Not long after Matt Abergel and Lindsay Jang launched Yardbird, their yakitori restaurant in Hong Kong, the Canadian pair began to notice a curious phenomenon: The raucous crowd of locals and expatriates in the dining room often included a lone man or woman.
As everyone around them ordered rounds of Yardbird’s junmai sake and plates of skewered meat, these solitary diners would quietly sip mineral water. It soon became clear that they were the drivers and maids of Hong Kong tycoons trying to save seats for their bosses, subverting the restaurant’s no-reservation policy. “Maybe it went against the spirit of the place,” Abergel says. “But that was the moment we knew Yardbird had arrived.”
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How has a place devoted to the humblest of birds, the chicken, managed to become the most game-changing restaurant in Hong Kong? This is a city of gastronomic excess, after all—a place where no beast is safe from the wok. The restaurant scene here includes hushed Michelin-starred dining rooms with seven sets of cutlery and street stalls where customers gobble down duck and dim sum with a flurry of chopsticks. Yardbird is something different, and when it opened in 2011, it sparked a sort of democratic dining revolution.