Saturday, September 01, 2007

Central Hong Kong: So Good, it's Soho

Living and working in Hong Kong's Central District for a month means that I've got plenty of chances to check out things to eat in the area. It just so happens that there are quite a number of good eats in this exciting district.

Unfortunately, as I only just got my hands on my camera, not every entry will have photos to go with it.

The Press Room

Located just below the new CentreStage appartments, the Press Room is an American-styled bistro serving hearty wholesome favourites like steak, pasta and meatpies. The cuisine is eclectic, but mostly Western-type food.

The restaurant's understandably popular with the expatriate crowd, but is nice enough in its own right, with dark wood panelling and chalkboards setting out the specials for the day.

The Press Room also does an excellent brunch, where I ordered quite possibly the largest burger I've ever eaten in my life. The thing was so enormous that it kept me full all the way to dinner.

I can't imagine most people would come to Hong Kong looking for pasta and ribs, but if you're here for the longer haul, it's the sort of place to come to for a nice, relaxing meal along with a robust glass of wine. Even better if you have a date, I suppose.

The Press Room
108 Hollywood Road, Central
Tel: 852 2525 3444

Nambantei of Tokyo

Soho's an interesting part of Hong Kong, a bit like Singapore's Holland Village. I hesitate to call it a cultural melting-pot, but I will grant that it's the one place you can find plenty of international food and watering holes clustered together, and where the patrons are young savvy Hong Kongers (probably educated overseas), or expatriates enjoying a night out.

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Nambantei is a Japanese yakitori restaurant, grilling up and serving skewers of chicken, beef, pork, mushrooms, assorted seafood, and even goose liver. Every order is typically two skewers, and quite yummy.

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They go a bit heavy on the salt here, and watching them throw handfuls of salt at the grill is slightly alarming. Strangely enough though, the generous seasoning seems to work.

This is one of those restaurants you come to knowing you'll spend a while eating, so stock up on good jokes and conversation skills.

Nambantei of Tokyo
G/F, 55 Staunton Street, Soho
Tel: 852 2559 6221


After Chubby Hubby blogged about this place, I thought it sounded pretty good, plus it was pretty close by.

Billed as a Californian-Chinese restaurant, Tribute actually serves fairly contemporary modern European fare. Dinner is a prix fixe affair, about HK$400 for a four-course dinner.

The restaurant is quite tiny, accommodating about 20 people, but fortunately I was able to get a table even without making a reservation. It features an interesting counter with a view of the chefs preparing food, although the drawback of the small space is that you get an earful of the next table's conversation.

I had the grilled roasted duck breast to start, which was expertly cooked and served with a lightly sweetened sauce. Tender and soft, it felt a bit unusual having duck cooked in such a Western fashion in a city where you're more likely to find crispy roast duck in a derelict noodle shop down the road.

After that was a light pasta course, with little pasta squares (what do you call ravioli halves?) served with a light and simple dressing of olive oil, and a modest sprinkling of what might have been fennel.

I particularly enjoyed my main course of grilled roasted lamb saddle, wrapped in seaweed with pinenuts, accompanied by a rich lamb jus. The jus was perhaps a bit salty, but that's in the nature of jus. Though I had my doubts about the pinenuts at first, I was pleased to find that they added a welcome texture to the lamb, complementing its succulence with a toothsome crunchiness.

What really took the cake though, was dessert. I'm something of a panna cotta fanatic, and I'm really particular about the taste, texture and trembliness of my panna cotta. So far, incredibly, none of the panna cotta I've tried in Singapore have matched my (admittedly high) expectations.

For once though, I didn't regret ordering the panna cotta. Silky, creamy and meltingly smooth, it was flavoured with a touch of grappa and dotted with vanilla seeds. The only thing they could have improved on was in the fruits they supplied with it. Three blueberries and a gooseberry just don't cut it.

G/F, 13 Elgin Street, Soho
Tel: +852 2135 6645

Bricolage 62

Bricolage 62 is the sister restaurant of Tribute, and is located only 20 metres away. Nestled next to an old-fashioned teahouse, Bricolage 62 is like something out of Harry Potter - my eyes just slid completely past it, never realising it was there, till I actively tried looking for it.

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Almost claustrophobically narrow, Bricolage 62 redefines 'small', seating only up to 20 people. Apparently it's a cafe of sorts during the day, but becomes a bar-lounge at night.

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Unfortunately, Bricolage 62 does not quite live up to the standards set by its sister. While definitely an attractive chill-out option, the food it serves comes in almost nibble sizes, inadequate for a hungry diner looking for dinner. In fact, we were so hungry even after eating here that we decided to wander around Soho in search of more food, which led us to the next restaurant on the list.

Bricolage 62
62 Hollywood Road, Central
Tel: 852 2542 1991

Yi Jiang Nan

Just because you're in Hong Kong doesn't mean you have to keep eating Cantonese food.

Wandering around SoHo, I came across this small, Szechuan eatery. Having had a big dimsum lunch at The Hui, I just wanted something cheap, light and nutritious for dinner, preferably nothing oily and fried.

Yi Jiang Nan seemed to fit the bill quite well, and I recall seeing it recommended on a few websites (okay, maybe that makes it a bit touristy, but don't knock it).

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The decor is tasteful enough, with wallpaper depicting idyllic scenes of flowing rivers and green hills, with traditional Chinese houses and boats in the foreground.

As with most Chinese restaurants, they offer a stunning variety of teas even before you sit down, for which you'll be charged HK$20 - not exactly cheap. Then again, they do give you a whole teapot, so it probably makes more sense to come with company.

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While lots of options jumped out at me, I was there alone, and didn't feel like gorging myself, so I settled on a bowl of noodles. Unfortunately I wasn't brave enough to order the super-spicy lamb noodles, instead having a bowl of clear soup noodles, served with poached chicken and vegetables.

While perhaps not the best Szechuan restaurant around, it's a good alternative to the endless Occidentalism of Soho.

Yi Jiang Nan
33-35 Staunton Street, Soho
Tel: 852 2136 0886

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