fry and more). Meals are about US$5-10 for pastas, rice dishes, etc.
  • Kau Kee (Central) - Famous beef brisket noodle place. Local celebrities come here. It (in)famously closes for cleaning and staff dinner every day during prime dinner time (7:15-8:30pm). Try the curry brisket and tendon with e-fu noodles, or the brisket in plain stock with noodles. About US$4.50 for brisket noodles and a soft drink/iced tea.

Favourite summer restaurant:
  • The Stoep (Cheung Sha, Lantau) - right next to beautiful, uncrowded Lower Cheung Sha Beach, this restaurant supposedly serves South African cuisine but really it's just a mix of good home-baked bread (try the Farmhouse loaf) and dips (eggplant and feta/dill dips are recommended), some BBQ/grilled items and pasta. Nothing too exciting and the price is not that cheap. However, with a wonderful view like that, it makes the food much better. Go there after swimming in the sea or lying on the beach. About US$20-30 per person for a full meal depending on what you order.

Favourite after-work dinner spot:
  • Cenacolo (SoHo) - solid, reasonably priced Italian restaurant with friendly (real friendly, not fake-friendly) staff. Their pastas are very good. Book ahead, especially weekday lunch and all day weekends. They have a 2 course lunch set w/coffee or tea for less than US$15 (including service). They are open until 11pm, so feel free to go for dinner late. Great if you have to work late!
  • Four Seasons Claypot Rice (Yaumatei) - Claypot rice is essentially rice with various toppings cooked in a clay casserole dish over an open flame. It's a staple winter dish but this place offers it all year round. You can choose various versions such as chicken with mushroom, preserved sausage and salted meat, pork ribs, etc. which come on top of the rice. Fried oyster pancakes are also available. No drinks are served, not even water, so remember to head over to the corner store to buy soft drinks/beer, etc. before you eat. About US$4 for a claypot rice dish.
  • Jun Yakitori (Tsimshatsui) - Best grilled onigiri in Hong Kong. Seriously. Also serves great grilled skewer items and home-style Japanese food (e.g. stewed beef and potatoes). Good place to hang out, drink beer/sake, and eat good food in a casual setting with friends. Note that this place is really small and seats are wooden. The walls also have 20+ years of customer graffiti in Sharpie pen.
  • Ishiyama (Causeway Bay) - Hidden in a nondescript commercial building, this is one of my favourite places in Hong Kong, not just Japanese places. A bit pricey but it has good, solid Japanese fare. Sashimi, nabes (hotpots), yaki-soba, grilled items, etc. Their cold marinated tofu is really good.
  • Akira Kushiyaki (Causeway Bay). Hidden down a side street, this Japanese skewer place does the traditional skewers done up with a contemporary flair and a light, sure touch. I recommend the kurobuta and negi (Japanese black pork and leek), the grilled cod skewers, and basically everything on their menu. :)

Favourite lunch spots:
  • Yachiyo Ramen (Central) - best shoyu ramen in town. Remember to order an extra side of soy sauce-marinated soft-boiled eggs. Ramen is about US$8.
Snacks and nibbles (Hong Kong is all about street food, so here are a few favorites):
  • Hot dogs @ Wing Lok Yuen (Central) - not US hot dogs. These are those skinny Dutch sausages (try the double dog - two dogs, one bun), placed inside a toasted white bun and slathered with a gallon of mayo. I exaggerate about the mayo, but not much. Cost: about US$1 for a hot dog.
  • Cart noodles @ Sun Kee Spicy Cart Noodles (Causeway Bay) - cart noodles are part of Hong Kong's cultural heritage. Originally they were sold by vendors pushing carts around the city. It is a pick-and-mix operation: you choose the type of noodle and the toppings you want. At Sun Kee, if you like spicy food, go for the spicy broth base, otherwise stick with plain. I like the plain noodles, but there are rice noodles and flat noodles too. As for toppings, Sun Kee's spicy and soy-sauce items are famous. I love the spicy pig's blood, chives, soy sauce pig intestine, soy sauce chicken wing, and others. If you're less adventurous, there are plenty of safer options such as fishballs, sliced beef, etc. Just under US$4 for a bowl of noodles and 3 toppings. US$0.90 per topping/noodle. (So noodle + 3 toppings is US$3.60)
  • Best US-style pizza in town @ Paisano's. Unfortunately this secret is no longer a secret, with Time Out calling it the best pizza in Hong Kong, which now means you have to endure lines, an hourlong wait for a pizza and sometimes even a slice, and hassled/bad service. Still, worth a try on weekends or during off-peak hours. Otherwise, call ahead and be prepared to wait (this applies for takeout too).

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