THE MICHELIN MOVEMENT
The release of Michelin-star rankings in early December always sends a flurry of diners to newly placed restaurants. Last year, after being crowned the only Italian threestar restaurant outside of Italy, 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo became the hottest table in town, and after retaining the title this year the venue will undoubtedly continue to be difficult to book, along with the other three-star holders: Lung King Heen and Caprice at the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong and L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.
New to the list this year, and already experiencing a flux of calls and table bookings, are restaurants such as the one-starred Tate Dining Room, which has broken the curse of SoHo mediocrity with its innovative use of ingredients and its poetic presentation. Other new restaurants that made the cut were L'Altro, which brings a touch of Italian finery to L Place in Central; The Principal, which earns the highly regarded Press Room Group its first Michelin honour; Yu Lei, the Japaneseowned Chinese restaurant whose underdog location in Whampoa didn't deter Michelin inspectors; and local personality Harlan Goldstein's duo of dining establishments, Gold and Strip House. There's also great regard for the new Japanese imports, Ryu Gin and Sushi Yoshitake, both earning two stars, the latter doing so astonishingly within two months of its opening (certainly, it will be going for the coveted third star next year, which its older sister in Tokyo already holds). Surprise entries also came from the homey Pang's Kitchen, which has been serving comfort food to Happy Valley residents for a good decade under the radar, and Guo Fu Lou, the Elite Concepts restaurant that stole the star previously awarded its flashier sibling Nanhai No 1, which didn't make the list this time around. Michelin recommendations tend to be a bit controversial in foodie circles, in particular when it comes to Chinese cuisine, but that won't stop visitors and locals alike flocking over – even if it is just to prove the guide writers wrong.
GONE TO POT
Maybe it's because we suffer from deathly long summers here in Hong Kong, but once the thermostat drops below 20 degrees, local flock en masse to hotpot restaurants, where a convivial dining experience and the fun act of cooking your own food make for a great social activity. You'll need to plan in advance if you want to hit Megan's Kitchen, the Wanchai hotpot hotspot known for its hodgepodge of quirky soup bases, such as the tom yum koong cappuccino, fresh lobster borsch or cheese soufflé with onion soup. Make sure to order the gimmicky but good rainbow cuttlefish balls, coloured naturally using ingredients such as red bell peppers, pumpkin, beetroot or purple sweet potato. Dong Lai Shun at the Royal Garden Hong Kong is known for its Beijing and Huaiyang cuisine, but also serves a mean hotpot, with sliced mutton from – vegetarians and animal activists avert your gaze – male lambs no older than 18 months, which sounds creepy but tastes amazing. And don't forget the lobster balls stuffed with foie gras and melt-in-your-mouth beef brisket, so good it's worth the stomach ache you'll have after overeating. If your tummy can take it, San Xi Lou is one of the best Sichuan joints in the city, and ladies who indulge can save on lip plumper as well, once the millions of chillies graze your mouth.
Sukiyaki and shabu-shabu are the standard Japanese winter warmers, but a fun twist comes from Kaetsu at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, which is serving paperpot and clay-pot dishes, adorable little setups featuring seasonal ingredients, such as chicken dumpling in soy milk paper hotpot. Thought only Asian countries partook in the hotpot trend? Chesa at The Peninsula Hong Kong is the indisputable king of cheese fondues, if you can afford the calories…
TAKEN TO THE CLEANERS
…although most of us can't, after an almost month-long Christmas and New Year's binge. And so the day after New Year's is undoubtedly the day on which those pesky and forgettable resolutions are put into
action, whether it's going carb-free, caffeinefree, fat-free, gluten-free, nicotine-free or even solid food-free, thanks to a juice-cleanse fad popularised by model Cara G. Her Genie Concept juice cleanse lets you drink six fruit juices a day in lieu of “real food”, and is intended to combat low energy, digestive problems, bad skin, insomnia and general health. The programmes last for anywhere from one to six days, depending on how long you can last, with a suggested post-cleanse diet of salads and grilled fish or chicken. Also popular is Punch Detox, which offers two levels of juice cleanses for amateurs or old pros, as well as different power packs so you can use them as single meal replacements. Both companies' juices last for up to three days.
Alternatively, those with less self-discipline can check themselves into a detox retreat. High society's favourite is The Farm at San Benito, the Philippines, particularly because the wellness resort customises its retreats for customers, to include combinations of health consultations, holistic healing, spa treatments, fitness sessions and various detox therapies. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, The Farm
has also recently opened its Narra Pool Villas, adding a new dimension of luxury to an old favourite. The other top spot is Chiva Som in Hua Hin, the choice of celebrities such as the Beckhams, Elle Macpherson and Kate Moss, a healthy haven that's so picture perfect you can't imagine ever leaving (even if it means eating spa food for life). Other Thailand turns include Kamalaya, Absolute Sanctuary, Evason and Bio Resurge, the last of whose maximum occupancy of 10 makes it one of the most exclusive detox resorts in the world. Can't get away? Integrative Living in Hong Kong is a wellness coaching service that will help you figure out the best way to work health and detox into your current lifestyle.
THE IN CROWD
While the assumption remains that Prestige Hong Kong readers shouldn't be taxed by a little too much Christmas shopping, whether the wallet is suffering or not, January is a month to lay low and stay in (those dancing shoes need to come off some time). Hopefully you managed to stock up on cookbooks from your secret Santas; otherwise our locally produced favourites include the My Nespresso Coffee Cuisine recipe compendium, which brings together 30 recipes that use coffee, from nine local chefs including Bo Innovation's Alvin Leung – and of course, you'll want a Nespresso machine, such as the new U model, so you can cut down on brewing time. Socialites Claudia Shaw and Dominica Yang have also produced a popular tome, Too Delicious, which will up your culinary game just as it increases your good karma, since proceeds benefit Room to Read. Also good for you is catering powerhouse Relish Kitchen's wholesome tome Relish Your Health (available through the Hong Kong Cancer Fund website), which documents Taryne Hall's passion for nutritious recipes following her battle with cancer. But the hot cookbook everyone's talking about is veteran food writer Susan Jung's A Celebration of Food, published just last month and pulling together 60 of her own recipes in addition to 20 from local chefs.
For the truly time-starved, Secret Ingredient packages up quaint little home-dinner kits that you can pick up and DIY as easily as a piece of Ikea furniture. Should your gastronomic self-exploration fail, however, there are professionals willing to come to your aid: Andrea Oschetti operates under Cuore Private Chef, a one-man healthy Italian cooking machine who will cater to your personal needs either in your home or his; or Culinart studio will serve tailored private dinners (this month's sample menu includes slow-braised beef short rib with a chocolate chilli-mole, parsnip mash and roasted broccoli) at a location of your choosing – the man behind it all, Stanley Wong, has cooked for the likes of Tom Cruise and Will Smith.