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Zagat's Top HK Restaurants - do you agree?

k
klyeoh Jun 7, 2008 06:29 PM

Just curious whether other CHs agree with Tim Zagat's choice of HK's top restaurants. I had doubts about Zagat's choices in other cities but, for once, I think they're quite close. Perhaps because these choices were co-edited by Time Out HK's AngieWong:

1. Lung King Heen
2. Sushi Hiro
3. Gaddi's
4. L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

Best Italian: Da Domenico
Best steakhouse: Morton's

  1. FourSeasons Jun 7, 2008 07:48 PM

    I think it will be a sad day for Hong Kong if three out of the top 4 restaurants are taken by non-Cantonese/Chiu Chow restaurants.

    BTW, is that his own personal opinion or from the Zagat survey?

    9 Replies
    1. re: FourSeasons
      k
      klyeoh Jun 7, 2008 08:31 PM

      It's the result of Zagat's survey covering about 170 restaurants in HK. This is their first guide on the city:
      http://www.zagat.com/shop/product_det...

      I guess whilst HK generally provides some of the best-tasting Chinese dishes in the world (I personally think Taipei's better), service standards at its many restaurants tend to be relatively poor - and Chinese restaurants are the biggest culprits, which probably affected their ranking.. In fact, poor service was the biggest complaint quoted in the Zagat survey.

      1. re: klyeoh
        FourSeasons Jun 7, 2008 08:47 PM

        Just like all those western-based surveys, I seriously doubt if they understand local taste and culture. And obviously if they don't speak the native language, they are not going to get the best service. I take all these foreign surveys with a grain of salt;it is best suited for tourists and expatriates.

        Chinese dishes are very diverse; if we are talking about Cantonese and Chiu Chow, Taipei is far away lagging behind.

        1. re: FourSeasons
          skylineR33 Jun 7, 2008 09:13 PM

          I agree with you 100% on every points in your post.

          1. re: FourSeasons
            k
            klyeoh Jun 8, 2008 05:55 AM

            Taipei's Hokkien/Fujianese & Hakka haute cuisine are absolutely fascinating - I've never come across them anywhere else. In Chinese restaurants across the globe, Chinese fine-dining is normally associated with HK-style Cantonese restaurants, just as Western fine-dining is normally associated with French-style cuisine.

            Being half-Hokkien/half-Chiuchow, weaned on a diet of Cantonese-influenced cuisine when it comes to dining out in prime Chinese restaurants, my discovery of top Taiwanese restaurants serving superb, ultra-refined food which is NOT Cantonese at all is a mind-blowing, eye-opening, value-shifting experience. I never knew such versions of Chinese cuisine can exist (forget about Imperial/Qing cuisine in Beijing - you can see that their sweet-sour prawns were obviously Cantonese-influenced).

            BTW, a place where one can find good Taiwanese/Minnan cuisine is Formosa, Howard Johnson Hotel. There's another one atop Taipei 101, but the name slips my mind.

            1. re: klyeoh
              FourSeasons Jun 8, 2008 08:49 AM

              As to Hokkein, Hakka, and even Chiu Chow cuisine, I also seldom see them in major Chinese cities like Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing. I did come across a few Chiu Chow in Guangzhou, one well known Hakka in Beijing. That's about it. They are not known as refined haute cuisine, and for whatever reasons, are not popular outside of their provinces.

              Interestingly, they are actually more popular outside of China. Singapore has a big Hokkien population, so there are a few good Hokkien restaurants in town. Jakarta, with a sizable Hakka population, has some good Hakka food too.

            2. re: FourSeasons
              k
              klyeoh Jun 8, 2008 06:05 AM

              Zagat's survey is normally a result of contribution from a wide cross-section of contributors. The catch is: the contributors are not necessarily trained professional food critics or industry insiders, but virtually anyone who professes to be an avid diner & volunteers to contribute.

              Hence, a Zagat survey may not accurately reflect the overall dining population's view of a certain restaurant, and also may have certain biasness towards better-known/prominent restaurants.

              Also, owners of such establishments can also canvass for votes, i.e. they get their friends/relatives/business associates to cast votes for them.

              However, Zagat will moderate such situations and it is hoped that, with thousands of votes casted by its readers, one can indeed get a fairly accurate representation.

              That said, Zagat's HK survey is also edited by TimeOut HK's food editor, Angie Wong, who's written many excellent reviews/articles of HK restaurants.

              1. re: klyeoh
                FourSeasons Jun 8, 2008 06:57 AM

                Hi klyeoh:

                I have nothing against Zagat but I am also aware that the target audience is American readers and companies. On its website, it stated its survey is based on the opinions of locals and avid travelers. By "locals", I would assume it meant the English speaking Hong Kong residents who have wider exposure to International cuisine, and by "avid travelers", I would assume they would focus more on the hotel restaurants and brand name places, like what HKTraveler below wrote. I would think that if the survey has been conducted on the average Hong Kong population or by serious local Hong Kong foodies, the result would be quite different.

                So to answer your question "do you agree?", as you can observe from the past threads based on my recommendation, I tend to favor going to non-hotel restaurants that locals congregate, my biased answer would be obviously "no". Having said that, I have only been to L'Atelier and Gaddi's (this one was like 15 years ago, so probably disqualified). I would not rate them as top 4. Never been to Sushi Hiro but a few serious foodies told me that it is not as good as the elite sushi houses in Tokyo, so since I go to Tokyo twice per year, I don't see any good reason to visit there. As to LKH, I seldom dine in Kowloon and prefer non-hotel restaurants so have never been to this one. However, it is now on my radar screen due to overwhelming favorable review by HKTraveler, Peech and Ko in the previous thread.

                I would obviously agree that Da Domenica as the best Italian. Remember, I was the one who brought DD to the attention in Chowhound. Never been to Morton's Hong Kong but have been to Ruth Chris and Lawry's, and I think RC is the better steakhouse.

                1. re: FourSeasons
                  k
                  klyeoh Jun 9, 2008 02:27 AM

                  You're right - most contributors would be the English-speaking segment of the dining population, and especially Americans who're familiar with Zagat in the past.

          2. re: FourSeasons
            c
            chowhound_jackass Jul 14, 2009 03:55 AM

            First post, but I have been lurking for quite some time.

            A couple of observations: 1) yes, an English language guide is going to be skewed to the tastes of expats/visitors 2) as mentioned elsewhere, it is a first attempt.

            That said, given the above, it doesn't surprise me in the least that there isn't a Canto/Chaozhou place in the top four. I hope I am not alone in saying that as a non-Canto/Chaozhou person, the cuisine in these places just doesn't appeal to me all that much. And before people jump all over me, I should mention that i am a long time HK resident and have eaten at many if not most of the places mentioned in these fora as being at the pinnacle of Canto cooking. I LOVE Sichuan, Hunan, Shanghai and Beijing cuisine, but Canto and Chaozhou just don't do it for me. Beyond the standard dim sum/canto bbq/bowl 'o noodles, I generally don't go to Canto/HK places anymore.

            For the prices the high end places here charge, I would strongly prefer the food/service/ambience at say Robuchon. I'm not trying to pick a fight, just offering an alternative explanation on the ratings (which I won't fully defend - I find Sushi Hiro rapaciously overpriced relative to quality and I won't even comment on Mortons).

          3. HKTraveler Jun 8, 2008 01:17 AM

            Was browsing on the Zagat website and looks like they didn't do the ranking properly. The top food is Kenjo which is at 29. I would agree with that since it is my favourite sushi place in town. The list overall looks OK but seems to be focused more on the hotel restaurants and brand name places. While the list appears to be reasonable, I would prefer that it has more depth.

            1. Peech Jun 8, 2008 08:41 AM

              Hmmm...this is interesting. I'm a subscriber to Zagat's and have been reviewing for them for the last few years. Wonder why I didn't hear about the HK survey?!

              People are definitely clueless...Sushi Hiro?! It's laughable...

              1 Reply
              1. re: Peech
                k
                klyeoh Jun 9, 2008 02:29 AM

                Maybe Tom Zagat is rushing to beat the Michelin folks to come out with a HK guide? I did remember reading somewhere that Michelin wants to come out with another Asia-Pacific city guide after its Tokyo debut recently. HK (or perhaps Sydney/Melbourne) would be the likeliest choice.

              2. kosmose7 Jun 8, 2008 05:03 PM

                Well, Zuma Hong Kong was voted as a hot place too (ranked 99th) at the 'World's 50 Best Restaurants' survey.

                3 Replies
                1. re: kosmose7
                  FourSeasons Jun 8, 2008 10:19 PM

                  "World's 50 Best .." survey by S Pellegrino is the WORST EVER restaurant survey, 100 times worse than Zagat. Don't even bother to look at it...it belongs to garbage can.

                  1. re: FourSeasons
                    k
                    klyeoh Jun 9, 2008 02:32 AM

                    Agree with you completely! Without sounding unpatriotic, I'm still trying to figure out how Iggy's (Singapore) can be ranked above some other excellent restaurants, other than the fact that the Singaporean panel members probably pooled all their votes for it.

                    1. re: klyeoh
                      FourSeasons Jun 9, 2008 03:15 AM

                      My problem is not the ranking of Iggy's. (I actually like Iggy's and has been a regular for many years and quite happy they received some recognition) I suspect it is just a marketing gimmick to get top restaurants to promote the brand of S Pelligrino, so any restaurant not selling it will not be included. Only westerners are willing to pay for $10 bottled water so pretty much all non-western restaurants are excluded. The best Japanese restaurants on the list are Nobu NY or London and Tetsuya Sydney. I want to choke and vomit...., they are not even in my top 50 best Japanese restaurants, let alone the best. Those guys there are simply brainless without any clue about Asian food.

                2. Charles Yu Jun 8, 2008 05:38 PM

                  My experience with Zagat was quite negative since I have had a couple of really disappointing meals based on their recommendation.

                  I noticed this latest HK Zagat's top restaurant list also reflects the most expensive ones in the city! Pity Michelin does not have one on HK yet! It would be interesting to see whether Gaddii's, with competition from Caprice, Amber, Spoon, Petrus, Pierre etc still makes the top 2 or 3 list. Based on the Michelin Tokyo giuide, there are at least 4 or 5 three stars restaurants ( Kanda, Koju, Quintessence, Sushi Mizutani... ) that serve top rated food but do not charge an arm and a leg for them! Wonder how Zagat rates those Tokyo restaurants and see whether the top ones are also the most expensive ones?

                  Lastly, my cross reference of Zagat with HK Tatler Best Restaurants yielded the following interesting info.,:
                  -Lung King Heen is not on Tatler list!! even though Caprice is.
                  -Sushi Hiro is not on Tatler's list as well! Best Japanese are Megu, Nobu and Zuma.
                  -Top French/Continental is also L'Atelier! Yippy!
                  -Da Domenica is not in HK tatler as well! Guess both yourself and Fourseasons should write to them and complain!.Ha! Tatler's top Italian is Grissini which I totally disagree. I found their food very inconsistent! ( too many Chef changes?)
                  -Tatler's top steak house is The Steakhouse in the Intercontinental. This I totally agree since they are HK's only 'Charcoal grill' steak house. Morton's and Ruth's Chris version simply do not have that amazing charbroil effect!

                  BTW, for HK, except for exotic and expensive dishes like Abalone, sharksfin and steamed live salt water fishes, I found most of the best tasting Chinese food came from Dai Pai Dong and obscure hole in the wall places! For well established eateries, I found most of them to be very inconsistent and dish specific. For example, Fun Lam in Sha tin. They have the best pepper and salt fried prawns in town. However, venturing outside their handful of specialties and be prepared for gastronomic disaster!

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: Charles Yu
                    skylineR33 Jun 8, 2008 06:19 PM

                    Hi Charles,

                    Not sure if you have read such article, I have read an article on Michelin visiting eateries of HK. It is quite interesting, as it is saying recently, there are well-dressed western people accompanied by chinese visiting various eateries including both high class and obscure hole in the wall places in HK !!

                    The article gives examples such as Dai Pai Dong "Lan Fong Yuen" in Central which specialized in "panty hose" hk style milk tea, and the wonton noodle place "Jim Chai Kee". If this is true, it will be interesting to see the "star" list of HK ! I think it is possible that Michelin made some changes in rating HK restaurants, as what they have done with Tokyo. Also, they may even do it better this time with what they learnt from the Tokyo rating !

                    Probably most in the above list of Zagat's top restaurants will also be on the Michelin list. But I am really looking forward to see a list which also reflects the true HK, the specialties, interesting and good stuffs it offers, not just a boring list of world known brand name expensive restaurants.

                    1. re: Charles Yu
                      k
                      klyeoh Jun 9, 2008 02:39 AM

                      I've always been rather suspicious of HK Tatler's list. Come to think of it, I don't even trust Singapore Tatler's list - I once asked a maitre'd as to why his restaurant (obviously one of the top 3 eateries in Singapore at the time) wasn't featured in Singapore Tatler's Top Restaurants guide, he said that it was because a service staff inadvertently offended the folks from the publication, resulting in their restaurant being "black-listed".

                      In Shanghai, the operations manager of a top French restaurant there mentioned to me last May that they were not featured in this year's Shanghai Tatler's Top Restaurants guide because they didn't "pay the inspectors". Shocking!

                      1. re: Charles Yu
                        k
                        kobetobiko Jun 9, 2008 08:17 AM

                        What an interesting post! Of course I need to chime in.

                        >>Sushi Hiro is not on Tatler's list as well! Best Japanese are Megu, Nobu and Zuma

                        That just tells me how inaccurate these lists are. None seems to really show the real picture. (Sigh)

                        1. re: Charles Yu
                          o
                          onlygoodfood Jul 14, 2009 03:07 AM

                          Steak Foodies should check out Dakota Prime Steaks, i couldn't believe they were amazingly good, took me by surprise. I use to go to InterCon all the time, but hated to venture to "the other side" Now I go one closer to home in Central. I heard that they source the same steaks as IC and under charflame. I was impressed. RC and Morton's are way overrated. Service at both are mediocre to say the very least. At least at IC you get good service and steak. At DP, I thought was attentive too for a non-hotel restaurant.

                          1. re: onlygoodfood
                            FourSeasons Jul 14, 2009 03:51 AM

                            Is Dakota as expensive as InterCon? I was told the steakhouse at InterCon is ridiculously expensive.

                            1. re: FourSeasons
                              k
                              kobetobiko Jul 14, 2009 11:01 AM

                              To me all steaks in Hong Kong are overpriced but then I live in NYC so that's not a fair judgement.

                              Dakota Prime is not as expensive as InterCon at all, but the steaks just aren't that great. The dry-aged one wasn't really dry aged enough, and the execution is inconsistent (very common problem of having steaks in Hong Kong)

                              1. re: kobetobiko
                                o
                                onlygoodfood Jul 14, 2009 09:41 PM

                                Steaks in HK are extremely overpriced compared to US for sure. Almost doubled, but then again, what isn't... cars, luxuries, orange juice...with exception of taxes, which if you were American (I am) you'd have to pay both worlds. It's all part of logistics - so buy FedEx or UPS stocks folks!

                                DP is not as expensive at IC, they have amazing oysters and their signature lobster bisque is to die for. Been there couple times and tried both their aged and usda (less expensive one). I agree Kobetobiko, I in fact prefer the USDA less expensive option more. More juicy and tender. If you're looking for a steak on this side of the island, it would be my choice over wagyu, RC, Lawrys, Mortons...etc. Craft's, stonegrill - those are just crap for the price you pay.

                                1. re: onlygoodfood
                                  HKTraveler Jul 14, 2009 11:55 PM

                                  Is DP still as good after departure of its chef?

                                  1. re: HKTraveler
                                    o
                                    onlygoodfood Jul 15, 2009 01:57 AM

                                    Recent visit was two three weeks ago, did not notice the difference. Quite frankly, it's is pretty hard to screw up top quality steak. The skills required of the chef is to prepare it to perfection and precise as requested - mine was a perfect med rare. Tried the truffle mac and cheese side for the first time - sinful with a mil calories, but soo good.

                                    1. re: onlygoodfood
                                      k
                                      kobetobiko Jul 15, 2009 02:16 AM

                                      I know different people have different definition to top quality steak, but to me the ones at DP are not top quality.

                                      As a matter of fact, I don't think any of the US beef is really worth eating in Hong kong. Just go with Australian wagyu or Japanese wagyu.

                        2. e_ting Jun 9, 2008 03:00 AM

                          i've just read everyone's comments thus far and thought i'd throw in my 2 cents, for what it's worth.

                          a guide, like any other publication, aims to serve a specific audience and has obvious limitations. i think we've all learnt, in this day and age, to take things with a grain of salt.

                          anyway, let me join in the bashing/praising...

                          i heard that zagat's hk actually has a lot of listings that weren't given points (i.e. not enough contributors/opinions to give a score) - which means that essentially it's just a list of interesting restaurants. i have to say i can't totally disagree with zagat's top 4 - they are all good restaurants, but are they the best in hk? if a foodie visitor came to hk and went to these 4 restaurants would they be impressed? probably not. case in point: sushi hiro is a great place for above average japanese food at a reasonable price. i go there a lot, actually, but it wouldn't be on the top of my list if someone was looking for the best japanese restaurant in hk.

                          and best italian... my vote goes to sabatini. poor love, so often forgotten because of it's 'non-descript' location!

                          tatler for restaurant guidance? well, tatler is a socialite magazine, and socialites don't really eat do they?

                          michelin? where do i begin???! in a nutshell, michelin is best for france, where it came from, because locals know best. that's why out of towners love to ask the locals on CH, no?

                          oh, and who could forget the miele guide that's in the making? i could not BELIEVE it when i saw that under china, you could only vote for restaurants in beijing and shanghai. hello, ever heard of guangzhou (or hangzhou or chongqing etc.)?

                          to those who choose to read guides in all seriousness, it would be my greatest pleasure to offer you a lifetime supply of murray river pink salt.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: e_ting
                            HKTraveler Jun 9, 2008 07:34 AM

                            The HK Tatler list suffers from a lot of the same problem if not worst. Usually all the most expensive ones in town. I don't have a problem paying for good food but no one can possibly believe that the best food are only served in 5* surroundings.

                            The question I have for others is what would you use for HK? Personally, I find blogs, words of mouth and openrice to be the most useful.

                            1. re: HKTraveler
                              e_ting Jun 9, 2008 11:44 AM

                              hmm. openrice. it's a good source of addresses and the occasional photo, but i find that my taste is quite different from the average openrice contributor. a lot of opinions i read seem to differ from my own, and by the time i read that someone disliked a restaurant because the yolk of his/her poached egg was runny, i'd pretty much had it. (other atrocities include thinking that starbucks requires a rating, and that it's coffee rates at all... i could go on). for me openrice requires too much sifting and effort - i'd just go to the restaurant and try it out already!

                              word of mouth would be my main source in hk (or abroad, actually), as well as photos in local magazines - the dire state of local media means that the text will tell you exactly nothing, but even the most embellished food photos would not lie to the seasoned eater :)

                          2. k
                            Kiedis Aug 23, 2008 11:47 AM

                            Morton's is way inferior to The Steakhouse @ Intercontinental.

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