Restaurants with views in scenic, bustling Hong Kong

LA Times | Travel

Eating out is an obsession in Hong Kong. The nightly culinary scene in this compact metropolis always seems to bustle with activity. Hundreds of restaurants, large and small, are stuffed with diners sitting shoulder to shoulder, adroitly lifting chopsticks to savor dishes as prosaic as kung pa...

By Deborah Belgum // 02.12.09

Eating out is an obsession in Hong Kong. The nightly culinary scene in this compact metropolis always seems to bustle with activity.

Hundreds of restaurants, large and small, are stuffed with diners sitting shoulder to shoulder, adroitly lifting chopsticks to savor dishes as prosaic as kung pao chicken and as exotic as tiny duck tongues. Travelers can spot trays of cooked chicken feet, claws still attached, and marvel at cooks stretching sheets of doughy flour and water into noodles.

But visitors to this former British colony often want their dining experiences served up with a spectacular view of Victoria Harbor, the city's watery highway separating Hong Kong Island from Kowloon Peninsula, Hong Kong's patch of urban land attached to mainland China.

During the day, the best vistas are from atop Victoria Peak, a green cone of a mountain with all of Hong Kong unfolding below. After dark, some of the best panoramas are from Kowloon looking toward Hong Kong Island. Diners can survey the daily 8 p.m. light show that features 44 of the city's skyscrapers on both sides of Victoria Harbor.

On Hong Kong Island

Lumière/Cuisine Cuisine: This 16,000-square-foot eatery, which opened in the 88-story International Finance Centre mall in 2005, is divided into two parts. The Cuisine Cuisine side serves traditional and nouvelle Cantonese fare. Signature dishes include braised fish maw and goose web with oyster sauce ($58) and imperial bird's nest soup with minced chicken ($62).

The Lumière side serves spicier Sichuan plates such as crispy fragrant duck leg ($23) and seared Chilean sea bass, cooked in the ancient Sichuan style ($30). For added spiciness, a few Latin American dishes, such as crab buñuelos (crab cakes for about $17), are included.

Cuisine Cuisine's décor is high-brow midcentury with cedar and silver; Lumière also uses cedar as well as gold and red tones for a rich Chinese feel. A wall of windows gives diners a sweeping view of Kowloon and the harbor below.

Hours: Noon to 2:30 p.m., 6 to 11 p.m., daily.

Address: 3101-3107, podium level 3, International Finance Centre Mall, Central, Hong Kong.

Contact: 011-852-23-933-933.

Isola: In the same skyscraper as Lumière/Cuisine Cuisine, this Italian restaurant is a popular lunch and dinner spot.

White is everywhere: white walls, white linen tablecloths, white laser-cut metal partitions that look like stiff lace curtains. Even the umbrellas on the outside patio overlooking Victoria Harbor are white. So much white gives Isola a certain laid-back feeling in keeping with its Italian roots. It's a good spot to enjoy the sweeping view beyond the plate-glass windows.

Diners can watch the chefs cook in an open copper kitchen complete with pizza oven. Specialties include homemade black ink tagliolini with clams, mushroom and asparagus pesto ($20) or large rigatoni with a half Boston lobster in the shell ($30). The upstairs outdoor bar is popular after work with the business crowd.

Hours: Noon to 11 p.m. daily for food; bar open until 1 a.m. daily

Address: 3071-3075, Podium Level 3, International Finance Centre Mall, Central, Hong Kong

Contact: 011-852-2383-8765

Pearl on the Peak: Floor-to-ceiling windows and modern décor are the hallmarks of this high-end restaurant in a multistoried building called the Peak, perched near the top of Victoria Peak. You reach the Peak's conglomeration of gift shops, stores and restaurants on a red tram that departs every 10 to 15 minutes.

The Pearl on the Peak appears to float on air. Below is a sea of skyscrapers, mountains and the harbor. The Australian menu at the Pearl, which opened in 2006, was developed with the help of Melbourne chef Geoff Lindsay. The Pearl's menu is a straightforward affair with lamb cutlets ($37), sea bass ($34) and tiger prawns ($32).

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 6 p.m. to midnight, daily

Address: Shop 2, Level 1, the Peak Tower, 128 Peak Road, the Peak, Hong Kong

Contact: 011-852-2849-5123

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Burger King: These two moderately priced franchise restaurants, also inside the Peak commercial center, are for the budget traveler who enjoys good scenery. Burger King has a narrow terrace where hamburger lovers can chow down and take in breathtaking views.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Address: Shop 103, Level 1, the Peak Tower, 128 Peak Road, the Peak, Hong Kong.

Contact: 011-852-2849-2275

Bubba Gump is the first to open in China. The d├ęcor is down-home Alabama style, leaving diners a tad confused when they gaze below and see Hong Kong and not Alabama. The menu offers shrimp in all its forms -- fried, stuffed, etc. A plate of fish and chips goes for nearly $13. A chicken sandwich is $12.75.

Hours: Sundays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Address: Shop 304-305, Level 3, the Peak Tower, 128 Peak Road, the Peak, Hong Kong.

Contact: 011-852-2849-2867

In Kowloon

Hutong: Walking into Hutong is like taking a journey back to 19th century China and its imperial palaces. The restaurant evokes old-world charm with hand-carved wooden tables and chairs, bamboo bird cages dangling from the ceiling and antique screens. The name comes from the Chinese word hutong, which is an alley or lane in Beijing's old central neighborhood.

Lighting is subdued, with candles giving off a warm glow. That makes the skyline view of Hong Kong Island, seen through the floor-to-ceiling windows on the 28th floor of this high-rise building, even more dramatic.

The northern Chinese cuisine is extraordinary and changes frequently. Some examples include braised prime beef wrapped with lotus leaves ($50), poached frog legs in a spicy chili broth ($24), wok-fried sea cucumbers with scallions and prawn roe ($51) and grilled sea eel with a sweet and spicy glaze ($21.50).

Hours: Noon to 3 p.m., 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., daily

Address: 1 Peking Road, 28th Floor

Contact: 011-852-3428-8342

Aqua: One floor up, with an equally stunning view, is Hutong's modern sister, run by the same organization, the Aqua Group.

This dual-cuisine restaurant divides its space in two. 0n one side, Japanese cuisine rules with sunken seating and tatami mats. Dishes include sushi, crab tempura and char-grilled beef tenderloin.

On the other side, Italian dishes take center stage with pasta, pizzas and hearty entrees. Dishes include penne with mussels, clams and mushrooms; pizza with lobster, lemon zest and lobster jus; and turbot pan-fried with red peppers and artichokes.

Hours: Noon to 3 p.m., and 6 to 11 p.m., daily

Address: 1 Peking Road, Penthouse

Contact: 011-852-3427-2288

Felix: The huge windows in this sleek restaurant-bar, designed by Frenchman Philippe Starck, provide an unparalled view -- it's on the 28th floor of the Peninsula Hong Kong hotel -- of Hong Kong Island on one side and Kowloon on the other.

Felix is a see-and-be-seen kind of place, with über-modern décor and a smart-casual dress code. The menu is very contemporary, with a nod to Western tastes. Dishes include sea bass, pan-roasted French duck breast, slow-cooked chicken breast in buttermilk and grilled prime beef filets. Main courses are $25 to $40.

Hours: 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., snacks 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m, daily

Address: The Peninsula Hong Kong, Salisbury Road

Contact: 011-852-2315-3188

Nobu: Nobu is housed inside the InterContinental Hong Kong hotel, at the edge of Victoria Harbor. Although its views are not as spectacular as those from some of Kowloon's skyscraper restaurants, it does have an outdoor patio that is wonderful when the weather is balmy.

The décor is very modern, with subdued lighting, but dark chairs and tables lend a warm feeling to the surroundings. The long bar is done in sheets of marble.

The cuisine is signature Nobu, a blend of Japanese and South American ingredients that reflect his background. You can order scallops with jalapeño sauce ($28.50), black cod with pepper and balsamic teriyaki ($30) or sake-roasted Chilean sea bass with sansho salsa ($27.30).

Hours: Noon to 2:30 p.m., 6 to 11 p.m., daily

Address: The InterContinental Hong Kong, 18 Salisbury Road

Contact: 011-852-2721-1211

Harbour City: Located at water's edge not far from the Star Ferry terminal, Harbour City is a whale of a structure with more than 700 shops and 50 restaurants. Twenty of those restaurants have seaside views.

Some of the better restaurants include the Quarterdeck Kowloon, a seafood restaurant and grill with a nautical theme; Habitu Ristorante the Pier, an Italian restaurant with an outdoor patio; Rice Paper, a French/Vietnamese restaurant; and Cadero Grill & Oyster Bar, serving European dishes and seafood.

Hours: The mall is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Most restaurants close at 11 p.m.

Address: 3-27 Canton Road