Header image courtesy of Jaja
Dine-in dinner has returned to Hong Kong and new restaurants are gearing up to welcome eager taste buds. Here’s where to eat and drink in Hong Kong this May, from traditional Italian concepts and a modern British-Indian tandoor house to a surf and turf bistro.
Mediterranean dining meets historic flair at Cantina, Aqua Restaurant Group’s newest offering to the Hong Kong food scene. Italian for “canteen,” the restaurant concept echoes the original purpose of its first-floor location inside the Tai Kwun complex, which once served as a mess hall for colonial police officers. Its communal traditions continue in the spirit of Cantina, where dishes are designed for group meals and get-togethers, served in a refined setting that marries light turquoise blues with rich wooden accents.
Good for all occasions, Cantina’s modern take on Italian sharing plates shines through in its humble presentation of honest ingredients through simple preparation, led by chef Luca Schiavone, a Sicilian native whose skills were honed at several London hotspots. Highlights include cicchetti (Venetian small bites) like baby octopus ($168) and pasta courses like cavatelli with braised pork ribs ($220) all the way to mains such as the unmissable breaded veal cutlet ($480) and the refreshing basil panna cotta ($110).
For a taste of Cantina’s signatures, the seasonal tasting menu ($728) covers the essentials, while those who like to imbibe and feast will no doubt love the free-flow non-stop brunch (starting from $628) that is offered on weekends.
Cantina, Police Headquarters Block 01, Tai Kwun, 10 Hollywood Road, Central
Burgeoning foodie hotspot Tin Hau is further blessed with the opening of Mustard Bar & Grill. Chef-turned-restaurateur Kong Wai-sing helms this new project, spurred on by his well-rounded experience in the kitchens of cha chaan tengs and five-star hospitality venues. In tribute to his first boutique concept, Mustard Café, the sophomore effort explores premium surf and turf dishes in a comforting bistro-like setting. Indoors will see diners sprawled across an industrial-chic space, while alfresco seats provide a glimpse into the heart of this buzzing neighbourhood, nestled amongst residential high-rises.
Delights from land and sea take shape in the grilled octopus served with pickled beetroot, confit potato, lotus root crisps, and paprika mayonnaise ($198), pancetta-wrapped scallops topped with corn purée and tarragon oil ($198), Spanish red prawn pasta ($398), Australian lamb rack ($328), and more. Not to be missed are the trimmed meat cuts, which range from Australian Wagyu M6 sirloin ($488) to Australian grass-fed M6 rib-eye ($488) and Australian grass-fed M6 porterhouse ($1,688). A classic steakhouse finisher, the Baked Alaska garnished with fresh truffle ($128) is a must.
Mustard Bar & Grill, 3/F, The New Place, 68–70 Electric Road, Tin Hau
Long-time favourite 208 Duecento Otto has closed in favour of a refreshed Italian concept, and while the Localiiz team mourns the loss of a spectacular lunchtime deal, the incoming Ramato—named after the Puglia tomato breed—promises a rustic, traditional experience that fills the aching hole in our hearts. Jia Group has once again joined hands with chef Antimo Maria Merone after their initial collaboration on Estro, this time to shape a southern Italian dining room that evokes the feelings and flavours of home cooking.
Ramato will feature fuss-free plates that exemplify the best of authentic Italian kitchens. From bruschetta ($68) and local sautéed clams ($158) to homemade pappardelle ragu ($178) with aubergines and Sagabuta pork and seabass ($548) baked with Mediterranean herbs, the menu highlights quintessential recipes commonly found at nonna’s table. Desserts like Sicilian cannolo ($38) provide the perfect sweet note for a post-meal treat, while mixologist Mario Calderone’s beverage programme highlights classic cocktails.
Ramato, G/F, 208 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan
It’s the season for revamps, and Kennedy Town’s stalwart Piccolo Pizzeria has transformed into the contemporary Trattoria Piccolo following a relocation to Cadogan Street. Moving on from pizzas and pastas, the rebranded restaurant will instead focus on cicchetti, the Venetian small snacks that are currently having a moment in Hong Kong.
Making the most of its opportune location close to the sea and the area’s wet markets, fresh local produce is sourced for the “ocean-to-table concept” developed by owner Randy See. Daily menu rotations will see dishes like the octopus carpaccio with sea asparagus ($85) and hamachi crudo with smoked artichoke and sea asparagus ($85) circling around highlights like the vitello tonnato ($75) with slow-cooked veal loin. Curated wines from Sicily and Puglia are chosen specially to pair with the cicchetti.
Order the baked yellow chicken in terracotta pot ($650) for a Hong-Kong-meets-Venice marriage, in which the famed poultry is cooked in a claypot and then baked over shallots, herbs, chestnuts, potatoes, and morels, resulting in a tender and flavourful dish.
Trattoria Piccolo, Shop B, G/F, 41 Cadogan Street, Kennedy Town
Jia Group keeps busy this month with not just one, but two new openings! As part of its second collaboration with native Madrid chef Antonio Oviedo—who led the redevelopment of 22 Ships in 2020—the leading restaurant group presents Agora, an exquisite playground in which the acclaimed cuisinier will launch his Spanish fine-dining exploration.
Tai Kwun’s elegant heritage building provides the perfect setting for the sophisticated tasting menu format, while the restaurant’s name plays on a multitude of meanings in various ancient languages, including “meeting place,” “centre of life,” and “now”—a testament to the concept. Collective Studio designed the interiors to spell out a striking contrast between old and new, traditional and modern, featuring bold choices of exposed terracotta brick archways and stone columns against rich red marble tabletops. A Mediterranean atmosphere reigns supreme, reminiscent of the rustic Spanish aljibe.
For the quintessential Agora experience, choose from the 10-course tasting menu ($1,288) or the 12-course tasting menu ($1,688). Both highlight exemplary produce sourced from Spanish regions, transformed through Chef Antonio’s creative touch.
Agora, Shop 14, G/F, D Hall, Tai Kwun, 10 Hollywood Road, Central
Mira Dining’s latest F&B venture is a neon-soaked Instagrammer’s dream! Located within the cultural Hong Kong Arts Centre, Jaja—pronounced as ”ha ha”—is a stunning vision in technicolour, exuding a youthful brand of energy that befits its location. Dreamy shades of pink and lavender dominate the dining room against a backdrop of Victoria Harbour, while flowing organic shapes and vinyl booths bring forth retro-chic vibes.
Specialising in vibrant vegetarian cuisine that looks too good to eat, the whimsical restaurant plates up pan-Asian delicacies—highlights include the smoky corn ribs ($85) and one-metre red curry pizza ($428). Colourful milkshakes and chia puddings with fruit make for the perfect desserts, feeding your stomach as well as your camera roll.
Jaja, 6/F, Hong Kong Arts Centre, 2 Harbour Road, Wan Chai
Tai Kwun seems to be the key to this month’s new openings, as independent newcomer Chutney also finds itself in its immediate vicinity. Spotlighting traditional Indian cuisine in a thematic environment, the restaurant’s name pays homage to the popular condiment that is found across the vast country in different shapes, flavours, and textures.
Chutney’s banquette seats and gently arched ceilings evoke the sloping shapes of a train car, and the bold, honeyed colour palette would not feel misplaced on a Wes Anderson film set, calling to mind the characteristics of colonial Indian architecture from days past. Mosaic details, rattan accents, and patterned floor tiles complete the look.
From the menu, traditional Indian dishes take on a contemporary form, allowing taste buds to wend their way through regional delicacies. Chutney’s secret to creating the perfect tandoor meats and seafood lies in its custom ovens, which draw out natural flavours with a balance of smoky juiciness and tenderness. Familiar plates include the keema pav ($188) of minced lamb braised in spices, the Chutney butter chicken ($198) made with local chicken, and the slow-cooked achari beef short ribs with US prime beef ($238). Unique offerings like the historic lamb shank nalli nihari ($238)—an eighteenth-century dish created in the royal kitchens of the Mughal Empire—are also well-represented.
Look out for the whisky and gin trolley that roams around the restaurant to indulge in original Chutney interpretations of classic cocktail mixes, freshly prepared at your table.
Chutney, 4/F, Carfield Commercial Building, 77 Wyndham Street, Central