For the restaurant industry, it was a long long year clouded by uncertainty.
Capricious dining restrictions added ‘half-capacity’, ‘restricted seating’ and ‘only-takeaway-after-six’ to our vocabularies, which led to routine Google searches on continuously updating regulations the minute we left homes. At the same time, strict sanctions of no bar-hopping and no group gatherings urged us to be more nimble in kitchens at home — recalling the days of the Dalgona coffee, banana bread and a well-shaken Quarantini.
Fortunately, this city is serious when it comes to talking food; restauranteurs quickly adjusted by adding takeaways menus and brought gourmet restaurant meals straight to our doorstep (contact-free delivery, right?). The arrival of a new month continued to bring new openings —- even if it also meant reluctantly bidding farewell to some of our familiar favourites. Some months, we even got to enjoy the chance of eating in at restaurants too (with no seating limitations!).
Here’s a look back to all the brave and bold restaurants that opened their doors to the city this year:
Way back in January to what really felt like a lifetime ago, we very naively celebrated the new decade with overzealous excitement. We hopped around all the new-and-upcoming spots popping up across the harbour at Tsim Sha Tsui’s shiny K11 Musea and brand new Museum of Art including Fortnum & Mason’s tearoom and Ink Seafood Bar.
In February, still riding the new year high, we found solace in comforting favourites like dim sum from Mr Ming’s Chinese Dim Sum and steamy hotpot at New Spicy Way Fish Pot. Important to note: This was also the month the city fell head over heels for the second opening of the lively Thai eatery, Samsen, in Sheung Wan.
Skipping April, the pinnacle of you-know-what that led to a string of dining restrictions, we’re jumping right into May where things in the dining scene (and the city) seemed to pick up. For this month, we found footing in new restaurants overlooking the harbour and delicious new milkshake spots!
June was the month of prolonged stints of staying at home. Clambering out of cosy, second-skin loungewear, we put on our real clothes for a spin around trendy Basehall and filled our bellies with tender grilled morsels from Super Crowne Deluxe and Yakunikumafia.
As we do our best to adjust to the ‘new normal‘, July reawakened our dormant appetite for delicious food with a range of new cuisines, including Korean temple fare at Soil to Soul, sea bream ramen at Zagin Soba and coconut açai bowls at 14 South Lane.
In an effort to discover tiny joys in now-rejigged routines, we battled see-sawing dining restrictions and braved the noticeably empty city for something other than the set menu at the local cha chaan teng. August was the month that put French cuisine Jean May and the chunky, juicy sandwiches from Fat Chads on our radar. Takeaway options began popping up too and allowed for easy enjoyment of the city’s best cuisine in the comfort (and safety) of our homes.
Rejoice! September welcomed the long-awaited return of dinner service and we couldn’t wait to rush and book a reservation at Sushi Haru, izayaka spot Katsumoto and COBO House. While we waited on busy lines for confirmation, we snacked on the nutritious and delicious omusubi from Kome Korner.
Everything is still cancelled and we are still working from home. Restlessness is what we felt in October. Still, we looked ahead and (unwillingly) exchanged air travel for gastronomical journeys. The first destination landed us in the American South with smoked meats at Smoke & Barrel, before journeying down to Buenos Aires for Boticario’s boozy cocktails. Then, a layover in Japan for grilled chicken skewers at Yakitori Torisho, and our final leg left us at sunny, coastal Tuscany for a Michelin-grade meal at Fiamma.
Temperatures finally dipped low enough for the season to be considered autumn. We pulled out winter knits longing to be cosied up some time in November. While we waited, we stuffed ourselves silly at Sexy Crab in honour of hairy crab season and warmed up with some hearty Middle Eastern fare from Chickpea and Acme.
And we are, finally, at the end of a whirlwind year. It’s safe to say we’ve become quite the experts when it comes to ever-changing dining restrictions, and can quickly get our hands on our favourite feast before curfews are set in place. Tasty claypots and Christmas turkeys aside, we dished up on some feel-good favourites to round off the year: Peking duck at Duckee and jet-fresh omakase from Masa Hong Kong. Some of us even got a head start on the January health-kick too, sipping away at The Tea Academics and Ma…The Seeds of Life. Let’s hope that the early start will also symbolise better luck for next year.