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Tastemakers T.Dining's Best Of The Year Awards 2019-2020

T.Dining's Best Of The Year Awards 2019-2020

T.Dining's Best Of The Year Awards 2019-2020
By Charmaine Mok
By Charmaine Mok
November 19, 2019
The hospitality industry is full of talent, and every year our T.Dining panel rallies around to celebrate those who have pitched themselves above and beyond the call of duty. In the seventh edition of our annual Best Of The Year awards, we highlight the restaurants, bars and people who have made the dining scene flourish in 2019

See also: The Top 20 Best Restaurants In Hong Kong And Macau

1/10 Best Service: Roganic

Photo: Courtesy of  Michaela Giles/ Hong Kong Tatler
Photo: Courtesy of Michaela Giles/ Hong Kong Tatler

Roganic might be a newcomer on Hong Kong’s dining scene – but from the easy assurance of their service, you’d assume they’d been here for years. It’s no mean feat making great hospitality seem this effortless, especially with tasting menus this complex, but their team impress at every turn. Individual chefs come out to explain each dish, and their passion for quality ingredients shines through, especially when discussing Roganic’s focus on local seasonal produce – right down to showing you the Evogro cabinets that grow some of their greens in-house. All too often in Hong Kong, dishes get introduced as if they’ve been learnt by rote; at Roganic, it’s a conversation that can be as casual or in-depth as you like and frankly, it’s a breath of fresh air in the sometimes-stuffy world of fine dining. The team here are knowledgeable and attentive without being overbearing, and personable and good humoured without being obsequious – with dashes of dry British wit that are every bit as delicious as their signature soda bread.

Roganic, Shop 8, UG/F, Sino Plaza, 255 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Runner-up
Previous winners New Punjab Club have proven that they aren’t just a one-hit-wonder. If anything, the team have only gotten stronger over the past two years, ensuring that the dining experience is flawlessly executed for each and every guest. Staff show a deep knowledge of the menu, as well as personality.

2/10 Best Interior Design: Louise

Photo: Courtesy of Mitch Geng
Photo: Courtesy of Mitch Geng

Entering into André Fu’s vision of Louise at PMQ, you become part of a story that unravels seductively, layer by layer. The visual identity of the restaurant is rich with lush greenery tactile textures and eclectic artworks—mostly curated by art aficionado Alan Lo, Yenn’s husband—all working together to create the sense of a lived-in, glamorous boudoir—home of the fictional Louise, a character conceived by the team and named for Julien’s paternal grandmother, Jean-Louise. We appreciate the details that serve to differentiate the ground floor and upstairs dining room; the former is all terrazzo tables, terracotta flooring and a tropical mural surprising guests at the back, while the upstairs dining room is aglow with warm golden tones, painterly details and a dramatic open kitchen that evokes a theatre. What’s astounding is that the visual identity of the restaurant came together in less than half a year, a feat that restaurateur Yenn Wong attributes to the creative synergy of the team.

Louise, PMQ, 35 Aberdeen Street, Central, Hong Kong

 

Runner-up
Adam D. Tihany was the original designer behind Amber’s iconic look—who could forget those dramatic copper rods hanging from the ceiling? And so it was apt that Tihany would be drafted to take the restaurant into a new era, and what a change: Amber is lighter, fresher, with a new glossy sheen that isn’t overtly ostentatious. Just like the new cuisine.

3/10 Best Pastry Chef: Joanna Yuen, Nobu

Photo: Courtesy of Affa Chan/ Hong Kong Tatler
Photo: Courtesy of Affa Chan/ Hong Kong Tatler

Hong Kong-born Yuen joined the team at Nobu, InterContinental Hong Kong, in 2018, after serving as a pastry commis chef at The Ocean by Olivier Bellin and Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong—a far cry from her previous life working as an associate social strategist for a major advertising firm. A self-taught chef, she also founded her own designer wedding cake company, The Secret Within, which allowed her to flourish in the art of intricate pastry designs and visual storytelling. Yuen’s tireless work ethic and creative spark has continuously wowed our panellists, with sweet creations such as her molten cheese tart with grape sorbet, or a tofu cheesecake with honey jelly and umeshu. Her flair for flavour and architecturally impressive desserts have made her one of the most impressive pastry artists in the region.

Nobu, 2/F, InterContinental Hong Kong, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

Runner-up
The Rosewood’s executive pastry chef Holger Deh has spun his craft all around the world, from his native Germany to Spain, Malaysia and now Hong Kong. His Black Forest cake has now become legendary, and the delicate treats he creates for the hotel’s Butterfly Room and Butterfly Patisserie are whimsical, innovative, and continue to spark joy.

4/10 Chef Of The Year: Richard Ekkebus, Amber

Photo: Courtesy of Affa Chan/ Hong Kong Tatler
Photo: Courtesy of Affa Chan/ Hong Kong Tatler

Over the period when Amber at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental closed for refurbishment, Ekkebus was not one to put up his feet and take a long vacation. In the lead-up to the restaurant’s reopening, the Dutch chef did more than a little soul-searching, taking his team around the region to upgrade their culinary knowledge, and set up a test kitchen in Sai Ying Pun to further put their gastronomic hypotheses under rigorous testing. The result has been an extraordinary comeback for the restaurant. With a bold new dogma—one that eschews most dairy and gluten in the kitchen—that has challenged the team as well as loyal customers, Ekkebus has made a statement about what fine dining could be in this new era. Let’s not forget also the steps he has made before closing the restaurant, either—by pushing the hotel to switch over to in-house filtered water, eliminating single use plastics, and uphold a more sustainable way of running a hospitality business. It’s all in a day’s work for the chef.

Amber, 7/F, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, The Landmark, 15 Queen’s Road Central, Central, Hong Kong

Runner-up
Peggy Chan impressed our judges with her tireless work ethic and motivation to turn her reliable, popular restaurant Grassroots Pantry into a fine dining vegan temple. The path for the young chef has not been easy, and the success of Nectar, we’re guessing, will taste that much sweeter.

5/10 Local Champions: Danny Yip, The Chairman

Photo: Courtesy of Gaz Jones
Photo: Courtesy of Gaz Jones

10 years ago, Danny Yip had a simple mission: to open a MSG-free Chinese restaurant that could be popular and successful. A decade and a few fluctuating economies later, the tireless restaurateur has more than reached his goal, and continues his mission to share his passion for Cantonese cuisine. Through The Chairman, Yip connects with local fishermen who provide fresh catches daily, local farmers who raise good pork and chicken in the New Territories for him, and local brands who provide the restaurant with their decades-old preserves and condiments, creating an all-inspiring Cantonese menu at his popular restaurant.

The Chairman, 18 Kau U Fong, Central, Hong Kong

Runner-up
The team at Roganic, with their steadfast dedication to championing Hong Kong's local produce, builds a seasonal change of produce-driven menu of vegetable-forward dishes are impressive. Its efforts to support local farms did not go unnoticed by our panelists. 

6/10 Sustainability Champion: David Yeung, Green Monday

Photo: Courtesy of Green Monday
Photo: Courtesy of Green Monday

As the world wakes up to the increasing impact meat-eating has on the environment, coupled with the current climate crisis, we appreciate the efforts of individuals such as David Yeung, who has used his platform Green Monday to further champion the need for sustainable living. Green Common has opened more venues this year, and Omnipork is growing traction as it launched in markets such as Taiwan and Thailand in 2019—both projects touting the benefits of a lifestyle where we can all try to eat less meat. What’s more, Omnipork isn’t just a fad—by collaborating with local chefs, many from Chinese restaurants, the meat-free movement is making an impact without sacrificing flavour.  

Runner-up
Heidi Spurrell is the CEO of the Hong Kong branch of Food Made Good, the programme established by the Sustainable Restaurant Association in the UK. With the local arm launched in mid-2019, Spurrell has made a steady start in rejuvenating the conversation around how restaurants and chefs can make more sustainable business choices.

7/10 Restaurateur Of The Year: Danny Yip, The Chairman

Photo: Courtesy of Michaela Giles / Hong Kong Tatler
Photo: Courtesy of Michaela Giles / Hong Kong Tatler

Through exceptional ingredients and the stories behind them, Yip reinvented Cantonese food by not only incorporating them into the cuisine, but developed a narrative that helps us understand how these products and techniques shaped a large part of our culinary identity. He pushed the envelope, exceeding expectations for palates local and abroad, and revived diminishing traditions that helped pave the way for the preservation of Cantonese cuisine. Through his many kitchen endeavours, new Cantonese classics were conceived, and Yip continues his effort to promote the city’s vibrant food culture and heritage, shaping the future for Cantonese for all to see, and to taste.

The Chairman, 18 Kau U Fong, Central, Hong Kong

Runner-up
After opening Arcane, Shane Osborn went on to create a casual bistro concept Cornerstone, proving that simplicity in execution for food, drink, and service can make a fine statement in impressive dining.

8/10 Best New Bar: Darkside

Photo: Courtesy of Rosewood Hong Kong
Photo: Courtesy of Rosewood Hong Kong

One of the more dismissive expat tropes is to refer to Kowloon as “the dark side”, and it is without a trace of irony that The Rosewood has chosen the moniker for their flagship bar—a tongue-in-cheek reference that at once dismisses the notion that going across the harbour is a chore, and gives local drinkers a bit of a laugh. On the serious side, the drinks are on the money—elegant, expertly balanced and with just the right amount of quirkiness to keep things interesting. The signature menu includes libations such as The Yamen (Pierre Ferrand cognac, wax, raw honey, bee pollen, osmanthus and frankincense) while on the classics side, they stir up a mean Hemingway daiquiri or a 1930s Vieux Carre cocktail.

Darkside, 2/F, Rosewood Hong Kong, Victoria Dockside, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

Runner-up
Shady Acres by Ryan Nightingale and Mike Watt is the kind of bar you’d be happy to go to several times a week—and with a menu that ranges from boutique wines (there are nearly 20 by-the-glass options and cellar-access to more than 200 interesting bottles) to creative cocktails and plenty of esoteric spirits and labels, we don’t blame you.


Readers' Choice: Saketen
Presented by Asia Miles

This petite sake bar at Central's H Code may be tucked away from the main road, but this new venue created and managed by the team that runs Sake Central is home to a rotating-selection of sakes curated by Elliott Faber.

9/10 Best New Restaurant: Roganic

Photo: Courtesy of Gaz Jones
Photo: Courtesy of Gaz Jones

A gentle Englishman Simon Rogan may be, but he is a culinary powerhouse, having built an empire of truly exceptional restaurants that have managed to stay true to his philosophy of quality farm produce imagined in thrilling new ways. Far from his original flagship restaurant in Britain’s picturesque Lake District, L’Enclume, Roganic (and its development kitchen, Aulis) may have seemed out of place in Hong Kong—a city that relies heavily on imported produce, and where local agriculture lacks real support. It didn’t phase the chef, and we’re glad for it—Roganic was by far the most favoured new restaurant among our panellists, who highlighted the comfortable and convivial atmosphere, unfussy dishes and incredible clarity of flavour found in dishes such as local chicken with leek and turnip, or the homemade soda bread with cultured butter. A meal at Roganic won’t break the bank either, with a full dinner tasting menu under one grand—making this one of the best value fine dining restaurants in the city.

Roganic, Shop 8, UG/F, Sino Plaza, 255 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Runner-up
Somm, which took over the old Amber bar space on the 7th floor of the Landmark Mandarin Oriental, is a breath of fresh air. With wines anchoring the focus of the space, you can be sure to taste exceptional bottles with equally accomplished dishes such as barbecued Japanese pork belly with Hakata cabbage or Lung Guang chicken with girolles and silverbeet.


Readers' Choice: Rajasthan Rifles
Presented by Asia Miles

This year's favourite goes to Black Sheep Restaurants' Anglo-Indian restaurant at the Peak Galleria. Its mess hall-inspired interiors, eclectic atmosphere and impression execution of curries and British classics with an Indian twist by chef Palash Mitra are worthy of a trip to the Peak.

10/10 Rising Star Award: Stephanie Wong, Roots

Previously mentored by Richard Ekkebus at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Wong has gone out on a limb to translate her French culinary training to her love of Cantonese dishes. After a stint testing the waters at PMQ’s Taste Kitchen, where she caught our eye serving modern European dishes such as “Homage to Grandma’s Lobster”—a seafood course pairing the shellfish with bisque and fettucine—Wong eventually opened Roots in the Star Street precinct in Wan Chai in early 2019. Here, her Cantonese roots took greater precedence, with creations such as her updated prawn toast with pickled onions and salmon roe, and spicy local clams with black bean chive oil. The enthusiasm and passion for what she does has gotten her to where she is today, and we’re in no doubt that she’ll only get stronger in the coming years. As they say, from little acorns great oaks grow.

Roots, G/F, 7 Sun Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Runner-up
Shelley Tai is a quietly powerful force in the drinks business. As bartender at Quinary, her talent for mixology already has fans—and she’s accelerating to the top, having been crowned the 2019 Diageo World Class HK & Macau Bartender Of The Year. We can’t wait to see what she’ll be shaking up next.

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Tastemakers T.Dining 2019 Best Restaurants Awards 2020 T.Dining Best Restaurants T.Dining 2019

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