With thousands of places at which to eat across Hong Kong’s rich and varied dining landscape, not to mention whole districts dedicated to dining, it’s easy to become a creature of habit and not venture out beyond a few convenient neighbourhoods. But doing so means missing out on special, off-the-beaten-track spots which reflect their unique location and serve memorable food in relaxed surroundings, far from busy city streets. Yin Yang Coastal is barely a 20-minute drive from Hong Kong Island, but an extended weekday lunch there felt like a mini holiday, such was the sense of escape . It’s one of those places that reminds us of just how Hong Kong can continue to surprise. Following the restaurant’s directions after leaving Tsuen Wan in the western New Territories – it’s not somewhere you’d ever find by accident – we found ourselves in Ting Kau village, walking through laundry-filled alleyways before arriving on a beach. At one end sits a white building surrounded by trees – the home of Yin Yang Coastal. If the Yin Yang name is familiar, you may have eaten in its former Wan Chai location further south. When chef Margaret Xu Yuan opened there in 2008, it won restaurant of the year awards and heralded her arrival as a true proponent of organic, farm-to-table Chinese cuisine, long before it became a trend. In 2015, she chose to relocate to this fishing village , where her cuisine feels even more at home with its surroundings. It’s easy to see why she fell in love with the 1950s building, given its fabulous views, light and sense of place. The arrival of a truly tropical downpour only added to the sense of comfort and cosiness once we were inside the private kitchen, which can accommodate up to 30 diners. The chef worked for years as a creative designer in advertising agencies, but the lure of the kitchen was strong, as was her desire to show what is possible when using almost wholly local produce. Much of it comes from her organic farm in Yuen Long, also in the New Territories, where she grows herbs and other produce. The seasonal tasting menus on offer are her own creation, with all original recipes, ours being the “Survivor Island” – a wry nod to Covid-19 life in Hong Kong . “Treasure Island”, the opening dish, looked at first glance like an artist’s palette, given the explosion of colour. There was a sublime chunk of sweet pumpkin from her farm, dried pumpkin skin, aubergine topped with salmon roe and Hokkaido uni, a home-made oyster sauce and chilli sauce, papaya zabaglione and cubes of watermelon. Amid a procession of truly creative dishes, two stood out. Lobster with sake, lemon leaf “from the garden outside” and lychees from the New Territories sounded a bizarre combination, but worked beautifully. The iced sake water cured the lobster almost like a ceviche and left a delicious, vaguely boozy broth, while the soft lychees provided a perfect sweet counterpoint. The next was the chef’s signature dish of “yellow earth chicken”, which is roasted in a terracotta urn that the chef designed herself. My notes simply read “what chicken used to taste like”, such was the quality of the locally farmed bird and simple preparation that made for fabulous eating. It came with a pungent but balanced sauce of wild ginger, sea salt, curry leaf from her garden and olive oil. Xu Yuan explained that she uses extra virgin olive oil in all her cooking. “The curry leaf came from a tree I smuggled in from Singapore. The sauce almost ferments itself, but it’s the stove and the charcoal that makes the difference to the chicken.” When served atop crunchy rice, the chicken was a memorable dish and indicative of Xu Yuan’s locavore approach. Indeed, this year she was recognised on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants ’ “Essence of Asia” list celebrating “restaurants recognised for preserving culinary traditions honouring authentic flavours and providing a vital link to their communities”. As she explained: “It means a lot because it reflects local culture and culinary traditions – that’s what I try to do.” Out in south Lantau is another beachside village, Tong Fuk, home to The Gallery. The relaxed spot is popular with locals from Lantau Island and visitors alike, drawn to a menu of Mediterranean dishes and high-quality meats cooked on its large terrace barbecue that send fragrant wafts of smoke to lure in diners. Our midafternoon visit came on an overcast Sunday, but there were still diners enjoying drinks and perusing the handwritten chalkboard menus. Owner Dave Power took over the restaurant in 2000, but it has been around in different formats since 1983, when its Chinese name was “The Plentiful Banqueting Gallery”. Power’s straightforward attitude has seen him at times proclaiming himself Hong Kong’s grumpiest landlord, but in truth his team are some of the friendliest service staff you can come across, while the quality of the food is clearly something he is proud of. He first moved to Hong Kong to work in engineering on the construction of Hong Kong International Airport, when The Gallery was then his local watering hole. He grew up partly in the Middle East – his godmother was Lebanese – which might explain the quality of the smoky baba ganoush and other dips, as well as excellent Turkish breads. At our lunch, the breads accompanied plump olives with roasted red peppers and generous slices of chorizo, as well as another starter of tempura calamari rings with a tartare sauce dip. Essentially humble food, but really well executed and based on top-quality ingredients. Our mains were equally good: moules marinières with more of that bread to mop up the sauce, free-range Australian roast chicken with a spicy piri-piri sauce, and impeccable spare ribs – a vast serving atop great fries, with garlic, chilli and lemon. Other favourites on the menu include wood-fired pizzas, home-made burgers and kebabs, and steaks – including some that are dry-aged – that attract diners from far and wide. With an on-site smoker, it’s also worth keeping an eye on the brisket and other barbecue specials, perfect to accompany one of the best beer and cider lists on Lantau Island. On Clear Water Bay Road in the eastern New Territories, Vandana Anand celebrates her Indian and Afghan heritage to great effect at the private kitchen Masala Bay. She takes bookings for a minimum of eight guests, who enjoy dishes from her extensive repertoire. Although rain prevented us from enjoying it, her front garden is usually the spot for aperitifs (it is BYO – bring your own – with no corkage fee) and snacks, but it can also seat diners for dinner. We ate indoors in Anand’s charming dining room and enjoyed irresistible lamb kebab patties, and spinach and onion fritters that she cooks in a chickpea batter. Kadai gosht was a rich and deep lamb curry, slow-cooked with an onion and tomato gravy, while an Afghan dish of borani – aubergines covered with yogurt and decked in fresh herbs – reflected the heritage of Anand’s father. She makes everything fresh from scratch using high-quality ingredients, and rice, poppadom and breads are all included in the menus. Vegetarians don’t miss out at all, with sambhar – tangy yellow lentils from South India – being one of many good choices. To wrap up a lovely evening, Anand’s traditional kulfi ice cream on sticks came in three flavours: mango, rose and malai , with saffron and nuts. They were fragrant and memorable, just like the rest of her food. Yin Yang Coastal, Ting Kau Beach, Lot 117, Ting Kau Village, Tsuen Wan, New Territories, tel: 2866 0868 The Gallery, 28 South Lantau Road, Tong Fuk Village, Lantau Island, tel: 2980 2582 Masala Bay, 29A Hung Uk Village, Clear Water Bay, tel: 9306 3967 Like what you read? Follow SCMP Lifestyle on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram . You can also sign up for our eNewsletter here .