With the results now in for Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards 2018 sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, it seems as though Bangkok-based Gaggan – “a progressive Indian restaurant” – surprised pretty much no-one by taking the top prize for the fourth time in a row. Closer to home, though, competition was a little more intense, with nine eateries jostling to take the Hong Kong Top Nosh Slot…
Number nine on the Hong Kong list (number 46 overall) was Caprice, the Four Seasons’ contemporary French restaurant. Headed by Chef Guillaume Galliot, it beguiled judges with its selection of bold French dishes, including beef-oyster tartare and caviar, crab laksa with confit egg, leeks, coriander, hazelnut and sudachi lime, and roasted pigeon with confit legs, beetroot and port wine sauce. Its award-winning desserts were also acknowledged as enhancing the French experience, with the restaurant’s very own Nicolas Lambert hailed as 2018’s Best Pastry Chef in Asia. (Read full interview with Chef Nicolas here.)
Standout dish: Beef-oyster tartare and caviar
Ronin, number eight in Hong Kong (number 41 overall), won due to its informal Japanese pub-style appeal, thanks to its twin specialties of seafood and Japanese whiskey. Chef Matt Abergel was particularly commended for a number of his standout dishes, most notably crab shells with crab meat, mitsuba (wild parsley) and iwashi sardine and clams with kimchi, kabu and sake. The drinks selection also won plaudits for its choice of more than 100 Japanese whiskies, not to mention umeshu, shochu and sake.
Standout dish: Flower crab, Hokkaido uni, mitsuba
Belon, led by Chef Daniel Calvert, takes the Hong Kong seven (40) slot. Describing itself as a “dynamic neo-Parisian bistro with an eye on the classics”, Belon impressed with its fusion of local Hong Kong bistro-style French cooking techniques. From an entrée of pork and pistachio terrine with Dijon mustard to a main course of pigeon pithivier with fig and amaretto, the chef sums up the experience as “inherently excellent”. Thankfully, the judges agreed.
Standout dish: Pigeon pithivier with fig and amaretto
Neighborhood, the Hong Kong number six (32), made its debut on the list this year, thanks to its widely-praised French-Italian fare. A new offering from David Lai, that serial restaurateur, Neighborhood is blatantly minimimalist, with the food apparently left to do all the talking. Thankfully its unique combination of flavours, at once delicious and down-to-earth, clearly spoke to the judges. To keep things interesting, Lai is continually changing the menu, with recent highlights including wild boar garganelli, bone marrow and kale risotto, and bouchot mussels in green curry.
Standout dish: Local chicken rice, aged yellow wine sauce
It came as a bit of a shock to the Four Season’s team that its authentic Canto restaurant, Lung King Heen, dropped five places to number 24 overall this year. It can take some comfort, however, from the fact that it is rated as the fifth best place to eat in Hong Kong. This, of course, is largely down to the sterling work of Chef Chan Yan-tak, who continues to provide the very finest Cantonese cuisine, including barbecued suckling pig, braised goose webs with Chinese mushrooms in casserole and crispy scallops with fresh pea.
Standout dishes: Baked whole abalone puff with diced chicken
While Lung King Heen fell this year, another Hong Kong Cantonese restaurant, The Chairman, impressed by rising 25 places to take the number 22 spot overall (number four in Hong Kong). Clearly more than pleased with the restaurant’s performance, owner Danny Yip said: “We didn’t expect anything – we were actually surprised we were on the list again.”
Standout dish: Steamed flowery crab with aged Chinese wine and rice noodles
Ta Vie was another noshery clearly on the up, surging from no. 33 last year, to no. 16 this year, while also being voted into the Hong Kong Top Three. With a name that means ‘your life’ in French and ‘journey’ in Japanese, it’s an apt epithet for an establishment that blends the very best from two countries that, between them, epitomise the finest European and Asian culinary traditions, all under the skillful supervision of Chef Hideaki Sato. Particularly commended here are the homemade pasta with fresh Aonori seaweed sauce and uni and the sweet-corn puffed mousse with shrimp and shrimp jelly.
Standout dish: Civet braised abalone with abalone shell
Nobody expects anything but the very best from award-winning chef Umberto Bombana, a man rightly hailed as the King of White Truffles, so it was something of a surprise that his critically-acclaimed three-Michelin star establishment 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana dropped from fourth place overall last year to 13th this year (number two in Hong Kong). It has rightly won plaudits for a tasting menu that starts with confit abalone carpaccio, continues with black truffle risotto, blue lobster and baby lamb, before concluding with limoncello soufflé, grand cru chocolate five styles or marinated wild strawberries.
Standout dish: Baby lamb from Aveyron, aromatic herbs, black olive, barley and vegetables
While Amber, The Landmark, Mandarin Oriental’s French restaurant, dropped four places this year, down to seventh on the list overall, it is still the most highly-ranked Hong Kong eatery, as well as – for a stunning eighth consecutive year – the best restaurant in China. Revealing the secret of its success, chef-director Richard Ekkebus said: “We are a genuinely collective force, with our best days still ahead of us.” In another claim to fame, Amber’s signature dish – Miyazaki Wagyu beef strip loin with dulse and red cabbage slaw with oxalis, horseradish and pepper berry emulsion – is often cited as the most Instagrammed dish in Hong Kong.
Standout dish: Miyazaki Wagyu beef strip loin
Text: Suchetana Mukhopadhyay
Image Courtesy: Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards 2018 sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, Four Seasons Hong Kong