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Rant: Hip debasement

Vanessa Ko

 

Do we really need any more ultra-cool New York-style restaurants in this town? The trend was exciting when it started two years ago; now we're oversaturated with pricey, cramped eateries that are just too hip to be any fun.

You know the ones: they're so loud you have to shout to be heard; the dishes are so measly that instead of oohs and aahs they elicit only the sinking of hearts; and capping off every meal is the sticker shock.

Back in the heady days of 2011, the first of these restaurants promised much, with creative cocktails, stylishly industrial interiors, enthusiastic service and street-facing designs. But now they seem like old hat. Isn't it time the backlash began?

After a succession of recent openings in SoHo, Lan Kwai Fong and in the Star Street vicinity, such places have lost their novelty and I can't be alone in noticing the irksome side of hip. Many don't take reservations, leaving diners who've bought into the hype waiting on the street or at the bar nursing HK$100 drinks. When one place doesn't take reservations, it's a statement. When a group of them operate the policy, it's a pain for patrons. Eating in "shifts" is nothing new, but it adds to the insult at places that want to make you feel they're doing you a favour by letting you eat there.

Other than complaints about tiny portions, the food at most New York-style establishments tends to be well regarded; but with recent openings extending the vogue to places specialising in Asian cuisine, why don't we just go to the local dai pai dong or noodle shop instead? Perhaps I'm just not hip enough for cool dining.

 

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