2019 may have been a tumultuous year, but if anything, the new restaurants that energised Hong Kong’s dining scene this year proved that in tough times, we can still rely on the comfort and joy of a meal shared between family and friends.
While in no way scientific, and as with most lists, admittedly subjective, our pick of best new restaurants in 2019 are a diverse crop of restaurants that, when taken together, paint a bigger picture of the evolving state of gastronomy in Hong Kong. From elegant French fine dining to elevated bistro fare and artistic omakase, these are the restaurants that reinvigorated our love for dining out in 2019.
While many overseas restaurants tend to land in Hong Kong with a shaky foundation, chef Simon Rogan and co seemed to be firing on all cylinders when they brought Roganic, and its adjacent high-end tasting counter Aulis, to Causeway Bay in early 2019. The debut tasting menu was a hit from the get-go, garnering praise across the board for creative dishes that play off form, flavour and composition. The kitchen team here, led locally by Executive Chef Oli Marlow and Head Chef Ashley Salmon, transform British ingredients with confidence and conviction, incorporating seasonal delicacies in a progression of dishes that range from the wildly experimental to the downright delicious. The state-of-the-art service and well-curated drinks list? Just the proverbial cherry on top.
Roganic, UG/F 08, Sino Plaza, 255 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, +852 2817 8383
Following the shuttering of Aberdeen Street Social, the two-storey space in PMQ was transformed into Louise, opened by the celebrated chef Julien Royer and helmed locally by head chef, Franckelie Laloum. With the nostalgic farm fare of Royer’s youth informing the menu, the upscale bistro diverges from the French chef’s meticulous tasting menu at his flagship Odette in Singapore, instead offering Hong Kong the type of all-day dining establishment where you can perch on the patio with a platter of oysters and Champagne, or enjoy a formal dinner upstairs fuelled by fine wines and French classics. The kitchen breathes new life into bistro stalwarts — think beef tartare, croque monsieur and sautéed frog legs — while sneaking a few luxury ingredients into elegant arrangements such as the angel hair pasta twirled around a mound of Kristal caviar, black truffle and kombu.
Louise, 35 Aberdeen Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2866 0300
Hong Kong foodies applauded the return of French chef Olivier Elzer this year as he settled into a new home at the St. Regis Hong Kong. Brushed in bronze with accents of gold and pastel marble, the lavish dining room is a fitting backdrop for Elzer’s artistically refined cooking, an interpretation of French haute cuisine rooted in seasonal produce from France and Asia. The stylish setting mirrors the elegant culinary compositions on the plate, matched by a selection of over 800 wines and 100 references of Champagne.
Although Elzer has brought some of his signature dishes over from his days at Seasons, we swooned over new creations such as Ossetra caviar served atop a jelly of beef consommé (for sturgeon fans, an 8-course caviar menu is a worthwhile hedonistic pursuit), and white-fleshed John Dory paired with a melting confit of Fukuoka aubergine. Don’t leave before dipping into the cheese cave and petit fours trolley for a final treat.
L’Envol, The St. Regis Hong Kong, 3/F, 1 Harbour Drive, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 2138 6818
After his days at Rhoda, chef Nathan Green is back on the Hong Kong scene with a few new tricks up his sleeves. At Henry, Green invites us to take a culinary tour of the American South — bringing to Hong Kong for the first time ingredients from Allan Benton’s bacon to 44 Farms Texas beef and Thomas Keller’s Elysian Fields lamb. Classic southern traditions are reinterpreted with gusto (don’t miss the Jimmy Red grits smothered in gravy) while carnivores can plough through a variety of cuts ranging from whisky-glazed ribeye to giant porterhouse steaks and fat-streaked beef brisket drizzled in a lush espresso sauce. Hats off to Green and co for also making all the bread and condiments in-house — an array of sauces, chutneys and pickles that add colour and nuance to the spread. Above all, Green’s enthusiasm is infectious, and it’s this passion that we imagine will be the key ingredient in Henry’s long-term success.
Henry, 5/F, Rosewood Hong Kong, Victoria Dockside, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 3891 8732
The Landmark Mandarin Oriental ramped up its F&B portfolio this year with three new restaurants on the 7th floor of the hotel to accompany the newly revamped Amber. While Richard Ekkebus’ plant-forward kitchen remains the crown fine dining gem of the hotel, the dark and sultry Somm has emerged as one of our favourite new after-work destinations, a hybrid restaurant and wine bar. Enlist Head Sommelier John Chan to help you navigate the spectacular selection of over 1,600 champagnes, wines and sakes, then tuck into refined bites — highlights include Tasmanian salmon confit and the ‘Raspberry 1000-Feuilles’ — that achieve the same integrity of ingredients and finesse of flavours as Amber next door at more agreeable prices.
Somm, 7/F, Landmark Mandarin Oriental, The Landmark, 15 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong, +852 2132 0055
The opening of legendary sushi chef Mitsuhiro Araki’s eponymous Hong Kong restaurant came with no small amount of buzz and high expectations, given the fact that the cerebral chef himself has taken up residency behind the counter at Heritage 1881. While the restaurant is still in infant stages, a first taste confirmed that the sushi virtuoso is intent on delivering the same exceptional experience in Hong Kong as he has overseas, subverting expectations with a focus on using locally sourced fish and even incorporating in Chinese flavours. During a multi-course marathon, fleeting moments of bliss ranged from poached local mantis shrimp to buttery blackthroat sea perch and sea bream anointed with a deeply complex liver sauce. With an unconventional philosophy and new ingredients in the pantry, The Araki offers something never before seen in Hong Kong; in our city’s saturated omakase scene, that’s a victory in itself.
The Araki, G/F, Stable Block, House 1881, 2A Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 3988 0000
After fussing over the impeccably plated dishes at Arcane for years, Shane Osborn finally revealed his sophomore concept, Cornerstone, this year — a breadth of fresh air in a market filled with fine dining counters and tasting menu restaurants. Casual and unfussy, Cornerstone serves the hearty, heart-warming fare that we crave from dawn to dusk. The idiosyncratic wine list champions labels from Japan and China, while the short menu is peppered with treasures from pan-fried chicken oysters with broccolini, to smoked sausages and peas in a tangle of golden tagliatelle, and fire-kissed quail nestled with chickpeas and chorizo. Osborn’s uncompromising dedication to ingredient sourcing coupled with quiet restraint on the plate — a mark of a true veteran chef — elevates Cornerstone’s food from casual bistro fare to something worth celebrating.
Cornerstone, 49 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong, +852 3792 0189