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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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