Cover Belon 08/05/19

Each year, the T.Dining panel discusses its top picks for 20 of the most representative restaurants that contribute something truly exceptional to the local dining scene. Here are the results

This year marks the seventh edition of the Top 20 Best Restaurants—a list we painstakingly compile each year in the hopes of presenting a distillation of Hong Kong and Macau’s most exciting dining experiences. It’s a gargantuan task that requires the T.Dining panel to consider 12 months of meals and partake in a rigorous reviewing process that involves more than 200 restaurants across both cities. So, what does the Top 20 list represent? Crucially, this is not your traditional restaurant ranking. Every restaurant on the list is representative of a particularly exceptional dining experience that we felt was worthy of special mention that year. Our panellists were free to comment on and discuss their nominations, downvoting venues they felt lacked the right criteria for the list, as well as showing their support for the restaurants they felt went above and beyond. And so, after months of anonymous visits, blind voting and deliberating, we are proud to reveal our definitive Top 20 for the year, in no particular order. An asterix (*) denotes a new addition to this year's list. 

See the 2019 Top 20 Best Restaurants list, or find out who took home the Best Of The Year awards

1. Happy Paradise

Fun and flair go hand in hand at May Chow’s tribute to Cantonese cooking, where dishes take references from tradition and go running at full speed in a wildly different direction—and it works every time. Where else in the city can you order a feast that includes shiitake tacos with garam masala and soy glaze, mapo tofu dip with ginger scallion pancakes, and pan-fried pig’s brain with burnt pear vinaigrette, all in a neon-lit square of a space that, aesthetically speaking, is one part karaoke dive bar and one part video game arcade? It’s living proof that we’re dining in a time where the rules of fine dining are being shattered—minus the tablecloths, besuited staff and flurry of amuse-bouches and petits fours, Chow’s food is right up there with the best.


2. Arbor

Finesse, precision, ambition—these are the words that come to mind when we think of Eric Räty’s Arbor, a restaurant that pulls together exceptional ingredients in ways that always seem fresh and uncharted. Top-drawer Asian produce finds its way into dishes that delight at every turn; a buttery wagyu beef fillet iis cooked a point, its umami character enhanced by dried soy flakes, while plump botan ebi finds a perfect bedfellow with fresh tomato and crisp seaweed crackers. As a former pastry chef, Räty excels in the final acts, with carefully considered desserts that hit all the right notes between sweet, sour and a touch of saltiness. We’re grateful that the menus change as often as they do, because there’s always something new to discover each time.

3. Somm*

Before Somm, the space on the seventh floor of The Landmark Mandarin Oriental was primarily occupied by a rather non-descript bar, where diners going to Amber would enjoy a pre- or post- prandial cocktail. Following the massive renovation of the entire level, we’re glad that Somm has been willed into existence. Its unpretentious mission is to inspire diners to try wines outside of their comfort zone and to serve a solid menu of comforting dishes executed with a high level of finesse. Because Somm is open all day, from breakfast through to late-night supper, it’s become a place where we feel comfortable popping in for a glass of wine and some charcuterie, or for a bigger meal starting with fresh oysters, followed by delicious Tasmanian salmon confit, ikura and vinegared rice cream, or Japanese pork belly with barbecue sauce and Hakata cabbage, paired with a bottle from the extensive list, recommended by the knowledgeable somms.

4. VEA

As dated ideas of luxury make their journey into the history books, the cooking at VEA is rewriting the narrative in a compelling way. Vicky Cheng is one of the most inventive chefs working in the city today, primed to showcase Hong Kong’s unique ingredients by bridging them with French cookery techniques as well as time- tested Chinese culinary wisdom. Fish maw cooked to a tender bite is paired with a rich and creamy sauce dotted with briny caviar and quinoa, and a gloriously golden pithivier shrouds a heart of 29-head abalone and foie gras. The meal is completed by Antonio Lai’s freewheeling wine and cocktail pairings, and this year we were particularly impressed by the well-considered mocktail option. Pastries by Karys Logue are full of local whimsy, too—such as the tiny petits fours inspired by pineapple buns stuffed with butter, a classic Hong Kong treat.

5. Arcane

Every year, chef Shane Osborn steps it up a notch at Arcane. After a stint on reality TV as part of Netflix’s The Final Table, the Aussie chef’s popularity has further skyrocketed—but the quality of the cooking, thankfully, hasn’t wavered one bit. If anything, the confidence of the team has been fortified by its continued success. While the restaurant is technically categorised as modern European, the cuisine championed by Osborn is heavily influenced by the context of Hong Kong and of the prized produce hailing from Japan—take, for example, a dish of Hokkaido scallops with courgette, jicama, yuzu, ginger and black sesame, a combination that makes your mouth water just to remember it.


$ $ $ $

6. Haku

On a busy weekend evening, entering Haku after battling the hubbub of Harbour City can feel like the ultimate reward—but the best is yet to come. After settling in at the counter seating, you feel the weight of the world melt away as chef Agustin Balbi and his team welcome you into their world of experimental kappo cuisine. Since opening, Balbi has further honed his menu— seasonally driven from day one—to weed out some of the more ostentatious ingredients in favour of humble but equally delicious produce. We’ve noticed the drive to fine-tune and incorporate more of his own culinary identity into the dishes, such as in the superlative abalone and chorizo rice caldoso—an unctuous, rich and comforting dish that pushes the limits of umami but just stops short of being overly intense. The eclectic drink pairings also keep things fresh and interesting, with sake and beer as well as wine included. For a venue that will keep you on your toes and offer endless surprises, this is it.

7. Beet

Tiny and unassuming, this neighbourhood restaurant punches above its weight in the culinary stakes, delivering excellent, accomplished modern European fare without the frills. Chef Barry Quek, who trained at Joël Robuchon in Singapore and Attica in Australia, is one of Hong Kong’s most dedicated supporters of local produce—a trait that shows in his thoughtful menu of dishes, where every nuance has been carefully considered. Crafted with modern European sensibilities, New Territories pork is handled expertly, perhaps slow-cooked in butter before being charcoal- grilled and served pink with local vegetables. Staff are young and switched on, sharing just enough interesting detail about each dish with ease.  

8. Roots*

New to the 2020 list is this independent restaurant on a quiet stretch of Star Street, helmed by chef Stephanie Wong, who quit her banking job just four years ago to pursue her culinary dreams. After training in France and then at Amber, Wong set things in motion for her own restaurant—most notably by taking up two residencies at PMQ Taste Kitchen to experiment. With Roots, she’s reached deep down to create a cuisine that is personal and global at the same time; her dishes are often inspired by the context of Hong Kong as seen through the lens of her French culinary training. The convivial, free-spirited dining experience is a breath of fresh air for the city—and Roots is evidence that there is so much bold local talent ready to blossom.

9. New Punjab Club

Sometimes, entering New Punjab Club is like disappearing into an alternate universe—you feel so far removed from Hong Kong, thanks to the jiving music, cheeky South Asian contemporary art and dressed-up staff with significant swagger in their step. Dining here is like being at the party everyone else wants to be at, but didn’t get invites to; the venue itself is relatively small and reservations are becoming increasingly difficult to snag after the restaurant gained its first Michelin star in 2018. Chef Palash Mitra continues to innovate and he’s not one to rest on his laurels—the tandoor remains at the heart of his kitchen, where much of the ingredients spend their time in its searingly hot centre, intensifying the flavours and beautiful kick of spice. It’s not always easy to tame bold flavours such as these, but Mitra and his crew do it flawlessly— with charm and confidence.

10. Écriture*

Since opening in early 2018, Écriture has only gone from strength to strength. The striking venue sets the mood early on—perched on the very top of H Queen’s in Central with sliding glass windows that can open out to allow in the evening breeze, it’s a place that commands attention. Often, it feels as though you are dining in a rather chic gallery, a notion that is enhanced by the impressive artworks that call for attention from different corners of the room. Executive chef Maxime Gilbert is a formidable force on the dining scene, too, with his impressive pedigree and a sharp intuition for flavour. His dishes often suggest painstaking processes to maximise deliciousness, whether it’s the turbot and foie gras wrapped in its swaddle of kombu and poached in dashi, or the buttery short pastry that holds a decadent amount of caviar and uni—an incredible art piece in itself.

11. Sichuan Moon*

Since closing his eponymous restaurant in Singapore, chef André Chiang has had time to pursue other projects and hone his passion for other cuisines. Sichuan Moon has been a culmination of many years of work and research into the dynamic flavours
of the spice-led region of China, and with it comes a mission to showcase to the world that Sichuanese cuisine has an unexplored depth and diversity that is, sadly, not widely understood yet. In a regal setting, diners need be prepared to feast sumptuously on dozens of small courses, each showcasing a flavour profile and unique culinary technique that, when considered together, creates a beautiful primer to the cuisine. Even familiar dishes such as hot-and-sour soup are spun into something altogether different, with intricate knife work and multilayered flavours creating a richer understanding of a humble dish. Yes, it is an expensive—but the education and enjoyment you’ll derive from a meal here is absolutely priceless. 

12. Épure

When you want to feel pampered, Nicolas Boutin’s fine French temple of gastronomy is one such place to visit. The impeccable choreography from kitchen to dining room crafts an immersive experience where you can enjoy the procession of refined Gallic cuisine with surprising elements at play. Boutin’s skill and eye for detail are particularly pronounced in a dish of Cévennes onion, where each petal is separated and slow-baked before being layered with black truffle and masterfully reassembled into a half bulb. This year, we were also impressed by the incorporation of more Asian ingredients such as chewy green ginkgo, lotus leaves and yuzu sauerkraut that were seamlessly integrated in the courses. We can’t wait to see the next evolution of Épure as Boutin continues to thrill with these culinary curveballs.

13. Caprice

Delivering first-class hospitality in one of the grandest dining rooms in Hong Kong—it’s no wonder that Caprice has continued to stay top of mind when it comes to the best dining experiences in the city. In a time where haute cuisine is changing its DNA, a place like Caprice showcases how luxury can progress in innovative ways. Chef Guillaume Galliot is a master of flavour pairings, so you might find the wild zing of mango tamed into delicious sweetness by roasting, before being matched with meaty turbot and buttery sea urchin; elsewhere, a sweet langoustine swims in a rich tomato consommé. Throw in one of the finest wine and cheese cellars, plus desserts by award-winning pastry chef Vivien Sonzogni, and you have all the reasons why Caprice yet again comes out on top.

14. Belon

Despite the romantic lighting, bentwood chairs and heavily accented waiters, this isn’t your typical French bistro. It’s where you’ll find some of the slickest contemporary Gallic cooking that wouldn’t feel out of place in the Parisian bistronomy movement.
At the helm is Daniel Calvert, whose self-professed obsession with the details shows in everything from the perfectly symmetrical tranche of impossibly smooth foie gras au torchon, with its razor- thin slices of Japanese peach and tousled garnish of celery leaves, to the immaculately filleted sanma that appears as the star in a contemporary update on salade Niçoise. The thrill of dining here is largely because of how intelligently Calvert and his brigade use ingredients—effortlessly combining ingredients you wouldn’t typically expect from a classic French restaurant (cured mullet roe, shio kombu) and making you believe in their vision for a new kind of gastronomy.

15. Tate Dining Room & Bar

With its pastel-pink hues, brushed gold and soft curves, you’d be mistaken in thinking Tate is all style and no substance. Chef Vicky Lau has the finest eye for detail, whether it’s used to design the book-shaped boxes used to house the seasonal menus, or to realise the exceptional wheeled mignardises cabinet, full of picture-perfect sweets. Lau has mastered the difficult art of creating cuisine that tastes as good, if not better, than it looks—and tells a compelling story at the same time. Her menu, anchored by the idea of each course being an “ode” to an ingredient or dish that inspires her, is continuously changing and pays tribute to the Chinese and French flavours that form her culinary identity. From a simple cube of brioche with fermented tofu butter to a stylishly plated conch with seaweed jelly and fennel cream, every moment at Tate is beautiful.


Sheung Wan
$ $ $ $

16. Ronin

Ronin is a restaurant of contrasts; it’s the kind of place you come to when you want to be surprised, but also reassured. It’s a fashionable spot that exudes a timeless cool, with a nonchalant design aesthetic that dabbles in minimalism. The food is serious, but the vibe is far from it. The menu changes daily, anchored by whatever the freshest catches of the day from local and Japanese waters are. This emphasis on freestyling it based on what’s available pervades a large part of the menu, though the classics—flower crab with uni, Kagoshima beef sukiyaki—always remain. The vibrant flavour combinations read like a Japanese food dictionary (Akkeshi oyster, mizuna harumaki, mandarin tosazu) and there’s always some fun new creation to savour. After all this time, Ronin continues to make a statement.


Sheung Wan
$ $ $ $

17. Roganic*

Acclaimed British chef Simon Rogan’s choice to open in a metropolis such as Hong Kong was unexpected, but extremely welcome—having experienced the gastronomic journey presented by his acclaimed restaurants in London, we had high hopes for his Asia debut. Rogan’s team has smashed every last expectation with style and aplomb. The comfortable dining room is a contemporary take on a bucolic countryside restaurant—all light woods, tree roots and soothing greens—while the menu introduces prime seasonal ingredients that are mostly sourced from Hong Kong farms. The result is inspiring, with immaculately constructed dishes in which you truly taste the essence of each element, be it the roasted kale served with local chicken or the sweet peas in a tartlet. A place like Roganic reveals the true potential of our local food scene.


Causeway Bay
$ $ $ $

18. Neighborhood

If only every neighbourhood had a restaurant like Neighborhood. The premise is unabashedly simple—a single-pager of no-nonsense food, ranging from premium charcuterie and cheeses to hearty, pre-order sharing dishes, and a small but thoughtful selection of wines. The venue is small and intimate, with raucous laughter often reverberating across the room, and you’ll often spot chef-owner David Lai propping up the bar in his signature white tee and a glass of wine. Despite being a proponent of quality local produce— especially seafood—Lai’s menu is a globe-skittering rollercoaster of inspirations and provenance. We loved the simple preparation of Japanese tomatoes, thickly sliced and paired with peaches, over which a dusting of salted plum powder brought out their natural sweetness. A soupe de poisson, rich and hearty, had the surprising hum of aged mandarin peel to give it character. With food like this, there’s always reason to come by as often as you can afford to.

19. The Chairman

The Chairman has been making waves this year with their efforts to promote forgotten Cantonese cuisine, connecting with chefs from the Foshan area to bring new inspiration and recapture techniques and ingredients from history. Chef-patron Danny Yip continues to fly the flag for our local food, with beautiful renditions of Cantonese classics from the laborious chicken stuffed with shrimp paste to crisp parcels of crabmeat and mushroom dumplings sandwiched with paper thin slices of pork lard. This is a restaurant that makes Hongkongers proud.

20. Amber*

The Landmark Mandarin Oriental’s flagship restaurant, helmed by chef Richard Ekkebus, makes a solid return to this year’s list. After a nail-biting hiatus—during which time many a food pundit made their guesses as to how the newly reformed Amber would be different—the team unveiled a fresh new look and rejigged menu that arched a few eyebrows. Limiting and often eliminating the use of gluten and dairy in all of the dishes, Ekkebus sought to rewrite the rules of fine dining and has succeeded in creating a new kind of journey for Hong Kong’s jaded diners. We’re particularly impressed by the flavour profiles that pay sensitive tribute to local traditions, whether it’s the homemade silky tofu or the pairing of cold-brew teas with the tasting menu.

© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.