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HK Magazine Archive

World Wide Edibles: 6 Restaurants Bringing Authentic Tastes to Hong Kong

The best way to learn about another culture? Through their food, of course. Tammy Ha meets six restaurateurs bringing a taste of authenticity to the SAR. 
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 September, 2015, 4:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 4:50pm

Middle Eastern

It’s easy to confuse Middle Eastern food with Turkish food, what with their similar focus on grills and flavorful spices. But Joseph Trambley, the Egyptian chef and owner of El Fishawy, insists they’re different. How different? “It’s just different!” He says. “It’s very hard to pinpoint, but it is!” Looks like you’re going to have to go see for yourself. Joseph has set out to educate the public about the Middle Eastern style of dining with his restaurant. Unable to find a suitable chef to create the authentic flavor he wanted to bring to Hong Kong, Joseph spends most of his time in the kitchen, while his wife Nina mans the bar. They recommend the halloumi cheese salad, mazza (tomatoes, cheese, hummus and other spices with falafel and pita bread) and of course, the grilled meat platter. Top it off with a bottle of Lebanese wine—and perhaps some bubbling shisha to wrap up your Persian meal.
123-125 Third St., Sai Ying Pun, 5921-8796.

Taiwanese

Most Hongkongers are pretty familiar with Taiwanese cuisine but it doesn’t stop us from craving it. Get your fix at Madam’s Kitchen, opened by Mary Lam in memory of her Taiwanese mother, whose family runs a food stall in Taipei. Mary and her chef spent three weeks in Taiwan learning her aunt’s home-cooked recipes, and then seven more months perfecting the taste before opening the restaurant. Order traditional braised pork rice, beef noodles, pan-fried oyster omelet, deep fried salt chicken, and many more signature Taiwanese flavors. But there’s one thing Lam has adapted for the tastes of Hong Kong: her bubble tea. “Hong Kongers are very specific with and proud of their milk tea,” says Lam. And rightly so…
100 Lai Chi Kok Rd., Prince Edward, 2330-3330.

Turkish

Most of us are no stranger to a quick Turkish kebabs at the end of a long night—but often they seem like the only dishes we’re familiar with. Fatih Baydar, owner and chef at Mong Kok’s Our Restaurant, says there’s much more to the Turkish cuisine than that. So much, in fact, that Baydar complains he can’t fit it all on the menu of his decade-old restaurant. But there’s already enough to be getting on with in the exotic spices and onion-filled flavors of the country. Other than their signature assortment of donor rolls, give lesser-known dishes like menemen (Turkish-style scrambled eggs with tomatoes and other spices), lahmacun (Turkish pizza) and yoghurt-drizzled chicken sausage a try. Round off the meal with a cup of Turkish red tea or coffee. 
Shop 9, G/F, Witty Commerical Building,1A-1J Tung Choi St., Mong Kok, 2781-0583.

Vietnamese

While it’s not hard to find a Vietnamese restaurant in Hong Kong which proclaims it’s authentic, most times you’ll just end up with a fish sauce-filled bowl of Chinese noodle soup. Hong Nguyen and Eric Dao of Soo Viet were so frustrated with being unable to find a bowl of “real pho” in the city to state their hangover cravings that they decided to start their own Vietnamese restaurant. The friendly neighborhood joint offers staples such as beef pho and pork chop vermicelli, and crowd favorites like spring rolls, squid cakes and Vietnamese crepes—all at affordable prices (a lunch set is just $33). A final tip: Those who really know their Vietnamese cuisine and have a specific dish in mind can order off-menu.
247 Des Voeux Rd. West, Sai Ying Pun, 2858-1855.

Spanish

Taverna del Mar—“tavern by the sea”— is a Spanish gem tucked away in Quarry Bay. Apart from popular tapas such as ham croquetas or tortilla and frittatas, as the name suggests this cozy, laid-back Spanish restaurant also offers affordable Mediterranean dishes, such as classic seafood paella or tiger prawn cannelloni. It’s a nod to the Catalan heritage of the Barcelonan owner and chef, Domenec Lopez, who opened the restaurant with his wife Kim three years ago. A culinary teacher back home, Domenec prepares all his sauces from scratch, which is one of the most important elements of a good paella. All of which means the siesta break the restaurant generally takes at 3:30pm is a well-deserved rest before all the food fiesta starts again two hours later… 
Shop 1A, G/F, Hon Way Mansion, 11 Hoi Kwong St., Quarry Bay, 2813-6355.

French

Wine, black-and white-movie screenings, dim lighting and an enthusiastic pair of Parisians: Does it get any more French than this? Anthony Rost and Stephanie Suor are always around to introduce each course as it’s served fresh out of the open-kitchen at La Grande Bouffe. You won’t be finding escargots and oysters in this casual French resto, because “that’s not what we eat every single day in France,” explains Anthony. Instead, you’ll be finding more quotidian favorites such as minced beef patty, beef tartare and duck leg confit. Wash it all down with a glass of wine. Santé!  
LG/F, 66 Hollywood Rd., Central, 2324-1408.