As 2020 draws to a close and we wind down for the holidays, Hong Kong takes baby steps towards colder climes and we take our taste buds on the prowl for the latest and greatest that the city’s culinary scene has to offer. Celebrate the festive season with the most exciting new restaurants and pop-ups to be found in Hong Kong this December.
If Chrismas is the season of giving, then December must be the season of comforting flavours—and what’s more heart-warming than the simple home-cooked dishes of Italian food? Newly opened Pazta brings the best of Venetian, Bolognese, Roman, and Sardinian cuisine to Hong Kong, recreating the quintessential Italian piazza restaurant in the courtyard of Tai Kwun. Expect an assortment of hand-picked wines, sophisticated cocktails, and rich Italian coffees to enjoy in the casual alfresco dining space and continue the gastronomic journey indoors with vibrant flavours and a buzzing atmosphere.
Highlights from the menu include the pizzette Margherita ($90) topped with mozzarella and basil; il ghiottone ($390), a mixed sharing platter of hot and cold starters, such as Parma ham, Tuscan pâté, beef carpaccio, and more; pappardelle al cinghiale e olive nere ($150), a dish of thick egg pasta with slow-cooked wild boar, Tuscan red wine sauce, and black olives; and the exemplary espresso tiramisu ($80). Don’t leave without trying Pazta’s cocktails—Foresta ($100), created from a blend of green bitters, amaro Montenegro, and bubbly grapefruit soda, is a must.
Pazta, Shop 03–G08, G/F, Barrack Block, Tai Kwun, 10 Hollywood Road, Central | (+852) 2626 1186
Bringing authentic Roman street food to the heart of Hong Kong, Pala promises artisanal pizzas, bold flavours, and vegan- and vegetarian-friendly eats. Showcasing their signature pizza alla pala, a long and oval-shaped flatbread, the restaurant ferments their pizza dough for up to 72 hours to deliver a thin base that is rich in oxygen and low in starch, making it highly digestible.
Snag a seat on their intimate alfresco area and tuck into their carbonara pizza ($120), loaded with pancetta, pork cheek bacon, mozzarella, shredded Pecorino Romano, and creamy egg yolks. Other must-tries include the Margherita pala ($40) for the quintessential taste of Italy.
Pala, 7–10 Amoy Street, Wan Chai | (+852) 6979 1332
“La bella cucina” must be experiencing a revival this season because there’s not one, not two, but three new Italian gastronomical destinations welcoming intrepid diners this Christmas month. Last but certainly not least, there is Lucciola, the first of three drinking and dining establishments to open at The Hari Hong Kong.
Led by chef Francesco Gava, the Old World-inspired ristorante and bar oozes sumptuousness and sophistication and will focus on a wholesome culinary journey from north to south, presenting unmissable dishes like la burrata Pugliese ($218) with buttery soft burrata, il carpaccio di ricciola ($208) with succulent Mar Tirreno amberjack, and sous-vide il vitello tonnato ($230).
Don’t forget about the pasta—its originality sure to surprise you. From the paglia e fieno al ragu di rane e dragoncello ($258)—that’s handmade tagliatelle ribbons served with frog legs—to the family-favourite spaghetti acciughe e Tomino fresco ($198) with Sicilian anchovies and fresh Tomino cheese, Lucciola blends tradition and modernity with the twirl of a fork. Finish off the meal with a classic tiramisù tradizionale ($118), made with rich Italian egg yolks for intense flavours and colours.
Lucciola, 1/F, The Hari Hong Kong, 330 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai | (+852) 2129 0333
As Lee Garden’s latest offering, Duckee is not what you would call ordinary—think modern Chinese flair colliding with a sophisticated gastropub atmosphere and throw in an elegant long bar and cocktail lounge setting to top things off. Its contemporary Chinese dishes have a ring of familiarity to them, but what makes Duckee stand out from the rest is its dedication to the flexitarian diet. Reimagining the entertainment factor of dining as well as the versatility of Chinese cuisine, guests can expect to look forward to a menu where meat and plant-based ingredients come together for a wholesome dining experience.
Paired with novel cocktails and interactive tabletop games to keep diners entertained, one can look forward to highlights such as typhoon shelter salt & pepper squid and coconut meat ($88), yin-yang xiaolongbao ($98) with both pork and OmniPork fillings, and a take on the celebrated and traditional Chinese cuisine staple, the Peking duck (starting from $230). Notable side dishes include sliced duck skin with osmanthus pudding ($96) and beancurd & vegetable rolls ($80).
Duckee, Shop B01–B10, B/F, Lee Garden 3, 1 Sunning Road, Causeway Bay | (+852) 3105 1252
In the same way that the West has benefitted from the delightful flavours of the East, so it seems that Japan, too, has taken some cues from Western cuisine—enough, apparently, for culinary talents of the Meiji Restoration era to create a whole new genre of Western-influenced cooking called yōshoku (洋食), where Japanese forms of European dishes take the limelight. At Ita Meshi, this historical fusion cuisine finally finds a modern home in Hong Kong, bringing Italian- and Japanese-inspired cooking to local diners.
Blending the umami ingredients of Japan with the comfort flavours of Italy, Ita Meshi marries warm service and affordable prices with jovial neighbourhood ambience and unconventional fusion dishes. For a taste of what Ita Meshi is all about, opt for the watermelon burrata with matcha sea salt ($142), tsukemen soba alla carbonara ($152), Hokkaido scallops with Japanese crab roe mushroom risotto ($210), and the US Black Angus hanger steak tagliata with green tea soy sauce ($210).
Ita Meshi, G/F, 4 Lau Li Street, Tin Hau | (+852) 2336 1176
Japan’s celebrated Sakimoto Bakery lands on our fragrant shores! For the uninitiated, this popular Japanese pâtisserie first made waves in its homeland for its speciality thick-cut toasts, made with rich Hokkaido milk, honey, and premium butter, and homemade jams that include flavours like matcha, strawberry, blueberry, lemon, red bean, and more. Having recently opened an overseas branch in Taiwan, Sakimoto Bakery has now set its sight on Tsim Sha Tsui’s Harbour City, gearing up to bring its signature toasts to discerning Hong Kong diners. Sakimoto Bakery will have its grand opening on 22 December.
Sakimoto Bakery, Shop 3208, L3, Gateway Arcade, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui
Presented by Baked Restaurant Group—the same people behind the perennially popular café Baked on Elgin Street—Acme will open its doors in December, showing off its interior flourishes courtesy of accolade-collecting designer Sean Dix. Replete with a modern open kitchen and bar layout for an inclusive and experiential dining format, Acme is the sophomore brainchild of South African chef-patron Zahir Mohamed and will be helmed by chef Alfonso Portillo, formerly of Ovolo Hotel Group. Expect jovial atmospheres, warm service, and lively conversations to flow over a spread of Middle Eastern delights.
Highlights of Acme’s menu will primarily feature dishes from the Josper grill, such as spiced Lebanon lamb chops, whole lobster with lemon sumac sauce, and Challah bread, available during dinner service when dining restrictions lift. Middle Eastern-inspired cocktails and wines from the region will also make an appearance. For breakfast and lunch, Acme is serving up toothsome dishes such as the portobello shawarma ($162), the saffron-infused French toast ($168), and a harissa-rubbed chicken kebab ($185).
Acme, 59 Elgin Street, Central | (+852) 2885 6066
Say hello to Say Hi Bar & Dining, a brand-new café and bar concept bringing Western fare with an Asian twist to the heart of Central. Set within an open dining area that’s still small enough for intimate meals and gatherings, the restaurant’s minimalist interiors set an appropriate stage for the bold flavours of the menu, where dishes like yuzu honey roasted boneless duck ($168) and Hokkaido pork with mashed potatoes & cinnamon apple sauce ($188) shine. Complete the spread with flavourful appetisers and sharing plates like roasted Japanese rice cakes ($68), sakura shrimp Caesar salad ($68), pan-fried scallops ($88), and spicy beef shin cubes ($88). Don’t forget the drinks—there are classic bevvies, Japanese-inspired tipples, and even coffee cocktails.
Say Hi Bar & Dining, 3/F, 11 Stanley Street, Central (+852) 3460 5480
Missing the delectable baked goods of Japan? It seems that they miss you, too, and will soon be coming to the bustling district of Central to please your palate. Following in the footsteps of Japan’s popular shokupan (食パン; Japanese milk bread), bakery concept Homebake specialises in signature fermented loaves, made with high-quality Japanese flour and slow leavening for a pillowy soft texture and sweet and irresistible flavour. Choose your favourite from their L.T. fermentation loaf range, which includes the signature loaf with clarified butter, the rich cheese loaf with Japanese Tsukishima cheese, and the sesame red bean & Kyoto matcha loaf, to name a few. Aside from their trademark bakes, you’ll also find Homebake’s novel omusubi bread, classic mille-feuille creations, Basque burnt cheesecakes, salad bowls, and a collection of fresh veggie and fruit juices.
Homebake, Shop B, G/F, Melbourne Plaza, 33 & 33A, Queen’s Road Central, Central
Hong Kong suffered a deep loss when live music venue Grappa’s Cellar shuttered its doors in Jardine House in mid-2019 after 20 years of continual service. However, it seems that 2020 is not completely cruel to us and the popular entertainment and dining establishment is set for a comeback! Opening its new location in a Lee Garden basement, the new venue boasts 4,800 square feet with an upper and lower level split into a bar and restaurant.
If you could not bear to part with Grappa’s classic décor, rest assured that familiar red-brick walls and Italian posters will be returning as well, in addition to the traditional recipes inspired by the multi-regional cuisines of Italy. Highlights of the menu include tuna panzanella salad, handmade agnolotti, and grilled Tuscan pork ribs, to name a few, as well as notable labels from Italian wineries. Of course, its live entertainment will return as well, and subject to restrictions, guests can expect performances at Grappa’s at least once a week, featuring local and overseas artists and music that ranges from jazz, blues, and soul to contemporary pop and rock.
Grappa’s Cellar, LG08, LG/F Lee Garden Two, Causeway Bay | (+852) 3529 1872
In a culinary landscape that is as fast-paced and ever-changing as Hong Kong, keeping the shutters open for 10 whole years is quite an achievement, and no establishment has aged as gracefully as 208 Duecento Otto. Opening in the upper Sheung Wan neighbourhood in an era when the area was widely considered a food desert, 208 has withstood the test of time and transformed its surroundings for the better, all the while maintaining its superior dining experience and welcoming atmosphere across the years.
To celebrate its decennial, 208 has undergone a bit of a facelift (but not enough to render it wholly unfamiliar) and is introducing a new and improved menu to feature refined classics that are suitable for all occasions. Tuck into delights from the sea like raw Italian red prawns ($258) and baked seabass ($688) before moving on to bounties from the land, such as the tagliata Mayura ($368), featuring the famed chocolate-fed Mayura cattle, and the spaghetti alla Chitarra ($218) with miniature meatballs. Don’t forget the pizzas—our favourite is the I Diavoli ($208) with ‘nduja paste, spicy salami, fresh chilli, and mozzarella. Pair things off with one of bar manager Matteo Stefani’s custom cocktails in the downstairs aperitivo lounge before moving upstairs for the full meal and you are good to spend a wholesome evening in the relaxed atmosphere of your home away from home.
208 Duecento Otto, 208 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan | (+852) 2549 0208
Continuing its expansion tour after a Tai Hang opening just earlier in the year, the third location of Ask for Alonzo has arrived at another sleepy enclave on Hong Kong Island. Taking its convivial neighbourhood eatery vibes and authentic Italian recipes to Happy Valley, guests can look forward to modern trattoria dishes inspired by the Mediterranean coast right by the Happy Valley Tram Terminus.
Tuck into all-time favourites like the breakfast carbonara ($148), Italian frittata ($148), Roman meatballs ($98), rigatoni Amatriciana ($138), and the Alonzo tiramisu (starting from $68) for finishers. Make it a perfect pairing with a glass or two of Grandpa’s Negroni ($78) and Aunty Maria’s Aperol Spritz ($88) and settle in for a comfortable night of unwinding with friends and family.
Ask for Alonzo, Shop 19, G/F, Hang Fung Mansion, 17–19 Wong Nai Chung Road, Happy Valley | (+852) 2891 2236
Lovers of all things sweet, this one’s for you: pâtissier extraordinaire Dominique Ansel is bringing his signature treats across the harbour to Central this Christmas. Opening at IFC Mall on Friday, 18 December, the Dang Wen Li pop-up will offer trademark items from the Tsim Sha Tsui outlet, as well as seasonal delights and Christmas bakes. Expect to sink your teeth into innovative pastries and creative cakes inspired by the iconic flavours of Hong Kong, such as the Lemon Juice Box ($62), an Earl Grey bergamot cake to invoke nostalgic childhood memories of the classic Vita Lemon Tea, and the Macaroni ($58), a lemon and ricotta cheesecake shaped like elbow macaroni, complete with hand-cut white chocolate “ham” and crispy “peas” to round up the meal.
Dang Wen Li pop-up, Shop 1025B, Podium Level 1, IFC Mall, 8 Finance Street, Central
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and when we think of the festive season, our thoughts are usually accompanied by sugar, spice, and everything nice. How fortuitous then, that one of our favourite cake shops in Hong Kong should take its online presence offline into a pop-up just in time for the holidays! Set in a vintage-inspired, American diner-like space that looks as gorgeous as its confections, chef Karys Logue brings Butter’s most popular cakes and pies to its first brick-and-mortar locations to Landmark.
Aside from crowd favourites like the triple chocolate cake ($90) and New York cheesecake ($90), the Butter pop-up will also showcase a seasonal red velvet candy cane cake ($90) for the holiday season, as well as apple pie ($80), cherry pie ($80), banana cream pie ($80), and much more. Opt for Rosie’s root beer ($50), homemade from 12 different herbs and spices, or the Sweet Darlin’ strawberry limeade ($50) to complete your retro experience. Cakes are available by the slice and also as full portions if you reserve ahead, and be sure you do—Butter’s sweet creations are in hot demand and they even sold out on their first day!
Butter pop-up, Shop 239, 2/F, The Landmark, 15 Queen’s Road Central, Central
If you need even more sugar in your life after a sweet treat at Butter, hop on over to Flakes & Layers, also popping up in Landmark for the next three months. Created and helmed by former model-turned-pâtissier Amanda Strang and celebrated for its signature millefeuille-doughnut amalgamations called Oonuts, Flakes & Layers will bring its trademark creations to the upscale shopping destination, available in four unique flavours. Sink your teeth into the cream-filled and sprinkle-topped vanilla Oonut, made with premium Tahitian vanilla beans; the pear & caramel Oonut, a limited-edition treat exclusive to the launch at Landmark; the pistachio Oonut; and the rich Valrhona chocolate Oonut that highlights single-origin cacao from Venezuela.
Flakes & Layers pop-up, Shop 350, 3/F, Landmark, 15 Queen’s Road Central, Central | (+852) 9191 3301
And it seems that Landmark is the ultimate destination this Christmas for all things sweet and delicious with a second confectionary pop-up in Oookie Cookie! Specialising in custom cakes, beautifully decorated cookies, stunning cupcakes, and many other baked specialities, Oookie Cookie gained a mass following on Instagram first as an online bakery and later when opened their first brick-and-mortar shop in Causeway Bay. For the holiday season, they are fully stocked with Christmas-themed buttercream cakes, gingerbread biscuits, festive cupcakes, shortbreads, and so much more. Catch them at Landmark from now until 28 February for your fill of sweet delights and adorable Christmas hampers to share with friends and family!
Oookie Cookie pop-up, Shop 109A, Landmark Atrium, 15 Queen’s Road Central, Central