Hong Kong is known for many things, including the stunning view from Victoria Peak, its instantly recognizable skyline, Victoria Harbour, and world-class shopping. And with 62 Michelin-starred restaurants, Hong Kong is also one of the best cities in the world for dining.
Hong Kong has a vibrant and ever-changing culinary scene. New and hot restaurants pop up, and along with them, the clamor for a table. Reservations for the city’s perennial favorites are coveted and often difficult to secure. This is certainly the city for imaginative and innovative chefs to present their dishes to global and discerning guests.
More than simply dim sum, Asia’s World City has a variety of international cuisine available. Of the three-stared restaurants in Hong Kong, two are French, one is Italian, and the other is Cantonese, though most of the Michelin list does offer cuisine from the Asian continent. As expected, dim sum is a huge deal in Hong Kong, and the number of restaurants offering these little bites is staggering. The one-stared dim sum restaurant, Tim Ho Wan, is known as the cheapest Michelin meal in the world, where USD $10 will more than satisfy your hunger.
Delicious dining options abound in Hong Kong. In my three nights in the city, I tried my hardest to sample all the best restaurants. What I quickly discovered is that it would surely take a lifetime to try them all. Here’s a look at my gluttonous tour of Hong Kong.
Shang Palace at Kowloon Shangri-La
Within an hour after arriving from the Philippines, I was seated in the newly remodeled Shang Palace, located in the Kowloon Shangri-La. Awarded two Michelin stars every year since 2009, this Cantonese restaurant was crowded even at lunch. The large dining room is swathed in deep red with gilt, crystal, and traditional Chinese accents, and even with no windows, the atmosphere is vibrant.
Shang Palace’s multi-award winning Chef Mok Kit Keung has prepared meals for presidents and kings, and on this day, he created a tasting menu for me. The six courses combined some of Chef Mok’s signature dishes, along with plates created with the freshest in-season ingredients.
First Course: Steamed Pacific clam dumpling with red Chinese spinach; deep fried taro paste stuffed with diced abalone and chicken; and roasted Iberico pork meat with honey
Verdict: Beautifully presented and tasty, my favorite was the pork. Of course, I’m partial to Spanish pig.
Second Course: Braised hot and spicy lobster soup
Verdict: Spicy anything is the way into this Tabasco-toting lady’s heart. Add lobster to that, and Chef Mok has a winner.
Third Course: Oven baked cod fillet with egg white and conpoy
Verdict: Chef Mok created this dish for Russian President, Vladimir Putin. Word is that he asked for seconds, and I was tempted to do the same. The cod is the best I’ve ever eaten. It is so light and moist. Really, really delicious.
Fourth Course: American oyster with port wine and black truffle paste served with lettuce
Verdict: Who thought I’d go all the way to Hong Kong for an American oyster? I certainly didn’t. Any sort of truffle dish gets my full attention, and this makes for a great two bites.
Fifth Course: Braised homemade bean curd and spinach with hairy crab coral
Verdict: The broth reminds me of a complex egg drop soup, which is something I enjoy. I was told that most Westerners don’t care for bean curd, but I like it just fine. Hairy crab, a delicacy devoured by Hongkongers, is something I’d never tasted. Also known as Chinese mitten crabs because of the “fur” on their claws, hairy crab happened to be in season. I have to say that the taste lives up to the hype.
Sixth Course: Fresh milk pudding with papaya puree and basil seed; deep fried pumpkin puff with custard
Verdict: I’ve discovered is that many Asian desserts are not as sweet as what I’m accustomed to tasting. I have a big-time sweet tooth, so I usually pass on this course. However, these two were just too pretty not to taste. I’m happy to report that both are as delicious as they are visually appealing. No, they aren’t as sweet as molten chocolate cake, but after five other courses, they are the perfect ending to lunch.
Shang Palace is definitely worthy of its two Michelin stars. Not only is the food and service top-notch, but the atmosphere is comfortable. Although it’s a high-end restaurant, it didn’t feel stuffy or pretentious. For me, there’s nothing worse than a snobby waitstaff and clientele.
Find Shang Palace in lower level 1 of Kowloon Shangri-La. Serving lunch and dinner, reservations can be made online.
Mandarin Grill + Bar at Mandarin Oriental
The Hong Kong Mandarin Oriental celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, but a golden anniversary isn’t the only reason to celebrate this landmark hotel. With ten remarkable restaurants on site, Hongkongers and hotel guests alike can rejoice. Pierre, serving French food, and Mandarin Grill + Bar, serving contemporary European food, both have earned a Michelin star.
The Mandarin Grill is a pretty place and not what I expected. When I think of a grill, I picture something masculine and dark, however this restaurant is anything but. White textured ceilings with a repetitive fan theme is a nice touch, while the floor-to-ceiling windows feature the signature view of the city. A serene palate of blue and white with touches of silver and rich brown leather makes for a relaxed atmosphere. An open kitchen is something that I particularly enjoy, and the Mandarin Grill has one. But as beautiful as the dining room is, it doesn’t hold a candle to the beauty of the food.
Executive Chef, Uwe Opocensky, trained with the master of molecular gastronomy, Ferran Adrià, at El Bulli in Spain, which was the #1 restaurant in the world before closing. He’s also worked with Anton Mosimann in London and Alan Ducasse in Paris. With that pedigree, I very much looked forward to this meal and my expectations were quite high. And despite the fact that Chef Uwe also oversees the ten restaurants and bars in the hotel, he took the time to visit with me and explain the dishes. I found that to be a kind gesture.
The imagination behind the presentation of Chef Uwe’s food is by far the most creative I’ve encountered. With each course I found myself wondering what would be delivered to my table next. The great news is that the food tastes as good as it looks.
Starter: Beetroot–heirloom, salt baked, raw, red, yellow, bellota
Verdict: Watching the beetroot dish come to life gives a new definition to the term, “dinner theater.” A picture frame with a glossy, black glass is delivered to the table with pureed beetroot in the shape of the vegetable painted on the glass. It’s beautiful as is, but that’s just the first step. The waiter then places chunks of fresh vegetables on the plate with the care of an artist with his brush. In reality, this is art–an edible work of art.
Starter: Pumpkin–Whole roast, girolles, crouton, sourdough
Verdict: My eyes lit up when I saw pumpkin on the menu, and I simply had to have it. The soup arrives in a hollowed out pumpkin terrine and is ladled into a cup filled with croutons. The pumpkin soup is smooth, creamy, and delicious. It certainly hit the spot on a rare cold Hong Kong day.
Main: Beef “Callote”–u.s., snake river farm, grilled, forgotten carrots, potato mille feuille, manni olive oil jus
Verdict: Leave it to this Texan to order steak for lunch. Actually, it was recommended by Chef Uwe, but I did have my eye in it from the start. I’m still elated that I ordered this dish. Chef Ewe hasn’t written a cookbook like so many of his counterparts, but he did decide to present some of his menu items in custom-made books. Being a literature nerd, I simply adore this creative idea. The steak is delivered in a big black book, and the cover is raised to reveal the deliciousness inside. Roasted root vegetables and beef medallions rest on a light dusting of green herbs. The meat tender and the vegetables flavorful, I would absolutely order this item again. I am a steak snob, and this ranks among the best I’ve tasted.
Main: Dover Sole–French, grilled/meunire, spinach potato
Verdict: No, I didn’t order two mains, but I did get a chance to try Chef Uwe’s version of fish and chips. Delivered to the table deconstructed and atop a beautiful salt block, this innovative dish makes me smile. The puffy potatoes are golden fried, while the fish is super-moist and fresh. It’s the antithesis to the beef callete I ordered, but perfect for a light lunch.
Dessert: Peanut–peanut, peanut, peanut
Verdict: The description on the menu says it all. This is a peanut dessert. Delivered on a tray filled with real peanuts, a piece of clear glass holds the actual dessert. Inside one of the three “peanuts” is a chocolate ice cream. This dish is fun, delicious, and not too sinful. They’ll even pack up the actual peanuts for take away, if you so choose.
Mandarin Grill + Bar is a place that I would return to time and time again just so I could try everything on the rotating menu. The quality and taste of the food is obviously great, but it’s the innovation and creativity of Chef Uwe that would warrant my standing reservation. Food is supposed to be fun, and it’s exactly that at the Mandarin Grill.
Find Mandarin Grill + Bar in the Mandarin Oriental. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, reservations can be made online.
Summer Palace at Island Shangri-La
The Shangri-La Hotel on Hong Kong Island is the sister property of the Kowloon Shangri-La. It has a more business-like atmosphere and that is reflected in the clientele of Summer Palace. Patrons dressed in perfectly tailored suits fill the dining room for not only business lunches, but also the Cantonese food created by Chef Ip Chi Cheung. Having earned two Michelin stars, Chef Ip has been at Summer Palace since its opening in 1991. Prior to that, he was the executive chef at Shang Palace. Having toiled away in the kitchens of Hong Kong since the age of fourteen, Chef Ip is a fixture and symbol of fine dining in the city.
Summer Palace’s multi-level dining area is exquisite. The golden walls are covered in Chinese art and carvings, and crystal chandeliers appear to drip from the ceilings. Pops of ruby red are seen throughout, most notably on the rich upholstered chairs. Even with the hum of a full restaurant, Summer Palace is relaxing place to enjoy a dim sum lunch, which is exactly what I did.
Dim Sum: Steamed pork dumplings with shrimp and scallop; baked barbecued pork buns; braised spinach and egg white soup with prawn; hot and sour seafood soup
Verdict: Upon seeing the extensive menu, I turned over the ordering duties to my lunch companion. I often look to the chef, waiter, or experienced diner to choose since I’m open to trying almost anything. By doing this, I’ve never been disappointed. This time was no different. The hot and sour soup is the best I’ve ever tasted. I often struggle to find food that is spicy enough for me, but this dish is right on the money. The one-bite lobster claw is extraordinary, while the dumplings are simple and delicious. What I find intriguing about dim sum is how much flavor and variety can be packed into such small packages. The food presentation is also a feast for the eyes. I could easily spend an afternoon at Summer Palace ordering dish after dish from the dim sum menu.
Dessert: Chilled sago cream with mango juice and pomelo
Verdict: Having eaten at least two mangoes per day for the ten days I was in the Philippines, one might think that I’d be tired of the fruit. Frankly, I jumped at the chance to eat more. This soup-like dessert is one of Summer Palace’s signature dishes, and after tasting it I can certainly see why. Not overly sweet, I all but licked my bowl. The cream combined with the mango juice and slivers of fresh mango hit the spot.
Find Summer Palace on level five of Island Shangri-La. Serving lunch and dinner, reservations can be made online.
It literately would take a month of dining out for lunch and dinner for a person to experience every single Michelin-starred restaurant in Hong Kong. With the city’s cosmopolitan vibe, large expat community, and plethora of international business and leisure travelers, Hong Kong will continue to be a sophisticated foodie heaven, and one that I will continue to explore.
I was a guest of Shangri-La and Mandarin Oriental. In no way was I swayed to write a positive review based on the fancy chopsticks, ridiculous varieties of tea, or the countless courses of delicious dishes. As always, opinions are mine.