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HK Magazine Archive

Hong Kong's 10 Best Restaurants of 2015

From well-respected chefs venturing out on their own to relative newcomers making a big splash on the scene, this has been a groundbreaking year for restaurant openings.

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 January, 2016, 3:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 4:54pm

Saam
Why it's the best: While the age of molecular gastronomy might have come and gone, there’ll always be a time and place for science experiments with food. The kitchen lab that is Saam reflects influences from all over the world (hence the name, which means “together” in Afrikaans): Chef Patrick Dang plays with, deconstructs and reconstructs his food, serving up foie gras “candy” enveloped in white chocolate and liquid cherry gastrique, and “Gangnam-style” tartare mixed with pear kimchi and shiso. It’s all a bit crazy and kooky, but it works.

The Ocean
Why it's the best: Le Comptoir group continues its hot streak of churning out hip, stylish dining destinations, and we can’t help but be drawn in hook, line and sinker. Boasting stunning azure-washed décor and panoramic sea views, The Ocean is a study in dining with the senses, with tranquil atmosphere, exquisite tableware and artful plating working in harmony to create memorable feasts. We’re not saying it’s the best Japanese or seafood in town, but executive chef Agustin Balbi and sushi chef Yukio Kimijima (formerly of Sushi Ta-ke) have done an excellent job of illustrating the marriage of art and food that Le Comptoir is known for, making this destination worth the splurge.

The Optimist
Why it's the best: This Spanish steak and seafood house brought the bold flavors of the Basque country to Wan Chai this year, and we’ve lapped up every last morsel. Serving rustically grilled meats and seafood over a charcoal asador grill, the three-story Barcelona-chic restaurant and bar is a welcome change in a Spanish scene dominated by tapas and paellas. Founders Manuel Palacio and Christian Talpo have hit the nail on the head twice now—first with Italian comfort food haven Pirata, and now with The Optimist—and we can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Ore-no Kappou
Why it's the best: Billed as Michelin for the masses, Ore-no Kappou lets you cheat a bit at dining in a fancy location, on fancy dishes, and with fancy company, at a fraction of the price. This Japanese import brings over a handful of two-Michelin-starred dishes from the original Ginza Okamoto in Japan, including sliced abalone with Japanese cucumber, grilled Kagoshima pork loin with miso, and our favorite, a moist miso-marinated grilled cod. With standing-room-only at a third of the tables, and speedy service, Ore-no is able to keep prices fairly reasonable—although you could also easily splurge here if you opt for the full two-star treatment. 

Ta Vie
Why it's the best: Previously chef de cuisine at Ryugin, chef Hideaki Sato brings his painstaking attention to detail and passion for his craft to Ta Vie, a restaurant that blends his classical French training with the Japanese ingredients he’s built his name on. With an eight-course degustation available at $1,880 a head, dinner here is a pricey treat, but it’s worth it from start to finish. Ingenious techniques combined with subtle flavorings and fresh, seasonal treats take you on a culinary journey—just make sure you’re strapped in for the ride.

On Dining Kitchen + Lounge
Why it's the best: Hot on the heels of his success at Upper Modern Bistro, Chef Philippe Orrico grabbed the attention of the Michelin man again with this sophisticated new venture. The appointment of the coveted star last month confirmed what we already knew—that chef Orrico can create that wow factor in the kitchen, marrying classic flavors in exciting combinations that are familiar yet new all at once. Don’t miss the amped-up beef and tuna tartare, or the flawless 63-degree egg with frog legs and pearl barley in a comté emulsion.

La Paloma
Why it's the best: We weren’t sure what to expect from chef Willy Trullas Moreno’s more casual, pigeon-bespattered successor to FoFo, but we were charmed right off the bat by the twinkling fairy lights and colorful setting that makes you want to stay the night for a glass of sangria or three. The menu may not break any new boundaries—one of the tastiest items is a variation on the original “explosive” smoked salmon bags at FoFo—but it’s consistently tasty, from the Valencian paella to the huevos rotos broken eggs which are some of the best we’ve had in Hong Kong.

Tycoon Tann 
Why it's the best: In a town dominated by fantastic, dirt-cheap Chinese food on every street corner, is it even worth shelling out more than $100 for char siu and fried rice? Yes, when it comes to Tycoon Tann, the trendy contemporary Chinese restaurant-bar that’s nailed a winning combination of classic and cool. Covering three stories of prime real estate space on Wellington Street, Tycoon Tann does avant-garde fine dining with a classical Chinese foundation, plating up char siu made with Hungarian Mangalica hog, crispy salted chicken and crunchy fried rice with abalone, shrimp and conpoy. Don’t leave without trying the refreshing Chinese-inspired cocktails from the ground floor Mod Bar.

El Mercado
Why it's the best: In an increasingly saturated restaurant scene, a new cuisine is likely to pique our interests right away. Luckily, El Mercado deserves the attention it’s received as Hong Kong’s first Nikkei restaurant, serving Japanese-Peruvian fusion (who knew?). From seared beef nigiri with banana-flavored rice to the ceviche with ohnibe fish and sweet potato, the interplay of textures and combinations here is addictive. The dish that really made our eyes pop? A plump Japanese oyster with lime and squid ink foam, with a tart house-blend of leche de tigre ceviche marinade poured over just before serving.

Vea
Why it's the best: What happens when you bring together one of Hong Kong’s best chefs (Vicky Cheng from Liberty Private Works) and most renowned mixologists (Antonio Lai from Quinary)? A groundbreaking concept bringing something new and daring to the restaurant scene: Cocktail pairings that feature ingredients working just as well on the plate as they do in a glass, making for a seamless experience. An open show kitchen lets you ogle over an army of trained chefs meticulously plating your food, from tuna belly with burnt cucumber jelly to sous-vide pigeon with smoked eel, pigeon blood and cabbage. Occupying the top two floors of The Wellington, Vea serves up only one tasting menu at a time, and serves it well.

A version of this article appears in the December 11, 2015 issue of HK Magazine as Top Tables 2015.