For a great cheap meal in Hong Kong, head to Kowloon. While it may be less glamorous than the Island, it holds some of the best-kept secrets of Cantonese cuisine. As the traditional home for Hong Kong immigrants, its culinary tradition spans many nations. We explore ten of the best restaurants in Kowloon reflecting the area’s rich culture.
Spring Deer is often been overlooked by the guidebooks. But after customers make their way up a rickety stairwell and into the bright dining room, it becomes clear why this restaurant has queues that can stretch around the block. North Chinese and Pekinese meals are a specialty here. Peking Duck is a standout but there’s plenty of other roast pork, beef and duck dishes to choose from.
Nathan Congee and Noodle is set up like a local take on an American diner. Here, they serve Congee, a rice porridge, often served plain with side dishes or mixed with meat, fish or other flavorings. When accompanied by noodles it forms a favorite Chinese comfort food. At Nathan’s, the dish is mixed with the best of Cantonese flavorings and meats. A great spot for a cheap and great tasting meal.
Hong Kong’s skyline has to be seen to be believed, and Above and Beyond offers just that opportunity. A 28th floor view and high-class interiors perfectly complement expert Cantonese cooking and a fantastic selection of fine wines. The principles of Cantonese cuisine are married with meticulous technique to create such delights as deep fried whitebait with honey chili and sesame, noodles with mushroom and black truffle and steamed turbot in a delicate soy sauce broth.
The Harbourside makes the list not because of its looks, location or great selection of international food, but because it epitomizes a local specialty: the buffet. Here, quantity does not outweigh quality. There may be a huge array of Chinese, Asian and western dishes to try, but each dish feels cooked to order. For those who are looking for something a little different, the Harbourside also offers a Chinese spin on High Tea that is worth the trip alone.
Tim Ho Wan is one of the cheapest Michelin star restaurants in the world. Prices are little more than spare change for a wealth of delicious plates such as the restaurant’s specialty, cha siu baau. These sugar-glazed pork buns, diced and infused with sauce, feature alongside mandarin-infused beef meatballs, turnip cakes and jasmine tea jelly with flower petals. Since gaining popularity Tom Ho Wan can have queues that are up to three hours long, so be prepared to wait.
Once the weather cools off, a popular tourist spot is Temple Street which hosts a collection of excellent spicy crab restaurants. One market’s best is Temple Spice Crabs. With its cheap beer, fresh seafood and well-spiced crustaceans it’s not hard to see why. Offering a truly authentic experience, ‘serviettes’ are a roll of toilet paper, and diners are rammed in close together with broken shells scattered in front of them.
Another seafood specialist, Chui Wo Lee is one of Kowloon’s famed ‘mushroom huts’, located in dai pai dong-style buildings found on recently renovated public housing estates. These establishments tend to be a little off the beaten track, and Chui Wo Lee is no exception, being found on the Lower Wong Tai Sin Estate near the famous Wong Tai Sin Temple. Chui Wo Lee is open 24 hours and its seafood dishes are best enjoyed on the terrace with a beer or some wine. Don’t leave without trying the fried squid balls.
Situated in Kowloon’s ultra-fashionable One Peking, Aqua Roma’s tiered seating offers every table a harbor view. The restaurant combines Japanese cuisine with the cuisine of southern Italy. Lobster pizza, stone-cooked wagyu beef, octopus salad with olive tapenade and Japanese orange and lemon sorbets are just some of the creative mixes to be found here. An extensive wine list and unusual cocktails means there’s plenty to accompany them. If you’re lucky enough to get there for a bank holiday or weekend, try out the brunch menu.
This is hands down the best spot in Kowloon to sample genuine Teochew cuisine. Similar to both Cantonese and Fujian food, Teochew tends to use less flavoring than most of its other Chinese counterparts, depending more on the freshness and quality of ingredients for flavor. As such, it’s often seen as healthier, with many of its cooking techniques rejecting oil in favor of poaching, steaming and braising. A fairly modest establishment, Cheong Fat’s dishes include basil-infused stir fry pork, pomelo salad, rice with pork powder and chicken panaeng curry with sliced peppers.
Hong Kong’s Chinese haute cuisine specialist Island Kang has a huge reputation and a Michelin star, but its little brother Kowloon Tang has just as much to offer the discerning diner. The restaurant serves a mix of high-end Cantonese cuisine and rural country dishes, such as a Dongguan specialty of savory, textured stewed pork belly with preserved vegetables wrapped in crispy rice paper. Kowloon Tang is influenced by art deco style, with the soaring ceilings and elegant decoration of the private dining rooms making them well worth a booking. By contrast, the main dining room features more traditional adornments such as calligraphic couplets. Otherwise a dedicated outdoor area offers a breath of fresh air.