Hong Kong boasts one of the most dynamic dining scenes on the planet, filled with culinarians and tastemakers galore. In our Cheat Day column, we spotlight some of the top players in the kitchen and behind the bar, delving into their personal favourites during their days off. This week, we speak to Wilson Leung, executive chef of Hue Dining.
Set against the backdrop of Victoria Harbour, Hue Dining is a modern Australian restaurant in the Hong Kong Museum of Art in Tsim Sha Tsui. Plan a day trip to the museum, and then continue your art consumption in the restaurant. Having partnered with Tanya Baxter Contemporary Art, one of Hong Kong and London’s most established contemporary art galleries, you’ll be dining amongst some truly stunning pieces of work; think Banksy, Andy Warhol, Jon Key and Richard Allen.
The restaurant is helmed by a chef with a generational history in the profession — Wilson Leung. Born in Australia, his father, uncle and even grandfather were all chefs, making it a “natural career choice” for him.
“I had a failed stint at professional photography. I decided then that I would follow in their footsteps as cooking professionally would provide good stability and the freedom to travel and work abroad,” he says. “At Hue, it’s all about exploring diverse ingredients, just like we do in Australia. Using different kinds of fish, animal proteins, and many vegetables to cook real food, to present its best, in stunning and colourful presentation.”
Back down under
Home in Australia, Leung’s family owns a small Chinese takeaway shop in a shopping mall just outside of Melbourne.
“My parents bought it in 2005, and it’s been 16 years now and they are still running it. Nothing changes much after all these years; they still work every day, seven days a week — except for Christmas Day and Good Friday. Although the eatery is tiny, they insist on making most things from scratch, which can get very busy. Growing up, I helped them on weekends since I was 14. They definitely instilled a strong work ethic in me.
I then went to William Angliss Institute, a culinary and hospitality institution in Australia, and spent almost a decade working at some of Melbourne’s popular restaurants. It was a real eye-opener during the four-year working experience at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in Melbourne, the team’s culinary techniques truly inspired me, and the that precision went into each dish!”
What brings you to Hong Kong?
I had travelled to Hong Kong once as a child in 1995 and then in 2015 again. A pivotal moment in my life was when I had a severe motorcycle accident in 2017, which left me in hospital and a wheelchair for six weeks, I decided that if I was able to walk again, I wanted to return to cooking, and I wanted to run up and down the steps from Central to Soho! At that time, this seemed unimaginable from the confines of a hospital room and wheelchair. After a full recovery, I realised that dream later when I was walking up and down the steps to work at Belon, Soho, in 2019. So here I am, joining Hue to continue my journey in Hong Kong.
What are your signature dishes at Hue Dining?
Poached Taiyouran egg, mushroom consommé, radish, green bean
One of my favourite starters on the menu is the poached egg in mushroom consomme. A lot of skill goes into it, and the mushroom consomme takes a couple of days to prepare. I believe a good restaurant dish should be something that you wouldn’t be able to prepare yourself at home; even most restaurants usually serve sous vide eggs as it is easier to cook and control. It’s a simple dish with root vegetables and green bean garnish; it’s colourful and striking with the white egg dropped in a jet-black clear mushroom soup. Hot, healthy and tasty.
Slow-cooked pork belly, fennel, black pudding, kabu
Another favourite of mine is the Pork Belly with Fennel, “kabu” Japanese turnip and black pudding. A riff on meat and two vegetables, pork and fennel is a classic combination. I adore the natural layers of the slow-cooked fennel, and then we have the baby turnip (kabu) from Japan. We peeled it and kept the green leaves on, showing its natural shape; it drapes over the pork. Then we pan-fried a slice of black pudding to add a different texture and element to the plate. It’s a beautiful dish; all the flavours were planned carefully to complement each other and look good to fill the plate.
Do you cook when you are home? Which is a go-to dish for you?
Yes, I do cook at home on a daily basis. I try to keep healthy with food choices, which can be difficult when eating out. On most days after work, I’ll cook brown rice and any leftovers from work. My favourite combination is leftover edamame beans and fish trimming, which I just add them to the hot brown rice. I add an egg, stir it through, the fish and egg gently cook with the rice and the beans warm. Add some soy sauce, a few cracks of fresh black pepper, and done.
On my days off, I’ll bake sourdough bread in a small electric oven. I dabble with stoneground and artisanal flours. I learnt to bake bread in Hong Kong working at Belon and make it the same way at home.
Cheat day time! Which are your five go-to dishes or drinks in Hong Kong?
It’s close to where I live, and I enjoy the spacious seating, and fresh fish with simple cooking and consistent service; I enjoy the sushi and sashimi platters they make there with the fresh wasabi, which is hard to find back home.
A rare 24-hour restaurant located at Peel Street that I frequented after work and on my days off when I worked in Soho. Real food and a popular restaurant among hospitality staff and labourers. It’s a small family-owned restaurant and you meet all kinds of people here. I often go for the fried pork chop, sausage, garlic and chive relish with a sunny side up egg on rice.
An old and locally owned ramen joint in Kennedy Town. They specialise in Tsukemen — dipping noodles — and their noodles are the best! Made in house on a special machine, you can see the action if you get in at the right time. The noodles are the star here.
A small Japanese restaurant on Stanley Street in Central. Small, but has delicious house-made plum wine, selection of traditional Japanese teriyaki and accessible and tasty food. One of my favourite dishes is fatty pork stir fry with cabbage on rice. Very popular among the Japanese crowd in Central.
My favourite go-to bar in Central. They have the friendliest staff and the best happy hour, I’ll always go in for a couple of classic Negronis on my day off, or the “starting gun”, aka, the pink drink.
Hue Dining, Hong Kong Museum Of Art, 1/F, 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, +852 3500 5888