There's no perfect translation for foodie in Cantonese—mei sic tat yan (literally “food guru”) comes close—but Hong Kong gives food lovers plenty to bite into regardless. Innovative restaurants both casual and formal populate the city, with chefs dishing out creative plates that employ organic, slow-food, and artisanal approaches in beautifully designed venues. Here, we present seven of the city's best eateries, ranging from high-end takes on traditional Chinese cuisine to fusion-filled menus like you've never experienced.
Hidden behind the facade of the now-defunct headquarters of a French tramway company, Bibo (163 Hollywood Road) is a contemporary art trove doubling as restaurant. Filled with work by big-name artists including Banksy, Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, plus local calligraphy-graffiti master King of Kowloon, the space serves up chef Mutaro Balde's eye-catching, entirely house-made French-inspired plates and mixologist Alexandre Chatté's inventive and speakeasy-inspired craft libations.
Menu Must-Have: The seasonal seafood carpaccio, brightly colored and flavored with lemon juice, chili, and finely chopped herbs
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Alvin Leung, known as the “Demon Chef,” broke new ground with his avant-garde, molecular approach to traditional Chinese fare, dubbed “x-treme Chinese,” at the two Michelin-starred Bo Innovation. His latest venture, opened in 2013 within a Kowloon Kwun Tong district office tower, with a protégé, chef Lo Ka Ki, at the helm, has already snagged a Michelin star. Although more Asian-Western fusion in nature, MIC Kitchen's menus, both fixed (dinner starts at HK$598) and a la carte, are equally surprising and flavor-driven.
Menu Must-Have: Iberico ham: hot and sour soup and braised rice vermicelli rolled within slices of ham topped with lychee foam
Asian-American comfort food is the concept behind May Chow's cozy, open kitchen Little Bao, where bao, Chinese steamed bun sandwiches, receive a burger-style makeover. Chewy, mildly sweet Northern Chinese-style buns contain fillings ranging from decadent pork belly to vegetarian-friendly shitake tempeh. A “no bao cutting” policy is explicitly stated on the menu and strictly enforced; May, a Bo Innovation veteran, says that if dining companions want to taste each other's selection, they'll need to get messy and chomp directly from the source. However, the menu features plenty of sharing-specific dishes like crispy eggplant and pork tempura with ponzu dip, and Southeast-Asian-inspired roast Brussels sprouts in fish sauce.
Menu Must-Have: Fish tempura bao with tamarind palm sugar glaze and pickled lemongrass-fennel salad
Aqua Group specializes in impeccably designed concept venues, and this collaboration with Armani is fashionista-worthy indeed. The first course at Armani/Aqua is pure visual drama, and served before one even sits down: a strut down a red and black hallway-cum-catwalk, the rear wall of which parts to reveal a roomy dining space with Asian design elements and rich colored lighting. As for the menu, it's split between high-end Italian and Japanese fare, from sushi to fresh pasta and Wagyu beef dishes.
Menu Must-Have: The dinnertime “Salt Discovery” set menu (HK$1288, about $166), which pairs exotic salt varieties with six courses including a Sicilian red prawn risotto with tableside shavings from a rock of Persian blue salt
Taking its name from Manhattan's 32 Mott Street, in the center of New York's modern-day Chinatown, Mott32 is a 2014 newcomer housed within the depths of the Central district's Standard Chartered Bank Building (be sure to take a peek at Remo Riva's stained glass depictions of contemporary and futuristic HK in the lobby before dinner). Mott32's chef Fung, formerly of the two Michelin-starred Dynasty, delivers up-market, insanely delicious takes on traditional Chinese and dim sum fare, featuring chilled free-range chicken with Sichuan pepper; crispy pork belly with mustard; and Iberico pork char sui in downright cinematic, industrial-chic environs.
Menu Must-Have: The applewood-roasted Peking duck, which, due to its time-consuming preparation and advance air-drying, must be pre-ordered.
Opened on the third floor of a Central district building in April 2014, NUR derives its name from both the Arabic term meaning “light” and UK-bred head chef Nurdin Topham, whose affinity for organic, fresh, and local produce (and training as a nutritionist therapist) inform his artfully plated “nourishing gastronomy.” Topham's pair of nightly set menus—the six-course “Light” rings in at HK$788, and nine-course “Feast” at HK$988—change frequently according to produce availability, sourced locally wherever possible from a growing number of organic farms in Hong Kong's northern New Territories and NUR's own terrace herb garden. While Topham admits he hasn't “cracked local seafood” just yet, meals typically open with a gorgeous Gillardeau oyster bathed in cucumber-wasabi foam. Allergic to shellfish? Delectable house-made ricotta with generous truffle shavings is your enviable substitute.
Menu Must-Have: Zen Organic Farm heirloom cherry and grape tomatoes in a chilled herbal “soup”
Bursts of thick white fog billow nightly from the front of Tai Hang neighborhood ice cream shop, Lab Made, whose molecular gimmick—liquid nitrogen is used to flash-freeze ingredients for a crystal-free smoothness—hasn't overshadowed the product's incredible, Hong Kong-centric flavors and textures. Four are offered weekly (keep tabs via their Facebook page), including favorites like sticky toffee pudding, almond roca, Hong Kong crispy toast, moon cake, and, a take on a beloved dim sum staple, Hong Kong custard bun. Since opening during the summer of 2012, Lab Made has sprung three more locations including one in Tsim Sha Tsui's Miramar Shopping Centre and in the New Territories' Tuen Mun Town Plaza.
Menu Must-Have: Hong Kong crispy toast: vanilla ice cream with crunchy toast bits and a condensed milk-peanut butter drizzle