We’re going to take a preliminary peek into the restaurants, bars and people that are picking up steam with the majority of your votes thus far for the Foodie Forks 2019. While there are many great eateries and people that we are astonished haven’t yet been nominated, there’s still time to vote! A few quick taps on the keyboard are all it takes to get those beloved places feeding your stomach and soul with the sustenance you crave the love they need to endure in this town’s fickle F&B scene.
The last day of voting is 15 April, so don’t let the people and places that have won over your taste buds miss out on getting the gongs they deserve! The winners will be announced at our annual Foodie Forks awards party on Monday, 20 May 2019, and will be revealed on our Facebook page and website on 21 May. If you faves aren’t mentioned below, you’ve got some work to do!
Here are the front runners thus far:
Best New Restaurant
Riding high on the votes is great Greek restaurant Artemis & Apollo alongside the cool fusion Chinese from John Anthony and the modern Indian from Daarukhana – and given that 2018’s Best New Restaurant was New Punjab Club, we wonder if this region’s cuisine could take the title two years in a row. Pica Pica has a flood of votes in along with Red Sauce Hospitality’s new hot spot, Franks. Now, none of these top five surprise us as they’ve all made a huge splash on the scene and are well worth visiting if you haven’t yet discovered them. Also gaining steam with voters is contemporary Vietnamese spot Nhau from one of our fave chefs, Que Vinh Dang – better Nhau than later, that’s what we say. Roganic from Simon Rogan is also hot to trot, along with Fukuro, Aulis, Hotal Colombo, Confusion, ICHU, ÉCRITURE, Madame Ching, Ask for Alonzo, BEDU, La Petite Maison, Trattoria del Pescatore and plant-based VEDA, but they’re all going to need a bit of support to knock the top five off their lofty perches.
For dining out on a special occasion, where do you rely on for a perfect evening? So far, we are seeing Uwe, the fine-dining restaurant from Chef of the Year 2018 winner Uwe Opocensky (whose beautiful surname we always have to cut and paste), duking it out for the top spot with long-timer Café Gray Deluxe up in its tall tower of loveliness. BELON is clearly also the people’s favourite, with Chef Daniel Calvert earning esteem as the highest climber at this year’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. Caprice has long been loved by Hong Kongers, and this year proves no different as the votes are pouring in for Guillaume Galliot’s fine food. Mott 32 is scoring the usual high numbers, with another long-timer, Zuma, also pulling in the votes for its finely tuned Japanese dishes. Ronin and Neighborhood are two more we are always delighted to see getting much love from this city, along with Grassroots Pantry, Amber, Yat Tung Heen, ÉPURE, VEA, 8½ Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA, L’ATELIER de Joël Robuchon and Frantzén’s Kitchen.
And even though it isn’t a front runner, we still feel it’s worth mentioning that Bubba Gump up on The Peak got a vote in for Best Resto. We suspect it will be the light-up flashing shrimp cocktail glasses that secured this voter’s righteous love. Respect – we own the Sergeant Dan T-shirt ourselves.
Best New Bar
Where do you go to see, be seen and have a great time drinking while doing all that seeing? The nominees so far include super-pretty Tai Kwun addition Dragonfly, 13th-century-inspired The Wise King, the hip new sister bar to previous winner back in 2014, Ping Pong 129 Gintonería, Dai Bing, and Terrible Baby, which probably sounds better in French, but is still a cool, cool bar. Then there’s Hugger Mugger, another dubious name hiding a very chic bar, live music venue The Aftermath and trendy new whisky haunt The ThirtySix. Curiously, The Sea has an awful lot of votes for a place that hasn’t even opened yet, such is the confidence from the people who brought us last year’s winner in this category, The Old Man.
Finally, Starbucks must’ve really upped their game in Sham Tseng, or perhaps there just isn’t much else going on over there – regardless, they’ve been nominated for Best New Bar, and we are going to go check out the validity of this vote, stat.
Chef of the Year
This is never the easiest category for diners, but we are loving our reader’ choices this year. Peggy Chan of Grassroots Pantry always gets a good number of votes, and that’s also continuing this year with Guillaume Galliot of Caprice, right up there with home-grown hero Vicky Cheng of VEA, who won our Chef of the Year award back in 2012 when he was wowing palates at Liberty Private Works. Palash Mitra of New Punjab Club and last year’s winner, Uwe Opocensky, are getting a lot of love alongside Pica Pica chef Edgar Sanuy. Jim Lofdahl of Frantzén’s Kitchen has his share of fans, and John Anthony chef Saito Chau is a popular choice this year, as is Nhau’s chef, Que Vinh Dang. Also in the running are Asher Goldstein from people’s favourite FRANCIS, BELON’s Daniel Calvert, last year's Editors’ Choice winner, David Lai, Invisible Kitchen’s Tom Burney and Matt Abergel, who always gets votes under his full name as well as “Matt from Yardbird” and “Matt from Ronin” for the many different chef hats he wears. Chef Junno Li of The Chinese Library, one of our favourite spots in gorgeous Tai Kwun, is also up there.
We received more than one vote for Kirk – just Kirk – if anyone knows him. We’re thinking it’s probably Singapore’s Kirk Westaway, chef de cuisine of Michelin-starred JAAN, but we’re not sure if he’s dropped the surname yet. And, as is the case every year, someone voted for “my mom”. Totes.
Best Dessert Place
This category is really anybody’s game. There are a paragraph full of places that are each getting a little bit of love, but no clear winners are emerging as yet. So far we have: Pâtisserie Tony Wong, the vegan gelato from Holly Brown, the tiramisu and raspberry poke cake from Fini’s, the crêpe cakes from Shaz Confections, Sweet Fashion House, Cereal 2.0 from Ho Lee Fook, all the cheesecakes from the The Cheesecake Factory, Beef & Liberty’s skillet cookie, the apple tart from Roganic, the tiramisu from Pici (perhaps a Pici vs Fini’s tiramisu-off is on the cards), Oddies Foodies, Cookie DPT, Mercedes me Store, Mrs B’s CAKERY, Octavium’s chocolate souffle, the gluten-free goodies from The Cakery and ‘grammer fave Emack & Bolio’s, who’ve won this category before, along with local sweet spot Cong Sao, also a previous winner. We’ll tell you what’s torture though – the person who voted for sticky date pudding with ice cream but didn't tell us where to get it! Oh, the trauma – we want some. Someone else voted for “any kind of alcoholic kind of dessert”. We agree.
Yet there are so many of our favourites that appear nowhere on this list. Do you feel the same? Then put your indignant thoughts to the keyboard and angrily type out your vote! This is not a US election – your votes definitely count.
There are a lot of much-loved cafés in this town, and the competition here is as hot as the coffee. Hazel & Hershey are right up there at the top, sitting neck and neck with NOC (that’s fun to say), stalwart of the city’s coffee scene Fuel Espresso, cool-concept Interval, Halfway Coffee, 18 Grams, Stazione Novella, MANA!, Brew Bros, previous winner Elephant Grounds, Opendoor Cafe + Courtyard, Winston’s, favourite of queue lovers % Arabica, another former winner, Bakehouse, one of our go-to’s, Classified, Filters Lane, The Coffee Academïcs, 3/3rds, The Cupping Room, Mercedes me Store, Omontesando, teakha, Coco Espresso, Artisan Room, Why 50, Redback Coffee, Barista Jam, hot American arrival Ralph’s Coffee, Sweetpea Café (we haven’t been yet, but we LOVE the name!), Nutsy and, as always, and quite high in the voting numbers is – dun dun dun... Starbucks. Help!
Best Green Eats
This is the category celebrating all the places doing great green dishes and menus and contributing something good to the world of food. As usual, MANA!, the first zero-waste restaurant in the city, is the one to beat, with John Anthony, the new sustainable Chinese restaurant making waves in Causeway Bay, gaining a competitive edge with its newness. You also love the greener vibes coming out of Beef & Liberty, responsibly sourced and refined vegetarian restaurant Grassroots Pantry, local produce advocate Posto Pubblico, Dandy’s Organic Café in Sheung Wan, Hemingway’s in Discovery Bay, which went full vegan last year, KALE in Central, Green Monday’s Kind Kitchen, POP Vegan, Ovolo Central newcomer VEDA and long-timer Fresca.
This category is still not as robust as the others, but it’s a start! Who else should be on this list?
We know it’s hard to give up your little hole in the wall that nobody knows about, but we love to share and want to celebrate those places that have earned your love. You’ve been generous so far with Hotal Colombo, Brickhouse, Nhau, Holy Eats, Osteria Marzia, Yau Yuen Siu Tsui, BEDU, Beet, The Big Bite, Brut!, Bun Cha, Burger Circus, Eiffel Bistro, Electric Ave, Wanchai’s Heart to Heart, Spanish tapas spot Candela on Lamma – better known as “Carlos’ place” – Jordan’s Manakamana Nepali, Sai Ying Pun spot Pete’s Place, Samsen in Wanchai, Slide on 79, SoHo’s Sushi Kado, The Old Monk in TST, excellent Lebanese eatery Zahrabel in Wanchai, Uehara in Causeway Bay for sushi, Sheung Wan’s Monsieur CHATTÉ, Nikuya Room 298 in Central and TST and this little Sham Shui Po place, 天祥飯店. Score! That’s our month’s eating sorted.
Someone also voted for “home”, but we probably aren’t invited.
This is a great category that we love to award, and the list grows longer and longer every year, featuring inspiring individuals pouring their ethical hearts into the world of food. Here’s who’s high on the list so far: Bobsy Gaia from MANA!, Ayelet Idan from Olive Leaf, last year’s winner, Todd Darling of Homegrown Foods, May Chow of Little Bao and Happy Paradise, Uwe Opocensky for his increasing focus on sustainability, David Yeung of Green Monday, the legendary and dearly departed Anthony Bourdain, Christopher Mark of Black Sheep Restaurants, Tom Burney of Hong Kong’s most sustainable catering company, Invisible Kitchen, previous winner, philanthropic soul Ming Gor of North River (Pei Ho), who endlessly distributes free rice boxes to the needy from his restaurant (we are always glad to see him getting votes), Danielle Giambattista of Little Birdy and our own zero-waste hero, Hannah Chung.
We don’t want to toot our own horn too loudly, but someone wrote “the cricket doughnut people at Taste”. That was us! We partnered with above-mentioned Invisible Kitchen to whip up those delicious little wonders that people opened their minds and mouths to. It was just the one vote, but it was a really good one. We even did a little happy dance...
Most Inspiring Initiative
We put this new category in to highlight all the serious good that is happening that we just couldn’t fit in any other category before. If it’s an event or effort that has a philanthropic, community-centric or environmental purpose that’s inspired you, we want to celebrate it. People are shelling out votes for the Last Straw Movement, and there have been a lot of votes for the good work being done by Black Sheep Restaurants’ partnership with the Hong Kong Correctional Services. People also love The Influencer Series by Maximal Concepts and the Red Sauce Hospitality Melting Pot Series. Peng Ho continuing to feed the homeless every day has a lot of your votes, as does Invisible Kitchen serving sustainable seafood and MANA!’s recycling efforts. Got any others that have inspired you?
So now we implore you to put your fingers to the keyboard and vote! The beautifully hard-working people in the industry deserve some recognition for filling our tums with all this delicious food.