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Hong Kong’s best private kitchens

By Annette Chan 11 November 2021

Header image courtesy of Yin Yang Coastal (via Facebook)

Nothing unites people like food—and a great meal is always better when shared with loved ones. Whether you’re looking to throw a dinner party, birthday bash, or just a lovely catch-up, here are the best private kitchens providing exclusive, one-of-a-kind dining experiences in Hong Kong—reservations essential.

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Yin Yang Coastal

Founded by designer-turned-chef Margaret Xu Yuan on Wan Chai’s Ship Street in 2008, Yin Yang became known as one of the pioneers of the locavore movement in Hong Kong, serving farm-to-table Cantonese fare made with locally sourced seafood, poultry, and produce. While relocating Yin Yang to a beach house in Ting Kau Village in 2015, Yuan rebranded the concept into a private kitchen called “Yin Yang Coastal,” offering a modern take on traditional fishing village-style cooking. Tasting menus range from six to ten courses and include options such as the light chef’s tasting menu ($1,080 per head) and full chef’s menu (starting from $1,500 per head).

As we enter the cooler months, Yin Yang is offering “autumn gold” themed tasting menus starring lobster, calamari, crab with rich golden roe, and abalone, all of which is described in whimsical notes on the menu—a cold saké-cured lobster with lychees is described as “in spa, lychee drunk, winter swim, flamenco.” As only tasting menus are available, almost everything is out of the diners’ hands, except for one crucial choice of which signature dish to try—the famous yellow earth chicken, which is roasted in a terracotta urn designed by Yuan herself, or the red hot suckling pig with shatteringly crisp skin.

Yin Yang Coastal, House 117, Ting Kau Village, Ting Kau Beach, Tsuen Wan | (+852) 2866 0868

Mesa

Located in a design showroom in Sheung Wan, Mesa is the brainchild of Portuguese chef Fred Sistelo (previously of Holt’s Café at Rosewood Hong Kong) and interior designer Tiffany Kwan. Designed to be beautiful, but warm and lived-in, the aim of Mesa is to recreate the welcoming and relaxed ambience of having dinner at a friend’s house.

An eight-course tasting menu works out to about $1,000 per person, featuring dishes influenced both by international cuisines and seasonal ingredients, served family-style. While the dishes themselves often vary from night to night, a few signatures have emerged, which are happily the more Portuguese-inspired dishes available—“Mom’s duck rice,” made with roasted duck and Portuguese chorizo, and rabanada, a French toast-esque dessert served with spiced strawberries and vanilla ice cream.

Mesa, location disclosed upon booking

Photo: Gitone (via Facebook)

Gitone

The term “culinary arts” takes on a new meaning at this art studio-slash-gallery and semi-private kitchen. Founded by Terence Lee—a local painter, ceramist, and university art professor—in 1995, Gitone is a place for creativity both on the canvas and the plate. Much of the art on display was produced by Lee himself, while the food—a combination of Sichuan, Shanghainese, and Shunde cuisine—is largely served using his handmade ceramics and utensils as well.

While you can walk in for lunch and dinner, Gitone is also available to book as a private kitchen, with two 12-course menus to choose from. The Gitone House Dinner ($580) offers an elevated take on home-cooked Chinese food, with delicacies like abalone with nectar sauce contrasted with comforting double-boiled chicken soup with matsutake, seafood fried rice, and spare ribs with plum sauce. Meanwhile, the Gitone Grand Dinner ($980 per person) shares many of the same appetisers, but includes a luxurious double-boiled chicken soup with fish maw and conch, as well as braised sea cucumber, Wagyu beef with mushrooms, and steamed cod in wine sauce. To experience both sides of Gitone, you can even take a pre-dinner workshop on painting or ceramics at an additional cost—just reach out to their team to make an enquiry.

Gitone, GB27–28, G/F, 45 Tai Hong Street, Lei King Wan, Sai Wan Ho | (+852) 2527 3448

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Photo: Segreto

Segreto

Tucked away on a ladder street in Noho, this Italian private kitchen is one of Hong Kong’s worst-kept secrets (a.k.a. segreti). Chef-owner Ermanno Lelli is a fourth-generation cook from Torre Annunziata in Naples, which was once the pasta-making capital of Italy. Lelli—who came to Hong Kong as an F&B consultant—initially had no plans of becoming a restaurateur, but eventually opened a private kitchen after becoming affronted by what passed as “authentic Italian cuisine” in Hong Kong.

In contrast to trendy cooking that utilises ingredients like caviar, truffle, and foie gras indiscriminately to drive prices and popularity up—or what he calls “gossip food”—Lelli prides himself on making traditional Italian recipes, many of which are from his own family’s archives. With just a long counter and a handful of small tables in the airy space, diners have a prime view of Lelli as he prepares everything live from the open kitchen. While the business lunch sets (starting from $680) are designed to be more expeditious, with three to five courses delivered in an hour or so, a more extensive and informative experience awaits at night, when diners can choose from eight dinner menus showcasing different regional styles and ingredients. Lelli, who considers himself an educator as well as a chef, expounds on the little-known facts and techniques behind each dish as he deftly whips up slow-cooked plates of pasta, roasted meats, and a ridiculously good tiramisù seasoned with black pepper.

Segreto, 2–4 Mee Lun Street, Central | (+852) 6711 0582

Chef de Yim Tin

For an utterly unique private kitchen experience, it doesn’t get much more singular than Chef de Yim Tin. After all, where else can you find an eatery run by a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, overlooking a secluded beach, on a largely abandoned island? Located on the former Hakka settlement and salt-farming island of Yim Tin Tsai, this small restaurant and private kitchen’s pierside spot is typically accessed by kaito from Sai Kung (though you can walk around the island first to work up an appetite).

Besides lunch sets and coffees, Chef de Yim Tin also offers eight-course fine-dining menus (starting from $1,680 per person) inclusive of round-trip yacht transport to and from Sai Kung and free kayaking. The influences range from French and Spanish to more local Hong Kong flavours—Spanish carabinero prawns served with Cantonese shrimp roe noodles, butter-poached razor clams in oyster foam, and house-smoked threadfin with finger limes on sago crackers are just some of the dishes that have been served recently. Besides sourcing fresh meat and seafood, the restaurant utilises vegetables and herbs from Yim Tin whereever possible.

Chef de Yim Tin, Yim Tin Tsai Pier, Yim Tin Tsai, Sai Kung | (+852) 9100 7990

Photo: Ta Pantry (via Facebook)

Ta Pantry

Founded by model-turned-chef Esther Sham, Ta Pantry has been around in some form or another since 2008, from its initial days in a rooftop apartment on Star Street to a two-year stint in an industrial unit in North Point. Now, Ta Pantry is the name given to a single-table private kitchen located inside Maison ES, Sham’s Star Street restaurant, accommodating up to 20 diners. While much has been made of Sham’s French haute cuisine chops—she trained at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon and put her business on hold for three months to work at Relais Louis XIII in Paris and Le Jardin des Sens in Montpellier—the latest iteration of Ta Pantry has a considerably broader scope. Besides the more traditionally French menu (featuring the signature melting onion duck), diners can now pick from Japanese, Shanghainese, New American, Korean, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Thai, Chiuchow, and “old Hong Kong” menus (starting from $800 per person), all of which are served with Ta Pantry’s French flair.

Ta Pantry, 1A Star Street, Admiralty | (+852) 2521 8121

Entrance on Electric Street, through Maison ES

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Photo: Masala Bay (via Facebook)

Masala Bay

Out in the picturesque neighbourhood of Clearwater Bay, home-cook-turned-caterer Vandana Anand has quietly built up a reputation as one of the most popular Indian private kitchens in Hong Kong. At the urging of friends, Anand opened Masala Bay 10 years ago, hosting private dinners in her dining room—and during clement weather, out in her beautiful garden. Despite coming from a family that “lived to eat,” with “smorgasbord of sumptuous dishes” at every meal, Anand only starting to cook after she moved to Hong Kong.

Half Indian and half Afghani, Anand’s recipes reflect the culinary traditions of her cultural heritage, while ingredients purchased fresh one day before every event ensures that the dishes shine. Fragrant, rich curries (butter chicken, lamb keema, Changezi chicken, and more), lamb kebabs, fresh and herbaceous borani banjan—an Afghani aubergine dish with a herby garlic yoghurt sauce—tantalise the senses, while Anand’s creamy homemade kulfi ice lollies end every meal on a sweet note. A minimum of eight guests are required for each booking ($650 per person), with the indoor dining room seating up to 22 and the outdoor garden space seating up to 30—perfect for festive gatherings and intimate events.

Masala Bay, 29A Hung Uk Village, Clearwater Bay | (+852) 9306 3967

Olive Leaf

Enjoy a delicious spread of vegan Middle Eastern food in an idyllic setting surrounded by nature at Olive Leaf, a cooking school and private kitchen based in Israeli chef Ayelet Idan’s beautifully colourful village house. Located in Pak Kok Tsuen on the northern tip of Lamma Island, Olive Leaf can be reached by ferry from Aberdeen or Lamma’s main pier, Yung Shue Wan, though you can also hike there via the Lamma Island Family Walk from the main fishing village.

Come springtime, there is nothing so transportive as dining at the outdoor table under the trellis, which is covered in firecracker vines with bright orange flowers. Besides plant-based dishes like vine leaves stuffed with spiced rice, Idan’s repertoire is full of vegan versions of Israeli dishes—almond labneh cheese, vegan knafeh, vegan kibbeh nayeh, rose-scented malabi made with coconut milk, and more—all of which is best enjoyed with a cup of Turkish cardamom coffee at the end. Idan hosts regular cooking classes and social dining brunches (starting from $650 per person), but you can also reach out to her via WhatsApp to arrange private events.

Olive Leaf, Pak Kok Tsuen, Lamma Island | (+852) 9723 0459

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Annette Chan

Senior editor

Annette is an editor and copywriter with a lifetime of experience in hunting out the most interesting, odd, and delightful things about her beloved home city. Having written extensively about everything from food and culture to fashion, music, and hospitality, she considers her speciality to be Hong Kong itself. In her free time, you can find Annette trying out new dumpling recipes or playing Big Two at her favourite local bars with a cocktail in hand.

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