Yardbird: Hong Kong's 'it' restaurant
There is no magic to Yardbird, a newly-opened restaurant in Hong Kong that has become very popular very fast.
It's just good food, professional service and a relaxed atmosphere. Yet, eating there feels like nowhere else in Hong Kong.
It could be the little New York touches like the menu tacked to the wall. Or it could be that people working there are all ridiculously good-looking and charming.
Personally, I think it comes down to the alcoholic buzz created by a few really good cocktails served without pomp (Japanese-style ice balls are taken for granted here rather than being a wow-factor).
Whatever it is, people can't get enough of it.
Although, there are certainly things about Yardbird that could potentially irk diners.
Like, they don't take reservations. For a restaurant located in the trendy Soho area, and one that charges a premium for yakitori, that can be daunting.
Hyper-organized Hong Kongers looking for a hip restaurant on a Saturday night to impress friends want to be garaunteed a table.
Chill out. If you're going to eat at Yardbird, you need the Yardbird attitude. Go to Yardbird not caring about tables.
Instead, enjoy one of the aformentioned good cocktails at the bar while you all wait. Have two. Chat with the aforementioned good-looking staff. Order a starter. The lack of tables will seem like part of "the experience."
But then, there is the obsession with chicken.
If you are not a foodie, then a skewers menu that lists chicken liver, chicken heart, chicken tail (read: butt), chicken oysters, chicken, chicken, chicken, probably isn't your idea of "having choices."
However, the chicken skewers are done with such attention to detail that each are unique revelations.
The chicken neck is slightly piquant, bone and cartilage free. The chicken tail is tender, fatty and excellent.
Or have chicken on toast. The chicken liver spread hints at gaminess and is great with loads of fried onions and chopped up fresh spring onions.
Besides chicken skewers, Yardbird's menu includes some really great salads and an amazing fried cauliflower.
Melt-in-the-mouth pieces of cauliflower are encased in crisp batter with a sweet and spicy glaze.
A sprinkle of sesame and lime juice on these veggie nuggets complete what are bite-sized bombs of flavor and texture.
Yardbird is the brainchild of Matt Abergel, a former executive chef at Zuma who also cooked at Masa for four years, so his food doesn't disappoint.
Other high-expectation-meeting items include the short ribs served with pickles.
Everything on the menu is limited since produce is sent fresh daily from the New Territories.
If diners want to sample a wide range of the menu, they had better go early (Yardbird opens 6 p.m. till late). On a recent visit, the chicken oyster skewer had run out at around 9 p.m.
Here's one more challenging thing about Yardbird: they don't do Hong Kong's usual 10 percent service charge. So diners, don't forget to tip the hunks.