Cover Photo; Courtesy of 888 Fatfatfat

The speakeasy-inspired restaurant offers fine regional Chinese dishes and, most importantly, reminds us of the fun of dining out

One of the most appealing things about a pop-up restaurant event is its exclusivity, and reservations at 888 Fatfatfat—which will only be around for another month—have already been difficult to secure. Diners are hungry to try out the not-so-secret restaurant hidden inside the Shanghai Garden Chinese restaurant in Exchange Square, which is not an extension of its host—instead, it is a distinctive space with a completely different menu, vibe, and concept altogether. Here are eight more reasons why 888 Fatfatfat is an irresistible experience not to be missed.

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The Concept

The 888 Fatfatfat restaurant pop-up has one mission, which is to create a dining experience that goes beyond serving good food and drinks, and it does so with a strong story. The concept plays on the Chinese myth of the Eight Immortals, and their magical realm of abundance where rice bowls and wine vessels are always full, signifying good fortune everywhere they go—it’s an idea that is cleverly iterated in details such as the button on every table that can be pressed to call for more alcohol.

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The Location

A large part of the appeal of 888 Fatfatfat lies in its speakeasy format. Guests must enter through Shanghai Garden, passing tables of diners, to reach a hidden entrance out back—a sliding wall reveals a space that looks and feels completely different from the restaurant. Although the restaurant has already been widely documented on social media, the suspense and intrigue that builds as you slowly approach the big reveal is still worthwhile.

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The Interior

Formerly a windowless room inside Shanghai Garden, the semi-private space has been transformed with an abundance of white and gold, from bunches of pale straw that seem to sashay across the walls to the mythical tree installations weaved throughout the long, winding dinner table. Low lighting and details such as brushed gold table lamps and ceramic chopsticks exude comfort and a sense of luxury throughout.

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The Drinks

Begin the meal with cocktails from a menu realised by Raphael Holzer, aka the Fernet Hunter. The drinks feature key ingredients found in Chinese cuisine such as baijiu, goji berries, jasmine tea, red jujubes, and Shaoxing wine. Guests can also opt for cocktails designed for sharing, or a free-flow wine option. A baijiu tasting flight is also available for the brave.

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The Drinking Games

One of the highlights of 888 Fatfatfat is their penchant for showcasing Chinese culture and humour. Tables are given drinking games and trivia to pass the time between courses—one being a set of fortune sticks, where guests pick out a random ‘fortune’ to test their knowledge on traditional idioms and food-related puns.

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Regional Chinese Dishes

The menu offerings at the 888 Fatfatfat pop-up is well thought-out, and are dishes which are carefully curated to represent different regional cuisines of China, from Cantonese’s steamed giant razor clams with black garlic and vermicelli to Sichuan braised angus beef with chilli oil broth; The eight Immortals’ fried chicken may resemble a simple fried chicken, but the bird, carved into eight portions and deep-fried until golden brown, require skills for fine execution. The traditional deep-fried chicken originated in Henan province and was documented in Chinese culinary volumes over two centuries ago. The deceptively simple fried chicken requires the expertise of the master chef, from sourcing the right sized chicken, skilled carving and expert control of oil temperature and heat distribution to yield the perfect crust and juicy flesh in the chicken.

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Plant-Based Dishes

Thanks to Grassroots Initiatives’ Peggy Chan, the plant-based sharing plates are some of the pop-up’s best-selling offerings, showing how meat and seafood Chinese classics can be successfully reimagined into plant-based dishes. Their Peking ‘duck’ wraps are made with cured jackfruit and crispy tofu skin, while the Xinjiang ‘lamb’ are made with cumin-rubbed lion’s mane mushrooms skewered with konnyaku morsels. The most popular dish of typhoon shelter-style ‘ squid’ is actually made with carved wedges of coconut flesh, served with dried chillies and garlic crumbs.

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The Playlist

Gone are the kitschy contemporary tunes of elevator music or tacky synthesized pop-tunes, 888 Fatfatfat’s eclectic playlist of urban beats and hip hop tracks featuring local sensation LMF as well as Taiwanese artists such as Miss Ko, Leo Wang, and Soft Lipa are played throughout the dining experience. The key is to encourage guests to wind down over good food, drinks and fun, something we greatly need in 2021, and the creators of 888 Fatfatfat knows this—and delivers it way past the finish line.

888 Fatfatfat runs from now until end of November 2020. Online reservations are strongly recommended.

888 Fatfatfat, Shop 402, 4/F Exchange Square Podium, Central, Hong Kong.