In Hong Kong, an establishment that calls itself a private club can serve food to its members without having to deal with the onerous permit process required of commercial restaurants. This legal gray area is where Hong Kong’s so-called Private Kitchens exist, housed in residential buildings, studios, and other spaces that aren’t licensed for restaurant use.
Some are casual, bare bones places, others are formal; some have multiple tables while others serve just one lucky party a night. Cuisine covers the globe, from Sichuan to Spain. Most are BYOB, and some even feel suspiciously like, well, restaurants.
“Private kitchens bring individuality and creativity to HK’s dining scene,” chef Que Vinh Dang, the brains behind highly-regarded TBLS Kitchen Studio, says. “It allows chefs/owners to take a chance on concepts and food that aren’t conventional to the usual dining scene.”
While not being located in a commercial building does cut down on the foot traffic, the masses still make their way to Dang. TBLS is notoriously difficult to book. And book you must — to join these clubs, you need a reservation. We’ve combed the scene and have gathered a selection of Hong Kong’s favorite private kitchens:
Autodidact Esther Sham offers a fine dining experience that reflects her experience working at HK’s L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon and Amber inside the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Landmark Mandarin Oriental. It’s French at the core, but she leans heavily on Asian flavors, especially Japanese and Shanghainese.
An open kitchen is the centerpiece of this minimalist space, where chef Dang offers diners a playful mix of comforting and creative cooking. He might treat short ribs like pastrami, or turn carrot cake into a macaroon. The six-course menu changes monthly.
In Hong Kong, the mention of barbecue usually brings to mind char siu (pork) and other local delicacies. But at Magnolia, New Orleans native Lori Granito serves southern specialties such as jambalaya, gumbo, pecan pie and, of course, barbecue, to rave reviews.
Proof that Spanish food is still going strong in Hong Kong, this Catalan kitchen in the Western district is booked solid for weeks. To accompany the tortilla, piquillo peppers and Esqueixada (salad), bring a bottle of Cava or Priorat; the HK $50 corkage fee is waived for Spanish wines.
Sijie Sichuan Dishes
If you love the mouth-numbing sensation of Sichuan peppercorns, round up some friends for a feast of fiery, family style fare at this no-frills address in Causeway Bay. 10/F Bartlock Centre, 3 Yiu Wa Street, Causeway Bay; +852 2802-2250 (no website)
Occupying a charming historic building in Wan Chai, Yin Yang is run by chef Margaret Xu, whose ingredients come from two organic farms in the New Territories. You’ll find some global influences in her cooking, but the foundations are traditional Cantonese, evident in signatures such as Yellow Earth Chicken and a superb roast suckling pig.
Photos courtesy of TBLS Kitchen Studio and Ta Pantry