The next time you are find yourself in the increasingly trendy Sai Ying Pun enclave, drop by and say hello to a new resident there, the honourable Mr. S.Y. Punti!
Who is he? He or rather IT is a small cafe with undeniable personality. There are no short forms when it comes to formal introductions with this cafe. On contrary, this elusive little place is tucked behind a temporary public toilet at the end of David Lane – next to the Sai Ying Pun wet market. It took a little bit of investigative work to track Mr. Punti down but when we eventually did, my girlfriend and I were both pleased and pleasantly surprised by this little gem of an eatery which also serves coffee and alcohol.
Cafe Manager, Bibiana greeted us warmly at the door when we arrived for lunch to try some of the traditional cha chaan teng fare that seems to have been given a nice twist in terms of preparation, presentation and the use of healthy and fresh produce instead of the usual canned fare that cha chaan tengs are so fond of using.
The first thing we inquired with Bibiana was about was the inspiration behind the Cafe’s name. The “Mr” is just a fun formality and the Cafe’s initials. “S.Y.”, she explained, stood for Sai Ying Pun which turns out was one of Hong Kong’s oldest neighbourhoods and one of the first formally settled places in Hong Kong as it was close to where the British first landed. It’s surname “Punti” hails from the ‘pun’ in Sai Ying Pun and also the word “punti’ which is the slang word for local dialect – a word that it’s Barrister Founder and Owner picked up in court when asking clients that he was representing whether they wanted legal proceedings to be conducted in English or Cantonese.
That done, we got down to admiring the nitty gritty – from the very retro and interesting decor to the simple but tasty menu.
I have to say, I really liked the use of space in the venue. The eatery is essentially tiny and is housed in a small narrow shop house. Outside there is an alfresco area with seats for 2 just before you enter the premises. Inside, is a small living space that has been converted into a dining area with booths that seat 8 and a bar area with seats for 6, whilst the back of house area hosts a rest room, an open-air air-well and the Cafe’s main kitchen.
There is a distinct retro 1960s vibe which adds to the charm of the venue. A very eclectic and quirky Hong Kong sense of style prevails here. Different elements from East and West come together almost seamlessly and effortlessly and at Mr. S.Y. Punti, it is a case of 1960s style American Diner meets 1960s Chinese vintage.
Just open the secret drawer built into one of the eatery’s standard American diner booth tables and help yourself to the eclectic mix of Chinese vintage style cutlery. Whilst you chat and eat, Faye Wong’s sultry tunes add to the relaxing ambience in the distant background. It is an unusual mix, but yet nothing feels odd or misplaced.
The menu and fare is simple with items that one would expect at a local Hong Kong eatery but decently priced, well-presented, hearty and minus that greasy after-taste that brings on the food coma you usually suffer from, after leaving a Hong Kong cha chaan teng.
We started with what the locals call Cheong Fun, an order of Panfried Rice Rolls with Eggs and Bean Sprouts (HK$32).
After that came the Panfried Lotus Root Cake made from mushrooms and minced pork served with Mini Greens (HK$36).
This was followed by my favourite – Dumplings, a combination of three different types of dumplings – one with Minced Pork, one with Shitake and the last variety with Chicken and Celery (all for HK$38) served in a lovely homemade Chicken broth.
All three items went well with the Cafe’s signature Yu Kwen Yick chilli sauce. It turns out that the Cafe was previously the actual ‘factory’ venue where this iconic made-in-Hong Kong chilli sauce was actually manufactured – fermented in wooden barrels.
Dessert was a French Toast with Peanut Butter (HK$35) and Sesame Balls or Tong Yuen served in Iron Buddha Tea (HK$35). I really liked this unusual combination where the tea had a delicious roasted flavour and was gingerly poured over the sesame balls. Again an unusual combination that somehow, mysteriously worked.
We ended our meal with two cups of Olympia Graeco-Egyptian coffee which barista-trained – Bibiana, personally prepared.
Definitely, a cute spot to retreat to in the day, for a quiet girlfriend chat – over Almond Tea (HK$35) and a Cappuccino (HK$35), away from the hustle and bustle of busy Sai Ying Pun. Or this venue would also make a lovely spot to host a private party for about 20 people, after hours. Also, an ultra-nice nice venue to pop into for an evening, after work drink where Blue Girl Beer is on tap and a glass of wine starts at only HK$48.
Nice to make your acquaintance S.Y, we hope you don’t mind us dropping the ‘Mister’ and now that we have been formally introduced, we would love to come back and say hello and get re-quainted. This time, perhaps on a first name basis!
Mr. S.Y Punti is at G/F No. 4 David Lane, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong – Tel: +852 29158885