Call it the law of unintended consequences or the butterfly effect - or perhaps just a delicious irony. Europe's fragile economy has led a number of its culinary talent to seek more attractive rewards on our shores, leading to a proliferation of new restaurants opening in the city. Operating margins here might be being squeezed by rising rent, labour and ingredient costs, but apparently they are still more attractive than those in Europe, especially in France, Italy and Spain, the key exporters of concepts and cooking talent. European chefs working here are not eager to return home, as job opportunities remain thin on the ground there. Just looking at French names alone, the city has in the past year or so seen the opening of the Eric Kayser bakery chain, Dalloyau patisserie, Le Saison, Seasons, and can look forward to projects from senior members of the Chez Patrick group. The sheer volume of restaurant openings this year has left some observers perplexed; as Tony Cheng, the CEO of Drawing Room Concepts, says, although more foodies want to fulfil a dream of opening a restaurant, "the margins are tough and the turnover is really quite high". "I am baffled. Every man and his dog is getting into the restaurant business and F&B," says Cheng, whose company operates restaurants such as Ammo, Hainan Shaoye and now Vasco Fine Dining and Isono Eatery & Bar in PMQ. "It's a combination of the European economy not being so great over the past few years, leading to an outpouring of talent, together with the money being in Asia," he says. While Hong Kong has a strong dining culture, Cheng says that is not enough to guarantee the success of the company's two latest ventures. As well as operating the casual Mediterranean Isono on the PMQ's sixth floor and the Spanish fine dining Vasco on the seventh floor, the company also runs the events space on the ground floor. It's that revenue generator that makes the investment a worthwhile venture, Cheng says. As a group, the restaurant operator has "a healthy population of random locations" such as PMQ and Ammo balanced by high traffic shopping mall locations. But for his latest ventures Cheng didn't choose the cuisine so much as the chef. Paolo Casagrande is an Italian with an impressive track record of cooking in Spanish restaurants, most notably for Martin Berasategui, who is most famous for his restaurant Lasarte in San Sebastian, in Spain's Basque country (Vasco is Spanish for Basque). Berasategui and Casagrande are both fans of chef Juan Mari Arzak, who started the new Basque movement in cooking. The fine dining restaurant offers either a five-course or an eight-course tasting menu. Dishes winning kudos so far include the red Palamos prawns and sea urchins on a "seabed" with crustacean mayonnaise, and roast French pigeon, pork and dry tomato stewed, apple cream and liver toast. Prettiness on a high-end restaurant menu often means the ingredients have been tweaked to the point they have no flavour. This isn't the case here, with the pigeon having a memorable gaminess and firm texture. It hasn't all been plain sailing for the restaurants. To find enough staff, Cheng had to close the Drawing Room, opened in 2009, to transfer its staff to the new ventures. "Hong Kong has too many restaurants and not enough professional candidates," says Matthias Zagury, the managing director of Le Relais de l'Entrecôte. But he has overcome staffing difficulties by using personal contacts in hotels, he says. He's in the process of soft-opening the French company's first restaurant in Asia - a traditional Parisian steakhouse in the Wan Chai space formerly occupied by Chez Patrick. Zagury says it's difficult but not impossible to find the right candidates with a good attitude to service. Le Relais de l'Entrecôte offers a silver service dining experience, for which the right staff are crucial. I absolutely don't want to go back [to Italy]. Asia is much better for my work Luca Piazza, chef "The only questions you are asked when you sit down are how you like your steak, and what wine you will be drinking," says Zagury. That's because the restaurant only serves a green salad with walnuts for a starter, and steak frites with a unique sauce for the main course. There is more of a selection for desserts, which remain highly traditional: cheese platters, crème brûlée and profiteroles. The company has three restaurants in Paris, one in Geneva and some franchises in the Middle East. The attraction of Hong Kong as a starting point in Asia is the city's vibrant dining culture. That the brand is known to local foodies, who visit the original restaurants on trips to Paris, is another factor. Zagury is confident that affordable prices, a location that appeals to expats and locals alike, and the proven concept will ensure the restaurant's success, making Hong Kong the launching point for rolling out sister restaurants in Asia. Luca Piazza is a chef with a fondness for Asia. He left his native Genoa, in Italy, aged 19 and set out on a career that has seen him win Michelin stars in his own country and reach the top of the career ladder at hotels in Shanghai and Macau. He's just spent a year in Brazil, where he acquired the nickname Mangiare ('Eat' in Italian), which he has given to his new restaurant. Before that he was an executive chef at The Venetian Macao. Piazza's latest venture in Kennedy Town will probably host 30 covers a night. Asked if he would consider moving back to Italy, Piazza says: "I absolutely don't want to go back. Asia is much better for my work." Instead, he's bringing an Italian street food concept here. The restaurant will only have a blackboard menu, with dishes changing daily according to available ingredients, many imported from Italy. These include a bread he says can only be made in Puglia owing to the quality of the region's water. As well as staples such as melanzana parmigiana, expect homemade sausage cooked in red wine and onions with potatoes, sautéed in herbs, burrata with stuffed, fried olives or eggplant marinated in garlic, chilli and herbs.