Private Restaurants Go Public

A few years ago, just about every ambitious home cook in Hong Kong seemed to be running a private (read: unlicensed) restaurant in an apartment or an art gallery—with mixed results but plenty of buzz. Since then, the most talented of the private-restaurant owners have gone on to open legit dining spots. Many of these specialize in dynamic regional-Chinese cuisine that was previously harder to find off the mainland.

Kin’s Kitchen
Art critic Lau Kin Wai was one of the first private-restaurant owners. After running the Sichuan-inspired Yellow Door Kitchen, he’s since opened the jazz club Blue Door and Kin’s Kitchen, a funky Cantonese restaurant with poems by a local writer etched onto its glass walls. The menu highlights unusual ingredients like "human-faced olive," a greenish fruit with a sour taste, and includes dishes like chicken smoked with cane sugar and rosebuds. Details G/F, 9 Tsing Fung St., North Point; 011-852-2571-0913.

Xi Yan Sweets
Chef Jacky Yu became a local celebrity as a result of his secret-handshake restaurant, Xi Yan, and its inventive tasting menus. His followers now frequent Xi Yan Sweets, his new café-style outpost in the Wan Chai district’s up-and-coming Star Street area. Yu designed the lipstick-red dining room and the pan-Asian menu, with dishes like Sichuan spicy pork noodles and Japanese eggplant with soy, and desserts such as durian crêpes and walnut ice cream. Details Shop 1, G/F, 8 Wing Fung St., Wan Chai; 011-852-2833-6299.

Southeast Asian Boom

Until recently, Hong Kong didn’t have many stylish restaurants showcasing the cuisines of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. But a number of excellent ones have opened lately.

Overseen by Australian expat Adam Baxter, Lotus specializes in modern Thai dishes like lime-cured tuna with rose apple and green mango, or slow-braised beef cheeks in a coconut milk–rich Panang curry with Thai basil and chiles. Details 37–43 Pottinger St., Central; 011-852-2543-6290.

This café in the JIA hotel offers classics from all over Southeast Asia, like Hainanese chicken rice, a Singaporean dish. Inspired by Hong Kong cafés of the 1960s, designer André Fu outfitted the space with beaded sconces and communal tables. Details 10–12 Pennington St., Causeway Bay; 011-852-3196-9200.

Hipsters and office workers come to this industrial-style spot for kon loh mee (an egg-noodle dish from Sarawak, the Malaysian side of Borneo) and grilled bread with a Malaysian coconut jam. Details Shop C, G/F, Shining Bldg., 477-481 Jaffe Rd., Causeway Bay; 011-852-2117-2122.