Culinary wizardry in the heart of Hong Kong

The exalted chefs at two of the territory’s restaurants dazzle with their culinary prowess

A colourful array of fruits at Uwe
A colourful array of fruits at Uwe

The only meal that commands a better view of Hong Kong than lunch at Man Wah, the Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant on the 25th floor of the Mandarin Oriental hotel, is probably dinner at the same restaurant, when the windows sparkle with lights from the lofty skyline. 

The restaurant’s new chef Wing-Keung Wong’s food sparkles too. My lunch started with sweet, flaky, deep-fried cod with preserved olive, black bean and a warm whisper of five-spice powder, and barbecued Ibérico pork loin, basted with longan honey – classy, confident cooking. Dim sum followed: a very perky king-prawn and bamboo-shoot har gau with a seductively loose texture, alongside an earthily scented matsutake mushroom siu mai; then highly accomplished versions of the classic taro puff – made with chicken and scallop – and a superb Wagyu beef puff in flaky pastry (actually two pastries rolled together) that I once spent an entire afternoon trying, and failing, to make. My advice is to leave it to the experts, and chef Wong is a master of his craft.

Meanwhile, chef Uwe Opocensky, formerly executive chef at the Mandarin Oriental, has opened his own place, Uwe, at the western end of Hollywood Road. It is an intimate, candlelit space, a very real-looking, artificial, upside-down tree hanging from the centre of the ceiling: there are a mere 20 covers, with Opocensky very much in evidence as he delivers his playful, intelligent dishes. He is fond of a sort of gastronomic trompe l’oeil: his “matcha” tea, ceremoniously served from a pot, turned out to be dehydrated basil with tomato water, while the guttering candles were made from bone marrow, into which sourdough toast could be rewardingly dunked.

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Otherwise, the skulduggery was kept to a minimum, with Opocensky wisely letting his ingredients speak for themselves. His produce is first-rate: organic salads and herbs from nearby Lantau Island; potatoes from Hokkaido, aged to deepen their flavour (mine were from the 2017 vintage – Opocensky discovered these venerable tubers while on a skiing holiday and put in his order), baked in salt and topped with sevruga and pike caviar; red prawns from Roses, in northern Spain, with the Marmite-like flavour of garum, the old Roman fish sauce; lobster with the peppery leaf of a nasturtium/watercress hybrid; roast cèpes with thyme and garlic; and crisp-skinned Segovia suckling pig that melts at the wave of a fork. The wine list, meanwhile, is short, lofty in quality, but notably good value.

One’s oeil was tromped again by dessert, a dazzlingly colourful array of fruits cleverly concealing their own sorbets – Opocensky has the enviable gift of fusing technique with wit and local ingredients with far-flung exotica. And Hong Kong’s diners seem to approve: you will need to book months in advance for a table.

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