Cheap eats alongside big names in latest Michelin Guide to Hong Kong

Michelin Guide recognises year-old Hunanese café and neighbourhood roast-duck specialist along with the famous names in its latest edition

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 December, 2013, 3:26pm
UPDATED : Friday, 06 December, 2013, 1:50pm

When Liu Wai-yin gave up a sales career to learn how to roast duck, she could hardly have imagined appearing alongside some of the city’s top restaurants in the world’s most famous food guide just four years later.

For University of Hong Kong chemist Professor Chen Guanhua, a place in the Michelin Guide to Hong Kong and Macau is even more staggering. He started his café just a year ago to “treat friends” and fill a gap in the market for spicy Hunanese cuisine.

Published on Thursday, the latest edition of the guide features 284 Hong Kong restaurants and 74 establishments in Macau – the most since 2009. Five Hong Kong restaurants received three Michelin stars, the highest honour in gastronomy.

While L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Lung King Heen and be 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana retain their three-star ratings, Bo Innovation and Sushi Shikon in Sheung Wan were given the top ranking for the first time.

Liu’s Po Kee and Chen’s Café Hunan, both in Western district, are among 69 restaurants listed in the Bib Gourmands category, for quality food under HK$300.

Liu took over the 40-year-old Po Kee four years ago. She gave up her sales job to learn the business, and moved to new premises in Queen’s Road West so she could roast the ducks on site.

“We pick the best ducks and they are freshly roasted every day,” Liu says of the secret to her success. “When we first took over, we lost a lot of customers, but gradually our quality has been recognised … and our business got back on track.”

Five minutes from Po Kee, Café Hunan serves mainly mainland diners. Chen, originally from Shanghai, has lived in Hong Kong for 17 years and decided to open the business so he would have “a place to eat with friends”. Since then business has boomed.

Manager Eagle Chung said 70 per cent of the customers were from the mainland. He believes many Hongkongers struggled with the hot spices, imported from Hunan and cooked by a 20-year-old chef from the province. But not everyone is happy. Two restaurants were downgraded from two to one-star status and three lost their stars. Both branches of Cuisine Cuisine, in Tsim Sha Tsui and Central, lost their stars. A spokeswoman said they would review the quality of their food.

Michael Ellis, international director for the Michelin Guide, said food in Hong Kong and Macau was of an “incredible level of quality” and great value.