Dining Planner

Hours

A typical Hong Kong breakfast is often congee (a rice porridge), noodles, or plain or filled buns. Most hotels serve western-style breakfasts, however, and coffee, pastries, and sandwiches are readily available at local coffee shops and western cafés. Lunchtime is between noon and 2 pm; normal dinner hours are from 7 until 11 pm, but Hong Kong is a 24-hour city, and you'll be able to find a meal here at any hour. Dim sum can begin as early as 7:30 am, and though it’s traditionally a daytime food, you’ll find plenty of specialist restaurants that serve dim sum late into the evening.

Prices, Tipping, and Tax

Many restaurants in Hong Kong serve main dishes that are meant to be shared, so take this into account with respect to prices. It's also worth noting that some specialty dishes are outrageously expensive—abalone, bird's-nest soup, and dried seafood. And when you get your check, don't be shocked that you've been charged for everything, including tea, rice, and those side dishes placed automatically on your table. At upmarket and western-style restaurants tips are appreciated (10% is generous); the service charge on your bill doesn't go to the waitstaff.

Reservations

Book ahead during Chinese holidays and the eves of public holidays, or at high-end hotel restaurants like Amber or Caprice. Certain classic Chinese dishes (especially beggar's chicken, whose preparation in a clay pot takes hours) require reserving not just a table but the dish itself. Do so at least 24 hours in advance. You'll also need reservations for a meal at one of the so-called private kitchens—unlicensed culinary speakeasies, which are often the city's hottest tickets. Book several days ahead, and be prepared to pay a deposit. Reservations are virtually unheard of at small, local restaurants.

Share and Share Alike

In China food is meant to be shared. Instead of ordering individual main dishes, it's usual for those around a table—whether a couple or a dozen people—to share several. Four people eating together, for example, might order a whole or half chicken, another type of meat, a fish dish, a vegetable, and fried noodles—all of which would be placed on the table's revolving tray. Restaurants may adjust portions and prices according to the number of diners.

Western-style cutlery is common in many—but not all—upmarket Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong, but what better place to practice your chopstick skills? Serving chopsticks are usually provided for each dish. You should use these to serve yourself and others. If no serving chopsticks are provided, serve yourself using your own chopsticks; just be sure to use the ends that you haven't put into your mouth.

What to Wear

Casual dress—sports shirts, T-shirts, clean jeans, and the like—is acceptable almost everywhere in Hong Kong, although shorts and sneakers or flip-flops will feel out of place at trendy venues and five-star restaurants where people dress to impress. Generally, the dress code in Hong Kong is stylish but quite conservative.

Wine or Beer?

Traditionally, markups on wine have been high here, and wine lists uninspired. French reds have long had a cachet in Hong Kong, but since the repeal of the city's wine tax, the city’s wine selection has become increasingly democratic and now includes many New World selections that are often better suited to the local cuisine and the climate. More people are also getting interested in pairing wine with Asian cuisine, and it’s not uncommon to see Chinese restaurants—especially the higher-end ones—create tasting menus designed specifically to go with various wines. Many midrange restaurants and private kitchens allow you to bring your own wine for a corkage fee.

For Cantonese food, tea is traditional, but Hong Kong likes its beer—before, during, or after dinner. It's generally light stuff, like Heineken, the locally brewed San Miguel, or a Chinese lager such as the immensely popular Tsing Tao. Craft beers have also taken off. Many pubs import interesting microbrews, and you may also want to try one of the few locally brewed artisanal ales. When it’s time to hit the karaoke bars or clubs, though, people switch to stronger spirits. If you like cocktails, check out some of the newer, upscale bars, which take their mixed drinks very seriously.

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