1/F, 63 Wyndham Street, Central
One step inside Restoration and you feel transported. Scattering the space is the eclectic yet elegant touch of New Orleans decor, with rooms dimly lit yet still lovingly warm and inviting. Bar stool diners had a better view of Chef Jack Carson and the team in the hot kitchen, but our table was cosy, humble and gave us enough privacy. From the window-side, one could look down from the first floor to the seemingly distant Wyndham Street and grating pace of Hong Kong’s party district.
What looked like painted and restored vintage furniture pieces could be found in the corners of your eyes, in the small details but in a big way. A few quaint gerber daisies at the center of our table was the clincher, bringing me somewhere I’ve surely never been. But immediately, I felt at home, or at least somewhere familiar. The service was similarly warm, as well as knowledgeable and attentive.
I was excited to taste what I already felt comforted by: The Big Easy.
G/F, 3 Thomson Road, Wanchai
This Japanese crab restaurant, situated on a quiet corner on Thomson Road, offers something few restaurants in Hong Kong can; a gustatory journey singling out three exceptionally sweet crab species flown in fresh from Japan, without letting you leave until you realise absolutely the true meaning of gastronomic hedonism. Ceasing our hunger may have been a priority at the start of that night – a state that must first and foremost be satisfied, I do not argue there. However, after a course of sweet and succulent grilled King Taraba crab legs with Kani-su, or crab vinegar, and a third course of crispy tempura claws and a Matcha (green tea) salt, and a shabu shabu set featuring various joints of the crab to be plunged into a hot ponzu-like bath, finally to end the crab “nose-to-tail” eating with a fifth course of crab roe rice.. well, the state of being full was almost a non sequitur. The biological urge to nourish ourselves was quickly passed over and replaced, almost just as naturally, by a decadently bent motivation to pleasure our palates with crab, crab and more crab.
Kanizen keeps one eye on the traditional, and the other eye on the future – but both are on the culinary ball. A first impression of the front exterior – defined, clean lines, dark woods and elegant block signage with no windows – admittedly, all seems rather solemn. And then, one press of a button outside slides the large wooden panel back, revealing a foyer featuring a concrete pool of fresh Japanese crab varieties – Matsuba, Taraba, Kegari; what was once solemn now becomes decor meticulousness exuding sexiness via seafood. Another automated wooden panel opens to the main dining section, with a U-shaped bar for crepuscular foodies like Andrew and I to sit and be allured by all manners of crustacean temptations. We went for Mr. Big: the King crab, or Taraba (鱈場蟹).
It must be said, I was never a fan of Macau. The last time I visited was almost five years ago, before the City of Dreams and Venetian and all that Vegas jazz. As you might imagine, I was taken aback when we drove down the Cotai Strip (still undergoing some construction in parts) with the palm trees and main road leading up to something reminiscent of a mini-golf version of Vegas, with the sun blinding you through the small cab windows because no silhouette of skyscrapers decided to block its glare. I managed to catch a glimpse of street corners with pebblestone pavement intermingling with both the glassy fronts and wooden shutters of uneven, period-clashing buildings, with similarly uneven, cobblestone steps gallivanting in the city scape next to modern, glossy escalators. I’m not sure whether I liked this landscape; I wasn’t sure whether it was simply confused or capriciously eccentric. But I wasn’t here for the view, unless that view was set upon some tableware, between a knife and fork, some chopsticks, a little white linen napkin… or maybe even just in between my thumb and forefinger.
And so, cue the pork buns (豬扒包).