I’m coming up on one year working in the Sheung Wan district. That’s following a year in which I worked in Cyberport, one of the worst places in all of Hong Kong for food. Open Rice currently lists 496 restaurants in Sheung Wan so I suppose one might say I’m spoiled for choice now. Sheung Wan is interesting in that much of “old Hong Kong” is still very visible. However, the pace of gentrification is rapidly increasing, rents are going up, the neighborhood is changing almost daily before my eyes. I thought some people might find it useful to know where I’ve gone for lunch and maybe even give a few recommendations in return. Note that my office is not far from the MTR and Wing On and that I have a tendency to avoid walking up hill in the direction of Hollywood Road and Soho; I pretty much stay close to “home” for lunch. No food photos, no silly language about mouth feel or how some wine has undertones of chocolate and carpet scrapings, just the facts, as it were.
One final note – most offices in the area start their lunch hour at 1 PM. That means if you go out to lunch at 12:30 you stand a good chance of getting in almost anywhere without a wait. At 1 PM, any place in the hood that offers lunch under HK$50 will have a long line in front – that means either doing takeaway or going someplace expensive if you don’t want to wait.
Sang Kee – These guys have 3 store fronts along Hillier Street and Burd Street. They’re most famous for their congee and their beef brisket noodles. A bowl of beef brisket noodles costs HK$26 and is quite nice. They also have this sort of fish pancake thing for $11 that I always order as a side dish.
Barista Jam – Everyone’s favorite coffee shop also serves pasta, salads and sandwiches. A little bit pricey but not bad.
Dim Sum Square – A tiny place that gets seriously packed at lunch time. The quality of their dim sum is average at best but the prices are good.
Pizzeria Jacomax – Owned and run by an Italian, the pizzas are supposed to be quite good here. I’ve been here once, ordered a panini, it was awful, haven’t been back.
Malaymama – One of my favorites. I can’t speak to how authentic this hole-in-the-wall place is but I love their bak kuh teh and their laksa. Around $45 per bowl unless you go for one of their “special” combinations, seriously filling and tasty stuff.
Pret A Manger – Sometimes I just want a sandwich and Pret has a $50 combo that includes a bowl of soup, half a sandwich and a cup of tea or coffee. It’s also a fairly comfortable place to sit and read while you eat.
Men-Dokoro Ryo Tei – There are two ramen shops near my office. I prefer this one. A little bit pricey – a bowl of ramen, an order of gyoza and a drink has me pushing the $100 mark but sometimes it hits the spot.
Chez Meli Melo – An odd little shop in an odd out of the way location doing authentic French baguettes.
North Garden – Your basic standard Cantonese seafood restaurant serving dim sum for lunch, I’ve been here a few times for big team lunch events. Quality-wise they’re about in the middle of the pack. Nothing is great but nothing sucks either. Prices also in the mid-range.
Monsieur Chatte – A small French grocery store in Sheung Wan? Well, they’ve lasted 4 years and have now opened a second branch in Elements so I guess they’re doing okay. Aside from the wine and cheese and homemade foie gras, they have 4 different baguettes each day along with some pasta and salad choices. The bread for the baguette is seriously good.
Pho Tai – People seem to really line up for this Vietnamese spot. I think it’s more for the price than the quality of the food. It’s okay.
Ninoen – This little Japanese take-away only place must be less than 100 square feet. I tried a sushi assortment here once. About the same quality as you’d get at Park ‘n Shop.
Katong Laksa Prawn Mee – Directly across from Malaymama, I’ve been here once. I ordered the prawn mee. I think I found 1, maybe 2, pieces of a prawn in the bowl. Haven’t been back.
Trattoria Doppio Zero – This is a seriously nice Italian place. I’ve been here twice and loved it each time. But set lunches start at $100 so it’s a place I go only on rare occasions.
JP Deli – Tried here once. A bento box of Japanese style fried chicken with rice & veggie set me back around $50. Quite okay but I thought a little expensive for what you get.
Bowl Burger – Sometimes I just have to have a burger. This is the closest burger place to my office. It’s better than McDonalds.
Mian Cafe – Two menus here – one for Japanese food, one for Taiwanese. So far I’ve tried off the Japanese side (pork cutlet curry with rice) and it was quite okay.
Masala – The closest Indian place. Their set lunch includes soup, salad, naan, rice and a main dish. A lot of food for the money compensates for the food only being so-so.
Bun Me – I wish this place was better. Even so I end up coming here roughly once a week. Their baguettes are Hong Kong-style – soft. They don’t have pate to put on the banh mi. Otherwise it’s quite okay, their vermicelli salads are nice.
Subway – Yeah, I come here sometimes. Every day they have a different $19 special.
Maxims Palace Chinese Restaurant – In the basement of Shun Tak Centre, it’s every bit as good as you’d expect it to be. Also expensive – special occasions only.
Harmony – One of the more English-friendly cha chaan tengs in the area. The food isn’t great but they have a huge menu, well translated, portions are huge and prices are cheap and they’re very friendly.
Mutekiya – Our second ramen shop. Been here twice, I just seem to prefer Men-Dokoro.
Taiwan dumpling place, no English name – Quickly becoming a new favorite. They have about 8 different dumplings to choose from, mix and match, they also do a really nice hot and sour soup with dumplings.
Cafe Nirvana – Oy vey. I really want to love this place. A funky bar, almost a dive bar atmosphere, during the day they have set menus for Italian and Thai food, neither of which they do particularly well. But it’s a comfortable place to sit. Their lasagna’s not great but it doesn’t suck.
Lee Fa Yuen Korea House – The set lunches are around $70 and for that money you get a ton of decently prepared Korean food. Probably not the most authentic Korean food, mind you, but good enough.
Grove Sandwiches – Another sandwich chain in Hong Kong, they manage to make Oliver’s Super Sandwich seem good.
Magnolia – Okay, I’ve never been here for lunch, they don’t serve lunch. But it is in Sheung Wan. A private kitchen doing authentic New Orleans cuisine. We came here once for dinner and it was fantastic. Highly recommended.
Gourmet Burger Union – This branch of a Hong Kong burger chain has outdoor seating only and is a bit of a walk. I’ve only been here once as a result but the burger was quite okay.
Gaia Ristorante – The set lunch here is $248, which means I don’t come here unless someone else is paying. It is really good, though the portions are on the small side (not counting, of course, the antipasto buffet, which is very nice indeed) and service is haphazard.
Hmmm, what have I left out? There’s a branch of Cafe O that I’ve been to a couple of times, relaxing and decent food. There’s this place on Queen’s Road, upstairs, Cafe something, recently opened, western set lunchs running between 50 and 100, had a nice burger and salad there. A few more hole-in-the-wall joints with no English name doing some seriously good noodle soups seriously cheap.
So that’s 30+ places out of 496. I still have quite a few to go! (And sometimes when I’m feeling ambitious I’ll head over towards Central for a bite.)
What places have I missed? Which ones do you consider to be a “must”?