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Dec 26, 2010 01:37 AM

Hong Kong: need a recommendation for fun/hip dinner place.

We'll be visiting from Toronto over the holidays and meeting up with another couple for dinner. Last time we met up, we ended up at a fine dining place in Central, and the food was great. This time, looking for something a little more casual and fun. If you know Toronto, we're looking for something more of the Ossington/Queen west atmosphere (think converted warehouse spaces, hipster-types, though quaint-and-first date-ish place would be fine as well. We are fans of Foxleys, Delux, Black Hoof, not really Splendido/Canoe). Basically, not looking for fine-dining atmosphere, but want something that would leave an enjoyable impression. no hotels or places where people are in suits having a business dinner.

Type of cuisine isn't that important, but good food is. Price point isn't too important either as long as it is justified by good food.


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  1. Chilli Fagara - Good Sichuan food. Casual and Intimate atmosphere.

    1 Reply
    1. I recently took some Canadian friends to Tonkichi Japanese Restaurant and they said it was one of their favorite meals in Hong Kong. It specializes in panko crusted frying. Get the 3 person meal for a varity of their menu offerings (porkchop, oyster and shrimp are all top notch). It's a fun restaurant where you can grind your own sesame seeds with a special morter and pestle, and it comes with unlimited rice and fresh cut cabbage. The cabbage is in a fine coleslaw, very fresh and there are two salad dressing options: seaweed and gradefruit. My one warning is that they will ask you if you want to up-grade the miso soup to a pork soup for $30. The miso soup is nothing special, but the pork soup is terrible. They have more than one location but I go to the CWB world trade center one.

      4 Replies
      1. re: eco987

        If Tonkichi is too busy to find a seat, try Butagumi. It's close (Goldmark bldg) and they are quite comparable.

        1. re: dumpycactus

          It's this the same Butagumi as the one in Tokyo?

        2. re: eco987

          I liked their pork soup - tonjiru! Wonder if the Tonkichi outlet you went to mess it up?

        3. Man, I'm probably going to get nailed for saying this, but...

          My friend J-- (originally from Guangzhou) and I recently met for lunch at Tartine in SF and were talking specifically about how there is less creativity in ambiance/restaurant ethos in HK than in other cosmopolitan cities. There are plenty of expensive restaurants with fancy decor, but I have yet to find any place here that feels like walking into a fabulous art installation -- like we just went to Bar Agricole in SF, where you have this very cool exterior gate with low lights that opens onto...vegetable beds and Anthroposophic flow forms. And then the restaurant itself is set up on another level and has beautiful wood seating, polished concrete floors, and these delicate sculptural light fixtures. Then the food is all local producer small plates country cooking. Dungeness crab with farro and chili. Gingerbread with pear compote. Etc.

          HK is a totally different universe.

          You might think about going to someplace that's steeped in old HK atmosphere -- maybe someone else could make a good suggestion. Luk Yu is coming to mind, but that's not really dinner.

          You could also go ultra luxe and do Robuchon. They have a live music ensemble that sings songs like Sinatra's "My Way," and there's beautiful glassware, lacquer, and orchids everywhere. Food is...fancy.

          My 2 cents.

          23 Replies
          1. re: chloehk

            Chloe - I'ld agree with you on ambience/ restaurant ethos at a high level. There are very few "design" led places like you find in London / NY / Paris.

            Those places with nice design (like Lily Bloom / Zuma etc.) are often lacking on the food and involve a heavy churn factor.

            If you are looking for some nice design, one of my favourite "atmospheric" restaurants is Limehouse in Wan chai. But this serves modern St John-esque British food. But may be a bit of a waste if you are visiting HK (as I guess you should be eating Cantonese food). Lily and Bloom is ok (and nicely designed) if you stick to the simplier foods. Think speakeasy with food. They can't do the more complicated fusion style to save their life.

            I would suggest living with the average decor/ atmosphere and revelling in the food. HK doesn't really do hipster (I mean there are only 20 or so fixed wheel bike riders here!).

            Don't go to Bo Innovation if you have eaten molecular gastronomy food anywhere with a competent chef.

            1. re: TomEatsHK

              Instead of 'Hip and Fun', since one is in Hong Kong, why not pick a place with a great view of the harbour instead? Tons of gorgeous places to consider including Oyster bar and Grill in the Sheraton. Spoon/Nobu/Yan Toh Heen inside the Intercontinental, Pierre top of the Mandarin, Caprice and LKH in the Fourseasons, Aqua and almost all the restaurants inside 1 Peking road and not to mention the peak top restaurants!!

              1. re: Charles Yu

                Exactly, HK is different from NY or London or other big cities. I doubt one can find each a nice harbour view (either at day time or night) other than HK. Or the fun to hand pick seafood from different tanks to be cooked and eaten fresh in a seafood restaurant...............

                1. re: skylineR33

                  I'ld disagree on the views but agree on the fresh fish. London/ NY/ Paris all make far more effective use of the space next to the water than HK.

                  London/ NY/ Paris offer beautiful promenades to walk up and down on for km and km. The Thames path is an amazing way to spend 1 or 2 days walking. The Seine with Paris plage is magnificent and the views onto and from Manhattan are breathtaking.

                  I have never lived so close to the water (here in HK I live in Sheung Wan) and seen it so underused and neglected to industry/ commercial buildings.

                  I truly hope The West Kowloon Cultural District/ the reclaimed land in Central is used more humanly by the HK govt.

                  1. re: TomEatsHK

                    Oh, Hk gov?! Let me make it clear, l am talking about the view from a restaurant ! And one tip, you don't go to sheung wan for that.

                    1. re: skylineR33

                      TomEatsHK, I think skylineR33 is right! I guess you've just gone off in a tangent?!
                      Anyways, HK does have its seaside promenade too! I myself love the walk along the water edge from TST to TST East to Hung Hum or the walk along the outskirt surrounding the Wan Chai Convention centre. However, my favourite is the circular 'peak-top' walk, where one can see the harbour and ocean from different angles. And its great to enjoy a snack at the peak after the 2 hours walk!!
                      BTW, IMO, the view from say Aqua in HK is as amazing as say those from Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower or Window of the World on top of the World Trade Centre ( pre 9/11 )?!!

                      1. re: Charles Yu

                        I can only second the comments on the view in HK restaurants and also Charles mention of the peak top walk. When the weather allows for a good view, this is one of my favorite places in HK to take a walk with my photocamera and shoot away.

                    2. re: TomEatsHK

                      As much as I love New York, I think the city needs to learn from Hong Kong about how to build up restaurants utilizing nice harbour view! Manhattan, as far as I know, have perhaps less than twenty restaurants with great views of skyscrapers or the river. In Hong Kong? Every around the corner!

                  2. re: Charles Yu

                    There some private kitchens that I think qualify .... Yin Yang ... Xi Yan ... Da Ping Huo ... Gitone ... TBLS i absolutely love if you can get in ... Mirror (food is fantastic decor is stale).

                    1. re: Hot Chocolate

                      I am still holding off going to TBLS as I have read a few average reviews about the food... Maybe it is time to put in the effort and go.

                      1. re: TomEatsHK

                        Disposing of ample disposable income=effort?

                        1. re: haggisdragon

                          There is a long wait... and unfortunately teh income is limited so effort is needed elsewhere to compensate

                          1. re: TomEatsHK

                            Sorry for my snarky comment. Your blog is great. Have been reading it in preparation for 4 nights in HK starting March 5. I guess I'm slightly jealous! Let me know if you're interested in a mini chowmeet around that time.

                            1. re: haggisdragon

                              I am currently on my 31st hour of work straight so will email properly later but of course. More excuses to eat are always good.

                              Loving hte food culture in HK... not so much the work culture.

                              1. re: TomEatsHK

                                Great, I just added my email to my profile.

                                1. re: TomEatsHK

                                  Tom - I would also be interested - email in profile

                                  1. re: TomEatsHK

                                    Wow! 31 hours straight!! No wonder you did not response to my e-mail pertaining our propsed mini-chowmeet with Alfred mid March!
                                    Take care!

                                    1. re: Charles Yu

                                      Charles - hopefully you got my reply? If not please let me know. However, that date was good. Bring on the Sha Tin pigeon.

                                      1. re: TomEatsHK

                                        If girls are invited -- I'd love to join you too ;-)

                                        Email en profile.

                                        1. re: chloehk

                                          I have send you an e-mail on behalf of the group

                                          1. re: Charles Yu

                                            Charles - I would also be keen to meet-up. Email also in profile

                            2. re: TomEatsHK

                              If you decide to go and they say they are full. Try asking if the outside area is available. They have heaters but you can just wear a nice sweater and you'll be fine (assuming you're not one of those HKers that wears their puffer jacket / chinchilla fur when it's 50 F outside). I'm from mid west where cold = snow / freezing.

                    2. For fun and hip, I suggest going to Bo Innovation. It has some good lunch deal. The food there is good, interesting and fun. It is a controversial restaurant , lots of people like it and also lots of people do not like it. I happen to be in the 'like' group and I have been to other competent Molecular cuisine restaurants.

                      1. Has anyone here eaten at The Chairman? I've heard it mentioned on blogs as very creative, sophisticated Cantonese. Honestly, I've been waiting to go b/c I still don't feel like I've got a good appreciation for Cantonese food yet, so I don't want to spend the money and not *get it.*

                        One of the nice things about HK I think is that luxury is flat-out luxury here. The fancy restaurants here go for it in terms of glamor and bling. We had dinner at a beautiful half moon table overlooking the harbor at Pierre shortly after we moved here. Everything was shiny and glossy and beautifully lit. That has to be one of the fanciest meals I've ever eaten in my life.

                        In a lot of Western cities there's a kind of embarrassment about luxury. It's often downplayed. In HK it's front and center.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: chloehk

                          I love the Steamed flower crab with chinese wine at Chairman.

                          I know what you are talking about. You like hang around in those more glossy districts ? But cheap is flat-out cheap in HK too. There are districts in HK you can find family of 5 squeezed into a total living space of 100 square feet. You can find a bowl of good snake soup for $30HKD at a hole in the wall eatery in Sham Shui Po, but you can also have a $200 bowl of snake soup in some expensive restaurant in TST. It covers the whole spectrum.

                          1. re: skylineR33

                            I do really want to go to the Chairman.

                            Ah I now understand that the reference to a harbour view was only from restaurants restaurant!

                            London has a handful of restaurants London (not that many admittedly - I have always wanted it to make better use of the Thames for dining) , as does NY/ Paris which have splendiferous water views.

                            Went to Pierre today interestingly. Good view but food, whilst good, wasn't anything to drive me to raptures.

                            However, very enjoyable experience service wise. Great female French maître d’ with whom some enjoyable cheese discussions were have. I'ld probably prefer a revisit to Amber (and most definitely to Caprice) over it. Looking forward to 8 1/2 next week.

                            I would say buzzy might be dai pai dongs which have just reopened in Central Street Market. Fun, young, great atmosphere and all can agree the food is good. Absolutely no luxury though :)

                            1. re: TomEatsHK

                              Hello TomEatsHK!

                              For the Chairman, try rounding up a few friends and have their 'tasting menu'. We had a 'chowmeet' there last March and the meal was very enjoyable. In addition to the crab, I loved their pan fried sun-dried jumbo oyster with honey glaze, their smoked pigeon and their deep fried baby yellow croaker.

                              There is also a Cantonese Michelin 2* - 'Celebrity Cuisine' in the hotel next door. Fellow chowhounder Fourseasons loved it, but my wife, who happened to ate there a week earlier, only gave it a so-so!

                              Food in HK's Pierre was nothing like their Parisian 3* big brother!! Apart from the great view, the meal I had there was a big flop by Michelin standard. Bland and mediocre tasting food! Rather than chatting with the lady maitre d', I had a great chat with their sommelier about their restaurant's focus on Burgundies rather than Bordeaux! A rarity in Cab loving HK

                              Lovely! You are going to try out 8 1/2! Great! Let me know how it goes since I am thinking of giving it a try during my next HK visit. Have you eaten in the 'ultra expensive' Da Domenico in Causeway Bay? This is my yardstick for Italian food in HK, though remembering their plate of HK$500 Spaghetti a la Vongole still makes me shiver!! Damn tasty but ridiclously *&@#$%^ expensive!! For that price, I could have 18 bowls of won-ton noodles at Mak's!!!

                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                I ate at 8 1/2 yesterday and was impressed by the food but solidly disappointed by the service.

                                The pacing of the meal was off (40 minutes wait for a main) and the waiters had no knowledge of the menu, the ingredients etc.

                                The cheese postre was also plain bad with unripened cheeses served overly refridgerated.

                                On the Chairman - I have booked it for lunch with some friends but don't know whether you cna have the tasting menu at lunch. I will pop in there on the way back home tonight and check!