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: Challans duck breast with cherries, leek and black truffle
Chef Umberto Bombana has brought his love of truffles to Octavium — the more discreet sibling of his flagship, 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana. Helmed by head chef Silvio Armanni, the restaurant is now serving a limited-time 5-course menu (HK$1,580 per person) featuring seasonal Australian Black Perigord truffles.
One of the highlights is the Challans duck breast: The minimalist plating of the dish belies its complexity of flavours — think tender, rosy pink duck breast, bright cherries subdued to an earthy sweetness, and soft leeks — all resting in a luxurious duck jus. The truffle matchsticks on top add texture while perfuming the dish with a woodsy aroma that goes hand-in-hand with the ripe stone fruit. Act fast, as the truffles are only available through August. —Leslie Yeh, Dining Editor
Octavium Italian Restaurant, 8/F, One Chinachem Central, Central, 22 Des Voeux Road Central, Hong Kong, +852 2111 9395
La Petite Maison
The dish: Whole sea bream baked in papillote
La Petite Maison has been receiving rave reviews since it opened not too long ago in H Queen’s, and for good reason — the pleasant, Gallic-inspired dining room offers unpretentious fare, generous service, and a cosy ambience. On a recent tasting, I was impressed by the cooking of the whole sea bream (HK$398); baked in papillote, the folded parcel steamed the fish just through, the flesh flaking off the bones in tender, meaty chunks. The dressing was simple, as it should be — just a fistful of fresh herbs, bright lemon juice, and fruity olive oil. Not a fan of picking around the bone? The staff will happily fillet the fish after passing the platter at your table first for the requisite photo. —LY
La Petite Maison, Shop 1, 1/F, H Queen’s, 23-29 Stanley Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2887 1113
The dish: Scarpetta
Have you heard the news? Kytaly Hong Kong was recently named the best pizzeria in Asia, and a recent visit there reminded me of the exquisite pleasures of its high-quality pizzas. The celebrated pizzeria helmed by Franco Pepe has added a new vegan pizza to the menu, but the highlight of my meal was undoubtedly the Scarpetta (HK$280), which garners less attention than much-talked-about Margherita Sbaglia, but is wholly superior in my opinion.
The Scarpetta is made with outrageously good ingredients which combine to produce something even greater than the sum of its parts. There’s a cream made from 12-months-aged Grana Padano, buffalo mozzarella, a compote made from three types of tomatoes, freeze-dried pesto, extra virgin olive oil and shavings of 24-months-aged Grana Padano, which stand upright on the pizza and give it a sort of architectural beauty. It tastes even better than it looks, with the sweet acidity of the tomato and brightness of the pesto playing against the richness of the cheese. It’s truly a pizza masterpiece. —Michael Alan Connelly, Head of Digital Content
Kytaly, 5/F, 77 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2808 1961
The dish: Tuna hotdog
Pirata’s rock ‘n’ roll temakaria, TMK has just opened in Sheung Wan right below the group’s upscale sushi spot, Honjo. Plastered with punk rock stickers and with a full-blown motorcycle as the decorative pièce de résistance, the free-spirited eatery certainly appeals to rowdy, late-night crowds.
Before you’re plied with endless amounts of sake by the staff (overflowing masa cups and an ice trough filled with sake bottles ensure this), make sure you line your stomach with crispy fried bar bites like the tuna hot dog (HK$98). Save for the fresh tuna, there’s nothing nutritionally redeeming about this calorific number: from the crunchy fried nori casing to the liberal dousing of spicy mayo sauce and generous rice filling — it’s just what I crave for proper gut-busting bar food. —LY
TMK, Shops G & H, G/F and M/F, Hollywood Centre, 77-91 Queen’s Road West, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, +852 2662 2269
The dish: Confit cod with borlotti beans, razor clams, chorizo and samphire
I recently got an exclusive seating at the chef’s table at Gaddi’s, where an intimate setting for two was arranged right in the kitchen. Newly joining Gaddi’s, chef Albin Gobil brings cooking chops from two-Michelin-starred establishments, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon and Helene Darroze at the Connaught Hotel, and has been cooking professionally since the age of 13. Here in his kitchen, you get to taste some of the more unique or exploratory dishes that aren’t on Gaddi’s main menu.
During our five-course lunch (HK$2,288), for instance, we got to try an off-menu European take on a wonton, a single parcel featuring al dente prawn in a foamy, buttery, herby emulsion. The ravioli course was also stunning, with little morsels of bright herbs (a lot of tarragon and dill) mixed with creamy sheep brousse cheese — a blooming spring forest in every bite. It’s always hard to pick favourites, but in this current inclement weather I’m absolutely craving the confit cod with borlotti beans, razor clams, chorizo and samphire. The Mediterranean-inspired combination is paired with perfectly cooked buttery cod and tender razor clams — presented along its shell with shoots of lightly salted marine samphire as if it all just emerged as is from a lake. —Evelyn Lok, Associate Editor
3-, 5- or 8-course Chef’s Table menus available from HK$888. Gaddi’s, 1/F, The Peninsula Hong Kong, 22 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 2696 6763
37 Steakhouse & Bar
The dish: Hiyama A5 Wagyu flat iron steak
You know that blissful moment when you bite into an incredibly juicy steak and it feels like all is right in the world? Well, that happened to me during a dinner tasting at 37 Steakhouse & Bar. This new addition to the restaurant scene is located at the recently re-opened Peak Galleria, and offers a large variety of different cuts of beef, all paired with a vast cellar of wines and sakes. My absolute favourite was the 200g Hiyama A5 Wagyu flat iron steak (HK$680/100g), cooked to a precise medium-rare. There may or may not be a video of me enjoying every bite of that steak, eyes closed with an expression of utter bliss on my face. All I know is that — just like Arnold Schwarzenegger — I’ll be back. —Aydee Tee, Head of Marketing
The dish: Lamb neck with eggplant and green tomato salsa
New Zealand’s Te Mana lamb has become a prized product amongst Hong Kong chefs — superlative for its intramuscular fat marbling and rich flavour. The breed is unrivalled for a reason: The lamb is a product of 10 years of R&D and testing of over 100 genetic lines, with the sheep roaming freely over high country for their lifetimes, and fed chicory herbs the last 30 days to boost their Omega-3 levels.
You can find this prized lamb at many Hong Kong establishments (Frantzen’s Kitchen, Arbor, Octavium, Mandarin Grill, amongst others). At Wan Chai grillhouse Mr. Brown, chef Asher Goldstein serves strips of the fat-marbled lamb neck seared with a gorgeous caramelised crust. The tender and juicy meat goes brilliantly with the swipe of earthy eggplant puree and a bright and herbaceous tomato salsa. At HK$160, the dish is also an absolute steal. For a full list of restaurants serving Te Mana lamb, visit here. —LY
Mr. Brown, G/F, 9 Ship Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 3101 1081
The dish: Samoan ceviche
This tattoo-inspired restaurant and bar on Elgin Street is already a popular watering hole (they have great happy hour deals that rotate based on the day of the week), but the food offerings are well worth staying for dinner. Globally influenced, dishes range from fresh seafood, to succulent slow-cooked meats, and even hearty salads that double as mains. With fish rotating based on the day’s fresh catch, the Samoan Ceviche (HK$138) is a signature order: a generous portion of marinated fish with red onions, cucumbers and tomatoes swimming in a punchy citrus dressing. A wallop of fresh herbs — scallions, mint, shiso leaf and cilantro — ramps up the flavour, making this an absolute must-try for those looking to make a meal of it. —LY
Holy Eats, G/F, 23 Elgin Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2890 2892