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Cheat Day: Ken Kwok, executive chef of BIFTECK

Where do the notable chefs and bartenders of Hong Kong F&B scene like to eat when they’re not cooking? What is their favourite home-cooked meal? Cheat Day goes behind the scenes with the city’s culinarians and tastemakers to find out exactly what their personal favourites are during their days off.

It wasn’t like it was intentional, but somehow Ken Kwok has always found himself cooking with beef. When you find that something you really love, it seems — in Kwok’s case, anyway — you just stick with it. For Kwok, it began with a fair few beefy dishes at the city’s reputed, Michelin star venues, from Vicky Cheng’s VEA to CIAK, Beefbar and Wagyu Takumi. Then, Kwok set out to launch his own venture with Causeway Bay’s Le Rêve, a French-Japanese contemporary fine-dining room that shone a light on high-quality A4 wagyu, and now, a complete, beef-centric concept, BIFTECK.

Ken Kwok, executive chef of BIFTECK

In some ways, BIFTECK falls under the category of new-wave steakhouses. A kind that departs from the typical ambience of dark, dim-lit dens with slick leather seating. Kwok’s interpretation of the usually masculine steakhouse is instead light, bright and airy; an intimate dining room tinged with the air of fine-dine sophistication.

Because, while you’ll find a honest, incredibly well-stocked roster of premium bovine cuts here, BIFTECK also leans into the refined precision of French and Japanese culinary techqniues: the neat, elegant plating and keen attention to detail that takes the well-seared slab of meat much, much further.

“There are many “same old” steakhouses in Hong Kong.” Ken Kwok shares. “I want to bring something unique and surprising. Different beef cuts are only applicable to specific cuisine, and [it is] something I find very intriguing.”

The concept is also a mirror reflection of Kwok’s nature as a chef; an exacting, detail-focused individual who revels in each meticulous process from sourcing unconventional produce to conceptualising a dish with that specific produce to finally executing that vision in full.

“Eating has always been my pleasure since I was little. Naturally, I developed an interest in cooking.” Kwok begins. “Turns out, I seem to prefer cooking over the consumption of food. Special and rare ingredients are by go-to for the first step of new inventions, courage and innovation from first, flavours and textures can always be refined later.”

At BIFTECK, named after “steak” in French, it’s the home to some very fine — and very rare — cuts that don’t usually make it onto typical steakhouses menus. One example, also the shining star of the restaurant, the Japanese A5 Snow-Aged Wagyu Beef. A reputed cut in Japan, it’s available only in a daily limited supply. The “snow-aged” designation comes from an traditional, time-honoured ageing technique of “yukimuro” which involves an icy 1-2 degrees chill and high humidity of 90 percent. The final product is mellow, rich and moist with a sweet after-taste.

Another is the rare cut of the Kyoto Princess, or “Mother Cow”, wagyu. It gets its name from its maturity, produced by older females of nine to 10 years rather than the standard cattle of 27 – 30 months. Mineral-fed with yeast, vitamins, starch and protein, the Kyoto Princess has a lower fat ratio with a sweet, robust aroma and deep, umami flavouring from the natural ageing process.

cheat day ken kwok
Japanese A5 Snow-Aged Wagyu

But it’s not just unicorns of Japanese beefs here, Kwok also looks to various locales for a well-rounded menu to satiate appetites of all beef-loving crowds, with cuts covering the likes of Australian Black Angus porterhouse, dry-aged 35-days sirloin and USDA Wagyu SRF Tri-Tip.

And while the world of rare, premium quality beef looks particularly comfortable for Kwok right now, he is looking to branch out into different avenues of cuisines and ingredients, which he does dips a tiny toe in with his seafood-centric brunch set, La Voyage des Fruits des Mer — and at home with a homemade pasta dish.

“Breaking these boundaries would be one of my greatest desires,” he shares. “I would love to try creating a restaurant that includes different cultures from all over.”

Perhaps one day.

Cheat Day with Ken Kwok:

What was the last meal you had? 

I had a meal which was cooked by my family, something simple but heart-warming: braised chicken and boiled vegetables. 

Who inspires you / your cooking?   

Chef Mitsuru Konishi, he has always been my greatest inspiration.

What was the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received? 

Striking the best balance between taste and appearance. 

Tell me some of your signature dishes/ creations? 

From my own perspective, my signature dishes are Clam Vongole and Slow Cooked Rump with Mushroom and Beef Consommé.

cheat day ken kwok
Braised USDA Prime Short-rib

Honestly, what is it like working with you in the kitchen? 

Teammates and co-workers usually agree that I perform my job with pride and always display authority during work. My criticisms are not the kindest, whereas they are very self-disciplined because of it. But after getting off work, they treat me merely as a friend and I very much enjoy my time with them. 

Your favourite local Hong Kong ingredients to use? 

Any kind of mushroom. 

Do you cook at home? If so, what is your go-to home-cooked dish? 

I rarely cook at home. If so, pasta is often my first choice. 

You have 30 minutes. What will you make? 

Homemade pasta. 

Name the top three favourite ingredients/condiments you currently own in your pantry. 

Miso, Japanese wagyu and garlic. 

cheat day ken kwok
Japanese A5 Kobe Wine Tenderloin
cheat day ken kwok
A5 Wagyu Tataki Roll

What are your guilty pleasures? 

Ice cream.

The best meal you ever had? 

Every meal my mom has made for me. 

What was your most memorable food moment? 

A hidden and local charcoal grill Yakiniku restaurant in Japan. 

What is one dish/snack/food you can’t live without? 

White eel or eel. 

Savoury or sweet? 

Savoury. 

Where do you like to go on your day off? 

During my day off, I would usually go try out 1-2 various restaurants of different cuisines and enjoy some rest at home. 

The five best dishes/drinks you’ve had in Hong Kong? 

Kane Tsuru Ramen‘s White Eel, Fukuro‘s Corn Tempura, CENSU‘s ramen, N.I.C.E Yakiniku and Fine Wine‘s barbecue and Lui Chai Kee Yee Gor 1978 shu mai.


BIFTECK is open Monday to Sunday, 12 to 3pm for lunch and 6 to 10pm for dinner. Reservations can be made here. BIFTECK, 23/F QRE Plaza, 202 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 2246 8805

Lorria Sahmet
Editor
After two years writing in luxury retail, Lorria now covers food and drink happenings in Hong Kong. When not taste-testing for the best fries in the city (shoestring, always!), find her cosied up at home skimming through Netflix or nurturing baby plants in her indoor greenhouse. She is happiest by the ocean with a giant fishbowl-glass of Aperol Spritz.
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