Asia’s 50 Best stalwarts the likes of Amber and The Chairman remain perennial favourites for visiting foodies to Hong Kong. Chef Richard Ekkebus of Amber recently quietly removed his eight-year-old icon of Hokkaido sea urchin with cauliflower panna cotta, lobster jelly and caviar, much to the chagrin of some diners. Not that he needs to worry, for new dishes like the standout of lime and olive oil-poached kohralbu with Aka sea urchin and a crown of Schrenki caviar continues to come to the fore on the menu seasonally.
Still, a visit to the dining mecca is incomplete without a reservation at one of the city’s stellar new restaurants, most of which are smaller chef-led establishments rather than outposts by overseas celebrity chefs.
An hour across the waters, Macau is glamming it up for the soon-to-open offshoots of L’Ambroisie Paris and Maido Peru. Until these debuts in new glitzy hotels are ready, there are reasons aplenty for the hop over to Macau. Key among them is the collective achievement by a trio of restaurants in the 2016 book of Michelin.
With so many eateries and so little time, here are our recommendations on where to eat…
Hong Kong-born, Berkeley-schooled former Spoon HK head chef, David Lai, slides back into the foodie radar with this bijou 30-seat eatery tucked deep in the bowels of Hollywood Road’s undulating backstreets. The French-informed, bi-weekly changing sharing plates menu is borderless and features seasonal local and imported ingredients like truffle poached artichoke with a punchy anchovy aioli dip and crudo of Hokkaido scallops with sliced green tomatoes in a piquant olive oil dressing perfumed with lemon and coarse black pepper. Expect more truffle-heavy dishes during the truffle season. During our visit in mid June, we were greeted with homey and rustic dishes like the handmade tagliolini tossed with savoury salted egg yolk and a Ducasse-style warm vegetable dish served in truffle jus, both arrived with a rain shower of Manjimup black truffle shavings.Man Hing Ln, Central, Hong Kong; +852 2555 2202
The name La Bombance may sound bafflingly French or Italian but make no mistake, this Causeway Bay offshoot of Tokyo’s one Michelin-starred restaurant of the same name fields the same Japanese-rooted new Tokyo cuisine that it’s been known for in Tokyo since 2004. Perched on the 30th floor of V Point building, the 50-seat restaurant boasts stunning views of Kowloon and beyond across the glistening harbour. Even then, this panorama does not steal the show from the 9-course kaiseki menu that pairs the best of seasonal Japanese produce with European and, in time to come, local ingredients. Chef de cuisine, Koya Takayuki, spent 10 years learning the ropes in the restaurant’s Tokyo flagship and at La Bombance, the tasting menu features seasonal delicacies like the dish of teriyaki foie gras on toasted onigiri, Miyazaki mango wrapped in a fold of Parma ham, deep fried biwako ayu and a rich slab of yuba topped with deep fried white bait. To end the dinner on a high, chef Takayuki fields the biggest highlight of the meal – black truffle kamameshi (traditional Japanese dish where rice is cooked in an iron pot) drizzled with soya flavoured egg yolk.30/F, V Point,18 Tang Lung St, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong; +852 3188 3326
Six years after his time with Ryugin (including 3 years opening Ryugin in Hong Kong), Hideaki Sato has come into his own at Ta Vie. Tucked on the second floor of the positively boutique Pottinger Hotel at Wellington Street, the 36-seat restaurant sports lots of marble, dark wood and grey striped upholstery in a quaint dining room that will not look out of place in Europe. Sato-san spent 10 years building a foundation in French gastronomy before joining Ryugin and his new digs banks on the chef’s grounding in French techniques and his Japanese heritage to field a cuisine that puts the spotlight on seasonal Asian ingredients. Fist sizeShimane rock oysters are pan seared and served shell-on with a heart-warming pig trotter cassoulet sauce while Caesar salad is reimagined as lettuce, Japanese mountain asparagus and Hotaru fire fly squid in a perky dressing perfumed with the fire fly squid instead of anchovies. In line with the restaurant’s focus on Asian ingredients, the beverage programme features a series of house-brewed tea including chilled gyokuro and pu-erh as well as Japanese wines and sakes to go with the food. French wines are, of course, available too. 21 Stanley street,2/F, The Pottinger,74 Queen’s RoadCentral, Central; +852 2668-6488.
One of the most affordable tasting menus in the city resides on the 26th floor of a building on Stanley Street, Central, withwrap-around floor to ceiling glass windows and aU-shaped, 26-seat counter presided by chef de cuisine, Bjoern Alexander, a native ofGermany. Here, Alexander helms a cramped, open kitchen where he whips up playful, if experimental, modern European dishes with Japanese twists categorized as young sprouts (starters), branches (mains) and roots (desserts). Notwithstanding the difficult-to-understand menu concept, the tasting menu is surprisingly extensive with five starters (two uni courses, two oyster courses and a King crab), four mains and two desserts. Highlights during our dinner included a pigeon course with plum-marinated grapes and plum wine jelly as well as chilli studded langoustine with lime cream, black garlic shavings and fried tapioca balls.26/F Stanley 11,11 Stanley Street, Central; +852 5186 3282.
Recently upgraded from one to two Michelin stars on the 2016 Macauguide, Jade Dragon serves up a repertoire of classic and modernCantonese fare by chef Tam Kwok Fung, who has more than 30 years ofCantonese fine dining experience under his belt. Befitting the sheer grandeur of space, presentation of the cuisine has just enough fanfare to keep diners glued to their seats. Steamed grouper fish arrives beautifully perched in a bowl of Hokkaido milk egg custard spiked with aged hua diao wine while free-range chicken with shallot and ginger are served flambe style in an aluminium foil. Tamalso has an uncanny ability to marry unusual ingredients, often yielding surprisingly delicious results – hot and sour soup is served with Japanese kagani crabmeat to lend a naturally sweet taste to the broth while French lobster makes an appearance in the finale dish of lobster rice in a light lobster bisque served with daikon, toufu skin and crispy rice. Diners who want dependable classics will not be disappointed with the soups (the double boiled seafood soup in wintermelon is to-die-for) and the prime cut BBQ iberico pork pluma char siew.Level 2, The Shops at The Boulevard, City of Dreams, Estrado do Istmo, Cotai, Macau; +853 8868 2822.
The Tasting Room
The only other French restaurant in Macau rated in the 2016 Hong Kong Macau Michelin guide apart from Robuchon au Dôme, The Tasting Room is, like its Cantonese stablemate, also recently elevated to two Michelin stars. But unlike the glitzy Jade Dragon, The Tasting Room is comparatively low key, if intimate, with a sumptuous green-toned 54-seat dining room proffering glorious views of the Cotai strip. Executive chef Gaillaume Galliot hails from Raffles Grill Singapore and Jaan Beijing before he uprooted to open The Tasting Room Macau. Over the years, he has gained a solid reputation for his creative take on modern French creations with signatures like the carbonara-style abalone “pasta” with 36-month aged Pata Negra ham and the onion soup served with a scoop of sweet onion sorbet. If you have a sweet tooth, Galliot’s chocolate banana mille feuille beckons for desserts.3/F, Crown Towers, City of Dreams, Estrado do Istmo, Cotai, Macau; +853 8868 6681.
Shinji by Kanesaka
Nine months after its debut at Crown Towers, Shinji Kanesaka’s first Greater China outpost snagged its first Michelin star in 2016. Famed for its Edomae style sushi in both Tokyo and Singapore, the Macau offshoot boasts the same hinoki wood counter and minimalist interior by designer, Junzo Irikado. Chef de cuisine, Toru Osumi, spent 5 years cutting his teeth with Kanesaka’s Tokyo flagship and a further half a year honing his craft with the sushi master’s Singapore restaurant. In Macau, his omakase menu glistens with the season’s freshest fish, flown in daily (except on Sundays) for the restaurant’s discerning sushi aficionados; think sushi of nodu guro and kisu alongside all time favourites like chutoro and otoro. For nothing but the best, order the Omakase Shin that comes complete with a bowl of Japanese rice topped with Bafun uni, shrimp and chopped otoro and chutoro.Level 1, Crown Towers, City of Dreams, Estrado do Istmo, Cotai, Macau; +853 8868 6681.
The Upper House, Hong Kong
This 117-room, Andre Fu-designed lodging tucked on the 38th to 49th storey above J W Mariott at the Pacific Place boasts zen rooms with a neutral palette balanced with lots of light wood, thick carpets and wrap-around windows with panoramic views of the surrounding skyscrapers and/or the harbour. At 700 square feet, the most basic rooms are spacious and come with complimentary mini bar (all’s free except the alcohol), Ren bathroom amenities and a Lavazza coffee machine. For a la carte breakfast (sorry, no buffet is served here) and all day dining, Cafe Gray Deluxe serves up transcendental city and harbour views to go with the modern European fare. Don’t miss the pancakes at breakfast washed down with a glass of carrot, ginger, yoghurt smoothie.Pacific Place, 88, Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong;+852 2918 1838.
Island Shangri-La, Hong Kong
It may be a quarter of a century old but this 565-room Pacific Place icon, which last underwent a makeover in 2009, still lures with its luxurious old school grandeur. Decked in dark wood panels, gilt-framed mirrors, glistening chandeliers and armchairs upholstered in plush fabrics, the exceedingly charming rooms come complete with a Nespresso coffee machine and L’Occitane bath amenities. For breakfast with a view, don’t miss a trip to Restaurant Petrus. Perched on the 56thfloor of the hotel, the French restaurant recently welcomed a new chef de cuisine and the former chef de cuisine of Mirazur, Ricardo Chaneton, whose Mediterranean-inspired cuisine comes to the fore with dishes like slow-cooked abalone with zucchini in an intense grilled vegetable broth studded with basil seeds.Pacific Place, Supreme Court Rd, Central, Hong Kong;+852 2877 3838.
Crown Towers Macau, Macau
With 300 guest rooms, Crown Towers at the City Of Dreams is not the biggest hotel property by Macau’s standard but it’s certainly one of the most zen with a bamboo tree-lined lobby decorated with screens in soft gold and aquatic blue and a lofty ceiling that that soars to seven meters high. Continuing the zen theme, the rooms are functionally minimalist with a walk-in wardrobe, a coffee machine and floor-to-ceiling windows offering unblocked views of Cotai. With a spa and three Michelin stars-decorated restaurants in the house, there is no need to step out of the hotel unless it’s Lord Stow’s Portuguese egg tarts you’ve after (in which case, you need to cross the road to The Venetian).Estrado do Istmo, Cotai, Macau;+853 8590 3000.
Cathay Pacific flies five times a day between Hong Kong and London’s Heathrow Airport. From September 2016, the airline will add four times weekly flights between Hong Kong and Gatwick London.