Favourite Hong Kong restaurants of Time Out publisher Desiree Au
Former journalist likes the classic cooking of Asiania, Joël Robuchon and Bonnae Gokson, the innovation of Duddell’s and The Pawn, and reminders of home at The Ocean and An Nam
My philosophy on dining out is that the food should not be pretentious and they should use good ingredients. I’m a big fan of classics because I think chefs nowadays don’t do it enough, or don’t do it well. It’s hard to make dishes that are consistently good for 20-30 years. My job means I’m required to try and see new things – but once I do that I go back to the staples.
For Chinese, I’m bipolar. I like innovative food that’s done well. I like Duddell’s (levels 3 & 4, Shanghai Tang Mansion, 1 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2525 9191) so much that I have a fixed table there. They do dim sum with a twist – like har gau with matsutake mushrooms, or a beautiful codfish dumpling that’s really light and easy on the palate. I also like old restaurants – like Asiania (basement, Emperor Group Centre, 288 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2528 2121), which has been around for about 30 years. I go for the classic roast suckling pig, or a wonderful fried grouper with corn sauce. It’s a fresh fillet, not frozen, and the batter is light – almost like tempura – with a creamy corn sauce. That’s comfort food, and it’s not oily even though it’s deep fried.
I’m a huge fan of French and nouveau French. It’s really interesting to see how each chef interprets the cuisine. My default place is l’Atelier de Joël Robuchon (Shop 401, 4/F Landmark, 15 Queen’s Road Central, tel: 2166 9000). It’s consistently good around the world – I’ve eaten there in London, Tokyo, Las Vegas, Bangkok and obviously, Hong Kong. The consistency is unparalleled.
I grew up in Hawaii and live in the South Side because I need to be near the ocean. So I go to The Ocean (shop 303-304, 3/F The Pulse, 26-30 Beach Road, Repulse Bay, tel: 2889 5939) – it has a French twist, a Mediterranean feel and Japanese influences. I’m normally not into fusion but the balance is fantastic. Watching the sunset there is like being in Hawaii. They have a lovely degustation menu and I love the way the chef names the dishes after oceanic terms – like the great reef, blue lagoon and ocean breeze. The lobster with corn mousse, pine nuts and lime is fantastic.
I’m a huge fan of Bonnae Gokson’s crunch cake. I’ve been eating it for 22 years, starting at Joyce Cafe – I ate it a lot there when I first started my journalistic career. Now I go to Sevva (25/F Prince’s Building, 10 Chater Road, Central, tel: 2537 1388). The waiter knows that whatever I have before, he brings me crunch cake at the end. I like the way that in Hong Kong the staff know the quirks [of regular customers] – it’s part of the charm of dining.
My mother was born in Vietnam so I’ve been eating pho all my life. If I really want a fine-dining experience, I go to An Nam in Causeway Bay (4/F Lee Garden One, 33 Hysan Avenue, tel: 2787 3922). Very few Vietnamese restaurants in Hong Kong take the time to get the atmosphere right. The lighting is by Tino Kwan and the interior is by Steve Leung – I admire his work, he’s one of the best interior designers – and I think that adds so much to the dining experience. The pho is a decent rendition; the noodles and beef are silky, so it’s a comforting experience. It’s great to have dinner there with friends.
I like the casualness of La Cantoche (227 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, tel: 2426 0880), where I have the truffled scrambled eggs. And I sometimes have lunch at The Pawn (2/F 62 Johnston Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2866 3444). It’s interesting to see what Tom Aikens is doing with modern British cuisine.