FARE Sichuan and Chinese.
AMBIENCE Very stylish interiors with low lighting and statues of Buddha all over.
COST HK$1,300 for dinner with a glass of wine.
WHO TO BRING The place is mostly filled with businessmen during lunchtime, entertaining clients and a mix of families and business crowd for dinner.
TURN-ONS Apart from the d?cor, the food is blazingly hot. The Sichuanese dishes are not only mouthwatering, but can bring out the sweat on your forehead. We started with chilled river prawns marinated with finely chopped scallions. Along with it we tried the smoked duck and mushroom roll. The stuffings were succulent and juicy and the tofu grill was crispy. A great starter. We also sampled spicy cabbage spring rolls, which were pedestrian. For the main course we chose the roasted suckling lamb shank with celery and herbs. The lamb was soft and perfectly roasted, and the meat melted off the bone. Then we had the crispy pork ribs with garlic. The pork was crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. Finally, we had the wok fried prawns with Sichuan peppers, which brought tears to our eyes but was worth it.
TURN-OFFS Lighting was a bit too dim, perhaps to create the ambience. Also there was not much option for Chinese teas.
DRINKS A wide selection of wines and Chinese vineyards. MM
B/F, 43-55 Wyndham Street
AMBIENCE Tacky 1970s-style Chinese decor, but people aren't there for the ambience.
COST About HK$1,000 with drinks.
WHO TO BRING The place is a magnet for families and tourists alike. It has become a must-visit place for foodies coming from all over the world and locals too.
TURN-ONS The restaurant is full most of the time as there is a constant flow of patrons who have learned of its reputation mainly from word of mouth. The restaurant is known for its Sichuan sizzling prawns (above). They arrived in a bowl and were then poured onto a sizzling hot plate. The prawns were meaty and big and absorbed the spicy and slightly sour sauce. The gravy had been tempered to help Western taste buds. Then we tried the deep-fried ribs, which were crispy and meaty. All the servings were generous. The crispy chicken was a delight with the meat succulent and the mushroom sauce tangy with a hint of spice. The eggplant with pieces of pork came with gravy. The eggplant was not overdone and the slices of meat were soft enough to absorb the sauce.
TURN-OFFS It's best to avoid weekends as it is full, which can be a bit claustrophobic.
DRINKS A collection of local brews plus French, Australian and New Zealand fine wines. MM
Red Pepper Restaurant
7 Lan Fong Road
FARE Singaporean and Malaysian.
AMBIENCE The restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating.
COST HK$1,443 for three including beers.
WHO TO BRING Friends or colleagues.
TURN-ONS The chicken and pork satay were tender and went well with their sauce. Hokkien pophia were shrimp, pork and vegetable rolls with peanuts, garlic and chilli sauce that had a lot of different textures and flavours. Singapore Tom Yum Goong was decidedly mild with a broth garnished with coriander. For mains the chilli crab (above) was delicious, presented on a giant platter covered in chilli and tomato sauce. The crab was meaty and cooked perfectly. Another mild dish was the Singapore chicken curry that was also tender, though quite oily. A misnomer is the Singaporean fried carrot cake, which is actually turnip, sauteed with egg, meat and fresh shrimps. For dessert we had ice kachong, with sweet red bean, jelly, nipa palm seeds and lashings of coconut milk.
TURN-OFFS The chilli prawns were impressive in size, but overcooked. Waiting staff had trouble looking after indoor and outdoor areas which required patience.
DRINKS International wine list and beers. BC
Shop 3, Tower 1, Podium Level
Royal Pacific Hotel and Towers
China Hong Kong City
33 Canton Road
Tsim Sha Tsui
AMBIENCE Simple decor with wooden panelling.
WHO TO BRING Friends preparing for a night out in nearby SoHo.
COST HK$800 for two with two glasses of wine.
TURN-ONS The pomelo salad was a refreshing start and the pork neck a generous serve for an entree. The red curry with roasted duck (above) was rich and creamy. Grapes and pineapple in the sauce cut through the dense flavours of the meat and coconut cream. The pla pae sa, a steamed whole mullet with minced pork and thai herbs, was served on a bubbling platter. The broth burst with aromatic smells and ensured the flesh was moist. The broth was so good that the kitchen gave a bowl of it to top up the platter as the liquid steamed away. The pineapple sorbet was surprisingly creamy and presented in a half-pineapple shell.
TURN-OFFS With slate floors and some tables situated very close to each other, noise levels don't make for a romantic date or serious conversations. Sticky rice with mango was standard, the rice a bit overcooked.
DRINKS Extensive selection of wines and non-alcoholic drinks. LL
G/F 38 Elgin St Soho
AMBIENCE A small casual space that opens up onto the busy nightlife of Staunton Street. COST A meal for two with a glass of wine each is about HK$550.
WHO TO BRING Family and friends, but weekends can be busy so book ahead.
TURN-ONS The momo-cha freshly-made dumplings (above) with a choice of lamb, chicken or vegetable steamed or deep-fried reminded me of Chinese dumplings, and the aloo chop Nepali potato pancakes with fresh Nepalese herbs were similar to English potato cakes. Both came with hot chilli sauces, but beware the green one. Braving the khursani bari, or very hot specialties, the chicken cooked with fresh red chilli lives up to its billing - the dish is aromatic, but the chilli hits the taste buds with full force. The dal jhaneko, yellow lentils seasoned with onion, tomato, cumin, garlic, ginger and jimbu, garnished with coriander was a lot milder. The homemade ice-cream is definitely different.
TURN OFFS The tables are a bit cramped especially on a busy Saturday night.
DRINKS There aren't many choices by the glass, but a good selection of wine by the bottle. TF
G/F, 14 Staunton Street
FARE Sichuan and Beijing.
AMBIENCE Spacious and casual with cosy alcoves and comfortable sofas with cushions. Giant Sichuan masks hang from the ceiling, with Chinese clay pots lining the walls and cracked mirrors that lighten the d?cor.
COST About HK$550 for two with a glass of wine.
WHO TO BRING Friends, family and colleagues.
TURN ONS These regions are known for their spicy food and there are various levels of heat which are shown on the menu through the number of chillis next to each dish, one being the least hot and three, very hot, as was the simmered beef with hot chilli broth, which can be even hotter if you take up their offer of having a few peppercorns thrown in. Taking the heat down a notch, the lamb kebabs and stir fried egg plant with mixed mushrooms in garlic and chilli sauce are recommended, as is the deep-fried chicken with five spices. Cooling it down further are the desserts, creme brulee - which is creamy and enough for two or three - and the candied strawberries. You can also have apples and bananas.
TURN OFFS It's difficult to make a reservation as the phone line is always busy.
DRINKS Refreshing fruit juices such as mango and pineapple, and a good selection of wines and beer. TF
Mask Si Chuen
Shop 33 G/F East TST KCR Station
Tsim Sha Tsui
AMBIENCE Elegant yet relaxing, with Maharaja designer touches, such as alcove doors that separate smaller private dining rooms and a buffet room from the main dining area. An Indian trio plays traditional music on a slightly raised stage while diners tuck into their samosas.
COST About HK$635 for two for the evening buffet, including a glass of wine.
WHO TO BRING Family, friends, colleagues, the love interest.
TURN ONS The service was attentive and friendly, the dinner buffet excellent with starters of dosa made to order at the buffet table, samosas (above), lentil soup and more. In the main buffet, the chef's chicken special is an excellent twist on chicken tikka. Also good are the tandoori options, such as the lamb and fish, and the chicken, mutton and fish curries are not so much spicy but flavourful. There are plenty of vegetarian options, with the daal and palak paneer standing out. There is quality rather than quantity at the dessert corner, with a mango pudding, gulab, sago and fresh fruit to be had.
TURN OFFS Competing with the live band to be heard across the table.
DRINKS A good selection of beer and wine, which starts at HK$62 a glass or try the traditional fruit-flavoured lassi and/or masala tea. TF
Tandoor Indian Restaurant
1/Fl Lyndhurst Tower
1 Lyndhurst Terrace