Hong Kong – Wan Chai Restaurants

For the past 5 months, I’ve been dividing my time equally between Manila and Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong, my office is in Wan Chai, our flat is in Wan Chai, and I very rarely drag my butt out of Wan Chai. My wife works in Wan Chai as well. She gets a dinner break at 9 PM each night that’s just 45 minutes, so we have to eat in places close to her work.

What’s great about Wan Chai is there is such a wide range of restaurants and cuisines. You can go old school Hong Kong for relatively little money or you can drop a month’s salary on fine dining (no, I still haven’t been to Fook Lam Moon), and plenty of choices in between.

I thought people might find it useful to get my guide to places I’ve eaten in the area. I did a similar piece once but that’s more than 4 years old so hope you don’t mind an update.

After living in Sai Kung for 5 years and Lam Tsuen for 2 years, being back on Hong Kong island and having hundreds of places within a 15 minute radius is spoiling me like crazy. When we were living in the New Territories we had to get in the car for just a can of coke or a pack of smokes. The convenience of having so much within walking distance almost makes up for the tiny apartment.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive listing. Open Rice lists well over 1,000 restaurants in Wan Chai district. In this post I’ve mentioned roughly 70 places.

Spoiler alert: My #1 favorite spot at the moment is a relatively new tapas place called El Cerdo.

I’m going to kick things off by “walking” down Lockhart Road. I only have a few photos to go with this so I’ll provide Open Rice links so you can check out all the details.

South side of Lockhart Road

American Restaurant – Beijing cuisine (despite the name). I think this place has been around for 75 years and it appears to still have the same decor and same waiters. Mostly the food is just okay, you go here for the atmosphere. Their Peking duck is so-so, their sizzling chili prawns are winners, and there’s some sort of shredded beef thing with tiny sesame buns that I truly love but can never remember the name of.

Outback – The global American franchise chain that pretends it’s from Australia. I think their burgers are okay enough but their steaks are pretty tasteless.

Burger Joys – One of the newer places on the block. Not the best burger in town but the best burger on Lockhart Road I guess. Open all night and cheap enough.

Devils Advocate – British style pub with okay food but there’s better to be had.

Trafalgar – When this place opened years ago, I never thought they’d last. But they seem to be thriving. A large balcony and decent food makes it worth waiting for the lift to the 5th floor.

White Stag – Of all the British-style pubs in Wanchai, I’d say this one has the best food. Their quiz night is packed each week. (The best British-style pub in Hong Kong remains The Globe in Soho.)

Tsui Wah – A Hong Kong institution, of course. This one is not open 24 hours unlike some of their other branches.

Ebeneezer’s – I loved Ebeneezer’s back in the 90s. I don’t eat there any more.

Istanbul Express – I used to eat here pretty often. I don’t any more.

Doghouse – closed up two weeks ago!

(Always loved the big 3-D sign above the Doghouse entrance.)

Hay Hay – (can’t find the link by typing the English name into Open Rice) – well, it’s far from the best cha chaan teng in Hong Kong. But it’s open 24 hours, it’s got a huge English menu, they have everything from char siu to tuna sandwiches.

(At Hay Hay I almost always order the char siu stir fried with hor fun. It’s the closest I’ve found in HK to the Chinese food I used to get in NYC, so greasy filling comfort food for me.)

Chili Club – I don’t get why this place is so popular. I used to have a Thai girlfriend. I took her there for dinner soon after we started dating. She took one bite from each plate and refused to eat any more. “This isn’t Thai food. This is Thai food for foreigners.”

Thai Farmer – The next night, that same girlfriend brought me here and said this was far more authentic. I broke up with that woman about 10 years ago but I still come here to eat.

Churchills and Queen Victoria – they have food but you don’t come to either of these places for the food.

Coyote – Right now the sign outside says “Mexican food so authentic Donald Trump would build a wall around it.” My boss used to eat lunch here almost every day – until they changed over to a lunch buffet.

El Cerdo – What the hell is a place like this doing on Lockhart Road? It’s so out of place that I was afraid to try it. Now it’s my favorite. “El Cerdo by Simon Lynch” and you’ll find Simon working in the open kitchen for both lunch and dinner. This guy knows what he’s doing. Set lunches are a good value, even if they just raised the price $20 on each of them. The lamb is amazing. The prawns in olive oil with garlic and chili are as good as you’ll find anywhere. The single-serving size paella at lunch time is also really really nice. Eat here. Sit at the counter. Talk to the chef. You’ll come back.

(Lamb skewers “with moorish spices”. Trust me, get this.)

Masala Train – Teeny tiny little place, just 5 stools, seems to be a family run operation which means they really care about the food they’re serving to you. This is my go-to place for a chicken kebab now.

North Side of Lockhart Road

On the corner of Lockhart and O’Brien there are a couple of HK street food places, open late, great for take away rice box meals at lunch.

Next door is this place, no English name, been there forever and just closed last week. They were open 24 hours and it was both a late night supper place and a lunch time takeaway place for me. UPDATE: Closed for renovation and they’ve shrunk by 50%, the right side of the place sectioned off and up for rent.

A bit further down, you’ll pass HK fast food chain Delifrance. It’s good for … something, I guess.

Agave – A Mexican place with okay food and a huge menu of tequilas. They haven’t updated the food menu in at least ten years (aside from raising prices).

Players – Formerly The Bridge, I’m mentioning this place because they used to do a reasonable attempt at a Philly cheese steak, but the last time I went it was gone from the menu.

The Canny Man – Hidden in the basement of the Wharney Hotel is what claims to be HK’s only authentic Scottish bar and restaurant. It’s really quite nice.

Carnegies – Hanging on by a thread these days. They were supposed to close at the end of June but are holding on hoping to find a buyer.

Pizza Bar – I think I’ve been to this place three times in 22 years, and the last time must have been at least 10 years ago.

Flying Pan – Breakfast 24 hours a day. My wife loves this place. I can’t figure out why they have a burger (that I’ve never tried) and a really good grilled cheese and bacon sandwich on the menu but they don’t have french fries.

Jo Jo’s – Since my HK team included one guy from Pakistan who was strictly Halal and a HK guy who was a vegetarian, this became our go-to place for team lunches.

Jaffe Road

Cinta J – The sign may say they have Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian and Filipino food but stick with the Filipino food which is reasonably authentic. I can’t stand the music in here though.

The rest of the street is primarily bars that offer food – Dusk Till Dawn, Rio, Centre Stage (formerly Spicy Fingers, formerly China Town, formerly Rick’s), Joe Bananas. The food at Joe Banana’s is reasonably okay.

There’s also a hot pot place – no English name (Kam Wan? Gold Coast? Gold Bay?). I’ve been here a few times and always thought it was quite okay. I don’t know if there’s an English menu.

On Luard between Jaffe and Lockhart you’ll see –

Thai Hut – Reasonably authentic Thai food, open very late

Another Ebeneezer’s

Big Pizza – I’ve never tried it. Every time I pass this place I look at the pizza and it just looks all wrong to me.

Taboo – I miss Delaney’s. But I like the set lunches here. The guy running the kitchen used to run the kitchen at Rocco’s in TST (where my wife used to work). It doesn’t get that crowded at lunch and the food isn’t bad so it’s a relaxing place to sit for awhile. At night they get some pretty decent bands.

Sichuan Paradise – Avoid the set lunches here, order from the regular menu even at lunch time. You’ll be rewarded with reasonably authentic blow-the-top-of-your-head-off Sichuan cuisine.

Continuing down Jaffe:

Sabah – This may not be the most authentic Malaysian food in the world but I’m not Malaysian and I really enjoy the rendang, the dry fried curry chicken and the laksa here.

Khana Khazana – strictly vegetarian Indian menu, which is why I’ve never been here, but some people I know swear by this place.

Peking Dumpling Wong – I haven’t been here in awhile but I really used to like this place, I just wish they’d stay open later.

Lotus – Vietnamese food. They get long lines at lunch for take-away because their lunch sets are a pretty good value.

Opposite Lotus is a noodle soup place, no English name, bright and colorful. English menu behind the register only, long lines at lunch for their very sour spicy soup with noodles. My wife’s favorite lunch.

3 6 9 Shanghai Food – Another really old place, quite good, open till 4 AM, my only problem is that their English menu is just a fraction of what they have to offer. If you have a favorite Shanghai dish and you don’t see it on the menu, just ask for it, odds are they have it.

Further Away

Here are more places in Wan Chai that I’ve tried, in random order:

Joy Hing – Some people will tell you this is the best place for HK-style roasted meats. I’m not sure it’s the absolute best but I love it.

The Optimist – A Spanish themed restaurant, not that many tapas on the menu compared to others but everything we’ve had here is really good and this place has a nice vibe for a relaxing dinner. The manager told me they do their own dry aging on their steaks and they taste fantastic. (Though on our last visit they apparently ran out of the aged steaks and were serving “new” steaks without telling anyone. The difference in taste was obvious to me. To their credit, when I complained they offered us a couple of glasses of wine and dessert.)

Date Day – A huge cha chaan teng that’s open 24 hours. My wife gets off work at 4 AM or later. If I’m still awake, we head here. She can get a scrambled egg and ham sandwich and I can get a plate of Singapore noodles (with little slices of hot dogs mixed in!). English menu at the register.

A bit further down from Date Day are two wonton noodle places. Neither place has an English name, both are open late and both are quite okay.

Across Hennessy from HSBC is another no-English-name place doing great wonton noodles. English menu, friendly staff. Great prawn wontons here.

 

Le Pain Quotidien – Open Rice lists a Queens Road East address for this branch of the Belgian chain. It’s on Johnston Road.

Passion by Gerard Dubois – This is in the middle of the new Lee Tung Avenue promenade. I really like this chain and am upset that they closed their Manila outpost (which offered the same food and quality but a lot cheaper than in Hong Kong).

Djapa – Japanese/Brazilian fusion food, the real draw for me is the huge list of Japanese whisky, most of it at astronomical prices. It’s fun to sit here, you feel like you’re sitting inside a manga comic book.

Butchers Club Burger – Sometimes this is my favorite burger in Hong Kong (other times it’s Beef & Liberty). The burger is so filling that I no longer order the duck fat fries, but don’t let that stop you. They’ve also got a great bourbon menu.

Beef & Liberty – Like I said, sometimes this is my favorite burger in Hong Kong. Depends on my mood. This is more “restaurant-y” than Butchers Club and they also have killer sweet potato fries.

Morty’s Delicatessen – I’ve been to their branch in Central a few times and thought it was okay enough so I gave their Wan Chai branch a try and was disappointed. It was pretty new so hopefully they will get their act together.

Le Relais de l’Entrecote – (can’t find it on Open Rice, it’s on Queens Road East), global chain just doing steak frites, my wife and I ate at one of the Paris branches on our honeymoon so we gave this one a try. We’d go back, though if memory serves the sauce they pour over the steak isn’t quite the same (and not as good). Update – I’m told it’s closed.

Wooloomooloo Steakhouse – the restaurant’s on the 31st floor, then there’s a rooftop bar, with prices that match the altitude. But it’s really very good and worth it.

Paisano’s – I’m not so in love with their pizza any more. The salads and pastas are still quite okay.

Cheung Hing Kee Shanghai Pan Fried Buns – nowhere near as good as the ones I used to get on the street in Shanghai a decade ago. But they’re okay enough.

King Prawn Asia Cuisine – A really solid bowl of laksa here at a reasonable price.

Himalaya – A very reliable Nepalese/Indian restaurant.

Divino – at lunch time they do a really great salad and antipasto buffet, which you can order on its own or pair with a pasta or pizza.

Frites – Belgian food, the mussels are quite popular here, I’ve only been here a few times but never had a bad meal.

The Pawn – haven’t been here in its latest incarnation

Bo Innovation – This may be the only Michelin 3-star restaurant I’ve ever eaten in and I’ve only been here once. It was terrific.

Koh Thai – been here once, not the most authentic Thai but everything was really tasty and their outdoor deck is a great place to sit when the weather’s right.

Com Banh Mi by Chef Phuc Dat Bich – yes, that’s really the name of the place. I ordered a banh mi with brisket and thought there was way too much fat.

The Spice House – cheap & cheerful Thai food

Mr. Crab by The Captain’s House – odd name, right? We came here once for Sunday lunch – a set served like the high tea set at the Peninsula, but this was bagels, smoked salmon, crab and a variety of spreads and veggies. Not bad at all.

I’ve mentioned a lot of places but trust me, there are still quite a few high up on my “want to try” list. Which of your favorites did I miss?