Hong Kong’s dining scene is as hot as ever – government statistics say we spent HK$29.7 billion at restaurants last year, which is an increase of 6.6 per cent from 2016. That said, it will not surprise the city’s serious foodies that long waiting lists at Hong Kong’s newest and hottest eateries abound – and we confirm that the food and experience are worth the wait at our three chosen ones.
Want to know Hong Kong’s hottest tables right now? We spill the beans – or rather the Beluga – on the most-talked-about but hardest-to-book tables in town.
Chef Umberto Bombana’s latest Italian restaurant, Octavium – he describes it as a boutique private dining concept – opened under a veil of secrecy last summer. With no website or telephone number in which to reserve a spot at the eight-table eatery, diners-in-the-know only had an email address to contact the restaurant. That said, Octavium has been fully booked since its opening.
The chef of three Michelin-starred 8 ½ Otto e mezzo Bombana likes to experiment in creating new dishes here, calling it his “laboratory” and describing the dishes as food that he loves and would cook for himself and his family. Such dishes include fettuccini with Sicilian red prawn and chanterelle mushrooms, Hokkaido squid with bean, potato and celeriac, and for dessert, Grand Cru chocolate soufflé. If we have piqued your curiosity, there is some good news – Octavium will be open for lunch from March 1, offering a set with choices of starters and pasta, with optional dessert.
WHERE: 8/F. One Chinachem Central, 22 Des Voeux Road Central
OPEN: Mon-Fri from March 1, noon-3pm; Mon-Sat 6.30-11pm
This small open-front restaurant/wine bar on St Francis Street, in the “Star Street” vicinity of Wan Chai, offers Tel Aviv street food and interesting boutique wines from Lebanon, South Africa, Italy and France.
Quietly opened last month by James Ward, previously with The Ocean and Aqua Restaurant Group, chef Asher Goldstein and sommelier Simone Sammuri, foodies-in-the-know have made the place so popular that there is a lengthy waiting list each night. The restaurant adopts a first-come, first-served approach. If the tables are full, diners are put on the list and called as soon as one becomes available.
It is worth the wait. The food is delicious. We tried the baked halloumi with pomegranate molasses and wild oregano and burnt eggplant with pepper, chilli and yogurt for starters. That was followed by kafta spring lamb with beef, onions and tahini and the veggie dishes of smoked carrots with almond and spiced honey and cauliflower smothered in yogurt and tarragon. Other mains we wanted to try but were too full to were snapper with leeks, pistachio and Persian lemon and wagyu skirt with Jerusalem artichoke. These were some of the best dishes from that region I have tasted in Hong Kong. Francis is well worth a visit and well worth the wait.
WHERE: 4-6 St Francis Street, Wan Chai. Tel: 3101 9521
OPEN: Tues-Sun noon-11pm
Another veiled opening last autumn was chef Uwe Opocensky’s self-named Restaurant Uwe, located on the far reaches of Hollywood Road. With no publicity needed, this 20- seater restaurant offering seasonal fare has had a three-week waiting list since opening its doors. It’s easy to join the waiting list via their website.
Fans of chef Uwe’s cuisine at the Mandarin Oriental’s Mandarin Grill + Bar and Krug Room will not be disappointed. His signature seaside starter – where the table becomes a reconstructed seabed filled with seaside delights such as scallop, oyster and salmon, with breadsticks camouflaged over driftwood and shellfish balancing on top of coral – is a dramatic opening. The dinner set menu changes seasonally.
We enjoyed dishes from the six-course menu such as sea bass with caviar and clam sauce, and lamb dry-aged for two weeks and slow roasted for nine hours, and a dessert of grilled strawberries with Sichuan pepper. Service was attentive and wine pairing is available. We predict this to be a hotspot for quite some time.
WHERE: 252 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan. Tel: 2546 8665
OPEN: Tue-Sat 7-10pm