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: Crispy rice cracker with hairy crab roe
We’re well in the thick of hairy crab season — before you miss your chance to try this autumnal specialty, I’d advise you to go and have a taste of the creative hairy crab dishes around town, including a whopping 14-dish hairy crab menu at 10 Shanghai. The limited-time creations here range from baked hairy crab casserole to braised pork tendon with hairy crab and hairy crab noodles, but my personal favourite are the crispy rice crackers with hairy crab roe. Priced at HK$160 for two pieces, the hand-held snack tastes like the world’s most delicious chip — the thick, crunchy base weighed down with what seems like a whole crab’s worth of lip-smacking creamy orange roe and succulent crab meat. –Leslie Yeh, Dining Editor
10 Shanghai, Shop 101, Lee Garden Two, 28 Yun Ping Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, +852 2338 5500
The dish: Vitello Tonnato
I make no pretenses about the fact that I’m equal-opportunity when it comes to Italy’s intricate culinary patchwork. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking Campagnia, Apulia or Lazio — my enjoyment borders on the indiscriminate. That said, when struck by a particularly serious case of the munchies, I’ve found Piedmontese cuisine — with its impressive tradition of cheese, truffles and game — to be an absolute corker. That’s all down to dishes like this Vitello Tonnato (HK$230) — served as part of the revamped lunch menu at Wan Chai institution Grissini.
Chef Marcello’s concept of vitello is sure to satisfy culinary hardliners– veal, tuna, mayo, the whole gang’s present — yet even his preferred method of assembly is a kind of middle finger to the pitfalls of traditionalism. What do I mean exactly? Rather than submerging meat under an ocean of mayonnaise (as custom dictates) Chef Marcello interlaces his razor-thin vitello with perfectly proportioned dots of sauce. What is achieved is a more balanced meat-to-condiment ratio: one which makes the overall dish lighter and prettier, whilst retaining the characteristic richness of the original recipe. –Randy Lai, Watches Editor
Grissini, 2/F, Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, 1 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 2584 7722
Ying Jee Club
The dish: Steamed king prawn with egg white and crab coral
With Duddell’s alumnus Executive Chef Siu Hin-chi helming the ship, Ying Jee Club is no doubt hoping to retain its coveted two-Michelin-star status following the jump in last year’s Michelin guide, recently unleashing a slew of new dishes for the autumn season. Return visitors can look forward to new flavours to tempt their taste buds, from wok-fried A4 Wagyu beef with scallion and soy sauce, to baked king prawns with Chinese celery and sautéed eel with Tianjin cabbage and capsicum. While trying a recent tasting menu with both new and signature dishes, however, I couldn’t help but return to an old favourite: chef Hin’s steamed king prawn on a bed of crab meat, egg white and crab roe (HK$420 per person) — a plate that’s as stunningly beautiful as it is well-balanced in flavours. –LY
Ying Jee Club, 41 Connaught Road Central, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2801 6882
Nojo Ramen x Izakaya
The dish: Overnight sake lees, soy and ginger marinated fried chicken
Perhaps most well known for their Paitan-style chicken ramen, trendy H Code eatery Nojo Ramen has recently rebranded to reinforce the 60-some izakaya-style menu offerings that go beyond Japanese-style noodles, ranging across grilled appetisers, deep-fried items, sashimi, salads and Tsunami, or ‘snacks to eat with sake’. This last section encompasses a range of mouthwatering bar snacks — my favourite being the fried chicken, which is marinated overnight with sake lees, developing a deep aroma that’s highlighted with soy and ginger. Priced at just HK$88 per plate, the bite-sized morsels are ultra-crunchy on the exterior, juicy and tender inside — the perfect bar food to accompany a carafe of dry, crisp sake. –LY
Nojo Ramen x Izakaya, Shop 5 & Open Space, G/F, The Steps, H Code, 45 Pottinger Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2415 1333
The dish: Steamed Hokkaido hairy crab
Mid-October traditionally marks the beginning of hairy crab season — a delicious if costly interlude of Fall. Held up amongst the vast Chinese diaspora as a decadent seasonal specialty, hairy crab dishes are already on hundreds of menus throughout the city: ranging from the time-honoured (roe-infused xiaolongbao) to downright nonsensical (pizza). Me personally? I’m more of a traditionalist — preferring to take my hairy crab sans gimmickry. I recommend that those with a similar disposition give Old Bailey a crack. The Jiangnan restaurant is currently offering 14 hairy crab-infused dishes till mid-December; and (perhaps more interestingly) have elected to source the titular crustaceans from Hokkaido.
Historically, the best hairy crabs are cultivated in Yangcheng Lake (an area about three kilometres northeast of Suzhou), but I was pleasantly surprised to find that their Hokkaido counterparts are equally satisfying — no small feat considering how early we are into the season. These crabs weighed around 210g (HK$480) and were laden with a decent amount of roe — though the meat, particularly from around the claws, turned out to be the real surprise winner. –RL
Old Bailey, 2/F, JC Contemporary, Tai Kwun, Old Bailey Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2877 8711
PDT (Landmark Mandarin Oriental)
The dish: Geist spicy harissa hotdog
Building on the success of their ongoing ‘Please Don’t Tell hotdog’ series, PDT have just launched the ‘Geist’ spicy harissa hotdog — developed in conjunction with Danish chef and author Bo Bech. As its name suggests, the Geist’s key ingredient is grilled pork sausage, flavoured with Bech’s own concoction of herbs and spices. Conventional versions of harissa usually require a chilli paste that is smooth and fully incorporated, but Bech’s take — enlivened by the addition of espelette and caramelised red onions — is a good deal more textural in its bite. The whole composition is pretty busy, come to think of it, but no one flavour vies to be the centre of attention: the heat is good; there’s an undercurrent of sweetness; and enough bite to keep each mouthful interesting. –RL
PDT, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, The Landmark, 15 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong, +852 2132 0110