Exploring Hong Kong’s lanes: North Point’s Kam Ping Street is a hidden food gem
In the first of a series exploring some of the city’s off-the-radar lanes and alleys, we wander down one of North Point’s backstreets to find an array of dining options – from authentic Malaysian to Japanese
Take a detour off Hong Kong’s main streets – many left bland and homogenised by retail chains selling the same old food and fashion – and you’ll discover some exciting surprises. Finding these hidden gems is not always easy for time-poor Hongkongers, so we are doing the leg work for you.
In the first of a series exploring off-the-radar lanes and alleys, we headed to Kam Ping Street in North Point on the eastern side of Hong Kong Island (on the MTR’s Island Line between Quarry Bay and Fortress Hill). During the day this wide lane, on a slope near a row of car-repair shops and open only to pedestrians, is subdued.
It’s a little hard to find (the easiest way to get there is to take exit B1 from North Point MTR station, turn left and walk up Shu Kuk Street – you can see the lane at the end of the street on the right).
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Some might say not much happens in this part of Hong Kong Island, but it was a very different story in the 1950s, when the district was a magnet for migrants from China, who triggered a population boom. In fact, so many people were living in North Point that by the end of 1960, the area was listed as the most densely populated place on earth by the Guinness World Records.
Today it’s bustling with shops, schools and restaurants and a mix of housing estates and luxury developments (New World’s new luxury development, Fleur Pavilia, is going up in North Point).
On a Tuesday night in late November, we decided to get a taste (literally) of Kam Ping Street. Here’s what we found.
This cosy restaurant with crazy vintage-inspired decor (there was even a bike on the wall) has been open just a few months, but according to one local diner, it’s already creating a buzz. Seeing as we were starting our food journey here, we kicked off with snacks; skimming over the takoyaki with mayonnaise (HK$48) and deep-fried onion rings with tartare sauce (HK$58), we settled on the pan-fried chicken dumplings (HK$48) and crispy wings in lemon sauce (HK$58).
The six dumplings were crisp and delicious, served with a fresh salad to cut through the fried factor. The chicken wings also scored high for crunch and had a subtle lemon flavour.
The rest of the menu looked enticing, especially the soft shell crab with sweet potato risotto, but it was time to head down the lane for a main course.
Soul 9+, 35A Kam Ping St, North Point, tel: 2562 9286
From Malaysia’s Petronas Towers looking like antennas on a cartoon character, to a character dressed as a lion (a nod to Singapore), the atmosphere at this funky little restaurant was as lively as its wall art. There’s even chilli and garlic characters. “There’s a lot of both ingredients in my food,” says owner Lico Fung.
Fung says he set up in North Point because the rent is lower there. He’s a big fan of Penang – not just the food but the Malaysian city’s street art. “This huge wall here,” he says, pointing to the building opposite the restaurant, “this would be great for street art but I’m sure the government would just remove it.”
The menu is only in Chinese but some colourful images can help you navigate – as can the friendly staff, who had no qualms about us setting up a camera.
The curry mee (HK$58) was a big bowl of spicy noodle soup full of surprises (including some tender octopus tentacles), while the nasi lemak (HK$58), a traditional Malaysian fragrant rice dish cooked with coconut milk and pandan leaf, was fresh. If you want to ramp up the spice level then sprinkle on some home-made chilli flakes. With such a fun vibe, it’s no wonder this place is a magnet for families.
Ancient Moon, 27 Kam Ping St, North Point, tel: 3568 4530
Villa Villa Cafe & Bar
We are told this cosy cafe – a big hit with locals – makes homestyle dishes from scratch using locally sourced ingredients. While the menu of Italian-influenced delights (think freshly baked Italian breads and pizza) looked tempting, we were here for a sugar rush.
Although we arrived late – about 20 minutes before closing – the staff were happy to seat us. The menu reflected the delights lined up in the front window: triple chocolate squares (HK$48), Villa Villa opera cake (HK$48) and tiramisu (HK$32). But we settled on the crème brûlée cheesecake (HK$38) and raspberry ganache cheesecake (HK$32). Wise moves.
Villa Villa Cafe & Bar, shop 31, 25A Kam Ping Street, Tung Fat Building, North Point, tel: 2777 9033
Bar + Grill
This super-casual joint was in full Christmas swing, shimmering with tinsel and festive decorations. Who cares that we’re still in November? If you want food, then grab the menu sheet and tick the boxes. Veggie options included salt-grilled okra (HK$18) and grilled cumin Chinese chives (HK$14); the “meaty choices” included a house-made lamb burger steak (HK$34) and grilled pork jowl (HK$38).
But we were only here for the liquid delights and the drinks menu looked very familiar. “Oh yes, the owner of Soul 9+ also owns this [place],” the waitress remarks. Mystery solved. We got the feeling this place stays open until late. There are also some hookah pipes, if that’s your thing.
Bar + Grill, Block B, 35A Kam Ping Street, Tung Fat Building, North Point, tel: 2562 9286
A few nights later we went back to the lane to eat at Shuto (no time or room in our bulging bellies the first time round). With sake barrels out the front and sake labels lining the walls, and Japanese music playing, Shuto does its best to recreate a Japanese restaurant experience – right down to a tight squeeze at the table.
The omakase eight pieces sushi set (HK$148) was fresh and tasty. But the highlights were the creamy tosa tofu (HK$48) and sticky grilled sea eel (HK$98).
Shuto, shop A, 23 Kam Ping St, Tung Fat Building, North Point, tel: 2777 0688
Car Noodle’s Family
At the end of Kam Ping Street (be warned, the address is actually listed as Shu Kuk Street) is this typical brightly lit local joint that looks like it would draw post-work and post-drink crowds looking for a quick snack or some carbs to soak up the booze.
Standing in a queue that was forming out the front, one customer, who lives nearby, says she comes here regularly and loves the beef brisket and fish skin dumplings. Good to know.
Car Noodle’s Family, 1 Shu Kuk St, North Point, tel: 2789 2998