Private kitchens: Hong Kong's hidden treat

Story highlights

  • Private kitchens are a spin off of traditional restaurants located throughout Hong Kong
  • they offer a variety of cuisines from traditional Chinese and Western dishes to fusion
  • The kitchens only serve between 20 and 30 customers a day and are reservation only
  • They have grown in popularity in part due to the allure of the unique experience each offers
On the tenth floor of a commercial building in Hong Kong, the neon lit streets of the city's Lan Kwai Fong bar district below are replaced by Qing Dynasty antiques and the alluring waft of Chinese cuisine.
Club Qing is an eatery of sorts that prides itself on fine dining but shuns the word restaurant. Serving only 20 to 30 customers per day, Club Qing calls itself a private kitchen -- a concept that has become a staple of the Hong Kong dining scene.
Private kitchens started about 15 years ago when chefs and restaurant owners were trying to sidestep the city's notoriously high rental prices for ground level spaces and began moving upstairs into residential and even industrial locales.
They acquired licenses as private clubs in order to avoid the regulations and fees placed on public restaurants.
"As time passed, (kitchens) just became the cool thing to do," said critic Adele Wong, food and lifestyle editor for HK Magazine.
"People love to find out about lesser known restaurants ... places that look like holes in the wall but are actually great (food and beverage) dining destinations."
While there is no way to count the number of kitchens, because many are extremely secretive, it's reasonable to say there are hundreds in the city, Wong said.
Club Qing offers three different set menus ranging from HK$380 to $1,780 (US $48 to $225) a head for dinner, as well as a lunch menu and a la carte items. Each menu features between six and eight different courses broken up by servings of traditional Chinese tea.
One of Club Qing's most popular dish is an appetizer that features cherry tomatoes covered in lychee sauce.