The best food of the year

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From the newest restaurants’ star meals to those old favourites who have turned it up a notch this year, Lisa Cam looks back at Time Out’s top Hong Kong dishes of 2013. Photography by Calvin Sit 

 

The Big Beef Experience

The Butcher’s Club

What’s great about The Butcher’s Club is that you get the best meat straight from the source – the butcher. Located in Aberdeen, it offers a multitude of services, including a butchery and shop, a private chef’s table and home catering. If you (and your brood – you may need some help with this one) are in the mood for a meat feast, try the slab steak extravaganza known as the Big Beef Experience, which ranges from between nine and 10 kilos in weight. You can order US prime or Australian Stockyard beef. Loosen those belts and prepare for the meat sweats.

US prime starts $350 per kilo, Australian stockyard starts $450. 13C Sun Ying Industrial Ctr, 9 Tin Wan Close, Aberdeen, 2552 8281; butchersclub.com.hk.

 

Suckling pig

Casa de Tapas

Old Taipa Village in Macau, we reckon, is set to be a gourmet foodie haven in the near future. And this year’s opening in the quaint colonial haven, Casa de Tapas, is leading the charge. The contemporary Spanish restaurant’s suckling pig has us salivating. With crispy skin and a slight saltiness, the meat falls from the bone into a divine gravy, with sautéed apples to crisp it up.

MOP238. 9 Rua dos Clérigos, Taipa, Macau, +853 2857 6626; casadetapasmacau.com.

  

Seven-hour slow-cooked ribs

Awakening Café

This Kickstarter sensation has proved its worth this year. Having raised the capital for the restaurant through the internet funding platform, this mom-and-pop shop has been serving the Sai Ying Pun neighbourhood with a tasty array of hearty burgers and comforting pastas – but nothing quite beats the venue’s seven-hour slow-cooked ribs. These tender meaty offerings are full of rich flavours soaking through to the bone. Pair them with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and you’re in seven-hour heaven.

Half $125. 1-6 Ying Wah Tce, Centre St, Sai Ying Pun, 2858 0005; facebook.com/Awakeningcafehk. 

 

Seafood Tiramisu

Tosca

One hundred and two floors above Hong Kong is the snazzy southern Italian paradise called Tosca, although this Ritz-Carlton restaurant in the ICC needs no introduction. Due to its stunning décor and unparallelled views, it has been the talk of the town for a while now. We adore all the contemporary seafood dishes up here, but our top pick is the supremely creative seafood tiramisu, which epitomises contemporary Italian cuisine at its best. The arty dish uses the best seafood and has a creamy marscarpone which is broken up by a cereal bar and a divine helping of caviar. The high life indeed.

$390. 102/F, The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, ICC, 1 Austin Rd W, Tsim Sha Tsui, 2263 2270; ritzcarlton.com.

  

Roast chicken and chips

Flames Charcoal Chicken

A good, hearty, classic roast chicken is hard to find in Hong Kong but, in Quarry Bay, there’s a spacious outdoor dining area that’s perfect for a bird-inspired alfresco lunch. What’s so great about the chicken at Flames is that it comes with cooked-in stuffing where the breadcrumbs and herbs have absorbed all the chook’s juices. And you haven’t had chicken and chips unless you’ve hit up Flames. The chips are lightly dusted with chicken salt, perfectly complementing that oh-so-juicy meat. $63 for quarter chicken plus chips. Shop A2, Hoi Wan Bldg, 25 Hoi Wan St, Quarry Bay; 2563 9928; facebook.com/FlamesCharcoalChicken. 

 

VFC chicken wings

Chôm Chôm

Chef Peter Franklin has been the talk of the town this year with his new-and-improved trendy Vietnamese hangout on Peel Street. Known in the city for his innovative takes on Hanoi food – personified in his pho rolls – Franklin has turned it up a notch over the past few months. And our fave offering has been his VFC chicken wings, which are fried to a beautiful crisp, feature a strong, effective tang of lime and lemongrass, and are balanced perfectly with Vietnamese spices. If there’s only one dish you try here, make sure it’s the VFC!

$88. 58-60 Peel St, Central, 2810 0850; chomchom.hk.

 

Rose petal macarons 

Ladurée

The historic house and pioneer of the macaron has had a great year in Hong Kong. Its Harbour City shop in Tsim Sha Tsui has gone from strength to strength, it’s just opened a new outlet to much aplomb in The Landmark, Central, and it’s set to open a third spot in Causeway Bay’s Times Square on December 10, meaning more of these delish-and-dainty macarons – with flavours updated seasonally – for us city folk. We love the special 2013 marshmallow flavours like the chocolate coconut and strawberry candy – but the signature rose petal has really stolen our heart. The cream creates a symphony of fragrant flavours and the outer casing is sweet. So sweet. $190 for six. Shop 211, Level 2, The Landmark, Central, 2579 0311; laduree.com.

 

Kumquat puffs

Duddell’s

Food married art early in 2013 when Duddell’s opened in Central. Serving as a gallery and a restaurant, the chic space, equipped with a lush 2,000sq ft garden terrace, steered into the traditional Chinese realm, serving up an array of dim sum and traditional dishes like fried noodles and shredded squid, as well as char siu and XO sauce crispy rice rolls. We’ve been raving about the quality of the grub ever since – especially the imaginative kumquat puffs. We love how the citrusy, fruity filling works with the pastry – and how it retains a slightly salty flavour which just further enhances the experience. That’s art.

$48. Levels 3 & 4, Shanghai Tang Mansion, 1 Duddell St, Central, 2525 9191; duddells.co.

 

Meatball pizza

Motorino 

Everyone loves a good pie. So when Motorino – one of New York’s most popular pizzeria chains, hailed as ‘NYC’s best pizzas’ by the New York Times – opened in Soho this year, there was much rejoicing. And it’s exceeded expectations, particularly with its hearty meatball pizza, which combines the best of the two worlds: um, meatballs and pizza. The balls are gently packed and well-seasoned before being braised in a richly fresh tomato sauce, and the signature base is chewy with some heavy charring, creating a toasty taste that hangs in your mouth. Some may find it too heavy – but not us!

$168. 14 Shelley St, Soho, Central, 2801 6881; facebook.com/motorinohk.

 

Ginger beef

Qi House of Sichuan

This Wan Chai 2013 opening is hot stuff. In more than one way. The dishes here pack a spicy punch – hey, it’s Sichuan food – but it isn’t the chilli rush which has seen us returning on numerous occasions this year. It’s Qi’s superb signature ginger beef. A delectable dish of soft meat which sports a light, crispy skin, this meal is elevated by the effective use of aromatic spices, creating a mild heat and a strong flavour, rather than a fire-in-your-mouth effect. And if your spice tolerance is too low even for this – don’t worry: Qi has some cracking cocktails which should fan the flames.

$125. Shop 12, 2/F, J Senses, 60 Johnson Rd, Wan Chai, 2527 7117; qi-sichuan.hk.

 

Chinese pappardelle

Mian

This art deco-inspired noodle joint offers up an innovative range of Chinese pappardelle which has us hooked. The signature noodles – 2cm-wide, broad, chewy and thick – are the brainchild of chef and owner Michael Lo, and they’ve been bringing in customers from far and wide this year. They chime with a front note of egg, which is pretty unusual compared to your classic Chinese noodles. Add Lo’s tangy meat sauces and this innovative spot deserves its rosette as one of our best this year.

$58. 48 Pan Hoi St, Quarry Bay, 3482 9981.

 

Pork belly bao

Little Bao 

One of our stars of the year is former Bo Innovation and Yardbird chef, May Chow, who made a name for herself this autumn with her solo venture, Little Bao. Serving up her trademark Chinese burgers, Chow has spent the last couple of months treating diners to exquisite new tastes. But nothing quite beats her signature pork belly bao. This bun-of-delight has just the right balance of fat and meat, and uses leek and shiso red onion salad, as well as a rich hoisin ketchup, to add freshness to the mix before all the lovely juices soak back into the dough. Chow: we bao to you.

$78. 66 Staunton St, Central, 2194 0202; little-bao.com.

 

Seabream karaage with jalapeño tosazu

Ronin 

Matt Abergel and Lindsay Jang’s second Hong Kong baby is almost the polar opposite of their first enterprise, chicken haven Yardbird. The izakaya opened in the spring in the quiet swoop of Sheung Wan’s On Wo Lane, packing only about 20 diners into its narrow dining room – a real contrast to that loud, energetic Yardbird vibe. Though the fish dishes at this Japanese spot change constantly, our favourite of 2013 is the seabream karaage with jalapeño tosazu, where the fish is cut up into cubes, fried and then pieced back together like a jigsaw. The Ronin team often also fry the bream’s skeleton, making the bones edible and supremely tasty, working in tandem with that classic jalapeño flavour. Market price.

8 On Wo Ln, Sheung Wan, 2547 5263; roninhk.com.

 

21st century egg

St Betty

This casual European resto went through a major overhaul this year, introducing us to a new chef – the two-Michelin-starred Shane Osborne – as well as a fresh menu. We’re fans of many of the dishes which Osborne coined this year – but his shining star has to be his 21st century egg which is only available seasonally (so it won’t be available until next year). This perfectly scotched egg lies on a bed of finely chopped pieces of Chinese thousand-year-old eggs and is garnished with a slice of black truffle and mayonnaise. It shouldn’t work, due to the odd combination of flavours. But it does. Oh, it really does. Previously $188.

Shop 2075, Podium Level Two, IFC mall, 8 Finance St, Central, 2979 2100; stbetty.com.

 

Mediterranean paella

Quemo

We love our seafood and we love our rice. So we love the Wan Chai hotspot Quemo. The restaurant’s signature Mediterranean paella is a cracker – an authentic rendition of the familiar favourite which shines because, unlike standard paellas, this version has its rice and toppings served separately. The result is uninterrupted mouthfuls of the flavourful rice away from the seafood. Each grain of rice at the bottom of the hot pan (the socarrat) is crunchy, and absorbs the essences of the seafood it’s been cooked with. Paella never tasted so good. $368. 5/F, QRE Plaza, 202 Queen’s Rd E, Wan Chai, 2836 0699; elite-concepts.com.

 

Shrimp-paste chicken

The Boss 

The summer saw a new boss in town. The Boss, to be exact. And the restaurant has quickly become a buzzspot of sorts for the oft-finicky Central lunch crowd – so there’s been no room for error in the food. Dim sum is made to order here but it’s dishes like the stir-fried truffle noodles that really stand out. Our favourite, though, has to be the shrimp-paste chicken. A fragrant concoction with a salty tang, the outer chook shell is crisp but not too oily, and the shrimp-paste sets the dish alight. Paired with a side of cucumbers to cleanse the palate, we recommend this meal to anyone.

$200 for half. B/F, 58-62 Queen’s Rd C, Central, 2155 0552; theboss1.com.

 

Herbivore tea set

Herbivores

We couldn’t forget the veggies! Snug, cosy and lined with pillows, it’s all about the vibe at this green joint. The fare at Herbivores includes delectable fresh scones served with sweet jams and preserves, vegetarian sandwiches and asparagus appetisers – but we like to go the whole way with the tea set, which includes all of the above. Top this set off with the veggie eatery’s selection of teas, organic juices and mocktails and you’ve done your body a favour.

$228 for two. 35 Staunton St, Soho, Central, 2613 2909; the-herbivores.com.

 

Jamon Iberico croquette

Catalunya 

Catalunya has been packed to the rafters practically every day since opening house early this year. We love it – but it’s a big task trying to pick a star dish as group executive chef Alain Devahive Tolosa puts his heart and soul into every meal and constantly manages to create a fine balance between innovative ideas and culinary mastery. However, we’ve decided on actually one of the simplest Spanish offerings at Catalunya: the ham croquette. Made with seriously fragrant Iberico ham, the potato is so smooth, we don’t want to think about how much butter is in it… because we just don’t care.

$100. Guardian House, 32 Oi Kwan Rd, Wan Chai, 2866 7900; catalunya.hk.

 

Rose scones

Tea Saloon by Another Fine Day

Tucked away in the Mid-Levels hills is Tea Saloon by Another Fine Day. And it’s given us a few very fine days over the past few months. The sparkling gem of a tea room is a pastel-coloured delight, all dolled up in flirty Victorian-style furnishings. We love the treats here but our fave has to be the signature rose scone with clotted cream and homemade rose petal strawberry jam. Prepare for a potpourri of sweet flavours that should transport you to the quaint British countryside.

$60 for two. 80-82 Peel St, Mid-Levels, 2525 8257.

 

Seafood platter

Fishful Season

Located in Tai Hang, this little eatery opened in early 2013 and has grown in stature ever since. It only seats about 12 and serves up a selection of fusion food with a special focus on fruits from the sea. The giant seafood platter – an enormous bowl filled to the brim with goodies from around the globe – has impressed us most here. It includes crab legs from Hokkaido and succulent raw oysters and clams from New Zealand. We also salivate over the giant red prawn, as well as the generous chunks of lemon on top. Tons of fresh seafood for a highly reasonable price.

$488. Shop B, G/F, 23 Shepherd St, Tai Hang; 2590 0690.

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