Young Thais are drawn by the big city lifestyle
While Hong Kong has long been a go-to destination for top-notch Chinese food, it is now becoming a stomping ground for foreign celebrity chefs, with Mario Batali and Paco Roncero joining the several culinary wunderkinds who have set up outposts in the Chinese territory.
Famed chefs Alain Ducasse, Joël Robuchon, Nobuyuki "Nobu" Matsuhisa and Pierre Gagnaire all have eponymous restaurants in Hong Kong, and visiting overseas chefs often make guest appearances in the hotel dining scene. But a trendier set of chefs is flocking to the city, not from the schools of traditional French or high-end Japanese cuisine, but rather ones who have mastered, for example, molecular gastronomy and home-style Italian cooking.
The celebrity chefs are capitalizing on the enthusiasm for vaunted pedigrees from abroad, with their restaurants joining the crowds of foreign brands that are clamouring for the attention of Hong Kong's diverse, affluent population.
Batali's latest project, Lupa, opens its doors on 12 April in the heart of Hong Kong's Central district. Alongside his business partner, restaurateur and MasterChef judge Joe Bastianich, Batali is teaming up with local restaurant group Dining Concepts to launch a restaurant that will serve signature New York-style Italian dishes with a twist, like ricotta gnocchi with sweet fennel sausage, crispy duck with salsify and saba, and Apician spiced dates with mascarpone. La Terreza, the restaurant’s alfresco dining area, will serve a separate, lighter menu.
Last year, Dining Concepts opened Al Molo, an Italian restaurant in the Harbour City mall that is the first overseas venture of famed American chef Michael White. His US outlets --among them Marea, Alto and Convivio in New York -- earned critical success and developed a passionate following among foodies (though the latter two are now closed).
With an opening scheduled for May, View 62 by Paco Roncero, a circular revolving restaurant atop a glittering Wan Chai skyscraper, will be helmed by a protégé of Ferran Adria. Roncero, who earned two Michelin stars for La Terraza del Casino in Madrid, is introducing Hong Kong to his special brand of "nouvelle cuisine" -- European fare infused with the innovative principles and scientific techniques of molecular gastronomy. From the 62nd floor of the Hopewell Centre, take in the view of Victoria Harbour and the mountainous interior of Hong Kong Island while feasting on Roncero's cutting-edge cuisine.
Hana R Alberts is the Hong Kong Localite for BBC Travel