My philosophy on dining out is that the food should not be pretentious and they should use good ingredients. I’m a big fan of classics because I think chefs nowadays don’t do it enough, or don’t do it well. It’s hard to make dishes that are consistently good for 20-30 years. My job means I’m required to try and see new things – but once I do that I go back to the staples.
For Chinese, I’m bipolar. I like innovative food that’s done well. I like Duddell’s (Levels 34, Shanghai Tang Mansion, 1 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2525 9191) so much that I have a fixed table there. They do dim sum with a twist – like har gau with matsutake mushrooms, or a beautiful codfish dumpling that’s really light and easy on the palate. I also like old restaurants – like Asiana (basement, Emperor Group Centre, 288 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2528 2121), which has been around for about 30 years. I go for the classic roast suckling pig, or a wonderful fried grouper with corn sauce. It’s a fresh fillet, not frozen, and the batter is light – almost like tempura – with a creamy corn sauce. That’s comfort food, and it’s not oily even though it’s deep fried.
I’m a huge fan of French and nouveau French. It’s really interesting to see how each chef interprets the cuisine. My default place is l’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (Shop 401, 4/F The Landmark, 15 Queen’s Road Central, Central, tel: 2166 9000). It’s consistently good around the world – I’ve eaten there in London, Tokyo, Las Vegas, Bangkok and obviously, Hong Kong. The consistency is unparalleled.
I grew up in Hawaii and live in the South Side because I need to be near the ocean. So I go to The Ocean (Shop 303-304, 3/F The Pulse, 26-30 Beach Road, Repulse Bay, tel: 2889 5939) – it has a French twist, a Mediterranean feel and Japanese influences. I’m normally not into fusion but the balance is fantastic. Watching the sunset there is like being in Hawaii. They have a lovely degustation menu and I love the way the chef names the dishes after oceanic terms – like the great reef, blue lagoon and ocean breeze. The lobster with corn mousse, pine nuts and lime is fantastic.
I’m a huge fan of Bonnae Gokson’s crunch cake. I’ve been eating it for 22 years, starting at Joyce Cafe – I ate it a lot there when I first started my journalistic career. Now I go to Sevva (25/F Prince’s Building, 10 Chater Road, Central, tel: 2537 1388). The waiter knows that whatever I have before, he brings me crunch cake at the end. I like the way that in Hong Kong the staff know the quirks [of regular customers] – it’s part of the charm of dining.
My mother was born in Vietnam so I’ve been eating pho all my life. If I really want a fine-dining experience, I go to An Nam in Causeway Bay (4/F Lee Garden One, 33 Hysan Avenue, tel: 2787 3922). Very few Vietnamese restaurants in Hong Kong take the time to get the atmosphere right. The lighting is by Tino Kwan and the interior is by Steve Leung – I greatly admire his work, he’s one of the best interior designers – and I think that adds so much to the dining experience. The pho is a decent rendition; the noodles and beef are silky, so it’s a comforting experience. It’s great to have dinner there with friends.
I like the casualness of La Cantoche (227 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, tel: 2426 0880), where I have the truffled scrambled eggs. And I sometimes have lunch at The Pawn (2/F 62 Johnston Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2866 3444). It’s interesting to see what Tom Aikens is doing with modern British cuisine.