A culinary wonderland with food from all over the world at every price point, Hong Kong never fails to impress when it comes to the sheer abundance of edible possibilities. But sometimes the choice can be overwhelming — to help you narrow it down, we quizzed three of the region’s top chefs about their go-to restaurants.
Meet the Chefs
Culinary director Richard Ekkebus, Amber
One of Hong Kong’s top restaurants, this Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star establishment has been toppled with culinary awards throughout the years. Richard Ekkebus apprenticed under top-notch chefs Hans Snijders, Alain Passard and Guy Savoy to kick off his career, and has been in Hong Kong for nearly 25 years.
Executive chef Olivier Elzer, Seasons by Olivier Elzer
Olivier Elzer studied at top restaurants throughout France, and eventually made his way to Hong Kong where he took the reins at Five-Star Pierre. In 2014, he struck out solo with his very own French restaurant, Seasons by Olivier Elzer.
Executive chef Chung Kin-leung, Lai Bun Fu
A recent addition to the classy Cantonese culinary scene, Lai Bun Fu opened in early 2015 to much fanfare thanks in part to the sterling reputation of chef Chung Kin-leung, who was the Government House executive chef for a decade. It’s essentially like being the head chef at the White House; he cooked for visiting dignitaries and world leaders, including former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
What do you think of the Hong Kong culinary scene?
Ekkebus: Hong Kong is an amazing food city with over 20,000 restaurants. It’s multicultural and vibrant. You can not only taste top-quality noodles in the street for a few dollars, but you can also sit at the very best Chinese restaurant serving some of the world’s finest wines.
Elzer: For me, Hong Kong is the best city in Asia for international cuisine. I love Hong Kong not only for its diversity and young Western culture, but also for its international ingredients from countries such as the U.S., Japan, France and Italy.
Kin-leung: The culinary scene has changed a lot since I started working in the industry. In the old times, there were not as many high-end restaurants — rich and wealthy people would usually invite catering companies to prepare food in their homes. Later, we saw a trend where people would visit hotels for a nice meal and, recently, there have been more independent restaurants bringing different concepts and cuisines to the Hong Kong industry.
Where do you go for great Cantonese food?
Ekkebus: I’d pick The Chairman. It represents the “good old days” of Cantonese cuisine, with fresh and honest ingredients. The restaurant serves the best ribs in Hong Kong, as well as braised spare ribs with preserved plums in caramelized black vinegar, and steamed fresh flowery crab with aged Shaoxing wine. We’re talking real Cantonese food, prepared with care and true dedication.
Elzer: I love dim sum and Cantonese food. And actually, Cantonese food has inspired new culinary ideas in my cooking. One of my favorites is West Villa at Lee Gardens. I love the signature barbecued pork, steamed mantis shrimp with chicken oil and yellow wine, and also the stir-fried abalone with black truffle sauce. I’d also recommend Tsui Hang Village — I’m a big fan of their char siu (barbecued pork) and the shredded boneless chicken.
Kin-leung: Fook Lam Moon has always been my favorite; the restaurant serves some of the best dim sum in the city, especially the steamed char siu buns — juicy, tender and heavenly.
What’s your favorite spot for a casual meal?
Ekkebus: Yardbird, a very cool place run by my good friend Matt Abergel, the former Zuma chef and former sous chef of [Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star] Masa in New York City. This 50-seat, izakaya-style restaurant has a very minimalist design and I love to go after service or even on my day off. The restaurant carefully grills and caramelizes all parts (including delicious giblets) of chicken yakitori-style over a charcoal fire. It also makes its own signature shichimi tōgarashi, a Japanese seven-spice blend.
Elzer: As a food lover, wonton noodles from Ho Hung Kee are my first choice, without a doubt. It’s one of the oldest local brands, and its latest shop at Hysan Place is definitely more contemporary and comfortable. My friend introduced me to Yat Lok Restaurant on Stanley Street in Central, and its signature goose drumsticks are really memorable. The shop is crowded and the seats are small, however, the goose was intriguing and juicy.
Kin-leung: The pork liver siu mai dumplings at Lin Heung Kui are my favorite. They’re lumps of pork and chicken topped with a slice of pig’s liver, bringing back the good old memories. As a chef, I know pork liver is not something easy to prepare. Without the skills and patience, it’s always hard to deliver a good piece.
And where do you go to splurge?
Ekkebus: At the Mandarin Oriental, Man Wah is often referred to as Hong Kong’s most beautiful dining space due to its imperial splendor and panoramic views of Victoria Harbour. Chef de cuisine Man-Sing Lee shows master skills in creating an authentic menu of local favorites and serves, no doubt, one of the very best Peking ducks in town. They also have some excellent steamed seafood dishes, and I truly enjoy their great hot and sour seafood soup.
Elzer: If I’m splurging, An Nam Vietnamese restaurant is one of my favorites. I admire the Asian food culture, and I think that Vietnamese cuisine focuses on refreshing tastes and healthy ingredients, such as steamed rice paper rolls and lotus root salad. For Western food, the uniqueness of Gaia restaurant is so attractive with its alfresco setting and classic Italian cuisine. I highly recommend the double-cream burrata mozzarella with Parma ham, eggplant and tomato, as well as the goose liver with Moscato, spicy chili jelly and balsamic flakes.
Kin-leung: I like simple food. It’s not expensive, but to me, a satisfying meal is a bowl of wonton soup noodles, a bowl of white congee, or a bowl of beef brisket and tendon noodles. I would say, Law Fu Kee noodle shop serves the best wonton in town, and the white congee is great — just the right texture, not too thick and not too thin. The brisket and tendons are also amazing, tender with a good chewy texture.