Hong Kong’s unique food culture has always encouraged a cuisine based on ingenuity – from the humble cha chaan teng (Cantonese-style diner) to the dai pai dong (hawker food stall).
Innovation and creativity run deep in the city’s newest crop of Cantonese restaurants, which are combining familiar flavours with an expanding range of influences. Here’s our pick of local restaurants that are redefining Cantonese food in their own way.
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The newest addition to the Star Street dining scene is the brainchild of former banker-turned-chef, Stephanie Wong. Roots combines Wong’s memories of her family meals with her training under Alain Ducasse and at Hong Kong’s Amber. The result is hybrid French-Cantonese bistro food that is praise-worthy yet unpretentious. Chow down on their French roasted spring chicken atop a base of glutinous rice for the last word in hearty, culture-crossing fare.
7 Sun Street, Wan Chai, 2623 9983; rootseatery.com
Conceived by the masterminds behind Mott 32, John Anthony stunned diners when it opened in the brand-new Lee Gardens Three with a beautiful, vaulted space rendered in millennial pink – an instant attraction to Instagrammers. The extensive menu (backed by a robust drinks menu heavy on gin-and-tonics), offers extravagant creations such as tea-smoked crispy yellow chicken, smoked duck eggs with Manchurian roe, and a succulent char siu made not using the traditional pork cuts, but with Australian wagyu beef. Dine during lunch for their daytime-only dim sum selection.
1 Sunning Road, Causeway Bay, 3105 3668; johnanthony.hk
Embodying the neo-Cantonese ethos through and through, restaurateur May Chow’s Happy Paradise represents a take on Hong Kong kitsch that is as nostalgic as it is forward-looking. Modelled after the lurid ‘80s-era karaoke bars of working-class neighbourhoods such as Yau Ma Tei and Sham Shui Po, the luridly-designed restaurant serves highlights such as char siu rice upgraded with Pluma Iberica pork and silky stir-fried egg-white atop a bed of pearl rice, and thick-cut rice noodles with Australian wagyu skirt steak. The drinks menu doesn’t disappoint either, featuring creations such as the Hong Kong Lemon Tea, which blends the mass-market beverage with Bison Vodka and a dash of soy sauce; and the refreshing chrysanthemum margarita, fusing blanco tequila with cointreau, chrysanthemum and lime.
52-56 Staunton Street, Central, 2816 2118; happyparadise.hk
Ho Lee Fook
Headed by chef Jowett Yu, Ho Lee Fook was the first gem in the culinary crown of Black Sheep Restaurants, and made a splash upon its launch with a punchy menu that focuses on Cantonese classics such as siu mei-style roasted meats, with global inflections from as far afield as New Zealand and Jamaica. Try the signature kurobuta pork char siu, the ‘prawn toast x okonomiyaki’ which takes hints from Hong Kong-style shrimp toast, as well as the irresistible fried corn cooked in the typhoon shelter style.
1-5 Elgin Street, Central, 2810 0860; holeefook.com.hk
Inhabiting an airy space styled after the no-frills cha chaan teng restaurants of the ‘50s, Second Draft pays homage to distinctly Cantonese flavours through the medium of cleverly reinterpreted pub favourites. Alongside a robust selection of seasonal drafts from local breweries, the menu features a host of heavy-hitting, umami-packed dishes that blend Chinese spices with Western classics. The mapo burrata places a generous dollop of silky burrata cheese on a bed of mapo pork ragout, while the hand-dressed flower crab pasta makes for a highly Instagrammable dish, with its crab shell set atop an egg yolk and thick Shanghainese noodles in rich butter sauce.
98 Tung Lo Wan Road, Tai Hang, 2656 0232
CreditHeader image courtesy of John Anthony