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 Envoy 

The dish: Pani puri

The Envoy, nestled inside the boutique Pottinger Hotel, is well-known in the Hong Kong bar scene, frequently placing on awards lists such as Asia’s 50 Best Bars for its creative cocktail selection which emphasises tea infusions and Insta-ready garnishes. However it’s more than just great drinks offered here: the kitchen is quietly dishing up some equally distinctive dishes, including a new colonial-inspired brunch menu rooted in British, Indian and Indo cuisines (HK$288 per person).

Stay tuned for our full review, but for now we’ll let you in on a tip: make sure you take advantage of the all-you-can-eat starters selection, which includes a delicious version of the popular Indian street snack, pani puri. Crack open the crispy puffed balls with your fork, then spoon in the cooked potatoes and chickpeas mixture and drizzle it with the accompanying mint chutney, tamarind sauce and spiced yogurt. From the cumin-laced filling to the cooling yogurt and sticky-sweet tamarind glaze, the flavours will take you straight to the streets of India. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a bit of DIY fun with brunch? —Leslie Yeh, Dining Editor

The Envoy, 3/F, The Pottinger Hong Kong, 74 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong, +852 2169 3311

Octavium

Best Bites Octavium Hong Kong

The dish: Hokkaido cuttlefish

Chef Umberto Bombana (of Michelin-starred 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo fame) opened Octavium in Central last summer, but it wasn’t until this month that I was able to give it a try, when I stopped in for a preview of the restaurant’s new lunch service, which opens to the public from 1 March. Bombana may be known for his pasta, but I was more impressed by a deceptively simple starter of Hokkaido cuttlefish, perfectly cooked and served atop a bed of beans and potatoes. These components were tied together with a tableside pour of celeriac broth, making for a hearty and warming (but not overly rich) start to lunch. This dish will be available à la carte or as part of the HK$380 pasta set lunch — not cheap by any means, but it’s always nice to have another upscale lunch option when you’ve exhausted all the usual spots in Central. —Michael Alan Connelly, Editor in Chief

Octavium, 8/F, One Chinachem Central, 22 Des Voeux Road Central, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2111 9395

HAKU x Gallery Vask 

The dish: Sour ribs with soyamansi and garlic casein

I usually tend to get more excited by starters and small plates — where the creativity of a chef can really shine — versus the main entrée, which is generally more about the quality of the protein and how well it’s cooked. That being said, a recent preview of a special collaboration menu between HAKU and Gallery Vask — one of the top restaurants in Manila led by the talented chef Chele Gonzalez — had my attention from start to finish.

There were many dishes worth writing about in the lineup (the king crab rice dish from chef Agustin Balbi of HAKU was a particular highlight), but the one that took me by surprise was the sour beef ribs from Gonzalez. His brief was to take inspiration from Japanese ingredients while showcasing the flavours of the Philippines, and this dish hit the bullseye: a block of well-marbled Japanese beef singed on the outside to a delicious char, marinated in calamansi and soy sauce mixture (‘soyamansi’) for an unexpected sour component that’s characteristic of many Filipino dishes. Of course, the quality of the meat was sublime, but the surprise was the clever use of calamansi to counteract the fattiness of the beef, providing an all-around brilliant balance of flavours. —LY

HAKU, Shop OT G04B, G/F, Ocean Terminal, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 2115 9965

Hey Handsome x Mrs. Pound

The dish: Prawn paste chicken wings with maple cream cheese and fried garlic

Hey Handsome is one of those hip restaurants that have popped up in Manila in recent years, but if you don’t feel like making the trip, I’d suggest you not miss their two-day pop-up (28 February and March 1) at Mrs. Pound in Sheung Wan. It’s hard to pin down exactly the kind of food that the Hey Handsome crew is serving up — they’d describe it as comfort food cooked from the heart, with influences from Hong Kong and Singapore — but regardless, it’s all very unique and most of the time quite delicious. Having sampled the eight dishes they’re serving at Mrs. Pound, I’d say the must-order dish is prawn paste chicken wings (HK$78). They’re fried to perfection with a light, crisp batter encasing juicy meat; they’re topped with chilli, salt and fried garlic. A smear of maple-flavoured cream cheese is an optional condiment that lines the bowl the wings are served in. I’d suggest you give it a try, because the combination works well, surprisingly. I can’t explain why — it just does. —MAC

Mrs. Pound, 6 Pound Lane, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, +852 3426 3949

Dear Lilly

The dish: Cornfed chicken

In case you missed it, we recently reviewed the newly opened Dear Lilly at IFC, designed by the exceptionally talented Ashley Sutton. As expected, I was blown away by the design (think a mad florist’s house littered with hundreds of dried floral bouquets and perfume bottles), and consequently, was a bit apprehensive that the food and drinks would play second fiddle to the lavish interiors. Luckily, the menu proved to be solid, and I particularly enjoyed the cornfed chicken (HK$168), one of several grilled selections on the menu. Chicken can often fall victim to being overcooked, dry and stringy when prepared in restaurants, but this one was juicy and tender, the flavourful meat enhanced with a squeeze of burnt lemon and a dip into the accompanying trio of sauces: zesty chimichurri, peppercorn and a spicy horseradish cream. It’s a dish I would come back to, accompanied by a cocktail or two under that mesmerising, floral-lined ceiling. —LY

Dear LillyShop 4010, Podium Level 4, IFC Mall, 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2771 6060

FUMI

Fumi Best Bites Hong Kong

The dish: Hokkaido crab sushi with uni

I’ll be the first to admit that Hong Kong has too many Japanese restaurants, with what feels like dozens of new ones opening every quarter. That being said, if you’ve been hoping for a new sushi spot in the heart of Lan Kwai Fong, FUMI is the right spot for you. I recently went in to try the 17-course omakase menu (HK$1,580), which had several highlights, though the standout for me was delicate Hokkaido crab sushi topped with a perfect bit of uni — my favourite bite of the night. The city has no shortage of outstanding omakase options, so don’t feel obligated to go that route at FUMI, as the restaurant also offers kaiseki-style meals as well as an à la carte menu so you can design your own ideal dinner.

FUMI, 6/F, California Tower, 30-32 D’Aguilar Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2328 3302

NOBU

The dish: Grilled saba fillet with kuro goma ponzu

NOBU at the InterContinental Hong Kong has been doing a wonderful series in which they highlight a new culinary region of Japan every few months through collaborations with visiting guest chefs. The first episode in 2018 kicked off in Fukuoka, and we were treated to some of the region’s signature dishes from esteemed sushi chef, Kazunari Araki. What got my heart beating was the grilled saba fillet, hands down one of the tastiest dishes I’ve had in recent memory. The dish starts with superbly tender mackerel fillets, the flesh disintegrating into butter with each bite. The fillets come wading in a pool of black sesame ponzu sauce, which is utterly delicious with a sharp and satisfying tang (it’s a shame this stuff isn’t sold at supermarkets). While the Fukuoka promotion has since ended, you can still take your taste buds for a ride to Japan during the next NOBU journey to Nagasaki, which kicks off on 2 March. —LY

Nobu, 2/F, InterContinental Hong Kong, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 2313 2323

Kashiwaya

Best Bites Kashiwaya Hong Kong

The dish: Hassun platter

Kashiwaya Hong Kong, the two-Michelin-star outpost of Hideaki Matsuo’s three-Michelin-star kaiseki restaurant in Osaka, recently introduced a new seasonal menu in anticipation of spring, swapping winter’s warm and hearty dishes for lighter, more refreshing flavours. I gave the nine-course menu (HK$1,800) a go this month, and found myself impressed by the range of technique and artistry on display. Perhaps most impressive was the hassun platter, featuring some of the best pre-spring ingredients available, such as baby sea eel, Nameko mushrooms, ocellated octopus, and soybeans simmered with yuzu. Though this represented only one of the nine courses, this platter alone encapsulates everything great about the kaiseki experience: beautiful presentation, purity of flavour and quality of ingredients. —MAC

Kashiwaya, 8/F, 18 On Lan Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2520 5218

MEATS

The dish: Pastrami sandwich with pimento cheese

For me, there are few things more perfect in this world than a well-constructed sandwich — think grilled bread with a crunchy exterior and soft chew, the perfect ratio of fillings, and a tangy slather of sauce, neatly constructed for a glorious all-in-one bite. Hong Kong doesn’t want for sandwich shops, but I think I may have discovered one of my new favourites around town: the pastrami with pimento cheese at MEATS, available as part of the new weekend brunch. The HK$290 brunch deal per person includes two starters for sharing, one main, fried rice, dessert and a glass of wine or beer. When choosing mains, my advice is to go for the porchetta bun (we’re big fans of MEATS’ version of this savoury Italian pork roast), or the pastrami sandwich: a thing of beauty which starts with generous slices of smoked pastrami piled high with sliced pickles and crunchy red cabbage. It’s sandwiched between two thick slices of rye and slathered in pimento cheese sauce for a messy and mouthwatering bite. —LY

MEATS, G/F, 28-30 Staunton Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2711 1812

Beet

Beet Hong Kong Best Bites

The dish: Brussels sprouts

I’m a sucker for Brussels sprouts, so I’ll order them anytime I see them listed on a menu, which is not frequently enough in Hong Kong, to be completely honest. That’s why I was delighted to see them available during a recent dinner at Beet, one of my favourite new restaurants to open in recent months. The sprouts (HK$150) are halved and roasted until they pick up a bit of char, then served with a black garlic pureé and flaked almonds. It’s a deceptively simple dish, but one I would happily eat year-round, and one that reflects Beet’s wonderfully understated approach to cooking and the kitchen’s devotion to good ingredients.

Beet, 6 Kau U Fong, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2824 3898

Commissary 

The dish: Salted caramel chocolate mousse

They say good things come in small packages, which must be the case with the salted caramel chocolate mousse at Californian kitchen Commissary. It’s one of two dessert options in the new express lunch set (HK$188 for 2 courses, HK$208 for 3 courses), and we much preferred it to the red velvet cake, which can come across as a bit dense. The consistency of this delightful dessert falls somewhere between a smooth dulce de leche sauce and a light and creamy mousse, dripping decadently back into the glass as you break off a piece of the homemade chocolate chip cookie and swirl it around in the decadent mix. The amount of salt is just right, bringing out the tones of caramel and chocolate to balance on the palate. If you’re after a light and satisfying dessert to end the meal, this little number should do the trick. —LY

Commissary, 4/F, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong, +852 2602 0707

Beef & Liberty

Best Bites Beef & Liberty Hong Kong

The dish: Treacle tart

I know that burgers and fries are the whole point of Beef & Liberty, but I always find myself loving their other offerings even more, things like appetisers, salads and even desserts. I’ve previously written about my love for B&L’s banoffee pie, but now another traditional British dessert, a treacle tart, has made it onto their menu and I think I’m in love. The dessert is a combination of shortcrust pastry and a thick filling made from a golden syrup (otherwise known as treacle). The addition of lemon juice keeps it light and bright, while a dollop of cream keeps it rich and decadent — it’s the perfect finish to any meal, in my book. —MAC

Beef & Liberty, 3/F, California Tower, 30-32 D’Aguilar Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2450 5778

Leslie Yeh
Editor in Chief
Having worked as a lifestyle editor for almost 10 years, Leslie is thrilled to be writing about the topic she loves most: wining and dining. When she's not out pounding the pavement for the latest new restaurant opening or tracking food trends, Leslie can be found at home whipping up a plate of rigatoni vodka and binge-watching Netflix with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc in hand.