Hong Kong is a city where dining out is something of a national pastime. While foodies in town have resumed trying new restaurants at breakneck speed since the lifting of citywide Covid-19 restrictions, a lot of older favourites are worth a revisit – especially when they’ve taken on a new chef. A newcomer taking the helm at an established restaurant is every bit as exciting as a fresh opening, as the chef brings with them new dishes while popular items usually stay on the menu. As a result, they offer the best of both worlds: the familiar feeling of comfort and something new to be excited about. Several restaurants in town have switched things up in the kitchen, and here’s what we’ve found out about what’s happening on the pass. La Rambla – the return of chef Rafa Gil Catalunya was one of those restaurants that could transport you to the streets of Spain, and chef Gil was the one who conceived the original menu with spherical olives and one of the best paella brunches in town. Gil departed Catalunya in 2015 and, two years later, the restaurant was relocated to a sea-view space in IFC Mall in Central on Hong Kong Island and renamed La Rambla by Catalunya . After more than half a decade away, Gil returns to La Rambla with a renewed verve, reviving the menu with innovative tapas as well as upscale versions of beloved dishes from the original Catalunya. One of these is the legendary truffle bikini – Gil reimagines this crowd-pleaser with the introduction of a new seafood trikini, a luxurious bite of Japanese king crab, tuna and caviar crème fraîche. The popular bomba de la Barceloneta has also returned, now elevated with smoked butter infused mashed potatoes, giving extra depth to these aptly named flavour bombs. Gil has also brought back Catalunya’s pulpo gallego, a rich and savoury combination of octopus, potato foam, torreznos (strips of fried pork belly) and piquillos pepper salsa. A signature at La Rambla is the paella, and the new edition is an example of turning an old favourite into something great. The morcilla and lobster paella “Mar y Montana” is an improvement on the existing scampi and pluma Iberica paella, replacing the prawn with lobster. A spoonful of the paella alone makes La Rambla worthy of a revisit. Chef Victor Caballé Molina at The Optimist Another Spanish revamp is at The Optimist in Wan Chai, which recently welcomed new chef Victor Caballé Molina, for whom you might do a double take and mistake for Stanley Tucci . Passionate and soft-spoken, Molina hails from the small Spanish village of Ulldecona and was brought up in the hospitality trade. His passion for cooking was sparked at a young age while working summers for his family friend’s bakery. He moved to Barcelona to obtain his diploma in culinary arts, learning classic Catalan and Spanish cuisines while working for esteemed local restaurants. Molina brings with him vast experience from around the globe. In the UK, he worked for some of the world’s finest restaurants, including Quo Vadis, under the tutelage of critically acclaimed chef Jean Phillipe Patruno. For six years, the Spanish chef worked in Singapore, taking helm in kitchens at a variety of restaurants and hospitality groups in the Lion City. Molina’s cuisine offers Asian twists on classics and showcases globally minded Spanish cooking at its finest. On the menu are intriguing additions such as the octopus croquetas in Japanese takoyaki style that has a soft and crispy texture. The skate wing with chilli, garlic, fermented beans and house-made romesco sauce also piques our interest. Fans of The Optimist’s grilled meats can rest assured that items like the tomahawk steak remain on the menu. There is also an interesting East-meets-West addition to the dessert selection with original creations by Molina. The churro bao, for example, is a churro in a gua bao (a Chinese steamed bun) and topped with condiments such as condensed milk. Chef Edwin Guzman Navarro brings his flair to Zoku With over a decade of experience at hotel group heavyweights, Peruvian chef Edwin Guzman has now revamped the concept at Japanese restaurant Zoku. Best known for putting MGM Cotai’s Aji in Macau on the 50 Best Discovery list published by UK-based William Reed Business Media, Guzman brings with him extensive culinary experience from stints at Maido in Lima (under the tutelage of chef Mitsuharu Tsumura) as well as Astrid & Gaston, Akipa Restaurant and Restaurante Puesto 33 – all in Preu. A must-try on the menu is the uzuzukuri, a medley of sliced flounder, Nikkei ponzu and tobiko (flying fish roe). This is a great starter to whet your appetite for Japanese Peruvian cuisine. Another addition is the grilled octopus with signature Peruvian purple potato, avocado cream and caviar. If it wasn’t for the name, with a different chef and a refreshed concept, you would think this was almost a brand new restaurant. Chef William Lau impresses with unadulterated raw talent at Whisk Starting his cooking career at the tender age of 16, chef Lau had his humble beginnings at Hong Kong catering establishments. He expanded his horizons by going for a working holiday in Australia where he learned about the country’s agricultural products, diverse food culture and open mind when it comes to culinary practices. The watershed moment in his career came when he returned from Australia, soon after which he was hired by recommendation of chef George Scott-Toft to work at Pierre at Mandarin Oriental. From there, he refined his skills at two-Michelin-starred Amber . At Whisk, Lau has introduced an omakase menu, where vegetarian dishes such as cauliflower and kohlrabi best illustrate his approach. Cauliflower is served puréed on a crispy base with a glass of chilled clarified cauliflower consommé strained from cooking the vegetable with dashi (Japanese soup stock). Kohlrabi, or German turnip, is served with white balsamic sabayon that can be upgraded with an optional serving of Japanese sea urchin. The young chef says he has sustainability on his mind, too. “One of my ultimate goals is to localise all the ingredients without sacrificing the quality of food while reducing the carbon footprint involved,” he says. “Many areas are worth tackling at this stage, while we are focused on raising the overall customer experience.” Chef Cary Docherty brings Canadian flair to Salisterra Salisterra has had a new menu since May 1 thanks to newly arrived executive chef Cary Docherty, from the buzz-worthy but short-lived Gough on Gough’s. Docherty did not waste any time after that as he then took on the role of executive sous-chef at Island Shangri-La hotel in Admirality. Robust dishes such as a cold seafood platter, stracciatella with minted peas and broad beans, bouillabaisse with red mullet, scallops and Gruyère, and seafood linguine in a cream sauce have been added to the menu, which guarantees a new experience at the esteemed restaurant. Time-honoured classics by chef Yip Kar-on at Duddell’s Duddell’s made dim sum hip and new executive chef Yip Kar-on is bringing a fresh and upgraded interpretation of many popular Chinese classics. From his experience at Fook Lam Moon sister restaurant Guo Fu Lou, Yip blends old and new techniques to produce the latest additions to the restaurant’s menu. New à la carte dishes include deep-fried stuffed crab shell with Hokkaido milk. Topped with breadcrumbs then deep-fried, this is a classic Cantonese dish consisting of fresh crabmeat stir-fried with onion, cooked with rich Hokkaido milk and stuffed into a crab shell. Another addition is the Boston lobster, which is stir-fried with a sauce imbued with Mao-tai , a prestigious baijiu – a type of Chinese liquor – known for its strong yet unmistakable aroma. It’s clear that Yip will make Duddell’s known for a lot more than its dim sum.