Shopping is big in Hong Kong, but I'd rate dining right up there with it. I love topping off a shopping expedition to Stanley Market with a meal and drink atop the Jumbo floating restaurant in Aberdeen; ending a hike across Lamma island with an alfresco seafood meal; or splurging on a first-rate dinner at a top-floor restaurant with dreamy views of Hong Kong's stunning skyline. What better way to start the day than sharing a table for dim sum at a noisy Cantonese restaurant, unless it's Sunday brunch at the Verandah in Repulse Bay?
And you don't have to spend a lot of money to dine well. Hong Kong is literally riddled with hole-in-the-wall noodle shops, reasonably priced buffet restaurants, and upscale restaurants offering very good lunch specials.
In other words, dining is one of the things to do in Hong Kong. Half the population dines in the city's estimated 11,000 eateries every day. Not only is the food excellent, but the range of culinary possibilities is nothing short of staggering. Hong Kong also has what may well be the greatest concentration of Chinese restaurants in the world. In a few short days, you can take a culinary tour of virtually every major region of China, dining on Cantonese, Sichuan, Shanghainese, Pekingese, Chiu Chow, and other Chinese specialties. Some restaurants are huge, bustling, family affairs, countless others are mere holes in the wall, and a few of the trendiest are Shanghai chic, remakes of 1930s salons and opium dens, or strikingly modern affairs with sweeping views of the city.
Back in the 1980s, Hong Kong's most well known, exclusive restaurants, both Chinese and Western, were located primarily in hotels. In a welcoming trend that began near the end of the last century, however, enterprising and talented chefs began opening establishments in ever-greater numbers, often in modest but imaginative surroundings. A cluster of these restaurants even created a whole new dining enclave, located on the steep hill alongside the Central-Mid-Levels Escalator. Dubbed "SoHo" for the region "south of Hollywood Road," it blossomed into an ever-expanding dining and nightlife district, making it Hong Kong's most exciting culinary scene.
Today, what began as a trickle in SoHo has now engulfed virtually all of Hong Kong. Restaurants stretch from the Lan Kwai Fong nightlife district all the way to SoHo and beyond. Knutsford Terrace, an alley in Tsim Sha Tsui, features one packed venue after another offering alfresco dining. And with Hong Kong's never-ending land reclamation and development, you can expect more restaurants to have opened before you finish reading this guide -- even local foodies have trouble keeping up.
Unfortunately, the small-time entrepreneurs who served as catalysts for today's culinary explosion probably wouldn't make it in today's competitive climate, at least not in SoHo or any other place where rents have risen dramatically. Instead, Hong Kong's restaurant business is mostly a group thing, with most trendy newcomers part of a well-marketed chain.
On the other hand, there has never been as many dining possibilities as there are now, with French, Italian, American, Mexican, Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, and other ethnic eateries available even in far-flung parts of Hong Kong. Other welcome trends are the inclusion of vegetarian and healthy foods on many menus and the growing popularity of crossover, East-meets-West fusion cuisine, which capitalizes on ingredients and flavors from both sides of the Pacific Rim. And of course, hotel restaurants remain among the best in town, from legendary classics to innovative cutting edge.
I'm convinced that you can eat as well in Hong Kong as in any other city in the world. And no matter where you eat or how much you spend, it's sure to be an adventure of the senses. Little wonder, then, that a common greeting among Chinese in Hong Kong translates literally as "Have you eaten?" In Hong Kong, eating is the most important order of the day.
The restaurants in this section are grouped first according to location and then according to price. In Kowloon, restaurants are concentrated in hotels, in shopping malls, and along Nathan Road and its side streets, such as Knutsford Terrace with its many alfresco eateries. Central District caters to area office workers with a wide range of restaurants in ifc mall and Pacific Place and to night revelers in the Lan Kwai Fong nightlife district and SoHo (South of Hollywood Road), with many more restaurants sprinkled in between. Wan Chai, home to both a convention center and the city's raunchiest nightlife (think strip shows), offers a wide range of restaurants catering to diverse crowds, while the nearby Causeway Bay's dining scene centers in and around Times Square shopping center. The most striking views are from restaurants atop Victoria Peak, while Stanley, with its market and laid-back beachfront restaurants, seems like a different part of the world altogether.
As for pricing, you can expect restaurants in the Very Expensive category ($$) to cost more than HK$800 per person for dinner without drinks (some restaurants average HK$1,200 or more), while in the Expensive category ($$), meals average HK$500 to HK$800.
Moderate restaurants ($) serve dinners ranging mostly from HK$250 to HK$500, while Inexpensive restaurants ($) offer meals for less than HK$250. Keep in mind, however, that these are only guidelines. Some dishes (such as steaks or seafood like lobster) can easily make your meal more expensive than the calculations above.
I should add that many Chinese restaurants often have very long menus, sometimes listing more than 100 dishes. The most expensive dishes will invariably be such delicacies as bird's nest (bird's nest is a real nest, created by glutinous secretions of small swifts or swallows to build their nests), shark's fin, or abalone, for which the sky's the limit. In specifying price ranges for "main courses" under each Chinese establishment, I excluded these delicacies, as well as inexpensive rice and noodle dishes which are considered side dishes (except, of course, in specialized noodle shops). In most cases, therefore, "main courses" refers to meat and vegetable combinations.
The usual lunch hour in the SAR is from 1 to 2pm, when thousands of office workers pour into the city's more popular restaurants. Try to eat before or after the lunch rush, especially in Central, unless you plan on an expensive restaurant or have a reservation.
Unless stated otherwise, the open hours given later are exactly that -- the hours a restaurant remains physically open but not necessarily the hours it serves food. The last orders are almost always taken at least a half-hour before closing. Restaurants that are open for lunch from noon to 3pm, for example, will probably stop taking orders at 2:30pm. To avoid disappointment, call beforehand to make a reservation or arrive well ahead of closing time.
As for dress codes, unless otherwise stated, most upper-end restaurants have long done away with the jacket-and-tie requirement (those that do have a jacket requirement often have a loaner on hand). Rather, "smart casual" or business casual is nowadays appropriate for most of the fancier places, meaning that men should wear long-sleeved shirts and that jeans, sport shoes, shorts, and flip-flops are inappropriate. Keep in mind that because many restaurants are air-conditioned, you might wish to bring a light jacket.
All of Hong Kong's restaurants went nonsmoking in 2007, prompting those that could to open outdoor terraces for smokers (bars became nonsmoking in 2009).
Finally, in addition to the restaurant recommendations below, HKTB maintains a program called Quality Tourism Services (QTS), in which member restaurants adhere to stringent guidelines designed to help visitors find restaurants they can trust. A list of QTS restaurants is available on the HKTB website, www.discoverhongkong.com; restaurants that qualify also display a QTS decal.
Moderate -- A good standby for Continental cuisine is the Tsim Sha Tsui branch of Jimmy's Kitchen, located in the Central District.
Inexpensive -- These restaurants have branches in Kowloon: PizzaExpress; Heaven on Earth, offering Shanghainese, Sichuan, and Taiwanese food; Sorabol, a Korean restaurant; Three Sixty, a grocery store and cafeteria specializing in organic food; Tsui Wah, a quick-service chain serving Chinese dishes and international fare; and Wildfire, for pizza.
Moderate -- Several moderately priced restaurants already listed under Tsim Sha Tsui have branches in Central: Dan Ryan's Chicago Grill, located in Pacific Place and offering American classics; Peking Garden, serving food from Beijing; Super Star Seafood Restaurant, known for its Cantonese seafood and dim sum; Tsui Hang Village Restaurant, serving Cantonese fare; and Wooloomooloo Steakhouse, an Australian import.
Inexpensive -- Several inexpensive restaurants listed under Tsim Sha Tsui have branches in Central: Fat Angelo's is renowned for its massive portions of American-style Italian food; Genki Sushi offers conveyor-belt sushi at low prices; Koh-I-Noor is recommended for Indian curries; and Spaghetti House is a popular family restaurant. In addition, Cafe O in Wan Chai is popular for sandwiches, pizzas, and other fare, while Tsui Wah, with a location in Causeway Bay, serves Chinese comfort food and international fare.
Keep in mind that many restaurants in the moderate category earlier offer lunches that even the budget-conscious can afford.
Finally, another good place for a casual, inexpensive meal is the Great Food Hall, in the basement food department of Seibu department store, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, in Central (take the MTR to Admiralty), where various counters offer Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Indian, and other international fare and snacks Monday to Friday from 8am to 10pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 10pm.
Causeway Bay & Wan Chai
Expensive -- Fook Lam Moon, listed under Kowloon, is famous for its exotic Cantonese fare and also has a branch in Wan Chai.
Moderate -- Several restaurants listed under Kowloon have branches in Wan Chai or Causeway Bay: Jade Garden, good for Cantonese food and dim sum; Super Star Seafood Restaurant, serving Cantonese dishes, seafood, and dim sum; Wooloomooloo Steakhouse, serving Aussie steaks and fare; and Wu Kong, which specializes in cuisine from Shanghai. Hunan Garden, in Central, has a Causeway Bay branch dishing up the same spicy Hunanese fare.
Inexpensive -- California Pizza Kitchen, Fat Angelo's, Genki Sushi, and Spaghetti House, listed under Tsim Sha Tsui, all have branches in Wan Chai and/or Causeway Bay. The Flying Pan, PizzaExpress, and Pret A Manger, listed under Central, also have branches here. Finally, Wildfire, specializing in handcrafted pizzas, is in Stanley, with a branch in Causeway Bay.
Be sure to go through the "moderate" restaurants for inexpensive buffets and set lunches.
Around Hong Kong Island
Victoria Peak -- There are many choices in Peak Tower and Peak Galleria. Also, see Tien Yi.
Stanley -- PizzaExpress offers a dreamy view of the sea from its outside terrace on Stanley Main Street, where you'll also find a row of other restaurants. In addition, the Murray House, Stanley Plaza, has a few restaurants serving Spanish, Vietnamese, and German food, as well as pizza and pasta.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.