The subtle melding of Asian and European flavours makes this cosy Canto-fusion bistro a winner.
Food: The idea of a fermented black beans, grapefruit, cream, chives, and white wine emulsion might sound a little off-putting, but in Hong Kong chef Stephanie Wong’s capable hands, these ingredients work together like a dream in one of Roots signature dishes – local clams in a creamy and spicy broth.
The trouble with so many fusion restaurants is that the European elements of the dish either clash, or just don’t fully harmonise with the Asian flavours, resulting in food that is neither Eastern, Western, nor tasty. Roots is an exception to the norm, as here the flavours are so subtly combined that you don’t even think about whether the dish you’re eating classifies as Asian or European.
Wong, who was a banker before opening her own catering company, then restaurant, is big on experimenting, though she says that sometime the dishes that she personally adores – one of which was a baby oyster (the type used in Teochew congees) and parmesan risotto – don’t always translate well with diners. Thankfully, there are a number of dishes, including the aforementioned clam dish that are a huge hit.
The menu here includes seasonal specials, and a variety of fresh, local seafood. During my visit I got the chance to try the baked local whiskered velvet shrimp with herbal butter, which is only available for as long as these incredible umami crustaceans were in season (less than a few months I was told).
Here, Cantonese ingredients such as egg noodles, salted egg yolk, fermented black bean, Hong Kong’s iconic Yu Kwan Yick sauce, and black sesame come through beautiful in dishes with typically Western ingredients such as lobster, Italian truffles, rib eye beef tatare, and financier cake.
Must try: The very aromatic roasted French spring chicken, which was served on top of a bed of hearty glutinous rice with dried squid in a deep, Le Crueset-style cocotte was a lighter and more sophisticated version of the classic Cantonese dim sum dish of lo mai kai (steamed glutinous rice with chicken). The spicy, creamy clams were also a real showstopper, and I finished every last drop of the sauce.
Ambience: Tucked away on Sun Street, in the charming, and not too crowded Starstreet Precinct in Wan Chai, Roots is compact but not cramped with cool, industrial-chic interiors. The space is well-lit with a façade that opens up towards the street to create a bright and breezy, bistro-like atmosphere.
Average price per person: Expect to spend around 700 HKD for a starter, main, sides, dessert and a drink with service charge. If you dine in a larger group, you can probably spend less and sample more dishes if you share.
Address: Roots, Ground floor, 7 Sun Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong. Tel (852) 2623 9983