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Best Bites: 7 dishes we loved this week

Best Bites is a roundup of the outstanding dishes we had within the last week: 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 best dishes we supped on and savoured this week:

Il Bel Paese Sheung Wan

The dish: La Nostra Lasagna (HK$148)

I have long hooted and hollered at anyone who would listen about my love for Il Bel Paese. It’s an unassuming spot, nestled at the bottom of the steps that lead down from Sheung Wan’s Man Mo Temple. It’s not the only Il Bel Paese in town — I know of locations in Discovery Bay and Sai Ying Pun, among others — but to borrow a line from the “Rifleman’s Creed”: there are many like it, but this one is mine.

It’s become a bit of a hangout for the off-duty F&B crowd, and the big difference just might be Robin and Raj, who’ve been holding down the bar since I traipsed in during the early pandemic days — you may remember them as the duo that taught you everything you know about rum over dinner one splashy night at Carbone. They’ve become priceless friends who are always down to offer a drink, a story or, when hunger strikes, a heaping helping of the best damn lasagna in town. Crispy on top and fully molten in the center, it’s the perfect takeaway following a long night of tequila sodas — or the perfect medicine for the day after. Get your Garfield on. — Nathan Erickson, Editor-in-Chief

Il Bel Paese, 299 Queen’s Road Central, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, +852 2528 2200

The Baker & The Bottleman

The dish: Butter lettuce, whipped ricotta, toasted bread crumbs (3 pieces) (HK$58)

A visit to The Baker & The Bottleman will not be complete without at least one portion of their dangerously addictive Beef Scratching with ‘Mock Bacon’ seasoning (HK$58) — or, preferably, several portions; it goes down like air — at which point you’ll certainly be feeling a little guilty for your choices. So, something green, then.

Their Butter Lettuce entry is the sleeper hit you might overlook on the greatest hits tour of the wine bar’s menu, peppered with arguably more interesting Scotch eggs (HK$85) and beetroot-cured salmon (HK$168) pitstops, but here’s your sign to make the damn detour. Unlike tossed greens that tend to be an obligatory, mother-said-so order, the dish is a salad you eat with your hands, with each bite-sized chomp of lettuce luxuriously dressed (it’s the whipped ricotta!) and finished with that all-important crunch.

It’s also really a dish you’d think about making at home — it looks so simple! — but most probably never will. Why would you! Have all three quarters at The Baker & The Bottleman and wash it down with a couple glasses of vino. Then, rinse and repeat. — Joey Wong, Editor

The Baker & The Bottleman, Shop No. G14 and G15 (Minor Portion), G/F and Shop No. F15A, 1/F Lee Tung Avenue, 200 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 2817 8383

Arcane

The dish: Brittany blue lobster rolled in avocado with toasted brioche, ikura, lemon gel and dill (HK$388)

Avocado toast is typically a Sunday brunch serve. But at Arcane, the avocado toast — a fancier, much more exciting version of the neighbourhood café staple — is happily a lunch, brunch and dinner dish, as it should be. Sebastian Lorenzi, chef de cuisine of the modern European spot, has lent his expert cooking and reinvented the humble fruit into a photogenic showpiece that has found a rightful place amongst the restaurant’s one Michelin star menu. Delicate, wafer-thin slices of perfectly ripe avocado are blanketed, then, rolled with fresh lobster, assembled atop a perfectly toasted slice of golden brioche. Over the top, lemon gel adds the perfect zing, balanced out by the savouriness of ikura and freshness of dill. It’s a sweet, deliciously tempting bite that disappeared within seconds. — Lorria Sahmet, Editor

Arcane, 3/F, 18 On Lan Street, Central, Hong Kong

Glasshouse

The dish: Niçoise Salad (HK$148)

The plates at Glasshouse are meant to be shared, but I’m definitely not sharing their Niçoise Salad. I’ve had a lot of salads in my life — at one point, it was the only thing I ate — so take my word for it, I’m well versed in the world of mixed greens and I know a good salad when I see one.

The Salade Niçoise is a pretty standard salad. Google it and you’ll find page after page of recipes. Everyone and their mother has their own rendition of it. Food Network, BBC Good Food, Taste… just take your pick and get to work in the kitchen. Or, if you’re lazy like me, just head out to any Glasshouse location in Hong Kong and order their version.

Originating in the French Riviera town of Nice (hence the name), the classic Niçoise Salad includes fresh tomatoes, sliced hard-boiled eggs and tuna in an olive oil dressing, traditionally presented on a large dinner platter. Some restaurants choose to play with the ingredients, adding in bell peppers, minced shallots or steamed artichokes to bulk it up, but Glasshouse keeps it classic by using only the core ingredients.

Now, I’m not opposed to a bulked-up Niçoise, but as a self-proclaimed salad purist, I’d definitely opt for the classic if given a choice. And Glasshouse does that perfectly. I swear, each bite of the salad is better than the last. I credit this phenomenon to the just-right amount of oily tuna and the slightly tangy dressing that keeps me coming back for more. 10/10 would recommend, even if you typically don’t like greens. — Charmaine Ng, Editor

Glasshouse, Shop No. 101 & 101A, 1/F, Cityplaza, 18 Tai Koo Shing Road, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong, +852 2114 0063

Chiba

The dish: Chocolate Lava Cake with Ice Cream (HK$58)

Nathan Road is a place of wonder; it’s always a mystery to me why there isn’t a Yakuza-inspired game set in Hong Kong’s MK neighbourhood yet (yes, I know Sleeping Dogs exists, but I think we deserve a bit better than that).

Anyway, enter Chiba, an upper-floor fusion café two minutes away from Yau Ma Tei station. The dimly-lit, retro interior coupled with almost-too-loud pop music blasting through the speakers makes for the perfect gossip spot — no one sees you, no one hears you. 

After a keto seafood dinner and a signature savoury platter decorated like a Japanese pond garden, it’s only fitting to end the night with a plate of lava cake. Coconut ice cream crumbles upon the warm chocolate cake, melting into sugary streams to nourish the dish with another layer of sweetness. Sorry I was too busy eating to snap a picture of the oozing chocolate lava, totally my fault. — Michelle Chan, Editor

Chiba, Room 2, 2/F, Kiu Kin Building, 566-568 Nathan Road, Mong Kok, +852 6127 7112

SP_CE

The dish: All-day breakfast ($128)

An all-day breakfast — my ultimate comfort food. No matter what kind of day I had, there’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a scrambled egg and avocado toast. Best thing about it? You can have it at any time you want — bright and early to start the day, a late lunch to pretend the day just began or a post-night-out remedy.

I stumbled across this cafe after finding out one of my previous beloved brunch spots stopped serving hot dishes. I was desperate for some bacon and eggs. The portion came larger than I expected, with each ingredient doubling the size of what other cafes would generally serve. It also included all the meat and seafood a breakfast should have: bacon, ham, and smoked salmon, which is fantastic value for money. The creamy scrambled eggs were outstanding, with the perfect degree of fluffiness and saltiness. Just how I like it. This is definitely my new go-to meal to cure all sorts of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday blues. — Leanne Lam, Social Media Manager

Carbon Brews

The dish: Hanger Steak Frites (HK$255)

Carbon Brews just opened their taproom on Wyndham Street. Head chef Sean Yuen has specially created a menu that would help elevate each of the craft beers’ experience. This is not your everyday steak frites. The Hanger Steak Frites is made of California prime hanger steak, smoked with a bone marrow sauce, veal bone, port, shallots, a selection of various herbs and served with hand-cut Canadian Agria potato fries. For me, the steak was so tender that it basically melts in your mouth. I’d highly recommend this dish to a meat lover who enjoys the elevated gastropub food. — Austin Miao, Branded Content Manager

Carbon Brews, G/F, The Centrium, 60 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 5409 4840

(Lead and featured image: Carbon Brews)

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