CHRISTINA KO satisfies your midsummer cravings with this cheat sheet of beat-the-heat bets
CREAM OF THE CROP
Really, no time is a bad time for ice cream, but as the heat continues to invade the city, there’s certainly no chance more apt than the present. You’d be hard-pressed to find a food-and-beverage establishment that doesn’t serve ice cream, whether it’s fancy, liquored-up, homemade sundaes at Grand Hyatt Steakhouse; the liquid-nitrogen ilk peddled at Lab Made in fun Hong Kong flavours like black sesame or milk custard buns; or even doggy gelato for your canine pal at Gino’s Gelato on The Peak. Our top choice goes to the eat-before-it-melts chocolate soft-serve cones at Godiva boutiques, which are topped with the extra decadence of chocolate sauce and with cones dusted in chocolate biscuit crumble.
The cult mainstays of elegant degustation menus – melting foie gras, fragrant truffle, wagyu beef, etc – seem so heavy under the weight of summer’s heat and humidity. Chef Nurdin Topham, a student of the Scandinavian foraging sensation Noma, provides a pretty antidote to that at Nur, a most elegant effort from the team best known for backing boisterous nightclubs such as Levels and Privé. This veggie-centric tasting menu is your alternative to a staid summer salad (pick the seven-course Light menu instead of the 10-course Feast if you’re really pinching calories) and provides plenty of locally sourced plant fodder to rev up your digestive system without relegating you to food envy. The meal reaches its pinnacle with a tomato salad swimming in perfumed tomato water, a revelation for both tongue and tummy.
BARBIE’S DREAM HOUSE
A Hong Kong-style barbecue – over a charcoal-filled pit with cheese-filled wieners dipped in vats of honey – is undoubtedly great fun, but in this heat, who can be bothered? Try instead Grand Hyatt Hong Kong’s upscale poolside weekend brunch and barbecue buffet at The Grill, which covers premium meat and seafood along with salad and dessert bars. If all the smoke and fire gets you too hot and sticky, you can purchase a day pass for a dip at the hotel’s superlative oasisstyle pool with full ocean views.
Mister Softee trucks have a kind of perennial appeal that transcends food trends, but only this year has the idea of mobile kitchens taken off in the luxury sphere. At the opening of J.Crew’s men’s store on On Lan Street, orange Little Bao food trucks served pork belly or Sloppy Chan (shiitake tempeh) buns to attendees, while across the harbour, all-black Alexander Wang ice-cream trucks hawked free soft-serve to passers-by on Canton Road in honour of the Tsim Sha Tsui boutique’s second anniversary. In America, trucks serving fun concept food, such as Kogi’s Korean tacos in LA or Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck’s shrimp-and-rice plates in Hawaii, have long received mainstream attention, though Hong Kong’s tight parking situation has been a likely deterrent to imitators here. Will the big-brand endorsement of this phenomenon encourage the portable-food movement? Keep your fingers crossed, and picnic baskets ready.
Island East Markets began as a way to bring high-quality, local organic produce to locals, but it quickly grew into more, including a testing ground for new food concepts – The Butchers Club trialled its burgers there before opening its burger joint, and Little Bao was born from the success of its stall. There are still stands worth visiting that haven’t made the brick-and-mortar transition, though, whether it’s KJ Lobster Rolls, Sour Times yogurt or gourmet home-delivery service The Grocer. It’s spawned a sister location at PMQ Central, the Night Market, which this month pops up from the 25th to the 27th.
Hit a higher, and cooler, altitude at the hyped Chinoiserie rooftop bar Fu Lu Shou, which serves teabased cocktails alongside classic American-Chinese snacks like prawn toast and Kung Pao chicken. Or escape the mugginess at the too-cool-for-school Ping Pong 129 Gintonería, which, since being transformed from table-tennis hall to Spanish gin peddler some three months ago, has hosted private parties for Charlotte Olympia and Gagosian Gallery, been outed as one of Gwyneth’s local picks in her Goop newsletter, and served as a shooting location for the Jamie Chung-Bryan Greenberg indie vehicle, It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong. Oh, the G&Ts ain’t too shabby, either, for those who actually care about quenching thirst.
THE SEAFOOD DIET
It’s the ultimate summer indulgence (in quantity as well as cholesterol). Nothing reaffirms the luxury of good weather like a three-tiered seafood platter accompanied by a glass or more of bubbly. Since revamping its concept from fine dining over a year ago, French Window Brasserie and Bar is making a name for its spot-on seafood selection. There’s a row of freshly shucked oysters on the bottom, a duet of Boston lobster and Tourteau crab on top, and a middle bursting with prawns in two sizes, Japanese sea whelks, Babylon shells, clams and periwinkles (as far as we and they can tell, the only Western restaurant to serve these mini molluscs). With a window seat and good company, it’s almost as if you’ve been transported to a brasserie along the French Riviera, but with better air conditioning.
KING OF FRUIT
Summer is the season for fruit, and while the rest of the world noshes on boring and refreshing watermelon slices, we in Asia know that with the onset of tropical weather comes the annual durian spell – fat, creamy, stinky blobs of yellow fruit that are more divisive even than Marmite (at least the sticky black stuff don’t stink). Purists will insist that nothing tastes better than the fruit by itself, but over at Hotel Icon, Chef Danny Ho is trying to change that mind-set with his desserts, whether it’s flavoured cupcakes featuring durianpuree centres, durian-infused New York-style cheesecake or deep-fried durian. The dishes were so popular during the seasonal promotion period that they were added to the hotel’s regular buffet line-up at The Market, year-round.