Nostalgia, comfort, and honest produce-driven food define this quintet of new restaurants in Hong Kong.
Given his recent star turn on the Netflix show “The Final Table,” one might expect Shane Osborn’s new restaurant to be a splashy affair. After all, Osborn was also the first Australian chef to gain a Michelin star when heading the kitchen at fine-dining institution Pied à Terre in London, while his Hong Kong flagship, Arcane, is usually booked solid. Yet Cornerstone has quietly opened on Hollywood Road, with no phone or website, and a discreetly signed marble entrance that’s easy to miss. With seating for just 24 people, the stylish interiors are as concise as the menu, which changes regularly under the watch of head chef Neal Ledesma. Top-notch produce shines in dishes such as oxheart tomato and burrata with pesto, and red prawn with lemon thyme and olive oil. The smoked Scottish salmon (from London’s H. Forman & Son) served with malt bread is exceptional, and the wagyu bavette is a winner in the steak-sandwich stakes. With no dish over HK$200 (US$25) and no service charge, Cornerstone is a restaurant that merits seeking out any time of day, or even every day (49 Hollywood Rd., Central).
Chris Grare and Arron Rhodes are strapping chefs. This is relevant to understanding the meals that await at Kinship, the offspring of a bromance that began when they met soon after arriving in Hong Kong seven years ago. Both came from fine-dining backgrounds but shared a vision to cook home-style meals for friends and family. With American Grare primarily in the kitchen and Englishman Rhodes overseeing the front of house, the food has a global outlook with a States-side bent: beef tartare with fresh lime sambal, roasted carrots served with almond butter and fresh curd, roasted spring chicken, sticky barbecue pork belly, a 20-ounce steak with blue cheese potato, and a classic-in-the-making Mr. Whippy dessert with salted caramel sauce. This is dude food for the #metoo era. Done up in international hipster style, Kinship is a place that’s as good for small groups as it is date night, with enough buzz to hide awkward silences, but not so loud that you can’t hear yourself talk (2-4 Shelley St., Central; 852/2520-0899).
Julien Royer’s Odette restaurant in Singapore topped the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2019 with boundary-pushing, Asian-influenced modern French cuisine. Louise, his first venture in Hong Kong, is different. Here, Royer mines his childhood and roots to bring diners traditional French food of the highest order. The venue, a two-story heritage building in Central’s PMQ retail development, features elegant interiors by star Hong Kong designer André Fu. Downstairs is a tropical-inspired lounge and terrace, best for cocktails or a glass of wine from an impressive list, while the upstairs dining room is a light and airy art deco–style parlor with a handful of outdoor balcony tables. Executive chef Franckelie Laloum, previously at the Ritz-Carlton in Tokyo, executes Royer’s haute-humble menu with aplomb. Pâté en croûte shows off the kitchen’s charcuterie and pastry skills, and angel-hair pasta comes with a generous scoop of Kristal caviar. The dish most likely to attain icon status, however, is the poulet jaune rôti, or roasted Hong Kong yellow chicken, a golden beauty of a bird that may one day rival its more famous cousins at Daniel Humm’s NoMad restaurant in New York, or L’Ami Louis in Paris (35 Aber-deen St., Central; 852/2866-0300).
4. Mr Brown
The buzz is palpable the moment you step inside this sultry dining room in Wan Chai. Cool twenty- and thirtysomethings perch on counter seats with ringside views of the kitchen action, or lounge in banquettes enjoying animated conversation. Urban interiors feature industrial timber walls, brick floors, and flattering lighting. Upbeat tunes, from Depeche Mode to Hercules and the Love Affair, add to the good times. The star of the show, however, is the large charcoal- and gas-fueled grill and oven turning out terrific barbecue dishes that have made the restaurant a smoking-hot success. Founded by the trio behind nearby Francis—maître d’ James Ward, chef Asher Goldstein, and sommelier Simone Sammuri—Mr Brown retains its sister restaurant’s Mediterranean and Middle Eastern character while being more international. Meat, seafood, and vegetables get equal billing in dishes like mini Ibérico pork muffins, raw hamachi covered in leek ash, and grilled eggplant with miso tahini. The kohlrabi, sliced and covered in a creamy pecorino-and-hazelnut sauce, is excellent, as is the 12-hour-smoked brisket. Although the table turnover policy can be tight on weekends, Mr Brown is well worth the detour for a great night out (9 Ship St., Wan Chai; 852/3101-1081).
The Peak may be Hong Kong Island’s top tourist attraction, but it has long been a culinary low point. Things are looking up, however, with the opening of Rajasthan Rifles, an Anglo-Indian-themed restaurant at the redeveloped Peak Galleria. Inside is a sepia-tinted mix of red brick, dark woods, and memorabilia meant to evoke army mess halls of yesteryear. A dog-friendly terrace affords views of the city skyline, when hordes of tourists aren’t in your way. The menu, overseen by chef Palash Mitra of one-Michelin-starred New Punjab Club in Central, features crowd-pleasers like butter chicken and samosas, though it’s the hybrid dishes created under British colonial rule that pique the most interest. Superb mulligatawny is a mild curry soup studded with pieces of chicken, celery, and rice. A sizzling hotplate of spice-rubbed salmon comes with thick-cut chips, as does a heavily crumbed chicken cutlet, inspired by the schnitzel-like kabiraji of Kolkata. It’s accessible food with the heat dialed down, though not at the expense of flavor. Accompany your meal with a minted Pimm’s Cup or a gin and tonic, naturally (The Peak Galleria, 118 Peak Rd.; 852/2388-8874)
This article originally appeared in the August/September 2019 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Take Five”).