Canadian-born Matt Abergel and Lindsay Jang opened this modern Japanese izakaya concept in 2011, finding instant success with their traditional yakitori dishes and New York-style service. They’ve since moved to a larger spot in Sheung Wan, on a street lined with dried seafood and traditional Chinese medicine shops. Grab a pew at the brushed metal bar, where bartenders stir up drinks and tell you about the house-made sake. Order yakitori skewers that use all of the bird — there’s breast, gizzard, bicep and heart — while sweetcorn tempura, brussel sprouts with crispy garlic, mushroom salad and Yardbird caesar act as the ultimate sides.
154-158 Wing Lok St, Sheung Wan; yardbirdrestaurant.com
Old Thai movie posters, advertisements and classifieds have been lino-printed in pastel blues, pinks and greens to adorn the walls of Chachawan, which dishes out Thai food from the north-east Isaan region. With a bar at the front and an open-kitchen at the back, there’s plenty of frenetic energy to be found here, but the food refuses to take a back seat. There’s sweet, sour, salt and spice in almost all the dishes — our favourites: the som dtum goong (a fiery pounded green papaya salad with dried shrimp); crispy pork with a tamarind dressing; and whole salt-crusted seabass stuffed with lemongrass, pandanas and lime leaf with a chilli dipping sauce. Cocktails are also served creative and strong.
206 Hollywood Rd, Tai Ping Shan; chachawan.hk
This speakeasy-style restaurant hidden behind an unmarked door on On Wo Lane seats just 14 people. Best for date nights, it’s basically one large bar top with sleek leather stools. A single-page, daily-changing menu divided into ‘raw,’ ‘smaller’ and ‘bigger’ categories celebrates seafood. To start, find a wide selection of sashimis served on ice, followed by small bites that include black pilsner battered, smoked maadai tilefish, black sugar kewpie, and anago tempura, tensu and salt. There are more than 100 Japanese whiskies, umeshu, shochu and sake on offer too.
8 On Wo Lane, Ground floor, Sheung Wan; roninhk.com
An offshoot of Stockholm’s renowned Frantzen, this small restaurant set in a 1960s tenement building on Upper Station Street serves up spectacular dishes made from unusual ingredients. It’s run by head chef Jim Lofdahl who has imported some classics from the original Nordic kitchen, but added some creative twists of his own. The French toast with winter truffles, balsamic vinegar and mature cheese is iconic, while dishes such as the one-bite ‘swedish sushi,’ Norwegian smoked salmon and green asparagus with a fermented sauce come as elevated small-plates.
11 Upper Station St, Sheung Wan; frantzenskitchen.com
Dark, earthy interiors in elegant burnt reds, dark blues and deep greens are complimented by wood paneled ceilings and low-hanging lamps that result in a restaurant that feels more private members club than contemporary Japanese restaurant. Its timeless aesthetic is upscale and modern, which extends to the food that combines traditional techniques with modern, dynamic flavours and unexpected ingredients. Diners can opt for two different tasting menus ‘The Dreamer’ or ‘The Traveller’ that come with a wine and sake pairing and highlight the best of Honjo’s menu. Or order a la carte from small and raw plates to hot and tempura, then sushi, sashimi and sides.
1/F, 77-91 Queen’s Rd W, Sheung Wan; honjo.hk
208 Duecento Otto
Named after the number it occupies on Hollywood Road, this Italian restaurant sticks to traditional cuisine while the interiors are tiled in blue and white, and an industrial theme exists throughout paying tribute to the old meat warehouse it occupies. It’s a bi-level spot with a downstairs that’s perfectly casual with its large potted plants, and huge open-air front, while upstairs is more moody – dim lights, tablecloths and crisp linen napkins. Napoletana pizzas are made with the finest ingredients – buffalo mozzarella from Campana and the sweetest tomatoes – baked in a custom-designed wood-fired pizza oven shipped from Naples. Pastas are all homemade, and the risotto with courgette, mint and lemon is delicious.
208 Hollywood Rd, Tai Ping Shan; 208.com.hk
Named after the area in Bangkok where the Chinese traded with the Thais, Samsen is a contemporary restaurant drawing inspiration from street-food stalls in northern Thailand. Trailing succulents hang from the ceiling, while shuttered windows open onto the street at chef-patron Adam Cliff’s second restaurant, larger than the original one in Wan Chai but still with plenty of character. The tender wagyu beef boat noodles, crab omelette and grilled coconut and chilli prawn skewers keep the regulars coming back, while tropical fruit-spiked smoothies draw the after-work crowds.
23 Jervois Street, Sheung Wan
This modern Spanish tapas bar in an unlikely location in Kai Tak Commercial Building near the Western Market, offers elevated tapas and near-perfect gin and tonics. From the exposed brick walls on the interior to the dishes of pan con tomate, show-stopping tortilla, Ibérico ham croquettes and an impressive black paella, this place aims to transport guests to the streets of Spain. Helmed by chef Edgar Sanuy, formerly of BCN in Hong Kong, who grew up in an olive-oil producing town outside Barcelona called Lleida, it’s no surprise the food here is both excellent and authentic.
Shop G&H, G/F Kai Tak Commercial Building, 317-321 Des Voeux Road Central, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong; picapica.hk