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: Charcoal grilled French duck breast with sweet pepper, Hokkaido mash, and persimmon stuffed with blue cheese
East-meets-West, and specifically French-Japanese is a recurring theme in kitchens these days, but the clash of flavours and techniques can easily go awry. That’s why I’m always impressed when a chef can nail the balance of taking these ingredients from different parts of the world and combining them on the plate. This was my first time to La Bombance and in addition to the stunning dining room (wrapped with floor-to-ceiling windows), I was wowed by the inspired combinations of French and Japanese ingredients that chef Makoto Okamoto had in store for us to preview the limited-time Raifuku sake pairing menu.
The one that lingers in my memory is the charcoal grilled French duck breast paired with Hokkaido mash, sweet pepper, cardamom and blue cheese-stuffed persimmons — a nice touch to add a funky counterpoint for the rich duck and mash. The duck is cooked perfectly, the fat neatly rendered while maintaining a crispy crust, and it all comes on a tangle of golden somen noodles (made in house) that are essentially like the world’s best snack — plus, I’m told they give an extra boost of collagen to women as an added bonus. —Leslie Yeh, Dining Editor
La Bombance’s Raifuku Sake Pairing is available through 12 Nov, priced at HK$1,280 plus 10% surcharge per person for 9-course kaiseki dinner, plus HK$628 for 7 kinds of Raifuku Sake or HK$458 for 4 kinds of Raifuku Sake
La Bombance, 30/F, V Point, 18 Tang Lung Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, +852 3188 3326
The dish: Steamed abalone with liver sauce
It goes without saying that each bite is basically a masterpiece at Sushi Shikon — Hong Kong’s only three-Michelin-star Japanese restaurant, and one of only six spots in the city to hold the top ranking — but the one dish that stood out for me during my recent meal there was Shikon’s signature steamed abalone. Love it or hate it, abalone is one of those prized ingredients you can’t really avoid when you live in Hong Kong; in my experience, it can range from passable but not that enjoyable, to chewing-for-10-minutes unpleasant. The abalone at Sushi Shikon, however, is a revelation.
Available as part of the dinner omakase set (HK$3,500 per person), the shellfish is first steamed to cook it without ruining its texture or flavour. Then the chef shows off some fancy knife work, gently slicing the abalone to make it even more tender. It’s served simply with a bit of wasabi, but the star condiment arrives on the side: a shiny, dark-green sauce made from abalone liver. The abalone is delicious on its own, but a dip in that unctuous sauce takes it to another level. The best part? You’re given a bit of sushi rice to mix with any remaining liver sauce so that you can savour every last bit of it — a brilliant touch. —Michael Alan Connelly, Editor in Chief
Sushi Shikon, Citadines Mercer Hong Kong, 29 Jervois Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, +852 2643 6800
The dish: Tuna poké tossed with avocado, shiso, crispy shallot and wasabi ice cream
There are those who couldn’t care less about their surroundings when dining on delicious food — but I’m not one of them. For me, atmosphere is half the fun of dining out and that’s why I was immediately drawn to Maison ES, with its chic, 18th-century-inspired décor. Helmed by chef Esther Sham (also of private kitchen Ta Pantry), the romantic French restaurant is a gem on quiet Electric Street in Wan Chai. From the gilded chandeliers to the hanging plants and plush armchairs, everything is inspired by the old eras of European aristocracy and, specifically, Marie Antoinette and her impeccable sense of style.
But while Maison ES’ interiors are enough to send you into a dream-like state, Cham succeeds in snapping your attention back to the table with her whimsical flavour combinations. My favourite was the tuna poké with crispy shallots and shiso (HK$158), which is topped with a quenelle of wasabi ice cream with just the right amount of heat without being overpowering. The creamy, cold element meshed so brilliantly with the raw tuna that I’m surprised no one’s thought of this before — at least not in Hong Kong. The dish gets full marks for flavour, and bonus points for creativity and playful presentation. If you go, make sure you also try the slow-cooked lobster with mango salsa and ink tuile (HK$228) and the crispy langoustine wontons topped with oyster emulsion (HK$188) — two additional standouts from the à la carte menu. —LY
Dishes are available à la carte or as part of set menus ranging from HK$588–$1,288 per person.
Maison ES, 1A Star Street (entrance on Electric Street), Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 2521 8011
The dish: Nigiri
There’s been such an influx of sushi restaurants lately that some have resorted to cheap tricks such as weird flavour combinations and Instagram-ready dishes that don’t necessarily deliver on flavour to draw in customers. Sushi Taki has just opened on Ashley Road, an area already saturated with Japanese restaurants, but it’s not interested in playing the social media game — the chefs here are all about sticking to and respecting age-old Japanese traditions, which means serving nigiri the way it’s always been done, using in-season ingredients only and letting the technique and precision speak for itself.
I recently had the pleasure of enjoying an omakase meal here (the counter boasts great TST views, as well as a familiar vibe as if you’re dining in the chef’s kitchen), and loved how everything was brought back to basics with careful attention-to-detail. Amongst my favourite pieces: thinly sliced flounder lifted with pomelo peel, filefish sashimi wrapped delicately around the fish’s own creamy liver; and fresh salmon roe, a seasonal specialty which is marinated in-house for 2 days and served with the membrane intact — the sauce perfectly balancing out the roe’s salinity and drawing out its natural sweetness. —LY
Sushi Taki, 17/F, 17-19 Ashley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 2706-2028
The dish: “Life in a Jungle”
Chef Vicky Cheng of VEA is one of those chefs with unbridled creativity and imagination, but this work of art was really a technical showstopper on another level for those of us already familiar with his work. Part of a pop-up tasting dinner with Margarita Forés, it was the pièce de résistance of the degustation: a visual masterpiece resembling a miniature Japanese rock garden. The smooth white and grey pebbles were formed by black garlic meringues, with stalks of asparagus and rolled cucumber creating the forest and a scattering of dill powder depicting a layer of moss. The pond in the middle is made of clarified tomato water, with a few droplets of bright green shiso oil resembling lily pads. It’s beautiful, sophisticated, mind-blowing, and even more impressive when you taste all the ingredients together — they harmonise wonderfully on the palate. —LY
VEA, 29-30/F, The Wellington, 198 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2711 8639
The dish: Mushroom and tofu larb (laab hed)
They say food tastes better when you make it yourself, but in this case I have to give all credit for this delicious dish to the fantastic tutelage of Mak Mak’s head chef, Josh Hartland, who took us through two of the restaurant’s signature dishes during a recent cooking class. While both plates we whipped up were fantastic (mushroom and tofu larb and Thai pomelo salad), I’m sharing this one as the most photogenic pick (those salad greens don’t just arrange themselves!).
Both recipes are simpler than you’d expect but Hartland tells us it’s all about getting the right balance of sweet-salty-savoury-sour down as you mix the dressing and season to taste (around 10g of palm sugar to 20ml each of lime juice and soy sauce). Add to that a stir-fry of different types of enoki, shimeji and shiitake mushrooms, diced tofu, shallots, and a fistful of fresh herbs (we used mint, coriander and spring onion), and you have this crunchy, tangy, earthy mushroom salad. It’s such a cinch to whip together that I’ve been dreaming of popping down to the local Thai specialty store (glutinous rice powder is the secret Thai ingredient that brings the dish together) and making this for a quick and healthy weeknight meal at home ever since. —LY
Mak Mak, 217A, Landmark Atrium, 15 Queens Road Central, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2983 1003
Beef & Liberty
The dish: El Cabrón
Aside from its solid range of standard burgers that are always on the menu, Beef & Liberty always has a special seasonal burger on offer, and a new one has just landed in town. El Cabrón — which roughly translates to “jerk” or “bastard” in Spanish — is a Tex-Mex-inspired monster indulgence: a beef patty topped with fiery beef chilli, melted cheddar, spring onions, sour cream and housemade pickles. It may sound like a lot, but I found it to be boldly flavoured without becoming a gut-busting burger. November means the return of Movember, when guys grow moustaches and raise funds to support men’s health, and it’s worth nothing that HK$5 from each El Cabrón sale will benefit Movember, so I say dig in and order plenty of them. —MAC
Beef & Liberty, 3/F, California Tower, 30-32 D’Aguilar Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2450 5778