Hong Kong: Asia’s gastronomical capital eyes tourism rebound
As travel restrictions relax in Hong Kong, known for its culinary delights, international travelers are gearing up for a gastronomic vacation to the vertical city
The relaxation of travel restrictions in Hong Kong since September should bring joy to tourists who have been eager to visit the dazzling metropolis for a long time.
With its stunning harbor, vibrant nightlife, thriving shopping districts, and bright skyline, Hong Kong is a traveler’s delight. Amazingly, Hong Kong is also home to a dizzying array of delicious cuisines and is known as Asia’s gastronomical capital for a good reason. Cantonese, Chinese, Japanese, and other international restaurants line the streets of the city, serving food that can please even the most discerning palates.
The challenge of choosing between so many outstanding dishes confuses most travelers. What does one eat and what does one miss out on? Will lunch be a succulent roast goose or a savory wind sand chicken? Should dinner be beef brisket noodle soup or rickshaw noodles? Then there is an impossibly long list of dishes every traveler must try, like wanton noodles, pineapple bread, egg waffles (gai daan zai), pineapple buns (bo lo bao), egg tarts, and Three stuffed treasures, a traditional Hong Kong street food made of stuff green pepper, tofu, and eggplant with a special dace fish paste. Hotel buffets are also popular for both tourists and locals mostly for fresh seafood like oysters, sashimi, and lobsters. Phew!
“Hong Kong is known as the ’fragrance port”, and it's a playground for a highly international environment for all types of food businesses. Being the food capital of Southeast Asia, it provides a festival of taste through world-class international hotels and Michelin restaurants. The sky is the limit in terms of food experiences," says Hong Kong-born TableCheck Creative Director Yandis Ying.
“Like many Hong Kongers, I was raised with all the amazing food since I was young. We were so spoiled by all the choices and the expectations are high. It is in this spirit and environment that encouraged food businesses to raise the bar and be better.”
For those who are wondering why dim sums have not made it to the list above, the reason for this omission is that dim sums merit a mention all to themselves. Dim Sum, which translates as "touch heart," arose from the Yum-cha culture of light snacks and tea in Guangzhou in the 10th century. Yum Cha is to Hong Kongers what “brunch” is to the west. Since the latter half of the 19th century, over a thousand different kinds of dim sum dishes have been created. In current-day Hong Kong, dim sum is a meal that people bond over. Locals usually visit a restaurant with friends and family and chat up a storm over dim sum and Chinese tea. A visit to Hong Kong is not complete unless you enjoy Yum Cha at one of the city's old traditional places frequented by locals. This is something that will truly make your trip to Hong Kong stand out.
Ease of travel restrictions since Sep 26
In September this year, Hong Kong relaxed its travel regulations, removing the requirement for international visitors to be quarantined. The city's hospitality sector is expected to benefit from this development as the hotel and restaurant business in Hong Kong took a big hit during the pandemic’s peak.
When the coronavirus spread in 2020, the city was put under a strict lockdown, and most food-related businesses had to rely on online delivery to stay in business. Nevertheless, as time passed and more public establishments opened for business, a great number of restaurants in Hong Kong embraced new technologies to navigate this new reality while also finding new revenue streams to make extra profit.
"Post-COVID, Hong Kong is entering a new phase in restaurant operations. With hospitality technology, restaurants will be able to revitalize, revive and re-establish gastronomical experience in this new landscape, while being able to connect directly with their guests more," says Ken Yeo, Regional Sales Manager Greater China and Korea.
Hong Kong eases Covid restrictions for tour groups
On November 7, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government announced that would start allowing tour group travelers–those who have registered itineraries with their travel agencies–back to its shores this month.
Tour groups would now be allowed to dine in restaurants that have special pandemic designations for big groups as well as enter theme parks and museums.
"The relevant arrangements can support the gradual resumption of the inbound travel market in an orderly manner and provide a more favorable business environment for the travel trade," the government said.
Travel perks and food festivals
The Hong Kong government has also started to create some initiatives to attract international visitors back to its shores. The Hong Kong board is planning to give away 500,000 plane tickets for free to tourists starting in 2023.
This November, Hong Kong will also host the 2022 Wine and Dine Festival, a month-long event featuring a series of gastronomic activities and events, with around 700 bars and restaurants expected to participate. This year's theme is "Taste Around Town" but will also feature the "Creative Cocktails Citywide" and "Wine on the Waterfront" programs. More than free 50,000 e-coupons are up for grabs so the public can enjoy the very best of Hong Kong.
"The Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival is one of the most iconic events on the city’s events calendar, loved by both the local public and visitors. This year, the HKTB will continue to celebrate the Festival all over the city," Hong Kong Tourism Board Director Dan Cheng told the international and local press last October.
With all these initiatives in place, Hong Kong sees not only a boost in tourism but also the revitalization of the food industry once again. n
Hotels and restaurants lead recovery
Since opening the Hong Kong borders, TableCheck's clients have been at the forefront of the restaurant industry's comeback. They did this by embracing technology at the right time and using the booking system platform to give customers truly great dining experiences that solidified their loyalty to the establishment.
1. Grand Hyatt Hong Kong
The Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong is the embodiment of comfort, fine living, and luxury. This venerable institution of hospitality also rewards its visitors with a thoughtful selection of excellent restaurants, charming cafes, lively pubs, and dessert shops.
The most difficult aspect of dining at The Grand Hyatt is deciding between the several excellent restaurants. Should one dine at Grand Cafe, known for its Hainanese chicken rice, The Tiffin for its grand buffets and elegant ambiance, Grissini for its Southern Italian cuisine, or at the Grand Hyatt Steakhouse for the best prime cuts from all around the world? Those with a taste for Southeast Asian fare can dine in style at Kaetsu and Teppanroom, both of which serve authentic Japanese cuisine, or head to One Harbour Road for some delicious Cantonese food. At the Champagne Bar, head mixologist Drew Chiorimbo uses his considerable talents to entice guests, while at the Grill and the Waterfall Bar, city dwellers can relax with a stiff drink in hand, away from the maelstrom of urban life.
With time, The Grand Hyatt on Harbour Road has emerged as an opulent haven with great food, inventive drinks, and a terrific atmosphere for locals and travelers alike.
2. The Prince Hotel
Located on the bustling Canton Road and close to Kowloon's lovely waterfront, the Prince Hotel is a comfortable and spacious refuge waiting to be explored. The hotel is close to notable attractions such as the Hong Kong Museum of Art, Kowloon Park, the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, and the Space Museum, all of which are only a short walk away.
The Savvy Bar, Lounge, and Restaurant at the Prince Hotel boast a modern, attractive décor with a delectable menu full of authentic Chinese, Asian, and Western dishes.
Visitors and locals alike can unwind after a day of shopping and sightseeing with a tasty supper at this contemporary and chic eatery.
3. Sushi Shikon
Awarded 3 Michelin stars every year since 2014, Sushi Shikon promises to take guests on a "transportive culinary journey." Housed inside the stunning Mandarin Oriental, this Japanese establishment is helmed by Star Chef Yoshitake and Executive Chef Yoshiharu Kakinuma. Each day, the finest fresh ingredients are flown to Hong Kong live from Tokyo’s famed Toyosu market. Guests can watch Japanese master chefs in action as they prepare seasonal sushi specialties, from just across a gorgeous, centuries-old hinoki counter imported from Japan while being surrounded by sophisticated Japanese art, antiques, and service ware.
In a way, dining at Sushi Shikon is both a gourmet and a cultural experience, an adventure every connoisseur would love.
4. Imperial Treasure Hong Kong
Imperial Treasure serves the best of the best in Chinese cuisine. The Michelin-starred establishment offers a fine dining experience that is rich in culture, with subtle Chinese characteristics in its decor and gracious service. Imperial Treasure is renowned for serving an extensive selection of traditional Chinese specialties, including Peking Duck, which is considered to be the most authentic iteration of the dish.
The award-winning restaurant's vibrant atmosphere is complemented by a breathtaking view of the harbor, which guests can enjoy while they dine.
5. Zuicho Kappo
Kappo literally means "to cut and to cook." Zuicho Kappo, a Michelin-starred restaurant, offers an immersive and interactive dining experience. The restaurant offers a multi-course menu, a multi-sensory meal that is curated entirely by Chef Fumio Suzuki. The meal is not a formal affair; rather, it emphasizes building a connection and closeness between the chef and his guests. Kappo diners enjoy a mixture of both raw and cooked dishes. Guests can enjoy their food and talk to the chefs while watching them work from just across a beautiful hinoki counter.
The restaurant’s environment is perfect for experiencing an entertaining Japanese dining culture. A beverage list of wine and sake is carefully curated to complement the constantly evolving seasonal menu courses.
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This article has been updated on November 9, 2022
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