Hong Kong Locals on Where to Eat, Drink and Play During Art Basel

Hong Kong Locals on Where to Eat, Drink and Play During Art Basel

HONG KONG — It’s hungry business, walking around art fairs and gallery hopping. But the locals know where to find the tastiest morsels and where to kick back and relax. The chef Olivier Elzer, the Young Soy Gallery founder Shivang Jhunjhnuwala and the artist Tang Kwok Hin are all longtime Hong Kongers; here are their top spots for R and R.

The Chef

In 14 years of living in Hong Kong, Olivier Elzer, the 43-year-old culinary director of the two-Michelin star French restaurant L’Envol, has yet to run out of new places to try, but there are a tried-and-tested few that he keeps going back to and would recommend. There’s Yat Lok on Stanley Street. The family-run restaurant has been serving chargrilled roast goose — a Cantonese specialty — since 1957. “It’s so nicely done. The skin is crispy, the sweetness of the sauce, you know, the rice with the sweet sauce on top, it’s soaking together, and the goose is so juicy. I mean, I just love it,” the chef said in an interview.

His other go-to places for roast meat, and for Hong Kong’s favorite pastime — dim sum — are Dynasty, West Villa Restaurant in Causeway Bay and Lei Garden I.F.C. He especially loves Dynasty’s abalone fried rice and crispy whole chicken (zaa zi gai), while barbecue pork (char siu), shrimp dumplings (har gow), and pork and shrimp dumplings (siu mai) are must-haves at all three.

For Sunday Funday, Mr. Elzer and his family often find themselves at Nan Tei in Happy Valley for yakitori; he said Chachawan was a must for Isaan-style Thai food, a pungent, spicy northeastern fare that’s heavy on the chargrilled meats and dips made from pounded herbs.

“The mango sticky rice is just bananas,” he said, adding that it has the perfect balance of salty and sweet. For northern Indian food, it’s the New Punjab Club, and for Indian street food with a dash of southern Indian flavors, Chaat at the Rosewood.

If he wants a taste of home, it’s the Parisian bistro Bouillon, and while fine dining is his trade, he said he’s been known to crave more “robust” hearty fare. He’s a fan of the Danish Bakery’s cheap and cheerful hot dogs, and the Hokkaido-milk soft-serve ice cream at Via Tokyo down the block.

“What I really love here is that when you have cravings, you know you have so many choices,” Mr. Elzer said. “Do I want to go for Shanghainese, do I want to go to yum cha [dim sum], do I want to go for Vietnamese, for Thai food, French, Spanish, Italian? It’s never-ending.”

The Gallerist

The 28-year-old gallerist can be found several days a week at his local Shady Acres. In a city full of gimmicks, the no-fuss, neighborly feel of the bar is a draw for Mr. Jhunjhnuwala, who grew up in Hong Kong and whose family founded the Ovolo Group of hotels. Mr. Jhunjhnuwala noted in an interview that the bar’s location, on Peel Street, was a plus. “On any given evening, it turns into kind of like a block party, with just, people walking up and down Peel Street, people sitting outside having drinks.”

He also recommends the Korean gastropub OBP (Old Bailey Pocha — a nod to the Korean shorthand for pojangmacha, street food vendors), tucked away in an alley off Old Bailey Street, for the friendly Korean drinking culture and hospitality. On the menu are the stalwarts of Korean alcohol like makgeolli, a lightly sweet, fizzy and milky fermented rice wine, as well as cocktails such as After the Afterparty, which, with a base of makgeolli, banana bourbon and Korean pear juice, gives a refreshing twist to the piña colada. All this, of course, goes with a side of kimchi pancake, fried chicken and Wagyu beef tartare.

For a taste of contemporary Hong Kong food, Mr. Jhunjhnuwala recommends May Chow’s Little Bao, whose playful Asian diner concept gives the burger an Asian flavor with fluffy white buns and fillings like pork belly, shiitake mushroom tempeh, and fried chicken with a black-vinegar glaze and Sichuan peppercorn mayo.

There’s also ArChan Chan’s Ho Lee Fook, a funky space inspired by Hong Kong-style cafes (cha chaan tengs) and late-night 1960s hangouts in New York City’s Chinatown, while the Japanese-Mexican contemporary fusion restaurant Chino in Kennedy Town is also high on his list. Think casual, street-style kanpachi and furikake tostadas, tacos with crispy fish and chipotle mayo, and chorizo fried rice in an industrial-chic setting held together by a freehand black-and-white mural by the artist Aaron De La Cruz.

And for those looking for a good night out, it is hands down the Quality Goods Club, Mr. Jhunjhnuwala said. “They do live music on certain nights, and it’s a really, really fun place to go. They have some of the best DJs in Hong Kong that play there on a regular basis.”

The Artist

Tang Kwok Hin is not really one for eating out at restaurants and bars. The native Hong Konger prefers to spend time in the company of family and friends at 1983, his home in the Kam Tin walled village, where he often hosts gatherings and art events on the bottom floor. But when the 40-year-old artist does venture out, it’s all about experiences.

Mr. Tang recommends picnicking at the West Kowloon Cultural District waterfront, where people often lie on blankets on the grass, and take in the spectacular Hong Kong skyline. Mr. Tang prefers to cook and bring his own homemade treats, but he said the waterfront and nearby museums had plenty of places to eat and drink, including Rest Coffee Gin, a regular hangout for him and his friends.

While there, he says M+, the city’s new contemporary art museum, is a must do. The museum, which opened in late 2021, houses the Sigg Collection of Chinese art and is currently showing “Hong Kong: Here and Beyond,” a look at the city’s transformation over more than six decades through the works of artists, architects, designers and filmmakers, along with a Yayoi Kusama retrospective, among other exhibitions.

Mr. Tang also recommends heading to Tai Kwun, a converted colonial police station, magistracy and prison complex that now houses spaces for contemporary art, heritage and performing arts programs, as well as trendy restaurants, bars and cafes.

If you have time to go farther afield, the artist invites you to visit Kam Tin. Away from the bustle and grind of the main city, the district is made up of small villages including Kat Hing Wai, a walled village built in the middle to late 1400s. He suggests visiting the Kam Sheung Road flea market or the Red Brick House handicraft market.

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