Causeway Bay’s spicy new spot…
District: Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Cuisine: Hunan / Contemporary Chinese
How much: Small plates range between $60-$100; meat and seafood dishes go up to $300
The Best For: Casual dinner with friends
Must Order: Smelly Mandarin Fish $198; Bamboo Shoot in Chicken Soup $78
Sassy Tip: Make sure to call up one day in advance if you want to order shellfish or seafood
Chairman Mao Zedong who originated from the spice-loving Hunan province once said, “You can’t be a revolutionary if you don’t eat chilies.” Apparently, Mao loved spice so much he even regularly sprinkled ground chilies on slices of watermelon (I tried it, too and it was great…).
Owner of Hunan Bistro Jane Zhang’s inspiration for setting up shop simply came down to the fact that there weren’t enough authentic Hunanese eateries in town. Many foodies nowadays can’t even tell what the difference between Hunan and Sichuan cuisine is, when in fact, they are set apart in two very big ways. Sichuan food uses tongue-numbing peppercorns, and are typically a mix of spicy-sweet-savoury combinations, whereas Hunan delicacies are bolder and savoury, with hot chilli and sour notes.
Conveniently located on the Lockhart Road cusp between Wan Chai and Causeway Bay, Hunan Bistro is a well-lit casual eatery donning modest yet modern Chinese minimalist decor, perfect for a casual weeknight dinner with friends. We were warmly welcomed with a flute of ‘Shaoxing Tourist Trap’ ($28) as soon as we were seated. It turned out to be an interesting concoction of Tonic Water and Chinese Shaoxing wine which somehow resembled bubbly. The owner loves mixology and will be introducing various Chinese fusion inspired cocktail offerings to the bistro in the near future.
A little amused at the beginning with funky names on the menu such as the ‘Smelly Mandarin Fish’ ($198), and after quite a bit of mmm’ing and aahing’s we decided to take the plunge and go for it. We were so glad we did because this signature Hunanese dish was absolutely divine. Not only was the fish meat succulent (with barely any bones!), luscious and juicy but the overall ‘smelly’ sauce was mouth-wateringly fragrant and spicy, without being overpowering.
One of the evening’s favourites was the Bamboo Shoot in Chicken Soup ($78). It was like having Mum’s chicken soup for the soul, but with a twist – yes it was that good! We could taste that the thick chicken consommé had been lovingly stewed for days while we lapped up every last drop of the salty broth, and crunched on the long-stemmed bamboo shoots. This soup wasn’t spicy at all so it makes for a nice addition if you’re ordering other fiery dishes.
Served with plastic gloves to ensure you don’t get too greased up, another delight of the night was the Spicy Lamb Rack ($198). Meat quality was spot on with a full bodied spicy cumin-packed marinade. We would have preferred it to be slightly less ‘charred’, but overall it definitely hit all the right spots and is great option for sharing!
We love the fact that the Chef at Hunan Bistro has a ‘less is more’ approach towards oil usage as eating Chinese food out on the town can get quite oily and heavy. Although the overall setting and ambience aims to draw a ‘younger’ and ‘hipper’ crowd, we feel this could be better achieved with less bright lights and a more ‘fine-tuned’ presentation of the food. Taste on the other hand, gets a double thumbs up and we’ll definitely be back for more.
Tip: If you’re coming via MTR, it’s only a 3 minute walk from Causeway Bay Exit C
Hunan Bistro, G/F, 405 Lockhart Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, 2788 0897, www.facebook.com/HunanBistroHK
Featured image courtesy of Hunan Bistro. All further images courtesy of Claudia Solenthaler.