The same old restaurants keep opening over and over again in Hong Kong. Give me something new
- Does Hong Kong really need so many modern Cantonese, ‘authentic’ Italian or organic healthy vegan concepts, or can we go for something a little different?
- It’s not easy brainstorming new ideas, but here are some for free: Caribbean, proper Mexican, and fine-dining Filipino cuisine
Why does it feel like the more new restaurants that open, the fewer places I want to eat at? Launches happen every week in Hong Kong, but lately it’s like déjà vu with the same formulas over and over again.
Like Hollywood movies, there are a lot of remakes and reboots. Do we really need more modern Cantonese, “authentic” Italian, or organic healthy vegan concepts? Or am I just jaded and tired of newly sprouted and highly touted establishments that disappoint?
More significantly, do we really crave these cuisines? Sure, an executive chef’s creativity is a major factor, but to extend the Hollywood metaphor, not every cook is a Scorsese or Tarantino. Most new eateries are more like Fast And Furious sequels – flashy, predictable, promising more than they deliver. You also leave thinking: “Wow, so much was spent on so little substance.”
New doesn’t always mean novel. Hong Kong has a wonderfully diverse restaurant scene, but it can always be better. It’s not easy brainstorming new ideas, but if I was a restaurateur, here are some under-represented cuisines I would happily dish for dinner.
1. Caribbean food
Not just Jamaican jerk chicken and ackee and saltfish, although it would be nice if someone opened such a takeaway in Chungking Mansions. Previous places that offered jerk dishes always made it too sweet and not spicy enough, like a barbecue sauce infused with wimpy peppers.
Something more authentic would befit “Asia’s World City”. Other foods from “the islands” with great appeal include Bahamas conch ceviche, Puerto Rican mofongo (saucy mashed plantain served with pork), callaloo and various mouth-watering Indian-inspired curries, stews and roti wraps. Oh, and how about a good Jamaican patty?
2. Mexican (not Tex-Mex)
Operators tend to think Hongkongers don’t like Mexican food. That’s because most places actually serve Tex-Mex: burritos and enchiladas heavy with beef, cheese, refried beans, along with other gringo inventions like chili con carne.
3. Casual Scandinavian
In addition to hearty open-faced sandwiches – topped with cheese, smoked salmon, pickled mackerel, eggs, pate or chicken salad – on healthy rye knäckebröd, you can enjoy beet soup, elk and reindeer meat for more rib-sticking meals. In Sweden, there are also restaurants that only serve meatballs with gravy and mash.
4. North American game
Make America great again by returning to its frontier heritage foods. Instead of another rote steakhouse, someone should open a log cabin to present North American wild meat.
Plus, I know people who would love a restaurant that offers turkey all year round.