Once widely seen as a slum in the 90s’, Hong Kong’s Tai Hang is now a full-fledged dining and shopping destination, with myriad locally owned restaurants, bars and niche boutique shops scattered along the quaint streets and alleyways.
You could spend the whole day here falling into the leisurely pace of this charming and eclectic neighbourhood, stopping to tantalise your taste buds along the way at a handful of ramen shops, brunch spots and burger bars, and a bubbling undercurrent of electrifying pan-Asian modern fare at restaurants such as May Chow’s Second Draft and BOND. Follow our guide below for the best eats to be had in Tai Hang.
Second Draft is a collaboration between chef May Chow and the brains behind TAP: The Ale Project; here, Chow’s eclectic, cross-cultural cooking acts as a springboard for a new form of gastropub starring inventive bar bites paired with a fantastic selection of local beers on tap. The hoppy brews provide for a welcome palate refresher between bites of Chow’s flavour-packed fare: a combination of international and local flavours dished up in wacky combinations such as squid ink croquettes, HK-style French toast with foie gras butter, and turmeric-marinated cold beef tripe. Retro décor, a cheeky coffee menu, and a selection of East-meets-West cocktails finish off this local pub that’s become a social gathering spot for people from all walks of life.
Second Draft, 98 Tung Lo Wan Road, Tai Hang, Hong Kong, +852 2656 0232
Opened earlier this year, Elementary is the latest offering from the indefatigable Alex Malouf, chef-owner behind popular restaurants such as Mama Malouf and Catch. An instant hit, Elementary has been packed to the rafters since settling down in the quaint Tai Hang area, offering up Malouf’s winning recipe of affordable eats and casual ambience. Dishes are bright, light and colourful in the style of modern Aussie fare, while flavours nod to everything from Middle Eastern to Indian fare, spanning the gamut from duck heart kebabs with parsley vinaigrette to chilli crab pasta and fancy poutine with blue cheese and oxtail gravy. Open all day, the welcoming diner draws in the early bird crowd with Sicilian-style scrambled eggs and avo toast; while afternoons see the community gathered for happy hour drinks and cocktails.
Elementary, 15-16 School Street, Tai Hang, Hong Kong, +852 2362 2812
Recently popped up in Dough Kitchen near Plumcot Bakery (where you should inevitably go for dessert afterwards) is Dough Kitchen, which true to its name, dishes up a winning selection of handmade pastas along with a good selection of pizzas and hearty appetisers. Kick off your meal with a refreshing sautéed squid with salsa verde and fresh burrata with lemon olive oil, before tucking into the hearty carb-loaded menu with gleeful abandon. You can’t go wrong with the sea urchin pasta, with fresh tagliatelle slicked in a bright orange uni sauce; or the gut-busting Wagyu Bolognese, with a generous portion of tender meat sitting atop pasta in a long-simmered ragu cooked down with the flavours of garlic and tomato. For pizzas, the portobello is a winner, stained black from squid ink and hit with the sharp tang of anchovies.
Dough Kitchen, 21B Brown Street, Tai Hang, Hong Kong, +852 2688 7008
I M Teppanyaki
Nestled in the pocket between Tai Hang and Causeway Bay, I M Teppanyaki settled down in the area before it became officially “cool”, and continues to attract its regulars and loyal customers — predominantly a mix of finance types and discerning foodies. Head chef Lawrence Mok, formerly of Inakaya, helms a team of Japan-trained chefs here, who serve a maximum of 20 people a night. The teppanyaki masters are adept at the grill, eschewing tricks and flips for serious, studied cooking which involves taking off meats at the precise cooking temperature and using light but effective seasonings from a sprinkle of pink Himalayan salt here, to a dash of wasabi there. The excellent teppanyaki is paired with a long list of rare sakes, and a private room seating 7–9 people is also available for more intimate gatherings.
I M Teppanyaki, G/F 134 Tung Lo Wan Road, Tai Hang, Hong Kong, +852 2570 7088
From Three Monkeys co-founder John Liang comes BOND, situated in the boutique hotel Little Tai Hang. The all-day restaurant serves a menu with an upscale gastropub feel, with fresh produce sourced from Italy combined with local market ingredients for a distinctly multicultural menu. Crowd favourites include the 22-hour slow-cooked baby back ribs, porcini mushroom risotto and spicy vodka rigatoni with mortadella ham. Sharing platters contribute to a convivial atmosphere, which benefits from décor inspired by the industrial-chic trend with raw materials and a palette of natural wood and metals. A spacious outdoor terrace on the second floor is where you’ll want to head for weekend brunch, when the kitchen goes all out with 18 different hot and cold appetisers to choose from — including fresh salads, cheeses and cold cuts — followed by made-to-order mains and dessert.
BOND Restaurant & Bar, 2/F, 98 Tung Lo Wan Road, Tai Hang, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, +852 2151 1777
Despite its moniker, quirky eatery Tipsy isn’t just a watering hole — the eatery serves up a sophisticated menu of modern European fare, with signature dishes such as blow-torched Spanish red prawns and Sicilian anchovy pasta featuring on the wide-spanning menu. The international menu is a type of catch-all for seasonal ingredients easily imported here — think sea bass from France, shrimps from Spain, and scallops from Japan — served up in a fuss-free menu of instant crowdpleasers and alongside a vast selection of both old and new world wines. Double height ceilings, an open kitchen and a separate bar area make good use of the restaurant’s spacious interiors, with an additional outdoor terrace providing a cosy respite for warm weather drinks and oyster happy hours. On one wall is a large free-hand artwork created by local Hong Kong artist James Ng and inspired by Tai Hang, adding to the restaurant’s sense of community and place.
Tipsy, 1/F, Little Tai Hang, 98 Tung Lo Wan Road, Tai Hang, Hong Kong, +852 2818 8807
Those seeking a soul-warming bowl of ramen should make a beeline for Ramen Nagi, a Japan import which has a devoted following all around the world. The customisable bowls tick off all the boxes for a rib-sticking bowl of ramen: chewy, supple noodles; an unctuous, well-seasoned broth (tonkotsu cooked for over a day); and myriad toppings which add up to something inarguably greater than the sum of their parts. The Japanese noodles chain is best known for its velvety black squid ink and spicy red broths: choose your base and then load up the toppings, from succulent, thick-sliced char siu to bamboo, nori, tree mushrooms, spring onions, and a soft-boiled egg. Bowls can also be customised according to your desired level of richness in the slick of oil on the broth, the amount of garlic and seasonings, level of heat, and the thickness and firmness of the noodles.
Ramen Nagi, G/F, 3 King Street, Tai Hang, Hong Kong
The Social House
The Social House proves to be exactly what it’s name implies — a social gathering hub for like-minded people to gather on any given night and cheers to good food and company without any of the extraneous fuss. Owner Ray Fung has created a relaxing atmosphere with crowd-pleasing options here, providing a welcome breath of relief in a city inundated with more pretentious and fancy fine diners. While the decor might be somewhat nondescript, the vibe is warm and welcoming, and the focus is on the food — from seafood delights such as fried crab cakes and sautéed garlic tiger prawns; to heftier mains such as Spanish-style suckling pig and oven-roasted New Zealand baby rack of lamb. Fresh pastas are also a treat — don’t miss the tiger prawn angel hair pasta which packs in the chilli, garlic and basil.
The Social House, 12-13 Shepherd Street, Tai Hang, Hong Kong, +852 2808 2638
All in Burger and Bar
Sometimes all you want is a decent burger and fries — a craving that can be easily rectified at All in Burger and Bar, Tai Hang’s local burger bar dedicated to dishing up one mean patty. The signature beef patty is classic to a tee: with a smashed and griddled medium-sized patty draped in a blanket of melted cheddar cheese, sandwiched between crisp lettuce, tomato and a secret tangy house sauce. Other variations include the chicken burger, amped up with pineapple and hot sauce; the crab burger, slathered with flavour-packed anchovy mayonnaise; and the fish burger, with a thick breaded sole fillet and crisp shredded lettuce. The rest of the menu includes Chicago-style hot dogs loaded with everything from Bolognese to French fries, and a smart selection of pastas and sandwiches. Priced at HK$78–$98, any main dish can come with a side of fries or salad for just HK$10 extra, with a free soft drink or juice.
All in Burger & Bar, Shop B, G/F, Sun Chun Building, 4A-7 Sun Chun Street, Tai Hang, Hong Kong, +852 9211 0879
This article was first published on Lifestyle Asia Hong Kong.