AMBIENCE Dining areas sectioned off with wooden-framed screens for privacy. Panoramic views of Victoria Harbour.
COST HK$2,320 including one beer.
WHO TO BRING Clients to impress or a special family occasion.
TURN-ONS For starters, the seaweed salad was a mix of different kinds of seaweed with salad greens that was very refreshing. The assorted tempura with prawns and various vegetables, such as squash, mushrooms and eggplant, was also delicious, and the batter was light and not very oily. The deluxe wagyu shabu shabu (above) was a hearty portion for one person to finish, the beef tender in the flavourful broth. There were also plenty of vegetables, such as Napa cabbage, Japanese mushrooms and garland chrysanthemum, and thick vermicelli and udon noodles. The deluxe wagyu sukiyaki was also a large dish, the meat and vegetables submerged in a salty beef broth with udon noodles.
TURN-OFFS While we enjoyed the shabu shabu and sukiyaki, we wished the staff could have advised us the portions would be too large for one person and, instead, suggest us to choose between the two in order to sample other dishes.
DRINKS Japanese beers, sake, shochu. BC
1/F, Hotel Nikko
72 Mody Road
Tsim Sha Tsui East
FARE Contemporary hot pot.
AMBIENCE Cosy booths for small groups or big banquet tables for larger parties.
WHO TO BRING After-work dinner with colleagues, family gatherings, adventurous diners.
COST HK$1,000 for two with drinks.
TURN-ONS If you love an abundance of choices this place is filled to the hot-pot brim with soup bases, dumplings, seafood, meats, vegetables, noodles and everything else that can be poached. We chose three soup bases - fresh prawns in hua diao wine with basil and mint, Yunnan mushrooms and onion and Malaysian satay. They were all distinct in their flavours with the mushroom one coming with a top layer of fluffy egg like an omelette. All the seafood we tried - Japanese Hokkaido scallops, United States oysters, hand-beaten dace fish paste - were super fresh. The cuttlefish balls came with a slice of cherry tomato in the middle adding a burst of sweetness. The vegetable platter was piled high with eggplant, two types of mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, different greens and sweet corn. The tofu platter ranged from the smooth, textured, fried and crunchy. Service was attentive, but the drinks were slow to arrive.
TURN-OFFS Several of the dumplings we chose had run out even though we arrived about 8pm.
DRINKS Chinese teas, New Zealand and French whites and reds, sake. LL
5/F Lucky Centre, 165-171 Wan Chai Road, Wan Chai
HOT TO HANDLE
AMBIENCE Typical Chinese restaurant, very relaxed with people enjoying themselves and the food.
COST HK$1,157 for two, including beers.
WHO TO BRING Friends and colleagues who are chilli heads.
TURN-ONS We throughly enjoyed the poached Mandarin fish in spicy broth (above). It arrived completely covered in dried chillis, but the thin slices of fish were perfectly cooked and only slightly spicy. The main event was the hot pot with one side filled with red bulbous 'skyward facing' chillis and Sichuan peppercorns, the other with herbal ingredients including wolfberries, dates and ginger. The former kept my companion's tongue numb for most of the evening. He enjoyed the degrees of spiciness of thinly-sliced lamb, oyster mushrooms, pig intestines, chicken blood and meat and fish balls cooked in the fiery broth. We also liked the sauce station where diners could concoct their own dipping sauce. For dessert, the tofu fa was silky smooth adding as much sugar and syrup as we pleased.
TURN-OFFS We shared a bowl of dan dan noodle that surprisingly arrived first and didn't have the spiciness of the fish. The floor was on the sticky side.
DRINKS A selection of beers and Chinese wines. BC
San Xi Lou
7/F, Coda Plaza
51 Garden Road
AMBIENCE Like a cosy chalet with wooden beams and decorated with giant cowbells, pictures of the Alps and yodelling music.
COST HK$1,014 for two including three beers.
WHO TO BRING Your significant other or fellow cheese lovers.
TURN-ONS We started with the raw deer carpaccio covered in thinly sliced Sbrinz cheese, which tasted similar to Parmesan. The raclette was a decadent treat, coated on the plate and eaten with pickled pearl onions, new potatoes and pickles. For mains the grilled veal sausage was large with an even larger portion of hashed brown potatoes. We dipped cubed bread into the fondue of Gruyere and Vacherin Fribourgeois cheese (pictured) melted in dry white Kirsch with crepes mushrooms that was more creamy than rich. Dessert was a chocaholic's dream with the signature Toblerone chocolate fondue with fresh fruits, marshmallows and pound cake cut into bite-sized pieces.
TURN-OFFS Service was personable, but staff became too busy and we had to flag them down.
DRINKS Swiss beers and wines. BC
The Swiss Chalet
G/F, 12-14 Hart Avenue
Tsim Sha Tsui
FARE Mongolian hot pot.
AMBIENCE The Mong Kok location has four floors, each one busy with diners enjoying their meals and catching up on Chinese soaps.
COST HK$585 for two including beers.
WHO TO BRING Friends and colleagues for a casual gathering.
TURN-ONS The double-flavoured hot pot with one side spicy wasn't fiery hot, but subtly so with lots of leek, garlic and chillies, while the other had lots of ginger, garlic and leek. The Inner Mongolian lamb (pictured) was thinly sliced and tender and we also enjoyed the tasty mutton ball with coriander. The crab roe and meatball looked like a white teardrop with a yellowy-orange sweet roe inside. The pork oviducts were white semi circles that looked and tasted like squid. The vegetables were fresh - including emperor vegetable, turnip and mushroom. Tofu was cut into thick triangles.
TURN-OFFS We were disappointed with the mutton skewers seasoned with chilli flakes - lacked cumin seasoning for such a signature regional dish. The aggressiveness of staff in getting us to sign up for a membership was not welcome.
DRINKS A selection of beers and wines. BC
1-4/F, Mongkok Commercial Centre
16 Argyle Street
AMBIENCE It's a cavernous place with a wood-panelled ceiling, iron-grilled cabinets and candlelit tables.
COST HK$1,243 for two with teas.
WHO TO BRING Your significant other for a romantic night out.
TURN-ONS The crabmeat pancake starter with lobster Armagnac cappuccino was heavenly, with lots of crabmeat wrapped in a thin crepe in rich sauce. We enjoyed the fondue Montagnarde (above) with Emmantaler, Appenzeller and Gruyere cheeses with smoked bacon. We liked dipping the crusty bread from the bread basket in the new potatoes and large macaroni. For the main course, the whole roasted spring chicken was cut into two portions, tender and juicy, thick-cut crispy fries and mixed salad. We finished with thin chocolate pieces constructed into a Swiss chalet, whipped cream and icing sugar. Inside were scoops of pistachio and hazelnut caramel ice cream, with a boat of chocolate sauce.
TURN-OFFS Make reservations way in advance. Service was at times spotty.
DRINKS Mix of Old and New World wines. BC
1/F, Peninsula Hong Kong
Tsim Sha Tsui
CARNIVAL OF CHILLIS
AMBIENCE Modern Chinese d?cor with high ceilings and comfortable seating.
COST HK$780 for two including two beers.
WHO TO BRING Fellow chilli heads.
TURN-ONS The authentic Sichuan dishes either give a subtle spiciness or a slow burn with lasting after effects. To ease into a chilli-laden meal, thinly sliced beef had many layers of tastes from the sweet flavour on top to a slightly spicy aftertaste. There was another level of spiciness from the hot and sour soup with julienne bamboo shoots, tofu and pork, and wood ear fungus. The soup has a strong vinegar flavour with no red chilli in sight. The sauteed frog's legs in preserved chilli were delicate and delicious with lots of garlic. Mapo tofu was the hottest of all the dishes, combined with silky smooth tofu and minced meat. For a hotter experience, try the traditional Sichuan hotpot (above). The signature crispy diced chicken was covered in a bed of dried chillis and we dug through to find the perfectly deep-fried chunks that were hardly oily. Our mouths were numb for a while. The only respite was the Sichuan-style sauteed string beans with minced meat. We cooled down our taste buds with milk pudding and fresh fruit.
TURN-OFFS Service was friendly, though a periodic change of plates and bowls would have been appreciated.
DRINKS Chinese and international wines, Chinese liquors and beers. BC
Yunyan Sichuan Restaurant
4/F, Miramar Shopping Centre
132 Nathan Road
Tsim Sha Tsui