Martin Donovan, Lana Lam, Bernice Chan
HEAD FOR THE HILLS
FARE Specialities from Dongguan and Sha Tin
AMBIENCE Sha Tin 18 features four open kitchens that contrast with a relaxing dining area. An outdoor area with a wine bar has views towards the hills of Sha Tin.
COST HK$1,800, including a bottle of fine Argentinian red.
WHO TO BRING Members of the clan for a special occasion or a visitor who wants to sample Peking duck (above).
TURN-ONS While many restaurants offer Peking duck, rarely do you get it served with the full treatment (HK$638 for whole, HK$358 for half). The second dish was wok-fried minced duck with iceberg lettuce, rounded off by soup with Chinese cabbage and beancurd. Cooked to order, the roast duck was deftly dispatched by a chef at tableside into dishes of crisp roasted skin, tender breast meat and leg and thigh. The classic dish of chicken and salted fish fried rice also won our hearts and a special mention to the chef who stir-fried the rice so that all grains remained individual rather than clumped.
TURN-OFFS A dining companion muttered from his low chair that the duck bone broth had no defining flavours. 'Silence,' we hissed, as this was Sha Tin, where soup is sacred. However, we did concur that the chairs were rather low.
DRINKS Extensive range of Old and New World wines, with vintages to cater for a bulging expense account or more modest budgets. MD
SHA TIN 18
HYATT REGENCY, HONG KONG, SHA TIN
18 CHAK CHEUNG STREET
SHA TIN, NEW TERRITORIES
FARE Contemporary European
AMBIENCE Plenty of natural lighting, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows. Harbour glimpses, but don't expect impressive views.
WHO TO BRING Business clients and out-of-towners.
COST HK$2,000 for a three-course meal for two.
TURN-ONS The bread basket was accompanied by a duck and pork pate, making for a decadent do-it-yourself amuse bouche before the entrees. The sashimi mille feuille with sea bass, ahi tuna and ocean trout was a savoury play on the classic French pastry. The paella with seared duck breast (above), duck leg confit and grilled Boston lobster was a sensual delight. The lobster tail had good bite to it and the plump mussels were bursting with sweetness. The duck breast was hearty although I would have preferred a crispier skin, while the leg confit was as expected, a rich meaty element in the Spanish dish. The crispy twice-cooked suckling pig was tender but not as crunchy as expected. The signature souffle was the highlight with the choice of four delectable sauces.
TURN-OFFS Limited vegetarian options.
DRINKS Extensive selection of Old and New World wines. LL
BRASSERIE ON THE EIGHTH
LEVEL 8, CONRAD HOTEL, PACIFIC PLACE
88 QUEENSWAY, ADMIRALTY
FARE Northern Chinese
AMBIENCE It's jarring to walk into a Chinese restaurant to find it very Western with wood panelling and chinoiserie-like tablecloths and napkins, but the space is sectioned off to create intimate spaces for diners.
COST HK$1,200 for two without drinks.
WHO TO BRING Family and friends, guests from out of town.
TURN-ONS The fish maw and fish ball soup was excellent, the fish balls pillowy soft and the broth flavourful, thanks to the inclusion of abalone slices. We also liked the giant deep-fried prawns in chilli sauce that was subtly spicy, the prawns meaty and crunchy. An interesting dish was braised slices of winter melon rolled up and served with light-tasting diced fish. The signature dish of barbecued Peking duck (above) was very tender, wrapped in slightly dry pancakes with cucumber, spring onions and plum sauce.
TURN-OFFS The starter of finely diced vegetables with peanuts wrapped in beancurd looked pretty in the picture, but each piece was a mouthful to eat and could have been smaller. While the sago in coconut milk with mango and pomelo had a scoop of mango ice cream in it, the bright orange colour was a bit disconcerting. Service was prompt and friendly, though the kitchen raced to bring out the dishes in quick succession.
DRINKS Mostly top French wines and selections from around the world, including China. BC
LG005, PACIFIC PLACE
88 QUEENSWAY, ADMIRALTY
FARE Cantonese and provincial dishes
AMBIENCE Classic Chinese decor with views of the harbour.
COST HK$1,575, including two non-alcoholic drinks.
WHO TO BRING Clients or visitors from out of town to impress.
TURN-ONS The double-boiled sea conch, lily bulb petals, lotus seed and dragon eye was a flavoursome clear broth. We also enjoyed the melt-in-your-mouth braised pomelo skin with meaty Chinese mushrooms sprinkled with shrimp roe. The cubed Australian wagyu tenderloin was tender in black pepper sauce that wasn't too spicy. The steamed garoupa fillet with crispy slices of ginger, crabmeat and egg white was delicate.
TURN-OFFS We ordered half a Peking duck (above), but when it arrived it was dry in appearance. The second duck dish with diced and stir-fried meat with spring onions was excellent.
DRINKS An international list heavy on French wines and a selection of Chinese spirits. BC
25/F, MANDARIN ORIENTAL HONG KONG
5 CONNAUGHT ROAD
AMBIENCE Laid-back, stylish setting upstairs with blue and white chinoiserie tiles on the walls. An authentic pizza oven features prominently at the top of the stairs.
COST HK$1,163, including three glasses of wine.
WHO TO BRING Friends or the significant other.
TURN-ONS The tuna tartare was refreshing and light, topped with basil, pesto, bits of avocado, pearl onion and cress. For pasta, braised duck in gnocchi was excellent, full of flavour from the Barolo wine sauce with marrow and ragu, though the gnocchi itself didn't have much taste. The 208 Boston lobster fettuccine was also very good, as the crustacean bisque fully marinated the pasta, but the lobster meat was a tad tough. For dessert, the pistachio gelato was a generous scoop and full of flavour. Service was prompt and friendly.
TURN-OFFS The poached organic egg (above) was nicely prepared, but was overwhelmed by a large portion of thick tomato garlic sauce. The organic yogurt ice cream was deliciously refreshing, but sat on an overly generous helping of crispy chopped nuts. The seating in the glass-enclosed area can be very noisy and hot.
DRINKS A small but carefully selected wine list with mostly Italian wines and creative cocktails. BC
208 DUECENTO OTTO
208 HOLLYWOOD ROAD
LA BONNE VIE
AMBIENCE Guests can dine on fine cuisine while admiring the panoramic view of the harbour.
COST HK$2,032 without alcoholic drinks.
WHO TO BRING Significant other, business associates to impress, guests from out of town.
TURN-ONS For starters, the coquillettes pasta was actually mini-macaroni with black truffle and Parisian ham and was a delicious comfort dish, full of flavour and good to the last bite. We also enjoyed the tender on-the-spit duckling with spices (above), garnished with beetroot and turnips that looked like flowers. It was dressed with Montmorency jus at the table. The fricassee of free-range yellow chicken was nicely complemented with crayfish. SPOON's signature cheesecake is slightly sweet with a touch of vanilla and accompanied with a dollop of yogurt ice cream and tart red fruit marmalade for a clean finish.
TURN-OFFS The appetiser of chilled lobster caviar consomm?was perhaps too chilled.
DRINKS International wines with a French emphasis. BC
G/F, INTERCONTINENTAL HONG KONG
18 SALISBURY ROAD
TSIM SHA TSUI
OLD MEETS NEW
FARE Beijing and Huiyang cuisines
AMBIENCE Contemporary decor with some traditional Chinese accents. The restaurant opens up to a quasi-courtyard feel, though it is evident you are in a hotel.
COST HK$969 including one beer.
WHO TO BRING Business associates, family and friends.
TURN-ONS The main event, the Peking duck, was beautifully presented with a shiny sheen, sliced in front of us, and we each had our own finely sliced spring onions, radish, cucumber and plum sauce to tailor-make our own wraps. However, it can be tricky to keep the pancakes moist while ensuring they do not to stick to each other, which was a minor problem here. Turning up the heat, the mapo tofu was excellent, with a simmering spiciness that had a really addictive kick at the end. To tone things down, the spinach in broth with roasted garlic was fresh. For dessert, the mango pudding was very refreshing, while rice flour dumplings in osmanthus soup had authenticity and richness.
TURN-OFFS For the second part of our duck dish, the meat was chopped up - including bones - and stir-fried with spring onion. While the taste was delicious, we would have appreciated the succulent meat better if it had been deboned.
DRINKS International wine list and Chinese spirits. BC
DONG LAI SHUN
B2, THE ROYAL GARDEN
69 MODY ROAD
TSIM SHA TSUI EAST