The Brits gave Hong Kong some good stuff — efficient public transportation, afternoon tea, respect for the queue.
That last one might explain why the no-reservation-restaurant trend has recently made a successful leap into Hong Kong.
Best of all, many no-res venues are rewarding customers for all that waiting around with a no-service-charge policy.
Here are six places worth waiting for.
No reservations, no service charge at 22 Ships. What happens when one of the most in-demand UK chefs teams up with a Hong Kong-based hotelier with the Midas touch?
The product of chef Jason Atherton (London’s Pollen Street Social) and Yenn Wong (JIA Boutique Hotel Group), 22 Ships isn’t an average tapas joint.
Judging by the long lines nightly in front of 22 Ships, Atherton’s signature move — turning seemingly simple recipes into artful cuisine — is creating a huge buzz in HK.
Small plates don’t hinder the punch of the flavors.
Jamon iberico, morcilla and duck’s egg is perfect for a late brunch after a heavy night out. While the jamon iberico and squid paella rice may be a bit soggy, the dish is unmistakably Spanish.
Expect at least two more openings from the dynamic duo in the near future, one just opposite 22 Ships.
22 Ships, 22 Ship St., Wanchai; +85 (0)2 2555 07222; Monday-Saturday, noon-3 p.m., 6-11 p.m.; Sunday, noon–2:30 p.m., 6-10 p.m.
Good tacos in Hong Kong? It’s true.
In a back alley with no signage in Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong area, Brickhouse isn’t easy to find.
It’s the kind of place where hipsters and well-heeled financiers mingle over tacos — the rib-eye, Manchego cheese, tomato salsa and cilantro taco is a star.
This taqueria is, however, more than just a tacos and tequila joint.
With colorful wall murals, loud music and friendly service, Texas-born chef Austin Fry offers a vibe reminiscent of a Mexican street food scene.
Aside from the tacos, the Peruvian ceviche and watermelon salad are as refreshing as they are flavorful.
Brickhouse, G/F, 20 D’Aguilar St., Central; Monday-Wednesday, 6 p.m.-2 a.m., Thursday-Saturday, 6 p.m.-4 a.m.
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Chachawan’s salt-crusted whole sea bass with lemongrass, pandanus and lime leaf. Here’s another venue from the unstoppable Yenn Wong of the JIA Boutique Hotel Group.
This time, she’s teamed up with chef Adam Cliff, a protégé of Nahm’s David Thompson.
The menu is predominantly based on Thailand’s Isan region — that means simple dishes done just right.
Standout items include som tum moo grop (green papaya salad with crispy pork and a sweet and sour tamarind dressing) and salt-crusted whole sea-bass with lemongrass, pandanus and lime leaf. The latter is cooked over fire and served with a green chili dipping sauce that delivers full-blown flavors and, of course, that fiery kick associated with northeast Thailand.
There are great cocktails on the menu and the inevitable end to an Isan meal — mango and sticky rice.
Chachawan, 206 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan; +85 (0)2 2549 0020; Tuesday-Sunday, noon-3 p.m.; 6:30 p.m.-midnight
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Tim Ho Wan
THW’s beloved baked bun with barbecue pork. For no-frill, quality dim sum, Tim Ho Wan is wildly popular with locals.
At the helm is chef Mak Kwai Pui, who led Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong to its three-Michelin stars, only to leave the place and open his own hole-in-the-wall dim sum joint in Mongkok.
Eaters from around the world can’t get enough of THW’s Big Four Heavenly King Dim Sum — especially the now much-copied Baked Bun with BBQ Pork.
Tim Ho Wan opened its first branch in 2009. It’s now a mini-empire, with four venues in Hong Kong and two in Singapore.
None are as good as the original in Mongkok (which has closed due to skyrocketing rents), but no one seems to care.
Nowadays, the best bet is the branch at Sham Shui Po, which employs one of the best chefs from the original restaurant.
Tim Ho Wan, G/F, 9-11 Fuk Wing St., Sham Shui Po; +85 (0)2 2788 1226; daily, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
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At Mak’s, the secret is in the broth. This third-generation family business has been making what’s arguably the world’s best wonton noodle soup since the 1960s.
The powdered dried flounder, dried shrimp roe and pork bones create a clear stock with well-balanced flavors.
The combination of broth with perfectly formed shrimp dumplings and chewy noodles makes it a must-try for Hong Kong visitors.
The only downside is its hugely controversial small serving size.
Mak’s owner maintains small servings keep the noodles from getting soggy. But charging the same price (HK$30) as the city’s other wonton joints doesn’t please eaters.
Regardless, given that locals and foreigners still flock to the place and its other four branches around Hong Kong, Mak’s Noodles does more right than wrong.
Mak’s Noodles, 77 Wellington St., Central; +852 2854 3810; daily 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
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Yardbird demonstrates the versatility of chicken.A menu consisting heavily of grilled chicken on a stick may not sound tempting, especially when you have to walk up the winding stairs of Sheung Wan to get to it.
But Yardbird is an exception, with food handmade by chef Matt Abergel.
The ex-NYC Masa and former executive chef at HK’s Zuma opened this Japanese gastro-bar in 2011. It’s since been ranked 46th on the list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Abergel transforms humble chicken thighs, necks and gizzards into yakitori paradise.
The house-made junmai and junmai nigori sake are great accompaniments, as is the industrial chic décor.
If you can’t be bothered to wait in the line, a few steps away you’ll find Ronin, Abergel’s seafood-centric modern izakaya. It opened earlier this year and takes bookings.
Yardbird, 33-35 Bridges St., Sheung Wang; +85 (0)2 2457 9273; Monday-Saturday, 6 p.m.-midnight
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