Taking advantage of local ingredients and home-grown talent, 1111 ONES (or simply ONES) offers modern Cantonese dishes through an adventurous tasting menu. Like other newcomers to Hong Kong’s dining scene, ONES soft-launched at the end of 2021, only to be met with the fifth wave of COVID, dining restrictions and business challenges aplenty.
However, Chef Will Leung has always remained confident that the dining scene will make a comeback. ONES’ latest menu (HK$1,288/person for 6 courses or HK$1,588 for 8 courses; +HK$588 for wine pairings) is a collaboration with one Hong Kong’s top local artists and multimedia creators, Jerry Cho. There is only one way up from here, and the restaurant continues to prove its fruitful progress with its fully booked dinner service.
What’s the meaning behind the restaurant’s name and how did the concept come into play? What can guests expect from the latest menu?
There are a few meanings behind the name. First, each “1” in 1111 represents the founders of the restaurant and an auspicious number – such as people making a wish at 11:11. The number also signifies new beginnings, creativity, success, motivation, personal fulfilment and happiness.
I have been working as a chef for 13 years globally at numerous hotels and restaurants – two years in Australia, five years at The Peninsula Hong Kong (at both Felix and Gaddi’s) and four years at JUNON. As one of the four founders, I love Hong Kong and Chinese culture very much, and because of this, I want to bring classic Hong Kong cuisine to a wider audience from all over the world.
At ONES, we offer a experience not commonly seen within the industry since each dish is personal, experimental and explores a new, reimagined route. Guests can experience the authentic tastes of Hong Kong, but we aren’t a traditional Cantonese restaurant. Our menu is inspired by familiar dishes of Hong Kong using Western and international cooking methods. Since Hong Kong is so culturally diverse, foreign cuisines have become a big part of the daily diet and life here.
How do you choose each local artist to work with and how does this choice reflect the dishes you serve?
I begin the planning process with the type of art to feature, and then I research the field in which each artist works before contacting him or her. I resonate with some artists as they have a personal meaning for me. Our first collaboration was with landscape photographer Kelvin Yuen, someone I had met years ago. For this current collaboration with illustrator Jerry Cho, I read his comics when I was younger but didn’t know him personally, so I do like to work with those I have a specific connection with.
What is your personal favourite dish on this menu versus the guests’ favourite?
My favourite dish is the eggplant with salted fish as it is a signature Hong Kong local dish that perfectly combines the French and Japanese styles of cooking, and I think it represents my own style the most too. However, the suckling pig (also known as the pork trio) is the guests’ favourite.
Paying tribute to Tai O, scallion oil dresses the bottom of the dish, while salted dried fish sits atop eggplant for some texture. Powdered nori is used to decorate the plate and gives a savoury, umami flavour.
Who are some of your favourite local suppliers and partners?
I live near Yuen Long, and there is an authentic egg-roll store there that inspires one of our dishes and is one of my favourite childhood snacks, as it is for many other Hong Kong people. I love watching how the egg rolls are individually handmade. The dried seafood street in Sheung Wan is also a huge part of my childhood memories since I used to live there as a kid. Our kitchen uses as many local ingredients as possible, but sometimes we’ll outsource imported ingredients such as French herbs to replace local Chinese ones that share a similar flavour profile. One of our signatures is the soft-shell lobster, which is also sourced from a local fishery.
A typhoon shelter cooking style is used for the soft-shell lobster dish, taking inspiration from Causeway Bay. The lobster is deep-fried in a light, crumbly coating, heavy on the garlic.
You opened ONES right before the fifth wave, and the lockdown was a huge obstacle. What were you biggest successes as a restaurant during this period?
Since 1111 ONES was opened by a small group of people, the fifth wave was hard for us, especially with the dining restrictions. We used this time to train our staff, to make sure they’re well prepared and excel at service, as well as to create efficient food preparation for the dishes. During the fifth wave, we were only open during lunchtime and offered dinner once things became semi-normal. With popular demand, we are now bringing back lunch service, and we will remain open for dinner.
Because this menu focuses on the most authentic flavours of Hong Kong, what are your recommendations for the following: A) authentic Cantonese food, B) the best place to grab a local snack and C) the best place for dim sum?
For authentic Cantonese, I recommend Yung Kee in Central. For snacks, I would head to Kwai Chung Plaza – you can get anything you want there! And for dim sum, my favourite is Lin Heung Kui in Sheung Wan.
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