Bringing in the New Year didn’t go according to plan. I’d booked a five- day holiday in Hong Kong with my husband. We so badly needed to get away from Dubai, recoup from what had essentially been a trying few months, and get back some of the mojo we’d lost along the way. I’d consulted with my good friend Manisha who lives there and I have to say, she was the best guide ever – even though she was travelling at the time and so we dint get to see each other! Via numerous Whatsapp messages, she equipped me with all the info I needed on where to stay in Hong Kong, what to do and see, where to get an Octopus card (public transport), best massages near our hotel, top bars and happy hours, and most importantly – what to eat in Hong Kong. I had a long list of must visit restaurants and foods to eat in Hong Kong but on Day 2, the worst thing happened. I got sick!
I woke up with a fuzzy head. I couldn’t smell or swallow. As much as I’d tried to fight it, the darned flu had caught up with me on New Year’s Eve. Meaning I didn’t have an appetite either. And what does that do for someone whose holiday itinerary revolves around tastings around a new city? Not much.
Lucky for me though, it wasn’t an entire fail. As soon as we arrived and checked into the hotel, we got into a taxi and headed to the infamous Lan Kwai Fong. Neon lights, steep hills, swarms of people spilling out of bars with drinks in hand. A nice mix of after-work crowds and tourists. Heady scents of the unexplainable wafting through the air. After a couple of pit stops at Soi. 7 and FAB, we made our way to what I would say was one of the most unusual food experiences I’ve had in a long time (in a good way!). Thank you Manisha
Yardbird is located on a quiet inner street of Sheung Wan. An inconspicuous storefront (and surprisingly no line outside – maybe because it was 10pm), we would’ve missed it had we not been looking for it. On the inside though, the atmosphere was buzzing. I dint know about the mid-level escalators on Stanley street that we should’ve taken so instead, we had walked up a massive flight of stairs and by the time we found the restaurant, my heart was near ready to explode! Anyway, drama over, I was famished and ready for quite the culinary treat.
I’m not so good with analogies but if I were to try, Yardbird is like the cool kid in high school. Doesn’t have to do anything and yet, people want to be seen with them, and be friends with them. You want to go here. And eat here. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was the best food I’ve ever eaten, it was so different, and a dining experience everyone must have when in Hong Kong.
Launched by Chef Matt Abergel, who is ex-Zuma and Masa NYC, and Lindsay Jang just three years ago, Yardbird is a very successful casual yakitori joint. Yakitori is a Japanese type of skewered grilled chicken. As they don’t take reservations, we were asked by a friendly member of staff to hang around and get a drink while a table freed up. By the time we placed our order, two seats were available at the bar. We kicked off with a bowl of kimchi and a mushroom salad with shungiku and mizuna (both Japanese greens) and a barely there hit of wasabi. Both delicious and a nice prelude to what was to follow.
Yardbird serves all the bird, by all, I mean thigh, neck, tail, skin, knee, liver, gizzard and more. We weren’t feeling too adventurous that day and so settled for thigh, which was succulent, braised in a savoury, sweet, soy-based sauce. At 42HK$ (approx. AED20), it was one premium priced skewer; I wished there were at least two!
Rice cakes with furikake and sesame. Furikake is a Japanese seasoning which typically consists of a mixture of dried and ground fish, sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, sugar, and salt. What I was expecting was something round and flat. Instead, what came to the table were these unattractive rolls that looked like white cocktail sausages (or human fingers!). To taste though, they were absolutely delicious! Crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. Sweet and salty. These rice cakes are sauteed with olive oil, butter and mirin (a Japanese sweet rice wine) until they get colour and the mirin is caramelised. Loving this SO much!
My favourite from the evening had to be the KFC (Korean Fried Cauliflower), batter fried and covered in a tangy yuzu chili sauce, topped with sesame seeds. Judging by how much we had ordered for two, our server suggested we get a small portion which I’m so glad we dint! The combination of flavours was a real party in the mouth!
While I may not have had the appetite to eat dim sum on this holiday, or any of the other delicacies that were on my list, eating at Yardbird made me one extremely happy chick and may have even salvaged this trip! It has an effortlessly cool vibe, good service and simple yet memorable food. In fact, I have a new found appreciation for simple, unpretentious, clever cooking that takes one ingredient (chicken in this case), and celebrates it. To add to it, no frills decor, no bicycles hanging on the wall or parked out front screaming “look at me, I’m such a hipster!” A must-visit if you’re ever in Hong Kong.
Have you had something put a damper on your holiday? An illness, lost luggage, or maybe a flat tire during a road trip? How did you handle it?
LOCATION – 33-35 Bridges Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong