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MARCH 27, 2000 VOL. 155 NO. 12

Hong Kong's Palate Pleasers
By Daffyd Roderick

Hong Kong's Palate Pleasers
Lifted by dotcom fever, Hong Kong has come alive. One result: more cool eateries have opened in the past year than in the previous two combined

Lovers of good cuisine in Hong Kong can be thankful for Maria Lee

Hot Spot
If you're looking for a good old-fashioned barber, head for the Barbershop, in the heart of the brick-covered, beer-splattered streets of Lan Kwai Fong

Hot Tip
Visitors to Hong Kong in the coming months will be overwhelmed by the choice of things to do

Web Crawling
Hong Kong's guides to what's on

COVER: A Democratic Milestone
In a dramatic transition of power away from KMT rule, Chen Shui-bian wins election to the island's highest office. The big question now: Will Beijing take his victory in stride?
Biography: The new President has a winning smile and the determination of a tiger
Chen Interview: "This moment is truly historical"
Viewpoint: Antonio Chiang assesses Lee Teng-hui
Line of Fire: Sin-ming Shaw on Taiwan's Chineseness

INDIA: Home Away from Home
Bill Clinton is traveling to South Asia at a time when its diaspora is rising to the top of the American melting pot, making hit movies in Hollywood and Internet millions in Silicon Valley--and smashing stereotypes along the way
Viewpoint: Indian-Americans reach for their roots
Meanwhile: Faces of the New India

CINEMA: A gender-bending Thai film is a smash hit

Hong Kong's Palate Pleasers

The Year of the Ox, 1997, stuck a horn in Hong Kong's spokes. The Asian financial contagion laid low the city's once-mighty financial industry, while the bird flu scared off tourists. Restaurants closed, property agents went bust and many thought the former colony had lost its mojo.

Illustration for TIME by Wu Wing Yee

Enter the Year of the Dragon. Lifted by dotcom fever, Hong Kong has come alive. One result: more cool eateries have opened in the past year than in the previous two combined. The tough times had a positive side effect: the birth of restaurants that offer value for money and--a real shocker in Hong Kong--good service. Fat Angelo's (2973-6808) started the trend with its Jaffe Road eatery, which serves up generous-sized pasta feasts. The atmosphere is zesty: dark wood, vintage Italian posters and red-and-white checked table cloths. Dinner for two with wine is less than $40, and the meals are an even better bargain if you share with a group. Fat Angelo's recently opened another popular outlet on Elgin Street.

A short ride down the escalator that connects the Central business district to the residential Mid-Levels is Pepperoni's Pizza and Café (2869-1766). The new branch of a longtime Hong Kong favorite attracts a line most nights, serving up gourmet pizzas such as the New Orleans topped with Cajun chicken, spinach, potatoes and sour cream. Another affordable favorite is Thai Basil (2537-4682), which manages to exude cool even from the basement of the Pacific Place mall. Dishes are nouvelle Southeast Asian, with an emphasis on fresh ingredients and spices. Highlights include Vietnamese rice paper rolls and a delicious smoky eggplant with chili.

On a bigger budget? Try decade-old M at the Fringe (2877-4000). Despite competition from other high-class eateries, M is still rated the city's best room by many Hong Kong foodies. Skippered by Australian owner Michelle Garnaut, the restaurant consistently offers excellent food and a cordial atmosphere. Two people can easily spend $200 on mouth-watering lamb and one of the best dessert spreads in the city. The latest challenger to M's supremacy is newcomer Blue (2815-4005) on Lyndhurst Terrace. Also run by a group of Australians, Blue serves delectable fusion fare in a funky setting. Dark timber floors, blue-cushioned chairs, high ceilings and glass panels provide comfortable environs for sampling dishes like coconut-crusted prawns with oven-roasted banana, or stuffed spatchcock in saffron cream. The wine list is largely New World and has enough range to satisfy most palates.

If blue isn't your color and you want something more casual, try Brown (2891-8558) in Happy Valley. This place revels in all that is homey and brown: coffee, chocolate and cigars. Run by former architect NuNu, this restaurant is as much about design as food. Divided into three sections--a simple café in front, a cozy couch area behind and a breezy courtyard in the rear--Brown serves a range of continental fare in an atmosphere that usually makes up for the spotty service. While you're in the area, drop by Green Spot (2836-0009). This eatery is dominated by a massive, square bar and, you guessed it, the color green. The continental-style menu of steak and pasta is being revamped, but the main attractions are the music and the crowd. For meat-and-potatoes diners, Morton's of Chicago (2732-2343) has opened a restaurant in the Sheraton hotel in Kowloon. Expect massive, juicy slabs of aged beef, baked potatoes and a very American setting. You won't escape for less than $200 for two. In the same vein is the Stonegrill (2504-3333) in Causeway Bay. But here your wallet will leave almost as full as you will: the set meal, including an 225-g rib-eye steak with potatoes, soup, salad and coffee, comes to just $25.

Your local friends, however, will never let you live it down if you visit Hong Kong without partaking of dim sum, which means "touch the heart" in Cantonese. While thousands of restaurants are willing to ladle dumplings and tasty pork buns onto your plate, a couple stand out. If you're looking for history, the Luk Yu Teahouse (2523-5463) on Stanley Street is your spot. The dim sum is tasty, but the grumpy, senior-citizen staff and raucous atmosphere are what draw the crowds. For a more elegant experience, head back to Happy Valley, to a restaurant simply called Dim Sum (2834-8893). Recently refurbished, the establishment has highbacked chairs, tall ceilings and antique prints that provide a suitably refined ambience for the 80 varieties of dim sum on the menu. There's never been a better time to eat like a Dragon in Hong Kong.

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