Happy Valley restaurants offer customers sense of community

Six relaxed dining establishments highlight range of cuisines available in Happy Valley

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 April, 2017, 11:36am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 April, 2017, 11:38am

This newly opened Italian restaurant is helmed by former Robuchon (Taipei) chef Angelo Aglianò. Situated in a quiet cul-de-sac, the narrow restaurant features an open kitchen and a tempting menu of Italian standards that reflect the chef’s Sicilian heritage, plus creative signatures. Start with Mediterranean tuna tartar with eggplant, caviar and gastric sauce Sicily style, or the tagliolini, home-made and served with langoustine, spring onion and tomato confit.

Signatures include Hokkaido sea urchin risotto with fresh wasabi and chives, and baked ricotta with five spices, vegetables and 20-year aged balsamic. To finish, let the chef select a cheese plate from the range of premium aged cow, sheep and goat cheeses.

Another new opening last month, this cosy Japanese restaurant has an exclusive club feel to it, and is where those in the know come for one thing only - the soba noodles. Serving only three broth choices - and a few snacks such as deep fried chicken - the lab-coat, tie-wearing chefs take this humble dish seriously. The broth is rich - sometimes blended for a “cappuccino” effect - with a deep umami taste and aroma, the pork belly and chicken juicy from slow cooking, the soft boiled egg smokey, and the noodles bouncy and texture driven, finished with deep fried strips of spring onion, earthy tendrils that tie it together. It is comforting harmony in a bowl. The restaurant is the first Zagin to open outside of Osaka, where it is a popular noodles specialist with seven restaurants.

A French brasserie, with a quintessential vision of a Parisian cafe reflected in the interiors of two-toned “wicker” chairs, faux marble table tops, and art nouveau posters adorning the walls. The room’s division gives it character and there are a few options outside for a drink and a snack (terrine, quiche). The menu consists mostly of French cuisine, including Burgundy snails and sole meuniere, although there is also pasta and risotto. The set lunch provides good value, beginning with a soup or salad. The Caesar salad is punchy on the anchovies, which works well with the bread, served warm. The popular choice of the day, the Bavette steak, came perfectly seasoned and executed, the tender meat complemented by a soft onion sauce and served with potato gratin.

The global French bakery and cafe/restaurant group has four branches in Hong Kong, including the bustling Happy Valley outlet. The cafe, with bijou alfresco area, is at the back of the shop. The menu is extensive, including quiche, salads, soups, fougasse, croque, sandwiches - traditional, signature and club sections - and desserts, cookies, financier, cake, tarts, eclairs. There are also combo sets, such as sandwich, dessert and coffee - perfect for a light lunch. Try the classic Le Monge sandwich featuring Emmental cheese and ham, served on monge bread, a Kayser signature, with a crisp crust, soft centre, chewy texture and lingering taste. The raspberry, passion fruit and pistachio cream tart is outstanding.

This Vietnamese restaurant has been around for a while, and parts of the interior are showing their age. However, diners come for the food not the interiors; the black and white photos on the walls are interesting. The menu features a comprehensive overview of the cuisine so deciding which tempting dish to have can take time. For starters, the deep-fried spring rolls with pork, shrimp and mushroom are substantial wrapped in lettuce leaves for fresh contrast. Interesting options are the salt and pepper crispy eggplant, and the barbecued Vietnamese five-spice Cornish game hens. Pho is good here, with choices of beef, Asian salami or chicken – a complex broth, generous noodles, bean sprouts, lemon grass, spring onion, fried shallots and a restrained sprinkling of herbs.

Opening late last year, this butcher/deli/produce store, has an alter ego, a casual dining space with a small alfresco area. Not obvious from the street, it gives the restaurant a hidden gem feeling, and its all-day dining attracts everyone from coffee mums to beefy meat eaters. While the sourdough toast or bagel with a choice of toppings (including two-eggs your way, avocado, feta, lemon, smoked salmon with cream cheese and capers) or a salad are both good options, the focus here is on meat. House-aged, grass-fed beef, New Zealand lamb, free-range pork, organic chicken - high-end meat. Cooked simply to let the produce shine, often served with hand-cut fries, salad and sauce, enjoyed with a craft beer or wine.

Part of the Castelo Concepts group, this bar and grill, which opened last year, reflects the brand’s relaxed eateries that feature Western and Asian classics. It has a trendy interior and charming outdoor area, as well as streetside people-watching. There are tempting starters such as Peking duck rolls, pork belly lollipops, Thai prawn cakes and Vietnamese rice paper rolls.

For something substantial, there is the Rosedale burger, Grilled barramundi with double-cream mash, mussels, asparagus and a lemon caper sauce, or the big boy barbecue spare ribs, with fat chips and American slaw. Sweet tooths can opt for the chocolate chip cookie skillet - a skillet of piping hot cookie topped with caramel sauce and ice cream.