Feast for the palate: five of the best beachside offerings from the south side to Sai Kung
With our great foodie culture in Hong Kong, a day out to the beach does not mean our palates have to suffer. Our dining choices beachside go beyond fast food and hawker stalls to encompass a range of exciting culinary fare.
From the south side to Sai Kung, we talk to three chefs whose beachside or quayside restaurants offer something different to the usual seafood in the sun.
Two of our favourite starters - guacamole and tostadas - are at Limewood Repulse Bay. Limewood at The Pulse is the perfect beachside eatery. Its double doors and concertina windows open up to the outdoors and diners can look out on to the sea and sand.
The cuisine is an eclectic mix of Southeast Asian, Hawaiian, South American and Caribbean flavours, and they do great cocktails too. The guacamole is so morish, it is worth the ride out.
"It's like an explosion when you eat it," says its creator, executive chef Russell Doctrove. "It's addictive. Most tables will get one, then they usually get another." Doctrove created a twist on the classic guacamole by pairing sea urchin and salmon eggs for a salty component and crispy pork crackling and deep fried shallots for texture.
"It's got a bit of spiciness to it as there are a few chilli flakes and chilli peppers in there too," say Doctrove, who also oversees Fish & Meat.
The tostada was created for the New Year's Eve menu last year and was popular, so they kept it on the menu. "We wanted to do a really decadent tostada so we paired it with more sea urchin, salmon eggs and an heirloom tomato salsa at the bottom for acidity," Doctrove says. "Customers asked us to bring it back, so we kept it as a special for a few weeks, and when we updated the menus we just decided to add it. We listen to our regulars."
Something new and also customer driven is the seafood platter. "We have oysters two ways, a classic way and our Limewood style which is with cured quail egg and a ponzu vinaigrette," says Doctrove, who previously worked in Britain at the famed Waterside Inn in Bray before moving to three-star Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London.
"We have three different bowls as well. One is the salmon tartar, another is grilled tiger prawns and the last is yellowtail rice noodle salad. It was another example of a lot of customers who loved all the different starters we had so we thought of doing a sampling platter to taste a little bit of everything."
In Sai Kung, the seafront seafood restaurants are the usual draw for foodies but taking on the giants is Mike's Chicken Comida de Portugal, which serves dishes from Portugal and some former colonies. Restaurateur and chef Michael Franco offers food his grandmother used to make.
"A portion of the recipes on the menu are from our own home cooking, like our braised oxtail, Portuguese fried rice and slow-cooked pork loin. These are what my grandmother used to cook at home," says Franco, who became a restaurateur and chef after retiring from the marine industry.
"The rest of the menu is made up of recipes from former Portuguese colonies, like Mozambique and Brazil - the casserole, curry and some desserts are from Brazil."
A favourite is piri piri chicken, a dish from Mozambique named after the chilli that grows there which is also known as the African bird's eye chilli.
"There are five types of chillies in the recipe. We grind them down to powder form and mix with olive oil, garlic and seasoning, then we blend it into a sauce for basting the chicken," says Franco, who went to Mozambique as a gemologist, his first job after leaving school.
"We have two to three versions of hotness. Most Europeans who eat this chicken require it to be the hottest or five-chillies hot, but most would go for medium at three-chillies hot and for those who can't take the spice, they will go for one. After you have cooked the sauce, it doesn't smell so strong because we've already cooked the tears out of the chillies - as we are cooking it, we are actually crying.
"The chicken is a normal spring chicken which we debone and then butterfly. Once we do that, we marinate them and chill them ready for serving. We steam the chicken first to allow for the juices to be retained in the meat so when we roast it, it doesn't come out dry."
For starters, the platter of chorizo, chicken florets, bacalhau and calamari are popular pairings with one of the red or white Portuguese wines.
Back in Repulse Bay, The Verandah, which replaced a restaurant that had been part of the old Repulse Bay Hotel in 1986, offers continental fine dining with a dress code, although ties and jackets are no longer required.
Executive chef Franck Studeny has been with the Peninsula Group for 16 years and at The Repulse Bay overseeing Spices and The Verandah for 11 years. "We have lots of regulars, sometimes two, three or four generations. The old Repulse Bay Hotel opened in 1920," says Studeny, who trained in classic French cooking techniques in France before honing his skill in Asian food in Australia.
"I like the open space and the sea," says Studeny, who serves classic recipes with a modern touch. Two French classics are the soufflé and baked Alaska.
"The soufflé and the baked Alaska were on the menu before I came, but I revisited them, so with the baked Alaska, I do not like the Hong Kong-style which uses a flame," says Studeny, referring to the local method of using a torch to brown the meringue. "Instead we bake it so we have this crispy sugar and meringue and it's burnt a bit so you get the colour. In France we just make it in the oven. However, we still flambé with Cognac."
"We just make it [the soufflé] lighter by putting less custard cream inside. It's very fluffy and light and then we pour crème anglais over the top. We have many kinds of flavour of soufflé but the most popular one is the Grand Marnier. A classic."