We know this list is ambitious: Wan Chai has way too many great dining options to choose from when it comes to a romantic evening with your beau (or casual drinks with a Tindr match). However, all the restaurants on our list have something new up their sleeve, and you’re about to find out what.
For our first date night recommendation in Wan Chai, we head to Bib n Hops. “Bib” is a pun related to the Korean clay pot rice dish, bibimbap, while the “Hops” refers to beer hops – a fitting name considering that rice and beer are the staples of Korean drinking culture. We dive into the modern al fresco space that has brought to Hong Kong the spirit of Korea’s urban street markets.
Best for Double Dates: Bib n Hops (Korean)
Located at the former site of three-Michelin-starred restaurant Bo Innovation (it moved up the street), Bib n Hops is the latest upbeat Korean concept introduced by the same chef known for his “X-treme Chinese cuisine”. We think “Demon Chef” Alvin Leung (in partnership with the guys of neighbouring Qi – House of Sichuan, another Wan Chai and Michelin-famed restaurant) did well to convert the large terrace into a more casual hideaway.
It may be more easy-going than its gastronomic precedent, but don’t let that fool you into thinking the food is anything less than stellar. And that’s why it’s best for double dates: mouth-watering Korean dishes, a fantastic contemporary atmosphere and an extensive drinks menu (think: soju cocktails!) — all the elements to make “the more the merrier”.
Korean-Canadian chef Yong Soo Do heads up the kitchen here, bringing in traditional family recipes, plus a few from his favourite food stalls in Seoul’s Namdaemun Market. (True story: for the delicious rice donut sundae, Soo spent a week convincing the old lady vendor to teach him how to replicate her popular sticky rice doughnut with vanilla ice cream, banana jujube and dark chocolate).
Must-try dishes include the crisp seafood mung bean pancake with octopus and sweet prawn, the classic Korean fried chicken and the fresh raw Sicilian red prawn flavoured with yuzu and fennel. For fusion flavour, we recommend the vongole japchae with sweet potato vermicelli and the flawlessly cooked Canadian black cod. Even fans of traditional japchae would be impressed by this dish, which tastes nothing like its Korean precedent, in a good way.
If you were to order just one dish, though, there is only one way to go: the Bib n Baps. It’s a play on the Korean bibimbaps, which are stone rice bowls with special sweet and spicy sauce. We were delighted with our carabinero red prawn bibimbap with truffle ssamjang sauce. It was like the beautiful love child of Spanish paella and Korean mixed rice. The flavours and textures came together in such a uniquely marvellous way that all at the table cleaned out the bowl despite being completely stuffed from the previous dishes.
For those who have tried Bib n Hops in Quarry Bay, the Wan Chai flagship is a more upscale and kitchen-focused version of the brand. The Hong Kong market is embracing Bib N Hops’ cuisine so much that the partners are set to open a third branch this year in Causeway Centre on Harbour Road, Wan Chai. We can see why — and we’re sure you will, too!
Shop 13, 2/F, J Residence, 60 Johnston Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong (Entrance on 18 Ship Street). Mon-Sat 12pm-2:30pm, 6pm-11pm; Sundays & holidays 6pm-11pm. 2882 9128. www.bibnhops.hk
Up next in our Wan Chai Date Night series: The Optimist. Wait for it!
Text: Julienne Raboca