Frugal Feasts: Unassuming eateries in Hong Kong

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 “Tim Ho Wan is an authentic cha chaan teng experience right down to the overworked waitresses and greasy menus”

For foodies, Hong Kong is a culinary wonderland. With approximately one restaurant for every 100 people, it has one of the highest concentrations of eateries in Asia, if not the world. It might not come as a shock then to learn that Hong Kong also has its fair share of coveted Michelin-starred restaurants. The Michelin Guide, which has long been the gold standard for dining excellence, has been awarding stars to deserving restaurants for several decades. In 2008, a Hong Kong and Macau volume was added to the Michelin Guides.

The 2016/2017 guide for Hong Kong and Macau includes an impressive number of restaurants, with six restaurants awarded three stars, 14 with two stars (of which two are new) and 37 with three stars (of which five are new).

While the Michelin Guides traditionally have focused on up-scale eateries, in 2008, for the first time, its focus shifted to include deserving street food and hole-in-the-wall eateries. Since then, several Hong Kong hawker-style stalls and unassuming eateries have earned their place in the upper culinary echelons, albeit at a fraction of the cost of their guide-listed peers.

Hong Kong is testament to the fact that great food should be recognised as great food, regardless of the price or setting. It is also recognised as one of the cities with the cheapest Michelin-starred eateries in the world. For those looking for mouth-watering meals that won’t break the bank, we have some choice picks for you.


Kam’s Roast Goose

While not strictly a street food eatery, Kam’s is certainly no high-end, reservation-only restaurant either. Opened by the third generation of Kams – of Yung Kee restaurant fame – this eatery only needed four months before it was awarded its Michelin star.
While the highlight here is undoubtedly the roast goose, Kam’s also serves a wide array of other barbeque dishes and local favourites. Everything from char siu (roast pork) and thousand-year-old eggs to pork ribs are on offer here. Our insider tip is to forego plain white rice and order yourself the Prince Kinsen noodles to go with the delectable roast goose.

Tim Ho Wan

Renowned as the absolute cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world, Tim Ho Wan is refreshingly unpretentious and simple. Best described as a hole-in-the-wall dim sum eatery, Tim Ho Wan serves up some of the best dim sum you will ever taste. But don’t expect to be pampered with smiling, attentive service here. Tim Ho Wan is an authentic cha chaan teng experience (literally translated as tea restaurant) right down to the overworked waitresses and greasy menus.
With four outlets across the city, Tim Ho Wan is well-known by locals as the place to go for great dim sum. All the dim sum staples are served here: sticky rice dumplings, steamed pork buns, shrimp har gow and much more. Be aware that the locations are not huge, with 100 seats each at most, so to avoid queuing it’s wise to go between 2pm and 5pm to avoid the lunch and dinner rush.

CIAK – In the Kitchen

While there are plenty of Chinese restaurants with Michelin stars in Hong Kong, the restaurant scene here is most certainly not limited to local cuisine. A glance at the Michelin Guide for Hong Kong and Macau will show that Hong Kongers are blessed with a wide array of cuisines that have been found to be deserving of Michelin recognition.

One such eatery is CIAK – In the Kitchen, brainchild of renowned Italian chef Umberto Bombana, who first caught people’s attention with high-end Italian restaurant Otto E Mezzo (eight-and-a-half in Italian). CIAK, often described as Otto E Mezzo’s more reasonably priced sister restaurant, serves rustic Italian food that is as satisfying as it is authentic.

Great for Sunday brunch, CIAK serves up a gourmet buffet selection of cured meats, salads and Italian favourites such as eggplant parmesan and meatballs, with an a la carte choice of main course. Everything in CIAK is made to order with the freshest ingredients, so it is not difficult to see why the good people at Michelin have found it worthy of a star.

Text: Hans Schlaikier

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