Hong Kong Fine Dining

This section looks at the very best Western and Asian cuisines Hong Kong has to offer as a way to ease in newcomers with familiar tastes, albeit in splendid surroundings (often with prices to match). Hong Kong is a gourmet paradise, an Asian phenomenon where the top people of the Western culinary world visit for perhaps two or three years and present us with a microcosm of the latest fine tastes from Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sydney, California and elsewhere. These are restaurants where lunch may cost HK$280 to $500 and dinner from $500 to $1,500 a la carte, without drinks. Why? Most of them are located in the plush surroundings of five-star hotels, others in prime real estate locations. In the kitchens of these restaurants are award-winning chefs using only the finest and freshest ingredients, often flown in from halfway across the world, assisted by highlytrained staff to create exquisite dishes. Menus are typically changed with the season and there are often special food promotion festivals. Some hotel restaurants feature noteworthy visiting celebrity chefs throughout the year (Yan can and has often cooked here, so have multi-Michelin Star chefs and other renowned Americans, Europeans and Australians). Small wonder that a high proportion of toprated restaurants in all local dining guides invariably include those of hotels. Some offer master-classes with resident or visiting chefs. Some offer superb variations of other Asian cuisines like Hokkaido’s ‘Taraba’ crab at Sagano (up to 50cm wide!) or ‘Wu Shek’ style Cantonese spareribs from Chef Law Yip Lam, at One Harbor Rd. Some offer a specialty menu like Yü, at the Intercontinental Hotel, which offers only fresh fish and seafood flown in from around the world. Some combine creative Euro-Asian ‘fusion’ cuisine with exotic decor, like Felix in the Peninsula, with food from chef Dee Ann Tsurumaki, with 27 years’ experience in Hawaii’s finest restaurants and hotels, in a setting designed by Philippe Starck. These are not restaurants to rush. Every dish is created for you and will take time to prepare. If you’re planning dinner, allow time to savor the surroundings and often a stunning view of Hong Kong’s skyline, if your restaurant is in a hotel. If you visit at lunchtime, don’t expect to make that 2.30 appointment. Bon apetit! In terms of bars and restaurants, there are two main entertainment districts on Hong Kong Island that attract Westerners: Lan Kwai Fong, in Central and the newer area known as Soho, south of Hollywood Rd with Old Bailey to the east, Graham St to the west, Caine Rd at the top (south) and Hollywood Rd at the bottom (north). Most restaurants and bars in Soho are either on Staunton St or Elgin St.

Dining standards in Hong Kong are high as competition is intense. Hong Kong Chinese, to whom eating out is an integral part of social life, rather like pub visits to the British, are discerning and critical customers. Levels of hygiene and cleanliness are also high; government inspectors have considerable powers and are not afraid to exercise them.

Wine Rites in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has the lowest annual per capita wine consumption of any developed city in the world, at 10.2 liters for 7.2 million people, that’s the equivalent of only 1.3 liters per person a year and far below the 60-75 liters per person consumed in France. This is because there are discriminatory and high wine taxes here and due to the fact that there was historically little wine education in Hong Kong. A study has found that Asian tipplers are drinking more and better quality wine, highlighting the region’s growing importance to the booming global wine trade. Wine experts believed that a booming economy and changing attitudes were driving the transformation. Wine is an aspirational drink and as people feel they are doing materially better for themselves so they are spending their money in ways that show it. There has been growing interest , as wine cellars continuously expand their operations. There are over 2,000 wine liquor license holders and around 200 wine wholesalers in Hong Kong. Hotels and restaurants are hosting well-attended wine tasting dinners and grandluxe hotel wine cellars bulge with vintage collections.

Chinese Regional Cuisines

The many variations in Chinese culinary styles can be broadly divided into four main regional cuisines associated with the cities of Guangzhou (Canton) in south China, Beijing (Peking) in the north, Shanghai in the east, and Szechuan, China’s largest province bordering Tibet, to the northwest.

Other distinctive styles include the cuisine of Swatow (Chaozhou/Chiuchow), a port city to the east of Guangzhou, and that of the Kejia (Hakka), a northern dialect group now spread throughout Guangdong province and believed to have migrated to the south centuries ago. Most recently, spicy Hunan cuisine has come to Hong Kong by way of American overseas Chinese communities, from Mao’s home province in mainland China. These communities have made it an American ‘discovery’ of the 1980s, close to Szechuan cuisine in its fondness for chillies, but without the heavy-handed use of garlic.

Common to all Chinese cuisine is a preference for fresh produce. The south, with its lengthy coastline and yearround growing season, is one of China’s most intensive rice and vegetable producing regions. Cantonese cuisine has the largest range of fresh vegetable, rice and seafood dishes. The harsh climate of the north limits the range of fresh vegetables available. Out of season, northerners rely on preserved produce and the dried flavorenhancing ingredients for which their cuisine has become famous. Extensive wheat, corn and sorghum farming is concentrated in the north, and the use of staple grains other than rice, often in the form of noodles and bread, is a distinctive feature of northern cuisine.