Set amid a striking natural harbor and backdropped by imposing jade-colored mountains, Asia’s hyper-vertical metropolis commands attention from any angle, at all hours. But Hong Kong’s famed views are perhaps best savored over the city’s equally celebrated cuisine.
For a quintessentially scenic lunch, ascend Victoria Peak by tram for dim sum at Tien Yi in the renovated Peak Tower shopping complex. With its lofty panoramas of Hong Kong and the surrounding islands, this restaurant is a must, especially for those accustomed to eating their barbecued pork buns and shrimp dumplings in gaudy Chinatown banquet rooms. Ask to sit next to a window overlooking Victoria Harbour, and you’ll understand why the restaurant’s name means “the pinnacle of the world.”
One of the boats you might see plying the harbor below is the exquisitely crafted traditional Chinese junk Aqualuna ($19–$28 a ride), which sails eight times a day. The 45-minute journey affords sweeping views of the city’s skyline. Cocktails and traditional snacks (such as roasted dried squid and braised peanuts in wine) are available for purchase and worth sampling. The same intoxicating views can be had at a lower cost from the iconic green Star Ferry (77 cents a ride), which has been serving commuters traveling between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula for 110 years.
When Michelin awarded Hong Kong its first stars last December, three of them went to two restaurants within the 56-story Island Shangri-La hotel. Visionary takes on traditional Cantonese dishes at the freshly renovated Summer Palace make up for its lack of a grand view. Michelin granted it two stars. The true scene-stealer is its Peking duck, whose sliced crispy skin is set in a pancake along with cucumber, spring onions, and hoisin sauce. Meanwhile, one-star Restaurant Petrus, on the top floor of the tower, ascends to gastronomic heights of a different sort: While tethered to the city with its panoramic harbor views through floor-to-ceiling windows, the restaurant seems to whisk away diners to the finest French kitchen. Dishes include goose liver confit with pumpkin butter, Brittany blue lobster with coral bouillon, and truffle-spiked Bigorre pork breast.
Or trade the gilded glass cage for the sprawling outdoor terrace on the 25th floor of the Prince Building in Central Hong Kong. There, newcomer Sevva serves distinctive cocktails (try the cabbage caipirinha) and eclectic international tapas—and stays open late. Unwind under the futuristic neon lights of two eccentric architectural standouts: HSBC’s headquarters and I. M. Pei’s Bank of China. In May, Sevva rolled out a new Saturday brunch extravaganza with Latin pop music, dancercize classes, and feng shui workshops.
Visitors to Hong Kong in the summer will encounter oppressive humidity and temperatures averaging above 90 degrees, but also hotel rates at their lowest. Autumn brings mild weather and the Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival, which spans two weekends from October 30 to November 8.
From the Summer 2009 issue of Sherman's Travel magazine.