5 new Hong Kong restaurants reviewed: from high-end Italian Estro and omakase at The Peninsula’s Kushiro, to classic Cantonese dining at the rejuvenated Yung Kee
We’ve been busy checking out the latest crop of new and revamped restaurants to keep our readers alerted to the town’s latest dining adventures. We checked out the new addition to the JIA Group family – Estro; the newly refurbished and revamped Yung Kee; Bacchus, with its 800-label wine list; Kushiro in The Peninsula hotel and the latest spicy Sichuan addition to Times Square, Chuan.
2/F, 1 Duddell Street, Central
To say the people of Hong Kong have a love affair with Italian food would be an understatement. From the localised version of baked spaghetti to Otto e Mezzo Bombana, the only three-Michelin-starred Italian restaurant outside Italy, it seems the love of pasta has permeated all levels of Hong Kong society.
By that token, it was hard to get excited about another Italian restaurant opening … until Estro. It could be the pedigree of being a JIA Group restaurant, the group in charge of Duddell’s and creative concepts like Ando and Mono. On the other hand, there is chef Antimo Maria Merone, a steadfast favourite among those who were fans of Michelin-starred L’Altro, helming the kitchen. The stars seem to have aligned for something exciting, and we weren’t disappointed.
For our hosted dinner, we sampled the eight-course set menu (HK$1,880). Highlights included the red prawn, coral pannacotta, lemon and Kristal caviar. Served in a ramekin-size bowl, the multilayered starter begins with a red prawn pannacotta at the bottom, then red prawn tartare dressed in Amalfi lemon and topped with a thick layer of caviar. The result is an umami delight. Elsewhere, the pastas were absolutely superb, where the ink gnocchi was combined with contrasting textures of cuttlefish and peas. We’re still dreaming about the comforting sweet onion flavours of Mafalde pasta Genovese.
The pigeon is a performance on a plate with the bird wrapped in fig leaves and cooked in clay, and the chef opens it table-side. Needless to say, the succulent texture and smoky flavours were near perfection. There is nothing to fault about Estro except that word of mouth is travelling so fast that the next table might be available only in 2022. But what can you do? We all love a fantastic Italian meal.
Shop BW1, BW3 & BW5, B1/F The Peninsula, Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
One just can’t help associate The Peninsula hotel with images of refinement and decadence. It’s fitting then that opening in the basement of the esteemed institution is Kushiro, where the level of detail in the decor is quite exquisite.
Designed by Kenwin Chan, the concept combines Japanese shikki or lacquer art elements with phases of the moon that exude a tranquil vibe despite the location in the basement.
We were treated to a multi-course omakase dinner menu (HK$1,980) and every dish was as aesthetically pleasing as the surrounds. Among the many dishes, our favourites included the signature appetiser spot prawn cake, where the shellfish was chopped into a carpaccio and the rock salt seasoning teased the sweet notes. Plated with edible flowers, the presentation was as beautiful as a Jackson Pollock painting.
Next up was the abalone with abalone liver sauce, made after eight hours of steaming and seasoning. The texture is one of the best we’ve had, and the sauce with its livery and almost smoky flavour made all the difference.
We also loved the sea urchin and Matsuba crab jelly, topped with golden caviar. This is an umami bomb of flavours. The star of the evening though, was the grilled tilefish with herbs and green pepper sauce. The scales of tilefish are famously fried to edible crispiness, while the pepper sauce packed a punch which many purist chefs shy away from and was a delight on the palate.
While we were served with many varieties of sushi, the most memorable by flavour and presentation was the saba maki. The crunchy nori with the perfectly cured fish is a combination we love. There are many fantastic omakase options in town and Kushiro is another one to add to the list.
Shop 1102, Food Forum, 11/F, Time Square, 1 Matheson Street, Causeway Bay
Spicy and aromatic, Sichuan food is one of the most popular regional cuisines in Hong Kong. Opening in the high-rise Food Forum in Times Square is Chuan, where the kitchens are helmed by chefs Lee Chi-kwong and Leung Yip-yuen, two Sichuan cuisine masters who formerly worked at San Xi Lou and Golden Valley.
What we liked is that not only classic dishes such as prawns with pepper in casserole (HK$468) and Sichuan-style stewed fish (HK$438) are on the menu, but spicy twists on dim sum are on offer, too.
For our hosted meal, we started with spicy crispy bun stuffed with roasted goose (HK$68). The unassuming dim sum apparently was painstakingly made by stuffing goose, onion and mushroom in dough, which is then steamed. After steaming, the thin outer layer is removed by hand, then deep-fried and dusted with Sichuan spices. We felt bad for wolfing the crispy, spicy bun so quickly but it was that delicious. We also enjoyed the steamed rice rolls with beef in spicy sauce (HK$68) that sits atop Chuan’s secret hot oil sauce; the traditional dim sum transcends to an exotic dish here.
The classic Sichuan dishes, not surprisingly, were done extremely well. The sautéed diced chicken with spicy red chilli (HK$318) was crisp and fragrant with a medley of Habanero chilli, round chilli, cumin, red peppercorn and green peppercorn. The Sichuan-style stewed fish (HK$438), made with quality oil so that it does not stick or hang on the lips, is also top-notch. We loved not only the smooth texture of the fish but also the sides of cucumber, pig’s blood and thick potato noodles that absorbed the fragrant stew.
Chaun, with its classic and modern twists, is the new hotspot for spice fans.
3/F, Hollywood Centre, 233 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan
In Hong Kong, there really aren’t many wine bars with a food menu to match what’s on offer in the cellar. Here to join the foray of our diverse dining scene is Bacchus, where the wine list impressively consists of over 800 labels. The man behind the wine is Hervé Pennequin, whose equally impressive list of accolades includes placing third at ASI’s Best Sommelier of the World awards in 2004.
We started our meal with opera duck foie gras (HK$188) that is beautifully plated with layers of foie gras, joconde sesame biscuit and house-made red wine jelly, served with a side of fig chutney. While the sesame wasn’t a prominent flavour, the fig chutney and wine jelly balanced the richness of the dish well. We also loved our Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc, slightly dry in texture with an aromatic fruity palate that paired well with the foie gras.
Next up, the Japanese sea urchin and black Angus beef sirloin rolls (HK$238). Shiso leaf and pickled shimeji mushrooms are wrapped in slices of beef, topped with sea urchin, with a side of wasabi. The shiso, wasabi and sea urchin create a medley of refreshing flavours to complement the beef, a fitting marriage of East and West.
For mains, we opted for Apicius duck Magret “revisited” (HK$688), which is a tribute to the originator of food and wine pairings, the late chef Alain Senderens. The duck breasts were extremely tender, and we loved the sides of orange zest and cinnamon marinated white turnips, and sautéed daikoku mushrooms. For dessert, we enjoyed the sautéed quetsch flambés (HK$118) which is cognac-flambeed plums with mint and honey. Discerning oenophiles have a new hang.
32-40 Wellington Street, Central
After years of refurbishment the city’s most iconic roast meat institution reopens its doors to the welcoming mouths of diners around town. Judging by the surroundings, the time off was worth the wait. We particularly liked the first floor design, with silk screen panelling of pink and green seemingly inspired by the city’s 60s heyday celebrated in Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love. If you pay attention to the walls, old adverts and images commemorate the history of the building and the institution, a reminder of the transformation the restaurant has gone through over the decades.
We kicked off the meal with smoked premium pork belly with pine nut (HK$450). We loved the smoky flavour and the amazing texture of the pork belly that had a balanced distribution between meat and fat. Next, we opt for roasted pigeon legs and stir-fried pigeon fillet (HK$380). The stir-fried meat was fashioned inside a nest of crunchy noodles and we also liked the crunchy skin on roasted thighs. We only wished there was more.
One of the more contemporary dishes on the new menu is sea cucumber stuffed with diced grouper, salted fish and minced pork (HK$320). Eaten like a steak with a knife and fork, it provided a new way to sample sea cucumber and we liked the medley of premium ingredients with varying textures.
A super luxurious version of a Hong Kong favourite is crispy toast with mixed shrimp and lobster tail (HK$200) The sight of the lobster tail on a toast base makes it an immediate crowd pleaser. A hint of new mixed with a huge dose of nostalgia, the revamped Yung Kee is back with a bang.
- Beloved roast meat institution Yung Kee is finally back after a long renovation, with a fresh vibe recalling the 60s heyday of Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love
- Times Square gains the Sichuan stylings of Chuan while Bacchus pairs an 800-bottle wine cellar with stellar East-meets-West nosh