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Hong Kong restaurant reviews

The next hip Lan Kwai Fong hangout – first impressions of Employees Only, a New York import

Originally opened in the Big Apple as a late-night spot for food and beverage industry staff coming off shift, the concept has spread to Asia. With tasty, well prepared food, this narrow space in entertainment district is sure to be a hit

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 July, 2017, 5:03pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 July, 2017, 5:03pm

Employees Only was a hit in New York when it opened in 2004 with the premise of catering to those in the food and beverage industry by staying open until 4am. The speakeasy quickly evolved into a hot spot everyone wanted to go to, and its success spurred the opening of a Singapore branch a year ago, and now one in Hong Kong.

While we haven’t been to the one in New York, we’ve been told the Lan Kwai Fong location looks pretty close to the original. The space is narrow and deep, and at the entrance is the long bar where drinks are prepared EO style – which means quickly without being measured. At the back is a dining area with 1950s American-diner-style tables.

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We visited on the second day after the grand opening and, while it wasn’t too busy, we’re sure it will soon become the hippest hangout in the neighbourhood.

Service was a bit slow at the start, but the staff are friendly.

The meal started with delicious sourdough bread – so good we asked for more. A signature dish of bone marrow poppers with bordelaise and pastry shell (HK$115) looked more delicate than hearty, and all we could taste was the pastry.

Things improved with the hand-cut steak tartare (HK$178) prepared table-side. The server customises the taste by adding varying amounts of Worcestershire sauce, a mild chilli sauce, chopped shallots, supposedly truffled capers (we could barely detect the truffle flavour) and some sea salt before thoroughly mixing it together. It tasted punchy, with a subtle spicy kick, and was even better on the crostini and topped with thinly chopped seasoned salad leaves.

Next came the skate wing paprika (HK$198), another subtly spiced dish, the fish perfectly cooked and full of flavour. The two fish slices were laid across spaetzle, a rarity on Hong Kong menus.

One of the owners, Igor Hadzismajlovic, saw us when we came in and sent over two complimentary desserts.

The lemon tart (HK$88) tasted more like apple with a lemon sauce drizzled on top. But we really enjoyed the yam panna cotta (HK$88) with a yam mousse. It was not too sweet and had a crunchy wafer crust at the bottom for texture.

Employees Only, 19 Lan Kwai Fong, Central, tel: 2468 2755

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