Pulling back the curtain on private kitchens

Pulling back the curtain on private kitchens

Amateur chefs showcase their talent to a hungry public at their own private kitchens
Mouth-watering spicy chicken at Xiyan.

Private kitchens, (or speakeasies), first started popping up in Hong Kong when amateur chefs decided they could give restaurants a run for their money by offering good food in the intimate settings of their own homes in the 1990s.

Now, a decade later, many private kitchens have grown up become fully-licensed restaurants. But some things haven't changed. Reservations, often a week or two in advance, are a must. Menus are set. And top-notch home-style Chinese food is served up in unique surroundings.

Gitone

Combining his profession and his passion, Terrence Lee originally started his private kitchen, Gitone, in his art studio in an apartment. Diners can now enjoy an art class before a home-style Shanghainese meal in a creative art gallery setting. Traditional recipes such as braised pig's knuckle and stir-fried crabs with glutinous rice cakes have been passed down from Lee's parents. There is also a vegetarian menu available on request.

G/F, GB27-28, Lei King Wan, 45 Tai Hong Street, Sai Wan Ho, tel +852 2527 3448 www.gitone.hk

Gong Guan

Gong Guan serves beautifully presented nouveau Chinese cuisine drawing on predominantly Shanghainese influences, with a bit of Sichuanese and Cantonese thrown in for good measure. The two dining rooms, which seats a maximum of 24, has a homely feel to it. Dishes that make frequent appearances on the menu include cold eggplants with pork floss, pancake with Yunnan ham and fried tofu skin and braised chicken in black rice vinegar.

12/F Fung Woo Building, 279 Des Veoux Road Central, Sheung Wan, tel +852 2577 9789 www.gong-guan.com

Stone House

This most private of private kitchens is in a beautiful, three-storey colonial house with two red lanterns hanging from the door. What started off as the owner's private clubhouse is now a dinner club for friends of friends as well. The owner's chef serves up classic Cantonese dishes including their signature roast pig. The house only entertains one party a day.

15 Kotewall Road Mews, at the start of Po Shan Road, Mid-levels. Booking by referral only.

Xi Yan

One of the first and arguably most reknowned private kitchens, Xi Yan has managed to keep its quality consistent through the years. It's Pan-Asian fusion dishes such as tea-smoked eggs topped with sea urchin, steamed glutinous rice with crab and Shanghai crab roe or lychee ice cream with osmanthus wine, are the creation of Jacky Yu, who is now one of Hong Kong's celebrity chefs with his own cooking show.

Bold, wedding-red and porcelain white decor in a non-descript commercial building.

3/F, 83 Wanchai Road, Wan Chai, tel +852 2575 6966. For other locations see website

Yin Yang

Located in an old three-storey house that offers a taste of the old Hong Kong's (circa 1940s-60s) nostalgia, Yin Yang is known for its sauces and organic produce, which chef Margaret Xu grows on her own organic farm. Xu's recipes are down-to-earth, evoking the simple life of rural villages. Her signature chicken is roasted in a specially-designed terracotta stove, until the skin is wafer-thin and crisp.

18 Ship Street, Wan Chai, tel +852 2866 0868

When she’s not working, playing, blogging, tweeting, facebooking or twining (she’s always looking for social enterprises to add to her Goodwill Shopping twine), Winnie works on her book, No Clue Yet, a journey through the realms of philosophy, psychology, cognitive and affective neuroscience, spirituality and whatever inspires her to ponder the question: What does it mean to be human and happy?

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