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 impressed on us again the creativity and skill of Hong Kong’s talented chefs. From casual street bites to meticulously prepared tasting menu dishes, these are the plates we’d recommend you make a special trip for.
The dish: Purslane fettucine
Peggy Chan’s wizardry with plant-based cooking is hard at work in her groundbreaking new menu at Nectar, which opened last month and replaced the old Grassroots Pantry. I’d highly recommend giving her new tasting menus a try (available in 5-, 8-, or 12-course formats); like me, I think you’ll find each course a revelation, from the banana blossom betel leaves, to the ‘faux gras’ which mimics the taste and texture of the real deal, and the all-vegan cheese course, a satisfying dairy-free alternative with clever imitations of pepper jack and gouda.
While some dishes from the 8-course ‘Integrative’ menu (HK$950 per person) definitely skewed toward the light and restorative, the purslane fettucine was hearty and satisfying: a pile of toothsome pasta made from purslane (a leafy green packed with Omega 3 acids and vitamin A), infused with umami from a combo of dehydrated bell pepper, almonds and sun-dried tomato meant to mimic salami, lifted with lemon zest and showered over with hazelnut pecorino. —Leslie Yeh, Dining Editor
Nectar, Shop D, G/F, CentreStage, 108 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2873 3353
The dish: Alaskan king crab pasta
I (clearly) can’t say no to a well-made pasta, and I have to say one of the best ones I’ve had in recent memory was an unconventional number at Wan Chai bistro Maison Es — the pretty floral-themed restaurant helmed by chef Esther Shum. I’ve had dinner a few times here, and I’m always impressed by the level of creativity and unique flavour combinations.
Their new seasonal menu is chock-full of unexpected combinations — think Kuruma Ebi shrimp with avocado tartare and Hokkaido scallops served with lime crème fraiche — but my favourite dish by far was the Alaskan king crab pasta (HK$380). Twirls of linguini bore the mellow bite of homemade pasta, blanketed in a chilli egg sauce that wasn’t at all shy on the spice. The jolt of chilli was a welcome infusion of Asian sensibilities, emphasised by a generous handful of coriander and scallion thrown into the mix, softly scrambled eggs, and generous chunks of sweet, succulent Alaskan king crab meat. —LY
Maison Es, 1A Star Street (entrance on Electric Street), Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 2521 8011
The dish: Brittanian turbot in sourdough emulsion
When Arbor quietly opened its gilded doors in 2018, I had an inkling Hong Kong’s diners were in for something special. A year on, chef Eric Räty’s Michelin-starred temple to restrained, cerebral fine dining has garnered a legion of devotees — of which it is absolutely deserving. Signatures such as Räty’s carabinero prawn or ‘white peach’ are the work of a fastidious intellect, one focused on extracting every ounce of flavour from the best natural ingredients which money can buy.
I’m particularly fond of the Brittany turbot Räty serves at lunchtime (part of Arbor’s $888 4-course menu): The firm, white-fleshed fish is cooked quickly to lock in moisture and its naturally mild flavour; it’s served with a variety of condiments, any one of which might form the centrepiece in a less imaginative composition. A sauce of creamed girolles unlocks richness and texture; two kinds of coulis add a jolt of acidity; and the sourdough emulsion, which Räty accidentally stumbled upon whilst baking at home, suggests the world’s fanciest filet-o-fish when consumed with the turbot. —Randy Lai, Staff Writer
Arbor, 25/F, H Queens, 80 Queen’s Road Central, Central, +852 3185 8388
Piranha Bar at Gough’s on Gough
The dish: Hong Kong rarebit
As delightful as it’s always been — and it’s better now than ever, in my opinion — one of the oddities of Gough’s on Gough was that the handsomely designed restaurant never made good use of its ground floor space. Guests simply arrived and immediately ascended the spiral staircase to the main dining room, leaving one to wonder why they couldn’t enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail downstairs in the cute, alcove-like area. True, it’s not huge, but it all just seemed like a waste of space.
Happily, that’s recently changed with the launch of the downstairs area as Piranha Bar, so named for the menacing Amazonian fish that reside in the large tank at the restaurant’s entrance. Chef Cary Docherty has put together a tasty menu of British bar bites for Piranha Bar, which is meant to be an all-day destination for grabbing quick, no-fuss dishes like smoked anchovies on toast, fish finger sandwiches and prawn cocktail. In the midst of a vegetarian phase, I wasn’t able to enjoy the bacon sandwich with HP sauce recently, but that’s fine because I absolutely loved the Hong Kong rarebit (HK$88), a slightly tweaked version of Welsh rarebit. Melted cheese poured over toast — what’s not to love? —Michael Alan Connelly, Head of Digital Content
Gough’s on Gough, 15 Gough Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2473 9066
The dish: Yellow wine chicken with oyster mushroom fried rice
While the original Little Bao in SoHo may have closed shop recently (fear not, you can still visit the Causeway Bay diner), a recent visit to Happy Paradise for their new seasonal menu proved that May Chow is still innovating at the top of her game. Her new summer menu holds a number of gems, including crispy Kuruma shrimps tossed with a salty hit of Chinese olive, vegetables and Shaoxing wine; homemade sourdough egg waffles with bottarga dip in a quirky homage to Hong Kong’s ubiquitous street snack; and deep-fried chicken wings stuffed with a fragrant filling of cuttlefish and black truffle.
A trip to sample all these new creations also gives you an excuse to tuck into an old favourite: the yellow wine chicken (HK$328) — still the star of the menu with its insanely delicious combination of poached local yellow chicken atop pearls of shiitake stock-infused rice, slicked over with chrysanthemum butter and tossed with crisp mushrooms. —LY
Happy Paradise, UG/F, 52-56 Staunton Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2816 2118
Rech by Alain Ducasse
The dish: ‘Armoricaine’ style blue lobster, tarragon and heritage tomatoes
Until September, Rech by Alain Ducasse is inviting gourmands on the third leg of its ‘Coastal Tour de France’. Having previously explored the French Riviera, Executive Chef Guillaume Katola now turns his attention to Brittany, a region synonymous with pastry and seafood. Five Breton dishes are served in a prix fixe menu (HK$1,288), with rustic standards such as buckwheat cookpot or cotriade, along with an immensely satisfying lobster ‘Armoricaine’.
In culinary circles, the provenance of ‘Armoricaine’ is a matter of intense debate. Regardless of whether you believe that the dish was inspired by Pierre Fraisse’s experiences whilst working in the US, or the more likely explanation that it’s a pastiche of Languedoc, Breton and American influences, I’d argue Rech’s lobster ‘Armoricaine’ is unequivocally delicious. Unlike the more elaborate permutations of this dish, Katola refrains from drowning his ingredients in a sea of fanfare. Use of the freshest possible lobster is essential: This is quickly flambéed and then plated alongside four kinds of heirloom tomatoes (including the intensely steaky, purpleish Noire de Crimèe variety). While cayenne pepper is typically used, Katola opts to season his Armoricaine with a ‘fairy dust’ of espelette and dehydrated tomato skin. My only gripe? The lack of a traditional pilaf, with which to soak the rest of the delicious sauce in. —RL
Rech by Alain Ducasse, InterContinental Hong Kong, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 2313 2323
The dish: Shanghai-style mooncakes
Mid-Autumn Festival is little more than a week away, which means it’s peak mooncake season. And while it’s always nice to try the traditional favourites every year, my palate always longs for something new. Enter Old Bailey’s Shanghai-style mooncakes, which are relatively small in stature and feature a crisp and buttery short-crust pastry. Carnivores will enjoy the savoury version filled with ground pork, shallot, ginger, soy sauce, dark soy sauce and white pepper; for me, however, it’s all about the sweet variety filled with a smooth and creamy homemade red bean paste. Both varieties are available in boxes of six mooncakes (HK$238); they can be ordered online here and picked up at the restaurant from now until 13 September. —MAC
Old Bailey, 2/F, JC Contemporary, Tai Kwun, 10 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2877 8711