Art gallery founder Angela Li on best places to eat in Hong Kong and Beijing
Whether it’s sushi or Sichuan fare she craves, Li knows where to go for a treat
Angela Li is the founder of the Contemporary by Angela Li art gallery
I’m the kind of person who goes from one extreme to another. When I crave a certain dish, I can have it for 10 days in a row, for lunch and dinner. Since it’s white truffle season, the place to go is 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana (Shop 202, 2/F Alexandra House, 5-17 Des Voeux Road Central, Central, tel: 2537 8859). Their fresh pasta is probably the best in town, and I also love their signature breaded veal chop Milanese style, thinly cut and covered in crisp breadcrumb, which is often too big even for two to share. To finish off, I’m usually the only one who can finish a whole plate of apple tart by myself. Both the base pastry and apple are thin, making what is already a perfect meal most satisfying.
I also never tire of great sushi. For lunch, I like Sushi Sase (UG/F, Hilltop Plaza, 49 Hollywood Road, Central, tel: 2815 0455), which has nice lunch sets and a cosy environment to catch up with clients and friends. For dinner, the place of choice is Kenjo (30 Minden Avenue, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2369 8307) if I’m lucky enough to get a seat. They serve some of the freshest sashimi in the city, as if one is eating in Tokyo. A hidden gem, Sushi Ma (20/F, 17-19 Ashley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2314 7088), whose chef used to work at Kenjo, stocks some of the less common seafood, and never disappoints. The ambience and harbour views are great.
I often have to entertain visiting friends. For the fashionistas, I take them to Mott 32 (Basement, Standard Chartered Building, 4-4A Des Voeux Road Central, Central, tel: 2885 8688). The place, an old bank vault transformed into a dramatic restaurant setting, serves the best char siu in town, made with Iberico pork, and it melts in the mouth. For those preferring a more casual setting, Yuet Wah Hui Seafood Restaurant (405-419 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2591 6803) serves finger-licking seafood dishes, such as deep fried pepper and salt mantis shrimps, the dish to test a chef’s skills.
I have gone from not being able to eat any chilli – a small amount would give me terrible stomach ache – to having an invincible stomach and actually enjoying spicy food thanks to the Sichuan artists I represent. My mainland Chinese friends often come to Hong Kong, yet they still want to have spicy dishes. Fan Tang (93-95 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2890 3339) not only serves exceptional Cantonese dishes but also authentic Sichuan dishes, such as Sichuan beef in chilli broth, thanks to their young chef from Chengdu using the best produce and secret ingredients. I was told he would only make his dishes when the rest of the kitchen had gone off work to stop others from stealing his secret formula. Their almond soup with egg white slowly beaten in, prepared at the table, is unbeatable. From there, I usually insist in hopping up the road to go for green tea ice-cream at Via Tokyo (106-126 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2895 1116) before I let my guests leave for the day.
Since dinners are often heavy, for lunch I usually opt for something lighter and healthier. For a nice bowl of pasta, I go to my neighbour, Trattoria Queen Hollywood (258 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, tel: 2559 6077) whose Osakan chefs use fresh and tasty ingredients to cook simple yet flavourful dishes. If I am craving for greens, MANA! Fast Slow Food (92 Wellington Street, Central, tel: 2851 1611) has warm salad wraps made with organic flatbread topped with za’atar, which is absolutely additive.
I often go to Beijing for work – and that means Peking duck. The best place is the Jinbao Jie branch of 1949 Duck de Chine (Club 1949, 98 Jinbao Jie, Dongcheng, Beijing, tel: +86 10 6521 2221), with an old courtyard setting and great ambience. After dinner, artists like hanging out at Eudora Station (6 Fangyuan West Road, Chaoyang, Beijing, tel: +86 10 6437 8331) or Park Side Bar & Grill (9-6 Jiangtai West Road, Chaoyang, Beijing, tel: +86 10 6444 6555), sitting in the alfresco areas chatting into the wee hours. If I want to avoid people in the art industry, then I’ll head to one of the tiny Japanese wine bars, such as Ruizhao Sake Bar (8 Xinyuan Lane West, Chaoyang, Beijing, tel: +86 10 6466 7935) and have a few glasses of sake while munching on yakitori.