Michael On Everything Else

Long Weekend In Hong Kong

We had what we called a foodie’s long weekend in Hong Kong recently. The goal was to check out some of the local coffee scene and food scene. In between, we wanted to see a few non-touristy spots.

The subway system in Hong Kong (called the MTR) is very efficient, clean, and effective for getting around town. We bought tourist passes which gave us unlimited rides for a full day for HK$55 (roughly $7 US). The MTR stations are very large, sometimes spanning an entire city block with multiple exits. Luckily, the maps show the exits so you can chose the exit nearest your destination. In the image below, you can see in the center (the red icon) is the MTR Wan Chai station and then all the smaller red icons around it indicate exits (A4, B1, etc). The signage in the station leads you to your designated exit, which can save you from walking an extra block.

Day 1:

Morning coffee at Coffee Academics. They’re sporting a Slayer espresso machine and the space is large and enjoyable, but our barrista was surly to the point of rudeness. Despite having a coveted espresso machine with state-of-the-art espresso-making technology, they still managed to produce a thin and watery espresso. We also tried two pour-overs, one from Central America and one from Africa and they both tasted like past-crop.

After coffee we headed to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. We got the directions from the hotel concierge and we thought we were in the right spot. Unfortunately, what we found was instead a local cemetary/crematorium that is often mistaken for the temple. We didn’t realize the mistake until we were back in the hotel.

For lunch I had researched a very “local” spot for hot pot.

The Chinese hot pot has a history of more than 1,000 years. Hot pot seems to have originated in Mongolia and Jurchen where the main ingredient was meat, usually beef, mutton or horse. It then spread to southern China during the Tang Dynasty and was further established during the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty. In time, regional variations developed with different ingredients such as seafood. By the Qing Dynasty (AD 1644 to 1912), the hot pot became popular throughout most of China. Today in many modern homes, particularly in the big cities, the traditional coal-heated steamboat or hot pot has been replaced by electric, propane, butane gas, or induction cooker versions.

The name of the location is Youngest Hot Pot (Lau Sam) and according to Time Out it is :

A local eatery that specialises in making a duck base you won’t find anywhere else in Hong Kong. The soup is simmered for six hours with an old duck, pork bones and dozens of medicinal herbs, which draws in many curious expats and locals.

Sounds great, except once we got there, the building numbers were unpredictably used and even locals weren’t sure where the place was. So with the help of one of their neighbors, we made an educated guess that turned out wrong, but was fun none-the-less. The place we went into was certainly local and not a word was written in english and there were no pictures of the food to help guide us. As we sat there it became obvious that we didn’t speak Chinese and the waitresses didn’t speak english. Luckily, one of the customers did and he helped us order some chicken and veggies, along with a “house soup” that was a chicken stock. The food tasted very good and was very cheap. A win-win!

Next on the list to visit was Knockbox Coffee. This was a small and quaint location with an honest hand-pump espresso machine. The coffee was excellent here (some of their offerings were coffees from Ninety Plus). We tried several different origins here and enjoyed them all. They took the time to prepare the coffee right.

For dinner we went to 22 Ships…a meat mecca in Hong Kong. We enjoyed the slow cooked lamb and paella and especially the cauliflower but found the pan con tomate to be too salty. The chocolate fondant made our toes curl!

After dinner we went to Quinary for some mighty fine drinks. I enjoyed an old-fashion of-sorts made with Hibiki whisky, which is quickly becoming a favorite.

Marie had another bar she wanted to show me but it was permanently closed, so we ended up at The Woods. I honestly don’t remember what we had to drink here, just that it was a cool spot with a trendy crowd.

Quite a packed day!

Day 2:

Morning coffee at 18 Grams. They had a similar selection of origins to the other coffee shops we visited so far. Their coffees were enjoyable and the lcoation is literally across the street from an MTR station — couldn’t be easier to find.

For lunch, I had researched some places to try dim sum and settled on The Square, in the financial district. Again from Time Out:

This Michelin starred restaurant goes full on dim sum menu on weekends. Be sure to make a reservation as their tables, not to mention their famous shrimp and asparagus spring rolls, are snatched up quickly.

But once we started getting close and saw that all the locals were in suits (remember it’s in the financial district) we decided we were way under-dressed for a Michelin starred restaurant and instead went to Agehan Japanese restaurant in the same building. It was here that I had my most memorable meal of the trip; the miso cod. Like buttah!

Afternoon coffee was at The Cupping Room and we enjoyed meeting Dawn and trying several of their coffees. He also recommended a few other shops, including Barista Jam, which is just up the street.

After coffee we went to a nearby temple to get Marie’s fortune read. The fortune-teller had a cup of numbered, wooden sticks and he asked Marie to pick a number and he looked that number up in a book and read her fortune. One of the things he told her was to be ready for big changes either after October or before September. Hack.

We also checked out the Central-mid-levels escalators.

The Central–Mid-Levels escalator and walkway system in Hong Kong is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world. The entire system covers over 800 metres (2,600 ft) in distance and elevates over 135 metres (443 ft) from bottom to top. It was constructed in 1993 to provide a better commute by linking areas within the Central and Western District on Hong Kong Island.
Since it was officially opened to the public on 15 October 1993, the escalator system has played a very important role in pedestrianising the Western District. It links Queen's Road Central in Central with Conduit Road in the Mid-Levels, passing through narrow streets. The daily traffic exceeds 55,000 people, 27,000. At Queen's Road Central, the Central–Mid-Levels escalators system is connected through Central Market to the Central Elevated Walkway, an extensive footbridge network.

Dinner was at Mott 32 and was spectacular.

Mott 32 is a design collaboration between Maximal Concepts & Joyce Wang. Maximal Concepts is a Hong Kong company well known for their awarded restaurants such as Brickhouse and Blue Butcher. Joyce Wang is arguably one the most exciting architects in Hong Kong reflected in her recent awarding of “Wave of the Future 2014” – an award for designers who are considered accomplished internationally, but young enough to be considered visionary.

Day 3:

On our last day, Marie stayed at the hotel to do some work in the morning while I went to check out Barista Jam, a small nook with a bit of a New York feel inside.

One of the great things about Hong Kong is the airport express train. You can check in to your flight at the train station in the city, check your luggage and just grab the train straight to the airport, easy-peesy (rice and cheesy). Super smart. More cities should do this!

We had a great time and look forward to another visit soon!