Diner’s Diary

Hong Kong restaurant where it’s not about the money: Sammy’s Kitchen survives, sucks up 48pc rent rise – and cuts lunch prices

Many people, even some regulars, will have assumed Sai Ying Pun stalwart Sammy’s Kitchen went ahead and closed as planned – but no, it’s still open, having negotiated down a 100 per cent rent rise, and lowered lunch prices

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 June, 2018, 3:30pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 June, 2018, 3:30pm

Sammy’s Kitchen was supposed to bring down the curtain on 49 years of serving diners in Sai Ying Pun last September, but it turns out it’s still open.

Ivy Yip Fung-yee, daughter of Sammy Yip, told the Post that some regular customers know the Hong Kong-style restaurant is still open, but others still assume it closed last year.

“We have some customers who call to ask where we’ve moved, and I tell them we’re still in the same location,” she says.

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Originally the restaurant was supposed to close because a new landlord jacked up the rent by 100 per cent. That forced Yip to look at her options back in August.

“I was going to move the restaurant to North Point, where an existing restaurant was, but it turned out that business wasn’t moving until December, so the timing didn’t work for me.

“So I asked my friend, who knew the landlord of my existing location, to ask if he could give a better deal on the rent, and he lowered [the increase] to 48 per cent. So I accepted,” Yip says. Not that she had much choice, she adds. The rent is now around HK$100,000 (US$12,750) per month.

She freshened up the interior by fixing up the walls and buying new chairs, and outside is a new sign featuring the iconic cow that marked the place for decades until the Hong Kong government had the old sign removed.

However, the place isn’t bustling at lunchtimes like it is during dinner. She says since the MTR was extended to Western district, many businesses had moved to places like Kwai Fong and Kwai Hing in the New Territories, leaving her with a much smaller customer base.

As a result Yip has had to cut prices for lunch; roasted pork knuckle goes for under HK$100 and a pork chop set for HK$80 including soup and a drink. Prices for dinner haven’t been adjusted, and she says customers can get a good deal on a 14oz steak for HK$160, or 10oz for HK$100, that is finished with “Sammy’s sauce”, made to a proprietary recipe and whose ingredients include soy sauce, bacon, tomatoes, garlic, onion, black pepper and other, secret ingredients.

Asked if the restaurant was making any profit, Yip says it’s not about making money. “We’ve been doing this so long, you either keep the restaurant open or just close it.”

Her father, who started the restaurant in 1969 with three friends, wasn’t keen on moving it to the North Point space she had identified, saying it was smaller than the Sai Ying Pun location. For Yip, though, the move would have made business sense.

Sammy’s Kitchen is staying in Western for now, having signed a two-year lease. “The landlord said we could determine how long the lease was, but with the business climate changing so much we’re going to see how it goes,” Yip says.

Sammy’s Kitchen, 204-206 Queen’s Road West, Western District, Tel: 2548 8400