A vast array of regional Chinese cuisine dominates Hong Kong’s culinary scene, but South and Central American food has suddenly become super hot in the city. Mayta Peruvian Kitchen & Pisco Bar opened in March, joining Peruvian favorite Chicha, while Mexican eateries continue to be a great place for a quick snack or a cool spicy dinner. Here are five hot spots where Hong Kongers go for margaritas, tacos, ceviche, quesadillas and more.
Mayta’s dark wood, low-lit, colorful textile interiors make a great contrast to the deafening heap of activity found below in the Lan Kwai Fong area during the weekend. Prop up at the bar and ask Peruvian bartender Miguel to mix up a traditional pisco sour. Order a couple of small plates from famous Lima chef Jaime Pesaque’s menu to go with the delightfully fluffy (egg white) and strong (pisco is 45 percent alcohol) cocktail. Try the causas, three colorful balls of mashed potatoes, each with its own topping: salmon ceviche tartare, octopus and rocoto chile aioli, and shrimp escabèche (the seafood is cooked, marinated and served cold). The purple mash with salmon ceviche is by far the tastiest, and the orange potato scoop with octopus has a nice citrusy, smoky bite. Another menu standout is the Nikkei tartare, a generous-sized tuna tartare covered with deep-fried breaded squid and a whisker-thin piece of crispy toast — it’s creamy, rich and delicious.
Opened a year ago, Chicha was the first Peruvian eatery to wow Hong Kongers (and has since given restaurant birth to an overflow bar called The Roger Room). The interiors are all about wood, with a dining room of long tables a few steps above the cevicheria, where you’ll find the open kitchen. It’s a bustling place and quite noisy — if there are more than four in your party, don’t count on hearing much. But the food is divine; the Peruvian fish tacos are crunchy and zingy; the mixto ceviche is a delicious combination of prawns, scallops, squid and octopus; the cod anticuchos (skewers) are mouthwatering; and the spicy corn on the cob is spectacular. Don’t miss The Girl from Lima cocktail of pisco, lime, spices and avocado.
On the Mexican food front, Brickhouse is the place to impress your friends with its edgy and fun design — it’s hidden the end of an alleyway, almost speakeasy style. As you can’t book ahead, the trick is to zip in, put your name down on the door and vamoose for an appetite-sharpening beer elsewhere in Lan Kwai Fong until the call comes through that your table is ready. Blanket order the blackboard list of tacos, which all come with generous and tasty fillings: Fish, seafood and chicken could be joined by rib-eye and even venison, depending on the evening. The menu also has ceviches, grilled corn and tostadas, but make sure to try the memorable beetroot wedge fries and the architectural watermelon salad.
El Taco Loco
In the Soho area, El Taco Loco gives you great flavors. The veggie taco salad — a combination of lettuce, refried beans, cheese, corn chips, salsa and sour cream — is a favorite, and wash it down with the housemade lemonade. And anything with crunchy carnitas pork and the quesadillas (and the burritos, which many swear by) are top selections here. Don’t forget the three pots of condiments sit on the counter: a mild tomato salsa, pickled jalapeños and a thin, spicy salsa verde, which you can ladle onto whatever you’re eating for more bite and heat. Located by the escalator, it’s a great people-watching spot while sipping a margarita or beer as the evening gets going.
Last, but not least, Taco Chaca is the new and modern Sai Ying Pun district’s answer to Tex-Mex. The cheap and cheerful hole-in-the-wall is a colorful mix of blackboard, beer posters and shiny metal tables where the disposable taco, burrito and nacho wrappers pile up. The Baja fish taco is a crunchy (lettuce), crispy (fried fish), tasty (choose the corn tortilla instead of the flour for more flavor) mix, and pick one of the hot sauces for a bit more heat. The quesadillas are favorites (with a choice of mushrooms, barbecue pork, beef, chicken or vegetarian filling), the tortilla soup is hearty and comforting and a margarita — whether it be the frozen concoction (with Cactus Jack tequila, Triple Sec and lime) or the grand margarita (with Jose Cuervo Reposado, a bit of Cointreau, orange and fresh lime juice) — washes it all down perfectly.
Photos Courtesy of Chicha