A chef's guide to Hong Kong's best restaurants
A chef's guide to Hong Kong's best restaurants
Video, Hong Kong

A chef’s guide to Hong Kong’s best restaurants

In Hong Kong, restaurants open at a pace that few cities can rival, each one attempting to sate the hunger of a city filled with discerning diners. Among the venues that have stood the test of time are Pierre, and Man Wah at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, and of course, Amber at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental – which opened in 2005 and recently unveiled a completely new look and menu direction. Its culinary director, Richard Ekkebus – a long-time denizen of this dynamic city – shares some of his favourite other haunts collected from his years of dining out

The flower crab dish at The Chairman, Hong Kong

For the perfect primer to Cantonese cuisine

With its steadfast dedication to local produce and time-honoured culinary techniques, The Chairman remains and one of Ekkebus’ all-time favourites. “It’s like the embassy of great Cantonese cooking,” he says. “Every chef who has come to town – Ferran Adrià, Heston Blumenthal, Virgilio Martínez Véliz – has been brought to The Chairman at one point.” Lauded by guides including Michelin and lists including Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, Danny Yip’s modest restaurant is a paean to expressive, complex flavours. “The flower crab with the Shaoxing wine and chicken oil is the one dish we always have,” says Ekkebus. “I also love the spare ribs with ginger and black vinegar, and their congees, which aren’t on the menu but can be pre-ordered.”

A selection of dishes from Yardbird restaurant, Hong Kong

For the who’s who of Hong Kong after hours

Maverick, visionary and now James Beard Award-winning chef Matt Abergel of Yardbird, has a fan in Ekkebus. He remains loyal to this yakitori restaurant in Sheung Wan thanks to its scintillating mix of sizzling skewers, cool vibe and late opening hours. “It’s an after-service place for chefs and it’s where I’ll go if I have friends in town. The drinks are great and the food is super consistent,” Ekkebus explains. “And who doesn’t love chicken?” Offal, which is a little more divisive, also features prominently on the menu, and on Ekkebus’ hitlist: cartilage, liver and hearts are his go-to orders, along with the signature (meatball) with egg yolk and crispy chicken skin. “What’s so special about Yardbird is not only the food and drinks, it’s the whole culture that Matt and Lindsay [Jang] have managed to build,” he says. “They’ve created a following, so you have a great crowd, and cross paths with many chefs there.”

A table laid out with plates of sliced Peking duck

For high-brow Chinese cuisine

Xin Rong Ji in Wan Chai is one of the hottest addresses in town right now, with its superlative renditions of regional Chinese fare and moody elegance. “It’s definitely an expensive restaurant, because they only buy the very best ingredients,” cautions Ekkebus. “But it’s worth it because the food is incredibly precise and refined.” The Peking duck is the dish that all insiders order, but Xin Rong Ji is definitely not just a Peking duck restaurant. Among the standouts on the menu, Ekkebus recommends the yellow croaker soup, the unctuous and iodine-rich sea anemone noodles (“It reminds me of a dish I had at El Celler de Can Roca a few years back”), and the austere but transcendent honey-glazed sweet potatoes (“It’s listed as a starter, but I have it for dessert”).

The interior of Belon restaurant, Hong Kong

For a truly indulgent feast of French proportions

While Amber has done away with dairy and gluten in its menu, Ekkebus remains an admirer of Daniel Calvert’s indulgent cooking at Belon. The chic Soho brasserie has built up quite a following over the last few years, earning a highest climber award in the 2019 edition of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants by leapfrogging from #40 to #15 in one year, and Ekkebus applauds the young chef’s verve and solid culinary techniques. “He is an extremely gifted chef. His craftsmanship in making pies and pâtés is unequalled,” he says, pointing out Calvert’s (cod milt) pithivier and foie gras pâté as examples of highly accomplished cooking: “He does a lot of great fish dishes, a roast chicken that he can’t get rid of from the menu, and then there’s desserts. You really need to pace yourself at Belon, but I’m never disappointed.”

The steak at Ho Lee Fook, Hong Kong

For some tongue-in-cheek gastronomy

Ekkebus is a family man and one place he enjoys going with his son Mathis is Ho Lee Fook, a modern Chinese restaurant in the heart of Soho. “It’s a place you go to for a fun time – the music is loud, and the whole vibe is great. It’s almost like going to a nightclub with good food,” he laughs. Chef Jowett Yu’s irreverent take on Chinese cuisine has cemented this modern Chinese restaurant’s reputation as a place where traditions are spun on their head with delicious results – take, for example, the Yunnan-style steak tartare flavoured with fish sauce, or the prawn toast presented okonomiyaki style. The Ekkebus family always orders the roasted wagyu short-rib with jalapeno purée and green shallot kimchi, and often leaves the rest up to the kitchen. While the restaurant is also known for its equally genre-bending cocktails, the chef has one sheepish admission: “I’ve stopped drinking recently, so I go for a hot tea instead.”

Interview by Charmaine Mok

Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong - The Landmark
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