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.
The dish: ‘Bak Kut Teh’ New Territories Pork Rib (part of the Short HK$890 and Long HK$1,190 tasting menu)
How the beloved Singaporean comfort, Bak Kut Teh, is presented at Whey will tell you all you need to know about chef Barry Quek’s latest venture housed within The Wellington. It’s stylised, smart and refined, beautifully plated dishes that completely rewrite any prior expectations of Singapore cuisine — it’s more than a piping hot laksa sloshed into a green plastic bowl at hawker centres. At Whey, modern European sensibilities join classic Singaporean flavours for the tasting menu that aptly reflects chef Barry’s heritage and culinary expertise. Back to the star of the menu, the ‘Bak Kuh Teh’, refashioned out of it its simmering pot of spice-laced, herbal broth ramekin and now renamed with double quotations because of its neat deconstructed serve, arranged on a circular ceramic plate. Separately, this main course is an assembly of charcoal-grilled pork ribs from New Territories Ying Ming Farm that’s melt-in-the-mouth tender, pork heart and cabbage served two ways (oven-roasted and fermented) finished with a side of black garlic jam and drizzle of homemade pepper jus. But together, it’s a wonderful symphony of familiar flavours of the hearty dish. Comparably better than the original in my opinion. — Lorria Sahmet, Style Editor
The dish: Spicy Tuna Crunch (HK$65)
The greatest thing about an omakase experience is you never really know what you’re going to get; mini surprises at the dinner table, we always love of a bit of restaurant novelty. The Japan-originated concept is all about the ‘Chef’s Choice’ after all. At the self-proclaimed “original Japanese restaurant”, Tokio Joe, however, the omakase experience goes further than simply being a menu featuring the freshest produce of chef Wah’s choosing, with the addition of ingenious reimagining of typical Japanese serves. Like this spicy tuna crunch, which sounds like a fairly average take on a mayo-tuna favourite, except the ‘crunch’ here is not the fried garlic sprinkled atop a decadent roll that adds to the satisfaction, but the dish’s construction itself with a golden, deep-fried cylindrical rice ball. On the top, a very generous (and very delicious, might I add) dollop of the restaurant’s signature homemade spicy mayonnaise mixed in with fatty Japanese minced tuna and sesame seeds. A surprise I could definitely have more of. — LS
The dish: Rubia’s warm cheesecake (HK$70)
There are two things I love without qualm: cheese and dessert. One could easily kidnap me with the lure of a decadent cheesecake topped with a dollop of whipped cream. This cheesecake, however, is not anything like that. Thanks to Chef Martin and his team, it’s stratospherically exceptional in all the best senses.
The scent hits you first. This is no ordinary cheesecake. It’s a blue cheese cheesecake. Visually, there’s a rustic charm to its make. Melty and warm, and served with a mini-pipette worth of whisky, we dig in immediately. In contrast to the delightfully unctuous filling, the shell itself is perfectly baked and lends a good bite. I had complained about being too full after my meal for dessert, but the plate was empty in what felt like mere seconds. There’s nothing else to be said. All other cheesecakes need to step up their game now that this bad boy is in town. — Sandra Kwong, Features Editor
The dish: BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Burger, Elephant Grounds (HK$125)
I’ve always had a minor beef (sorry) with the notion of veggie (or otherwise) reconstructions of hamburgers, steaks and the like – not because the intention isn’t 100% correct, but more that I feel they do a disservice to the plants themselves. Salads, wraps, fresh fruits and other herbivorous bites are damn tasty on their own! Why have chickpea chicken nuggets when you can just have hummus? Old man yelling at the clouds aside, I have to give it up to KARANA, a new plant-based meat company out of Singapore that makes do with only four ingredients. And after getting my hands on the BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Burger on the menu at Elephant Grounds, I knew it wouldn’t be my last. A simple combo of young jackfruit meat, house-made barbecue sauce, coleslaw and yoghurt, it’s a delicious reminder that it’s not the meat we crave: it’s flavour. — Nathan Erickson, Editor-in-Chief
The dish: Il Baccala al limone / Braised codfish, tripe, mussels, lemon (HK$700)
Including this dish on my list is almost unfair as Grissini ranks as one of my all-time favourite restaurants in the city. The non-stop, freshly baked breadsticks. The divine yellowtail carpaccio. The clay pot baked chicken. The decadent tiramisu. But I digress. We’re here to talk about the fish. And by god, what a fish.
As a meat-lover (I’m doing three days a week of a vegetarian diet now, though!) I’ll admit that my eyes tend to glaze over pesce offerings on a menu. It’s safe to say that, since this dish, I am a blissful convert. Meticulously deboned and presented in a mammoth copper flatpan, the cod fillets are served swimming in a mix of tripe and mussels, topped with a generous dash of cream. Tender, yet flakey, the entire ensemble was moreish with a great umami punch. Every bite was a song, and it’s a song that I would gladly keep hearing over and over again. — SK
The dish: Japanese Pork Belly, BBQ Sauce & Hakata Cabbage (HK$328)
SOMM’s Japanese Pork Belly will forever serve as a benchmark for how I want my future pork belly slices to taste like. Bar none. My god, it was perfect. It’s soft, it’s succulent; it’s all the pretty, delicious words better writers use to describe their immaculate pork belly journeys. And this was a journey. It’s a hefty portion charred to perfection; sliced to perfection. Slathered in a delicious smear of sauce that tastes like a combination of gochujang and barbecue (please don’t quote me on that, it’s probably not true but it’s what it tastes like; feels like) with a brave kick of flaky chilli. The char on the cabbage, too! You’d be remiss not to stack them up — count: pork belly, cabbage, all smothered in sauce — in one perfect bite. I’d go back just for this. And the Seared Hokkaido Scallops (HK$248) too; those were insane. — Joey Wong, Editor
Dang Wen Li by Dominique Ansel
The dish: Sea Salt Croissant Toast (HK$45); Maple Croissant Toast (HK$48)
Light, airy, buttery, flakey – take your pick of buzz words, this Croissant Toast creation is downright delicious. Often harbouring huge lines that snake out of the door and having to put a cap on how many pastries you can purchase in one go, it’s safe to say that creations from DOMINIQUE ANSEL rarely disappoint. If you’re in the mood for something more savoury, its light-as-air Sea Salt Croissant Toast has been made with British sea salt and is the perfect vessel for soft butter, however if that sweet tooth strikes, it’s Maple version bursting with Canadian maple syrup and honeycomb crumb is sure to hit the spot. Stock up, as this one’s only available at its flagship H Queen’s location. Best served warm. – Lexi Davey, Managing Editor
375 Chicken ‘n Fries
The dish: Buffalo-Honey fried chicken sandwich (HK$85)
This New York origin fast-food joint recently soft launched in Hong Kong – but let me cut to the chase: it’s halal!! 375 Chicken ‘n Fries promises hormone and antibiotics-free chicken fried in vegetable oil and received consultation on its halal standards via its Qatar restaurants. This specific sandwich has buttermilk fried chicken coated in a buffalo-honey glaze between two soft potato roll buns, topped with cheddar, sriracha mayo and Hot Cheetos — safe to say, I haven’t stopped thinking about it. The menu is full of other mouth-watering specialities including loaded fries and popcorn chicken – I’m already mapping out my next trip. – Sakina Abidi, Editorial Intern
The dish: Classic lamb momo (HK$88)
Dumplings have always been one of my go-to comfort foods. Growing up, I’d easily devour xiao long baos by the dozen, and a common afternoon treat would be panfried sheng jian baos served with a glass of ice-cold soy milk. By chance after a night out, I was introduced to momos – a Nepalese dumpling – and my heart crowed with the joy of a new culinary discovery.
Made with freshly sourced New Zealand lamb and stuffed with various herbs, this steamed tray of momos comes served with two different, but equally delicious, chutney dips. Even with the plethora of condiments, the compelling yet subtle gaminess of the lamb shone through. Easy, fresh bites, I just know I’ll be returning for more. — SK
Header image courtesy of SOMM