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Best Bites: 6 dishes we loved in July 2021

Best Bites is a roundup of the outstanding dishes we had within the last month: Those which renewed our love for established venues; caught our attention at a new opening; or freshly impressed upon us the creativity and skill of Hong Kong’s talented chefs. From casual street snacks to meticulously prepared tasting menus, these are the best dishes to try in Hong Kong, and the plates we’d recommend you make a special trip for.

Smoke & Barrel 

The dish: Cider Glazed Baby Back Ribs (HK$218 for half/ $378 for whole)

The truth is, I’ve never been a dessert person. Cakes, pies, ice cream sandwiches — all great on their own! — but I’ve never understood the urge to make a hard flavour pivot to candy and cookies after a hearty, delicious meal. If there’s still room in the spare tire for whatever I’m already chowing down on, I just want more of that. And that’s exactly what happened when I got my hands on the fall-off-the-bone-tender Cider Glazed Baby Back Ribs at Smoke & Barrel; to the delight or horror of my tablemates, one rack quickly turned into two, and continued on from there. I didn’t make it a week before I was back for more. Fellow rib lovers, rack ‘em and rejoice. — Nathan Erickson, Editor-in-Chief

Ministry of Mussels

ministry of mussels singapore chilli crab

The dish: Singapore Chilli Crab Mussels (HK$318)

I’ll be honest: mussels? Probably not my first-choice of order at a rowdy sports bar. I’m partial to a good wing, calamari dipped (see: drenched) in marinara or, of course, the good ol’ faithful: a lined basket filled to brim with super-skinny fries. But, when in Rome! Ministry of Mussels’ ‘Around the World Mussels’ program features up to ten broths served with the venue’s signature blue mussels, with flavours that range from Italian Formaggi and Singaporean Laksa to the one I’m currently still drooling and dreaming after: the Singapore Chilli Crab Mussels — it’s so good!

The mussel dish’s sauce is rendered from belacan shrimp paste, spices and ketchup, and tastes exactly like the sweet chilli sauce you’d undoubtedly have to lick off your fingers following a hard-fought tussle with a Singaporean chilli crab. On the side, a little crate of deep-fried, golden-brown mantou buns, which presents yet another vehicle for transporting sauce to mouth.

You have to finish off your night with a game of beer pong on what could possibly be the world’s most advanced machine. Sorry, I don’t make the rules! — Joey Wong, Editor

Awa Awa 

The dish: Taco Rice (HK$158)

While Peel Street carries more of a rep for drunken revelry and police tape, those in the know can tell you it’s a murderer’s row of culinary excellence hidden in plain sight. The rotating list of delightful and unique wines by the glass at Shady Acres. Chef Jowett Yu’s high-low take on dive bar fried chicken at The Last Resort. Brazilian-Japanese street snack perfection at Uma Nota. Come on, man. Now, Awa Awa has joined the fray, courtesy of sake samurai Elliot Faber and the Sake Central team, putting a well-deserved spotlight on Okinawan cuisine and liquor. I’m glad it did, because it introduced me to Taco Rice, a wildly popular dish in Okinawa, and it’s pretty much exactly what you expect: a deconstructed taco on a bed of rice. Faber tells me the dish was “one of the hardest to perfect”, requiring an extensive amount of testing (read: eating a lot of taco rice) to get it just right. I respectfully offer my services for any and all future tests. For research! — NE

Bibi & Baba

The dish: Ngor Hiang (HK$78)

The mere uttering of Singaporean-Malaysian food will bring to mind some longtime stalwarts: Laksa. Hainan chicken rice. Charcoal-grilled skewers dipped in the unmistakable creamy peanut sauce. What doesn’t come to mind, probably, are the plethora of other dishes inspired by neighbouring cuisines; one such example: Nyonya, or Peranakan, cuisine brought over by Fujian Chinese and fuses Chinese ingredients with Malaysian and Indonesian spices and cooking traditions. This is where Bibi & Baba makes it mark, a stage for such lesser known but equally tasty dishes of the region. Like the Ngor Hiang, which features a five-spiced filling, the heart of the dish, with crunchy water chestnuts and candied winter melon and finely mined pork. Then, a tight tuck-and-roll between a thin layer of dried bean curd sheet from Tai Po’s Shu Kee, a notable local bean curd supplier since 1942. The Ngor Hiang is deceptively light and airy, despite its deep-fried composition; a wafer-thin crisp exterior married to a soft, flavour-checked interior. A dip of the accompanying sweet soy and homemade chilli condiment — it’s a true chef’s kiss bite. Just about reminiscent of those from bustling street-side hawkers. – Lorria Sahmet, Style Editor

Louise

The dish: Angel hair pasta with Kristal caviar, black truffle and kombu (HK$458) 

It’s rare for an appetiser to make such an impression on me. Decadence personified; this outrageously scrumptious dish is a delight across the senses. Immaculately plated with a generous portion of Kristal caviar, each bite reveals a harmoniously flavourful affair, punctuated with hits of black truffle and an umami tang from the roe. Served cold, this was an ideal opener for the rest of meal. We can certainly see why this has remained Louise’s signature dish since their opening. – Sandra Kwong, Features Editor

Man Mo Dim Sum

The dish: Truffle Brie Dumpling (HK$62 for two)

Recently relocating from Cat Street to Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan, Man Mo Dim Sum has not only stepped up its interior decor game, but its menu of East meets West fusion food serves up some serious flavour, too. The coveted Truffle Brie dumpling remains a firm favourite to those in the know, but for a first-timer like myself, I wasn’t expecting the dumpling to claim top spot in my ‘best bites’ this month. A burst of creamy, lava-like brie followed by a serious hit of truffle, this moorish dumpling does not disappoint. Other contenders hot on the heels of the Truffle Brie include the Seabass and Tom Yum Xiao Long Bao. All three were excellent contenders. – Lexi Davey, Managing Editor

Header image courtesy of Smoke & Barrel.