Despite 2018 being a somewhat turbulent year, one constant amidst the uncertainty — in Hong Kong, at least — was the steady stream of brilliant new restaurants shaping our culinary scene. As usual, we saw a host of international chefs and concepts flock to our shores, from Gordon Ramsay’s newest flagship in Ocean Terminal to David Thompson’s Nahm reincarnate inside Tai Kwun — but the two big-name openings that really made an impression on us were chef Virgilio Martinez’ Ichu Peru, a culinary expedition through South America’s vast topography and terrain; and three-Michelin-starred Sushi Saito’s new outpost at the Four Seasons Hong Kong.
This year, we also had one of the best pizzas we’ve ever tasted, and saw the increasing prevalence of French and Japanese ingredients amalgamating into a category of cuisine all its own. While fast-casual eateries continued to soar, it was far from the knockout round for fine dining palaces, with Hong Kongers proving they’re still willing to splash their hard-earned paychecks on meticulously arranged small plates pored over in overtly formal settings. From French fine dining to kebaberies, exquisite omakase to pizzerias, 2018 had it all. Without further ado, here are Hong Kong’s best new restaurants of the year.
Tucked away in the Start Street Precinct, the newly opened Francis proved that Hong Kong’s appetite for Middle Eastern cuisine remains as robust as ever, with puffy, fresh-baked pitas and a smooth-as-cream hummus serving as the bread and butter, so to speak, of a menu that pulsates with spice and speaks of chef Asher Goldstein’s childhood growing up in vibrant Tel Aviv. The concise a la carte menu is a strong bid for quantity over quality; while the newly launched Skew it Sundays has become a popular weekend attraction with a rotating selection of 10 mezzes ranging from beef cigars to baba ganoush, followed by hearty skewers of baharat-spiced chicken thighs, Wagyu rump beef and more. A vital component to the cosy eatery’s success is the intelligently curated wine list, a 50-label-or-so mix of Old and New World Wines that should intrigue the most demanding and discerning of vinophiles.
Regional Jiangnan cuisine is given a contemporary facelift at Old Bailey, a new opening high on the list of most stylish new restaurants of the year. Complete with an adjoining library-lounge, the main restaurant feels akin to dining in a tranquil tea room, with plush dark-toned fabrics and a natural wood palette setting the tone for a meal that aims to nourish both mind and body — from the esoteric study of vinegar types to the classic recipes from Jiangnan province — the region located south of the Yangtze River in China — carefully reconstructed and refined by chef Wong Kwan Man. Despite a certain level of sophistication and intelligence, the comfort food factor is hard to miss in dishes such as deliciously fatty Lion’s Head meatballs and the ma la xiao long bao — plump, juicy wrappers bursting with a rush of savoury meat broth tinged with Sichuan peppercorns.
Old Bailey, 2/F, JC Contemporary, Tai Kwun, 10 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2877 8711