May Chow is on a roll. Crowned Asia’s Best Female Chef 2017 by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards, the experimental Hong Kong chef has developed a reputation for blurring the traditionally rigid lines of Chinese gastronomy.
Born in Toronto, Chow got her start in 2013 with Little Bao, a funky 20-seater in Hong Kong’s sociable SoHo district that specializes in burger-like Chinese sandwiches. Instead of a cheap street food, however, Chow reimagined the classic “bao” using gourmet ingredients, such as slow-braised pork belly, Sichuan fried chicken, and crispy fish tempura.
A testament to her versatility, Chow is also behind Second Draft, a gastropub in the trendy Tai Hang neighborhood, and newly opened Happy Paradise. Debuted in April, the retro-futuristic diner wouldn’t look out of place in 1950s America, but is actually inspired by Hong Kong’s heritage.
“We wanted a vibrant representation of old Hong Kong, referencing cha chaan tengs [local diners], Shanghai barbershops, and massage parlors,” Chow says. “It’s a very loud space that uses chrome, gold, tinted mirrors, pastel tiling—all represent the older interior design references of Hong Kong.”
The refined classical Cantonese menu stays mostly true to tradition, albeit with creative presentations—picture beef short ribs served on what looks like a dinosaur bone and “yellow wine chicken” topped with chrysanthemum petals that resemble bird feathers.
A major player in Hong Kong’s evolving dining scene, Chow has frequented the city’s most celebrated tables and local haunts. Here, the award-winning chef shares her recommendations on everything from fine-dine splurges to casual gastropubs, fresh dumplings, and killer Japanese cocktails.
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