World ? Asia ? China ? Hong Kong

Hong Kong: Restaurants

Dining is one of the things to do in Hong Kong. Half the population dines in the city's 11,000 eateries every day. Not only is the food excellent, but the range of culinary possibilities is nothing short of staggering. Hong Kong also has what may well be the greatest concentration of Chinese restaurants in the world. In a few short days, you can take a culinary tour of virtually every major region of China, dining on Cantonese, Sichuan, Shanghainese, Pekingese, Chiu Chow, and other Chinese specialties. Some restaurants are huge, bustling, family affairs, countless others are mere holes in the wall, and a few of the trendiest are Shanghai chic, remakes of 1930s salons and opium dens or strikingly modern affairs with sweeping views of the city.

But dining in the SAR is by no means limited to Chinese restaurants. Although various national cuisines have long been popular, particularly French, Italian, Thai, and Indian, ethnic restaurants have literally exploded onto the culinary scene in the past couple decades, offering even greater diversity from tapas and tacos to sushi. Japanese food is especially popular among locals, and you'll find Japanese offerings on virtually every international buffet spread in Hong Kong, along with sushi delivered via conveyor belts in an ever-growing number of sushi bars.

I'm convinced that you can eat as well in Hong Kong as in any other city in the world. And no matter where you eat or how much you spend, it's sure to be an adventure of the senses. Little wonder, then, that a common greeting among Chinese in Hong Kong translates literally as "Have you eaten?" In Hong Kong, eating is the most important order of the day.

By far, Hong Kong's most well known, exclusive restaurants, both Chinese and Western, have long been located in the hotels. That's not surprising when you realize that first-class hotels are accustomed to catering to well-traveled visitors who demand high quality in service, cuisine, and decor.

In a welcome trend, however, enterprising, ambitious, and talented chefs have been opening establishments in ever-greater numbers, often in modest but imaginative surroundings or in swanky digs on top floors of high-rises. These include ethnic restaurants as well as eateries offering innovative dishes, with limited but intriguing menus. A cluster of these restaurants has even created a whole new dining enclave, located on the steep hill alongside the Central-Mid-Levels Escalator that connects Central with the Mid-Levels. Dubbed "SoHo" for the region "south of Hollywood Road," it has blossomed into an ever-growing dining and nightlife district, making it Hong Kong's most exciting addition to the culinary scene.

Other welcome trends are the inclusion of vegetarian and healthy foods on many menus, and the growing popularity of crossover, East-meets-West fusion cuisine, which capitalizes on ingredients and flavors from both sides of the Pacific Rim in the creation of innovative dishes.

The restaurants listed are grouped according to location (the most popular areas are Kowloon, the Central District, and Causeway Bay/Wan Chai) and according to price. Those in the Very Expensive category ($$$$) will cost more than HK$700 (US$91/ţ50) for dinner without drinks (some restaurants average HK$1,000/US$130/ţ71 or more per person). In the Expensive category ($$$), dinners average HK$450 to HK$700 (US$58-US$91/ţ32-ţ50). Moderate restaurants ($$) serve dinners ranging from HK$200 to HK$450 (US$26-US$58/ţ14-ţ32), while Inexpensive restaurants ($) offer meals for less than HK$200 (US$26/ţ14). Keep in mind, however, that these guidelines are approximations only.

I should add that Chinese restaurants often have very long menus, sometimes listing more than 100 dishes. The most expensive dishes will invariably be such delicacies as bird's nest (bird's nest is a real nest, created by glutinous secretions of small swifts or swallows to build their nests), shark's fin, or abalone, for which the sky's the limit. In specifying price ranges for "main courses" under each Chinese establishment below, therefore, I excluded these delicacies as well as inexpensive rice and noodle dishes. In most cases, "main courses" refers to meat and vegetable combinations. Remember, since the price range is large, you can eat cheaply even at moderately priced restaurants by choosing wisely. Remember, too, that in Chinese restaurants it's customary to order one main dish for each diner, plus one extra to share.

The usual lunch hour in the SAR is from 1 to 2pm, when thousands of office workers pour into the city's more popular restaurants. Try to eat before or after the lunch rush hour, especially in Central, unless you plan on an expensive restaurant and have a reservation.

Unless stated otherwise, the open hours listed are exactly that -- the hours a restaurant remains physically open but not necessarily the hours it serves food. The last orders are almost always taken at least a half-hour before closing. Restaurants that are open for lunch from noon to 3pm, for example, will probably stop taking orders at 2:30pm. To avoid disappointment, call beforehand to make a reservation or arrive well ahead of closing time.

As for dress codes, unless otherwise stated, many upper-end restaurants have done away with the jacket-and-tie requirement. Rather, "smart casual" or business casual is nowadays appropriate for most of the fancier places, meaning that men should wear long-sleeved shirts and that jeans, sport shoes, and flip-flops are inappropriate.

Dining Behind the Scenes

If you've ever wondered what a kitchen is like during the hustle and bustle of meal times, you'll have your chance to experience it firsthand by participating in Gaddi's Chef Table at The Peninsula hotel. Seating only four (with a minimum of two persons), it offers a fascinating front-row view of Gaddi's kitchen action, a tour of The Peninsula's massive kitchens, and includes three-course lunches for HK$688 (US$89/ţ49) or five-course and 10-course dinners for HK$1,488 and HK$2,088 (US$193/ţ106 and US$271/ţ149) per person. For Chinese food enthusiasts, a similar dining experience is offered by The Peninsula's Spring Moon Chef's Table. For reservations, contact The Peninsula at tel. 852/2920 2888 or by e-mail at On the other side of the harbor, Caprice, in the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong (tel. 852/3196 8888), also has a Chef's Table for up to eight diners, with a minimum dinner charge of HK$12,000 (US$1,558/ţ857) for the group.


Moderate -- In addition to the choices listed, a good standby for Continental cuisine is the Tsim Sha Tsui branch of Jimmy's Kitchen, covered in the Central dining section.

Inexpensive -- These restaurants have branches in Tsim Sha Tsui: PizzaExpress, specializing in pizza, is described in the Central dining section. Sorabol, a Korean restaurant, and California Pizza Kitchen, with salads, pastas, and sandwiches in addition to pizza, are both described in the Wan Chai/Causeway Bay section.

Central District

Expensive -- Ruth's Chris Steak House, reviewed in the Kowloon section, has a branch near Pacific Place.

Moderate -- Several moderately priced restaurants covered in the Tsim Sha Tsui section have branches in Central: Dan Ryan's Chicago Grill, located in Pacific Place and offering American classics; Peking Garden, with two locations in Central and serving food from Beijing; Super Star Seafood Restaurant, known for its Cantonese seafood and dim sum; and Tsui Hang Village Restaurant, serving Cantonese fare.

Inexpensive -- Several inexpensive restaurants reviewed in the Tsim Sha Tsui section have branches in Central: Fat Angelo's is renowned for its massive portions of American-style Italian food; Genki Sushi offers conveyor-belt sushi at low prices; Koh-I-Noor is recommended for Indian curries; and Spaghetti House is a popular family restaurant.

In addition, many restaurants in the moderate category above offer lunches that even the budget-conscious can afford.

Another good place for a casual, inexpensive meal is the Food Fare food court in Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, in Central (take the MTR to Admiralty), where various counters offer Chinese, Thai, Korean, and Japanese food, as well as sandwiches and pasta, daily from 7:30am to 10pm.

Causeway Bay & Wan Chai

Moderate -- Several restaurants covered in the Kowloon dining section have branches in Wan Chai or Causeway Bay: El Cid, excellent for tapas and Spanish cuisine; Jade Garden, good for Cantonese food and dim sum; Peking Garden, which serves Pekingese food; Super Star Seafood Restaurant, serving Cantonese dishes, seafood, and dim sum; and Wu Kong, which specializes in cuisine from Shanghai.

Inexpensive -- Fat Angelo's, Genki Sushi, and Spaghetti House, reviewed in the Tsim Sha Tsui section, all have branches in Wan Chai and/or Causeway Bay. PizzaExpress and Pret A Manger, both described in the Central section, have branches there as well.Chilli N Spice, recommended in Stanley for its Thai and Vietnamese fare, has a branch in Causeway Bay.


El Cid, described in the Tsim Sha Tsui section and located in the Murray House, offers a dreamy view of the sea from its outside terrace, a live band Tuesday through Sunday evenings, and an expansive menu of tapas and Spanish food.

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