Cover Chef Daniel Calvert (Photo: Four Seasons)

The former head chef of French restaurant Belon has lived in some of the world’s great food cities, but Hong Kong remains his highlight. Here he names his Hong Kong culinary picks

“I love Tokyo, but I miss Hong Kong every day,” says chef Daniel Calvert, who left the SAR in November 2020 to take up the position of executive chef at Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi, where he oversees the culinary offering including the hotel’s French restaurant Sézanne.

Calvert is no stranger to change. He arrived in Hong Kong in January 2016 after a two-year stint in Paris where he worked at Epicure at Le Bristol, prior to which he had spent five years in New York as the youngest sous chef at Per Se. Before that, he was in London, where he worked at L’Autre Pied, Pied à Terre, and The Ivy. “But Hong Kong is number one,” he says. “I just wish I could afford to live there. Hong Kong was a very special time and place for me. The food is amazing, the scene is amazing, the people are amazing—it was an amazing time.”

Calvert’s spell in Hong Kong was spent as head chef of celebrated French bistro Belon, which first appeared on the Tatler Dining 20 list of the best restaurants in Hong Kong in 2017. Later, it was awarded one Michelin star in the 2019 Guide and named on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list the same year. But for Calvert, it wasn’t the accolades and recognition that stood out for him from his time at Belon.

“The relationship we created and built with the guest was one of the most precious memories I have of being a chef in general—the guests that I would cook for, the friends I made, and the clientele I was looking forward to seeing weekly or two or three times a month. Some of them we would celebrate every birthday and anniversary with, some every Saturday night with. I miss all those people I spent so much time with and I miss cooking for them,” he says.

Those relationships between chef and guest are what he hopes to recreate at Sézanne. “We’re getting there, but it takes time,” says Calvert, though he reports that in the first eight months of opening, he already has guests who have visited six or seven times. This is testament to his culinary talent.

Outside the kitchen, Calvert has been enjoying the food in Tokyo. “Of course, the Japanese food and the sushi here are great, but you go to Sushi Shikon and The Araki in Hong Kong, and it’s also great,” he says. Mostly, it’s the Chinese food that he still has a hankering for. Here, he shares the restaurants and bars he misses most from his treasured time in Hong Kong.

Related: 5 Family-Owned Chinese Restaurants In Hong Kong

What do you miss most on the food/drink front from Hong Kong? 

I miss Chinese food the most. I miss the culture of going to a Chinese place on a Monday night and taking outrageous bottles of champagne to drink while eating good Chinese food. That just doesn’t exist in Tokyo. Fun in Tokyo is a little more planned, where fun in Hong Kong is so spontaneous. We would go to Pang’s Kitchen and drink incredible vintage champagne and eat amazing Chinese food and I miss that so much.

I miss my favourite bar, too—that was the Captain’s Bar in the Mandarin Oriental. I love that you can order food from The Chinnery and have it sent downstairs to the bar.

And I just miss how close everything is. You can jump in a taxi and in seven minutes you are everywhere you want to be. You don’t have to plan anything.

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What would be the first dish you eat when you return and where would you go for it?

It would be The Chairman and I would eat the congee, and the flower crab with Shaoxing wine.

Do you have a favourite restaurant in Hong Kong, for fine dining and for more casual experiences? 

The Chairman is my absolute favourite. I used to eat there once a month when I lived in Hong Kong. I miss being able to trot down the street and go there. I used to eat at Howard’s Gourmet, which serves classic Chiu Chow-style food, and would go to Seventh Son in Wanchai a lot. And the Genuine Lamma Hilton out on Lamma Island is also one of my favourites.

Related: How Hong Kong's The Chairman Restaurant Redefines Chinese Fine Dining

If you had friends/family/guests to visit, where would you ensure you always go to give them a real taste of Hong Kong?

Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong.

Where did/would you like to meet up with old friends for food/drinks?

La Cabane on Hollywood Road. It was just down the street from Belon and I used to go there two to three times a week. They have a great selection of natural wines and it was open until 2 or 3am. Back then, it was hard to find anything wine-focused that was open past 10 or 11 at night, and there are a lot of people who don’t just want to drink cocktails. I can only have one or two cocktails, but I can drink a lot of wine.

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Do you have a favourite bar and/or café in Hong Kong?

The Diplomat, for sure. I’m not a big cocktail bar guy, but John [Nugent] and The Diplomat turned me back onto cocktail bars and I used to go there so often because I thought his cocktails were so great.

Is there anywhere else that you wouldn’t miss visiting when you are back?

I love the Indian food at Chaat in Rosewood. In Tokyo there’s some good Indian food, but I really miss British Indian food.

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What would you take back home with you when you leave Hong Kong?

I don’t know if he sells it, but I would like to take back a lot of The Chairman's XO sauce.

Where do you go to find authentic flavours of Hong Kong where you currently live e.g. in Tokyo?

Tokyo has some good Chinese restaurants, but I was so spoiled in Hong Kong for Chinese food. My favourite Chinese restaurant would be Sazenka, which is not necessarily a genuine representation of Cantonese food, because it’s Cantonese with a Japanese feeling, but if I have to choose something that really satisfies my cravings for The Chairman, or Howard’s Gourmet, or one of those high-end restaurants, I would go there. But it’s very hard to get into, and I can only afford to go twice a year.

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