The last quarter of this year has seen a surge in restaurants opening in Hong Kong once again putting the fragrant harbour on the world map for excellent eats. Casual dining eateries particularly if they serve food and drinks aka gastro-pubs have definitely made the cut and earned top dollar here and these are some of the ones that I recently checked out.
Scarlett (French Wine Bar and Cafe)
This restaurant makes it to the TOP of my hot favourites. In fact I have been back 3 times already. Scarlett is located in Austin road which to get to – you should just walk all the way to the end of Kimberley Road (past Mira Mall and Knutsford Terace) in TST, Kowloon. It brings a popular French Café & Wine Bar concept that has made headlines in Beijing and Bangkok.
The decor is cool industrial chic with blackboard menus, metal and distressed wood décor and an open kitchen and an inviting bar. The restaurant and bar are spread over two levels with a reasonably priced menu of good portions and good value French wines that start at just HK$220 a bottle, HK$45 a glass and half of the 70 all-French labels under HK$500.
I love the simple yet elegant and hearty fare that features a large selection of tapas, pates and terrines, cheese and charcuterie boards, pasta, meat dishes and Chef Specials.
Also open from 7am for an American style breakfast including freshly baked pastries, waffles. pancakes and eggs. There is also a 2 course set menu for lunch that starts at HK$88 and a 3 course at HK$98 with items like classic sandwiches and burgers, free-range organic rotisserie chicken, salads and pasta.
Scarlett is at 2 Austin Avenue, Tsim Sha Tsui, Tel: 3565 6513
* * *
Gogyo (Frozen Beer, Okinanawan Skewers, Specialties and Ramen)
A close runner up for me – is this wonderful Japanese gastro-bar which I also fell in love with recently and already I have visited it twice in the last month! From black pork to black Ale to a selection of unusual but full-of-flavour skewers, this place gives Spanish tapas a real run for its money and when confronted with a choice, I must say this is the winner, hands down. Be sure to make a reservation as the queue is pretty unforgiving and despite having a reservation, expect to wait a little more as there is only bar counter seating and a few booths in this too tiny eatery that really should expand.
Must haves here are the Frozen Beer (make sure you watch how the beer is actually dispensed and how they get the swirl on the top) and to go with that a plate of set skewers is a must.
I also had the Ramen which really was amazing from presentation to taste. No wonder, as Gogyo is Ippudo Chef’s Shigemi Kawahara’s baby and this is his first Gogyo restaurant outside Tokyo.
Gogyo is at Shop 3020, Podium 3, IFC Mall, Central, Tel: 23851366
* * *
El Mercado (Nikkei – Japanese Meets Peruvian Cuisine)
Tucked away in Wan Chai is this first ever Nikkei cuisine restaurant (combination of Peruvian meets Japanese food) that also serves deadly Peruvian alcoholic drinks called Chicanos!
The elements of ‘Nikkei’ cuisine originate in Peru from over a century ago when Japanese immigrants first started arriving and creating a homemade cuisine by trying to recreate dishes they ate back home. Popular in Peru, the concept has over the last few years caught on with adventurous palates and evolved into a new genre in culinary hubs from Lima, to London, Hong Kong and beyond. The word El Mercado means ‘the marketplace’ in Spanish and is all about sharing small plates and bringing together the sweet and savoury in one meal. A great place for light bites and sharing portions, good if you want to impress a first date or if you are out with adventurous girlfriends.
Must tries are the Grilled Beef Heart, any of their seared Sushis (I liked the Seared Beef Flank with Banana Confit and Quail Egg Nigri) and the amazing Roasted Suckling pig or Conchinillio Con Tacu Tacu, which I really liked. See our detailed review here.
El Mercado is at 21/F, 239 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, Tel: 23888009