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2018 in review

The best new restaurants of 2018 in Hong Kong for a casual meal, special occasion, and more

  • Subtle Cantonese, delicate Shanghainese, stunning sushi, surprising Middle Eastern, the best tacos in Hong Kong – it’s all here
  • We tell you the dishes to go for at our favourite newcomers of the year
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 December, 2018, 6:33pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 December, 2018, 6:51pm

It’s hard to come up with a list of “best” restaurants in Hong Kong because there’s not one place that’s perfect for everyone for all occasions (if it existed, it would make millions). So here are some of my favourite restaurants that I reviewed in 2018.

Best places for a special occasion

Uwe

I’ve loved Uwe Opocensky’s food since he was chef of the Krug Room at the Mandarin Oriental. Although he’s left the hotel and opened his own, small restaurant, his food remains whimsical and delicious. I’m not sure that I’d come here on a date – any getting-to-know you conversation will be overheard. But come if you want a really delicious meal.

Read our full review here

Ichu Peru

This was one of the most hotly anticipated restaurant openings of the year. It is a project of Virgilio Martinez, chef of Central in Lima, Peru, which is number six on the list of World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Chef Sang Jeong is in charge of the kitchen in H Queen’s, and the food shows that Peruvian cuisine goes far beyond ceviche and quinoa.

Read our full review here

Best Chinese

Fooklore

This restaurant by the Fook Lam Moon group serves Cantonese and Sichuan food, which are about as far apart on the Chinese food flavour spectrum as it’s possible to get – the former is subtle, the latter is known for its strong, spicy and numbing flavours. We tried dishes from both parts of the menu and, apart from a too-oily dessert, loved everything.

Read our full review here

Ding’s Club

Ding’s Club was opened by Steve Lee Ka-ding, a man many associate with his acting skills rather than his food. But give it a try – you’ll be surprised (as we were) that the cuisine lives up to the hype. The food here is subtle, delicate and delicious.

Read our full review here

Xin Rong Xi

Where’s the meat? we wondered as we looked at the menu of this Shanghainese import. The menu is heavy on the seafood and vegetables, with just a few meaty dishes. We didn’t miss it as we tucked into one of the best jellyfish dishes we’ve ever tasted, and a fantastic bean curd soup with preserved pork and black fungus. The setting is elegant and discreet.

Read our full review here

Zen

My friend and I took one look at the menu at Zen, and immediately started calling friends to see if there was anyone nearby who could join us, because there were so many dishes we wanted to try. The menu offers primarily Cantonese dishes, with a few from other regions. As at many other Chinese restaurants, it’s best to consult with your server, who will help you order the best dishes.

Read our full review here

10 Shanghai

There wasn’t one dish we disliked at this at elegant restaurant in Causeway Bay. Shanghainese food is often associated with heavy brown sauces, but 10 Shanghai also serves up some lighter, more delicate dishes. The xiao long bao were excellent, as was the honey-glazed eel, Jiangsu river shrimp and chicken soup with shrimp dumplings.

Read our full review here

Best Japanese

Sushi Saito

After visiting Sushi Saito several times, I feel confident in advising you that unless money is no object, it’s best to go at lunch, not at dinner. Lunch (about HK$1,500) is less than half the price as dinner (about HK$3,600), but you get about 75 per cent of the meal, prepared by the same chefs. It’s fantastic, as you’d expect of the only overseas branch of the famed Sushi Saito in Tokyo. Once you enter the small restaurant, it’s like being transported to a high-end sushi-ya in Tokyo, with all the expectations of proper behaviour (starting with being on time).

Read our full review here

Jung39

As much as I love expensive sushi-yas, izakaya are much more affordable, and just as enjoyable in their own way. Jung39 specialises in kushikatsu, also called kushiage – ingredients that are skewered, breaded and deep-fried. The staff are helpful and welcoming. Be sure to save stomach space for the G39 curry rice.

Read our full review here

Mokumoku Yakiton

While many food lovers are familiar with yakitori (grilled chicken) restaurants, they might not know about the porcine equivalent of yakiton. Mokumoku Yakiton serves up all parts of the pig, from grilled lard to kidneys to liver and tongue. Take your time here: order a few dishes, along with a drink or two, and you with the cool jazz music and friendly Japanese staff, you can pretend you’re in a hideaway in Tokyo.

Read our full review here

Best for a casual meal with friends

Forbidden Duck

I didn’t give this a great review when I visited it back in January, but it’s now one of my favourite lunch spots. My advice? Skip the duck – at least the slow-cooked one that the receptionist will ask if you want to pre-order when you make your reservation. The Peking duck is better, but we come more for the dim sum, Yunnan pig char siu, and the delicious seafood rice in aromatic duck soup.

Read our full review here

Sueno

While the ambience of this place isn’t the best, the staff are welcoming, and the food – mostly Spanish, but occasionally with an Asian twist – is very good. We’ve yet to try the paella, but we like the oxtail soup with rice and baby vegetables, the succulent suckling pig, and a clever version of fish and chips, made with fried anchovies and a salted egg yolk coating.

Read our full review here

The Charcoal Room

One of my pet peeves is when Korean restaurants in Hong Kong are stingy with the kimchi and banchan. That wasn’t a problem at The Charcoal Room – guests can help themselves to the kimchi, and the banchan came in a varied and generous selection. The restaurant specialises in Jeju pork and hanwoo beef, offered primarily for tabletop barbecuing.

Read our full review here

Papi

The decor at Papi is a little too stark and bright, but the food makes up for the lack of ambience. We loved the Florentina stewed beef tripe, black truffle and Parma ham sandwich, and handmade tagliolini with Sicilian sweet red prawns and fresh cherry tomatoes.

Read our full review here

Bedu

While I liked almost all the dishes at Bedu, the salt-baked potatoes with shanklish cheese and pomegranate was what impressed me the most: who knew potatoes could be so good? They went deliciously with the rack of lamb with garlic labneh and za’atar oil, and for starters, we loved excellent hummus, house-made flatbread and golden spiced chicken manti with yogurt and Aleppo chilli oil.

Read our full review here

Best places to visit at off hours (because they don’t take bookings)

Yardbird

The “new” Yardbird has an advantage over the original location in that there’s a spacious back room, where you can sit if you don’t mind missing out on all the action in the main dining area. Well, it’s an advantage if the space is open, which it wasn’t on the night of our review. If you hate to wait, it’s best to go as soon as they open, and the whole party has to be there before they’ll seat you. This is chicken nose-to-tail eating, with yakitori skewers of heart, tail, skin, ventricle and other, more standard parts (hey, somebody has to eat the boring chicken breast).

Read our full review here

Te Quiero Mucho

I try tacos whenever I see them on a menu, but I’m usually disappointed, at least in Hong Kong. These are the best I’ve tried in Hong Kong – good tortillas and good fillings, without too much gloop. Our favourites were The Trump (beef tongue and chicharron) and the wagyu taco with a dried chilli and peanut salsa.

Read our full review here


Francis

You can get around the “first come, first served” policy at this Israeli/Middle Eastern restaurant if you have a large enough group (seven to 10), are willing to dine at 6pm and eat the “Let Us Cook” menu; if not, it’s walk-ins only. My guest and I arrived at 6pm to skip the queue, and it was full by 7pm. The menu changes frequently, and not everything we tried is still available, but the burnt eggplant with peppers, chilli and yogurt seems to be a staple, as does the beef manti (dumplings) with chilli oil and burnt butter. The staff are friendly and talkative.

Read our full review here