Given the state of the global economy this year, you’d think that the first half of 2009 would have been a quiet one for our dining scene. But no, it seems that new restaurants are opening as fast as ever, and many of them are setting themselves apart from the competition by offering quality food at good value for money. Of all the restaurants we’ve reviewed in the first half of 2009, a few have truly stood out in our minds for their excellent food, service and value. Here are some of our favorite four-star eateries. Green Mouse Just one street away from the main SoHo strip, Green Mouse sets itself apart from the fancy restaurants by offering five-star French cuisine at three-star chain restaurant prices. Its standout deal is the excellent, reasonably-priced five-course tasting menu for $500. 33 Peel St., Central, 2544-0389 Sushi U An excellent sushi restaurant all the way from... Seoul? You betcha. Awesome sushi chef Toshio Matsudo (from Dokoro Matsudo in Tsim Sha Tsui) is the mastermind behind this restaurant, creating excellent sushi with a presentation so delicate that you feel bad for tucking in. Always opt for the omakase (chef’s menu) to enjoy the day’s best dishes. 3/F, Century Square, 1-13 D’Aguilar St., Central, 2537-9393 Honjin Though its Sai Ying Pun location is a little unlikely, Honjin surprises us with its uber-fresh fish and very good robatayaki dishes. This restaurant is also surprisingly spacious and stylish too, and if you squint, you could almost imagine yourself in a bustling Tokyo restaurant. Almost. Unit 2-3, Imperial Terrace, 356 Queen’s Rd. West, Sai Ying Pun, 2540-0880 Divo Wine and Dining A cute little private kitchen that is so gorgeously designed that you’ll think you’ve stepped into a plush palace of kitsch. This place serves a cute menu with interesting items like the “mushroom cigar” (a spring roll filled with 15 kinds of mushrooms). Admittedly, it’s slightly more expensive than most places in Causeway Bay, but having a meal here is an experience in itself. 16-17/F, L’Hart, 487 Lockhart Rd., Causeway Bay, 2836-6100 Sodeyama Kosyu in Jardine Center is a great place for authentic Japanese cuisine, but most people only visit through word of mouth. It’s not a great business plan, so chef and owner Fujio Sodeyama has stepped out of the shadows and into the spotlight with a brand new restaurant for the masses. It serves top-notch nigiri sushi and impressive teppanyaki— not cheap but it’s well worth the price. 18/F, Henry House, 42 Yun Ping Rd., Causeway Bay, \t2890-2913 Marouche Grill We couldn’t have asked for more from this new restaurant. Marouche Grill is conveniently located just off Hollywood Road. It has excellent service; the décor is cozy; and it serves damn good Middle Eastern food. We love the baba ghanouj (grilled aubergine, ground and blended with olive oil and lemon juice) and the traditional Lebanese dessert of baklawa, a selection of small, sweet pastries. 31 Elgin St., Central, 2524-4123 Osteria Osteria Ristorante had been getting its fair share of buzz even before it opened. This new Italian restaurant at Holiday Inn has Michelin two-star chef Michele Camolei running the kitchen, creating excellent and authentic dishes that have Italian expats flocking there nightly. We love its no-frills Italian dishes, including delectable pastas and salads, but our favorite was the green spaghetti dish with monkfish, a generous serving of perfectly al dente pasta with a fillet of the rich, meaty fish. Holiday Inn Golden Mile, 50 Nathan Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, 2315-1010 Red SoHo To be frank we didn’t have high hopes for the new Red restaurant. It’s been years since Pure Group opened the original RED at IFC, and located by the gym entrance, we expected little more than protein shakes and boxed salads with dressing on the side. But boy, were we surprised. Red SoHo serves hearty, modern New York fare in such generous portions it makes you almost want to sign up for that spinning class. 2/F, Kinwick Center, 32 Hollywood Rd., Central, 8199-8189 Amici Amici is a rare find in many ways—the original is located just off Jaffe Road in Wan Chai, an unlikely place for such a good Italian and Thai restaurant. They’ve opened up a new branch in Langham Place mall, and it has something most MK restaurants lack—namely attentive and friendly service, a spacious interior, and most importantly, kick-ass pizza and huge servings of heartfelt dishes. It’s hardly fine dining, but it’s the best Western food you’ll find in Mong Kok. Shop L13-05, Langham Place, 8 Argyle St., Mong Kok, \t2148-1009 Coming soon... Dorothy So gets a sneak preview of the restaurants still yet to open this year. Come hell or high water, nothing is going to stop restaurateurs from opening new establishments this year. Here are the ones to keep your eye on. Several of them are located in The Mira, which “officially” opens this week (September 17), though it has been open for pretty much the entire year. Three brand new bars and restaurants will be opening there on the 17th, making the hotel the new hotspot for TST fine dining. WHISK at the Mira With award-winning French cuisine specialist Justin Quek onboard as consultant chef, and a beautifully designed dining space, WHISK has all the makings of the hottest new restaurant in town. The monochrome palette and elegant furnishings give the space a sleek and modern vibe, providing the perfect backdrop for chef Quek’s innovative dishes. WHISK pairs the finest and freshest ingredients with exquisite culinary craftsmanship, and the result is dish after dish of stellar, modern European fare. The signature tagliatelle with sautéed Maine lobster and the roasted suckling pig with red wine are both out of this world. Coupled with the restaurant’s selection of fine European wines, this is the place to visit for a fine-dining experience you won’t soon forget. Cuisine Cuisine at the Mira IFC’s Michelin-recommended Cuisine Cuisine finally expands into Kowloon side. Bathed in dark woods and rich emerald greens, with a ceiling of sparkling hanging glass lights, Cuisine Cuisine at the Mira has a slightly more modern vibe than its Island-side sister restaurant, but the food is still the same expertly-crafted, contemporary Cantonese fare. There’s also a super-stylish bar right by the main dining room. Hang around for pre- or post-dinner drinks while the many bottles of carefully selected fine wines shine like jewels in the impressive wine cabinet behind the modern bar. Vibes at the Mira Enjoy the great outdoors at The Mira’s new rooftop garden lounge. Situated far above the busy Tsim Sha Tsui streets, the stunning alfresco venue is the perfect spot for a relaxing drink and bite. Comfy cushioned sofas and individual canopied booths are set about this lush, open-air environment, which is decorated with plant-covered walls and artfully-trimmed trees. Vibes also makes for a great party venue, complete with DJs dropping by during the weekends. 118 Nathan Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, 2368-1111. The French Window Keep your ears perked—Mr. Quek’s also signed on to oversee The Miramar Group’s new restaurant in IFC. Replacing Lumiere, The French Window is set to open in late 2009, serving Chef Quek’s speciality—classic French cuisine. Shop 3101, IFC Mall, 8 Finance St., Central, 2393-3812. Bistecca This newly opened restaurant by Dining Concepts in Lan Kwai is an Italian steakhouse. They claim it’s the city’s first, serving prime meat in a venue designed to look like an old-fashioned butcher shop (hopefully minus the bloody cuts dangling off hooks). It follows the tradition of a rustic steakhouse in Northern Italy, with an open kitchen and a wood fire. 2/F, Grand Progress Building, 15-16 Lan Kwai Fong, Central, 2525-1308.