Category Archive for Hong Kong + Macau
I’ll never get tired of writing about Hong Kong — I discover something new, every time I visit. The above image sums up the eccentric energy of the city, especially in the Central district. I was trying to take an outfit photo, but this dapper old Chinese man stole the show!
Read on for my favorite memories from HK: including food, fashion, lucky cats, and Miffy galore.
And what are these prismatic marvels on my forehead! Round, trippy, kaleidoscope glasses from H0les Eyewear! Lady Gaga and others are fans of these light-refracting sunglasses. I wore them as forehead goggles, since I can’t actually see clearly through them (everything shatters into a prism).
My cyber-kitty look fit with the colors and chaos of Hong Kong. In the Central district, be prepared to walk uphill and on uneven steps.
My Pirate crew and I had lunch at NOM, which stands for “Not Only Meatballs” (Address: 1-5 Elgin Street, Soho, Central, HK)
John Skeleton gives it five stars: “NOM lived up to its name by serving up one surprising twist on rustic Italian comfort food after another. ”
“Chef Fabrizio Napolitano told us that he wanted NOM to be the kind of place you go with family and close friends to enjoy an intimate atmosphere. With each dish, the chef personally came to our table to tell us about the story and inspiration behind each dish, including some of his own grandmother’s recipes.”
“We tasted an array of cocktails, my personal favorite being a red beet whiskey concoction with hint of thyme.”
I could have eaten five plates of NOM’s burrata (cheese) and tomato salad. What appears to be simple ingredients are chosen with the utmost care.
The classic meatballs lived up to their name: nom, nom, nom! Chef Napolitano only purchases beef from family businesses in New Zealand and Australia, which take an ethical approach to raising livestock.
The sliders were also a hit, and a perfect example of how the chef brings modern interpretations to heritage flavors.
We lapped up every bite of the caramelized banana/ginger/sesame seed dessert topped wdith goat milk gelato. I also adored the lemon tart, and ordered a second scoop of the cardamom gelato. (You can order this for yourself, at NOM in Central.)
We walked down the street to visit an interior design store, Homeless. Look who is peering from the window… Miffehhh!
This lifestyle store sells a wide array of modern furniture, lights, home decor and gifts… Such as these fat-faced Miffy bunny toys.
Their ears look a bit like my horns hairstyle, which is the work of Stephanie Hoy at Stratosphere Hair in Vancouver. (Can’t get enough of these prismatic H0les Sunglasses.)
The Netherlands lighting designer also has a smiling child and bear lamp, both carried in the HK Homeless store.
We continued our walk to PMQ, a constantly changing hub of artist studios and shops. (I wrote about PMQ in this post, with tons of photos from inside.)
Posing in front of the deconstructed, meat-like Year of the Goat statue.
It was inspiring to see how artists created modern works that celebrated Chinese New Year. This one strings together gold origami to form a giant sheep.
On the cute and weird side… There was a sheep-carousel that let children pedal tricycles in a circle.
The Refinery always has something quirky on the racks, such as this Nelson Blackle dress with a retro video game motif.
Time to eat again (that’s what locals do, in Hong Kong!) I was intrigued by Check-In Taipei, a new restaurant that takes inspiration from Taiwanese street food. (Address: G/F, 27 Hollywood Road, Central)
My Pirate team and I sampled the Chinese New Year “lucky menu”. We were impressed by the creative dishes, like purple yam mochi balls served on a Ping Pong platter.
John writes: “I have to admit that I wasn’t all that aware of what kinds of dishes defined Taiwanese cuisine, but after checking out of Check-In Taipei, I felt like I had taken a grand tour of the country’s finest. Everything is taken one step beyond to elevate each aspect of the dining experience. The pearls in the bubble tea are not just handmade every day, but they are also only kept for a few hours before being replaced in order to ensure that every single one has the right texture and consistency.”
I enjoyed hearing the folktakes that inspired the “lucky” dishes. Braised Pork Nachos are mixed to symbolize success, pepper pig ears remind you to “listen and learn,” while barbeque prawns encourage you to “laugh out loud.”
John recommends the chicken and waffles, which is “elevated to haute cuisine here. The chicken is marinated in an array of spices, and pineapple chutney joins the waffle to create a satisfying combination of texture and flavor.”
Don’t leave without trying the “Tea-Ramisu” cocktail. John says, “The Taiwanese are apparently known for their hospitality, and Check-In Taipei certainly takes that to heart, as I left with a full stomach and a warm feeling that told me it wouldn’t be long before I checked in again.”
It’s a good thing that you walk a lot in Hong Kong… because we seem to eat nonstop here! As you probably gleamed by now, the hottest new restaurants are usually in the Central district.
(Photos by Naomiyaki, Eric Bergemann, Melissa Rundle and La Carmina.)
We had a cozy meal together at Linguini Fini (49 Elgin Street, Central). John writes: “Home-style Italian cooking is the name of the game here, and judging by the packed seating and lively atmosphere that we experienced, it’s definitely a hit with the locals in Hong Kong.”
“Linguini Fini keeps it simple and casual, the perfect place to relax with a group of friends and share a few slices of mouthwatering brick-oven pizza and a bowl of pasta. The Radiatore alla Vodka was particularly memorable, with the vodka adding an unusual but surprisingly delicious touch to the mix of homemade pasta, ‘Nduja, mozzarella cheese, tomato, and basil.”
I’ll leave you with photos of “fortune cats” in Hong Kong. This one was guarding the back of our taxi.
Manek nekos aren’t only popular in Japan. You’ll see them everywhere in Hong Kong, waving their paws to bring in luck.
Hello Kitty is also huge in Hong Kong. Literally: this light display took up the front of a building.
Yet another “maoo maoo”, towering over pedestrians in Tsim Sha Tsui. Love the random-ness of HK.
I leave you with my two latest nail art designs, by Glam Nail Studio. Chinese New Year and sakura blossom nails, with my Scottish Fold cat raising his paw. Currently, I have steampunk Gothic nail art… in time for my trip to England and Iceland!
And I just confirmed… I’ll be reporting from the RuPaul’s Battle of the Seasons extravaganza in Reykjavik! These all-star drag queens will be heating it up, in the land of ice. Can’t wait to cheer on my favorites like Sharon Needles and Bianca del Rio (who I saw in San Francisco).
You too can see the ladies in the UK, Iceland and Barcelona during their world tour, happening now. Join me and pick up tickets on the RuPaul BOTS World Tour site.
I’ll be interviewing the performers backstage — got questions for your favorite drag queen? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to keep track of my Iceland adventures on my Instagram @lacarmina.
What’s it like to celebrate Chinese New Year in Hong Kong? Loud and colorful, with fireworks and lions!
In February, Hotel sáv flew us in to ring in the Year of the Sheep (or Goat), and soft-launch their new hotel in Kowloon. We even got to decorate our own “La Carmina room” inside!
Even though I’ve traveled to Hong Kong over 20 times, I’ve never been here for “Gung hay fat choi” festivities. Thanks to sáv, I saw the rituals up close… maybe too close, since I got attacked by a hungry purple lion!
The newly-opened hotel has a lifestyle philosophy that connects with me. They want guests to have an elevated stay: connecting them with local art / culture, and enriching the body / mind.
(Hotel Sav address: 83 Wuhu Street, Hung Kom, Kowloon, Hong Kong. See map and Chinese directions.)
Sav’s modern lobby reflects the “Color Journey” approach. Each shade represents qualities such as creativity, peace and vitality. To give guests a personal experience, every room has a different color.
Sav hotel brought in lion dancers, to celebrate the Year of the Sheep (or Goat – both are used interchangeably in Asia).
Color, energy, inspiration — these qualities make the hotel stand apart.
I worked up the courage to pet the furry pink lion…
Unfortunately, the purple lion got jealous. He raised himself on his hind legs… and swallowed me whole!
(These Goth buckle shoes are by Steel Ground Shoes. I adore their alternative designs — check them out if you’re looking for edgy new footwear.)
When you see our video, you’ll know this was a raucous performance. Musicians banged on traditional drums and symbols, while the lions twirled and danced.
The yellow dancer scurried up the bamboo pole, a feat that requires expert coordination. The music built up a crescendo… and finally, the lions released confetti and a scroll from their mouths. (The Chinese characters express the wish that “everything will be better than you expect.”)
Everyone cheered, and the Sav hospitality team cut the roast pig down the middle. This offering of food and incense is a classic good luck ritual, in China.
Cheers to the Hotel sáv team. We see them working long hours each day, ensuring that every detail is in place for the guests.
Their hard work has paid off. The lobby design is remarkable: the lights and logos are constantly changing colors.
Since it was Chinese New Year, I wanted to wear something with red (the lucky color). My dress is by Hong Kong designer Spider — it has a carnival, festive feeling that matches the occasion. The lace black cape is from Black Milk Clothing. My cat-ears hairstyle is by Stephanie Hoy of Stratosphere Salon, Vancouver.
The hotel is now open to guests, but some of the amenities are still being finished. I can’t wait to see the completed patio and bar, equipped with an impressive sound system.
The indoor lounge bar, Amplitude, will also open soon. The space will offer specially created cocktails, and can be rented for private events.
I don’t actually know how to play the bongos, but I did my best. (Photos by Naomiyaki and Melissa Rundle. In the next post, I’ll show you how Naomi made art for our custom room!)
We looked forward to eating at Palette Restaurant every day. Their motto is that “Food should do two things: it should taste completely delicious, and it should contain things that do your body good.”
Palette’s chefs source local and seasonal ingredients, to make a global menu. No MSG or grease here. (I personally recommend the Singapore laksa, fish balls and vegetables soup, steamed shrimp dumplings, and Thai curry.)
Even if you’re not a guest at Hotel Sav, you can come to experience the daily breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets. Save room for desserts!
Decisions, decisions… Which drink to try first? Sav makes some of the healthiest cocktails around, using fresh fruit such as strawberries rolled up to resemble a rose.
True to the theme, each hand-created fruit cocktail corresponds to a color. The lime/rum and orange/honey were my favorites.
How else did we celebrate Chinese New Year in Hong Kong? John Skeleton dropped by, with his new goat-head rings.
Hong Kong puts on a stunning fireworks display every year. I don’t recommend going to the Tsim Sha Tsui harbor to watch, since you’ll get crushed by the crowds. My friends and I watched them from my uncle’s apartment on the Kowloon side. We also got lucky red pockets filled with money — one of the best rituals of the season!
On a different night, we dropped by the TST waterfront to see the Chinese lantern displays. Above is more proof that cuteness reigns in Asia.
Rows of gigantic lanterns, featured smiling and waving sheep.
Are you familiar with Chinese New Year celebrations? Ever see a lion dance?
Next, I’ll take you inside our custom-decorated Hotel sáv room, and show you more of Hong Kong!
Poor panda. Looks like he’s crying because I’m hugging him too hard!
Hong Kong’s contemporary design scene used to be scattered around the city. But now, there’s a massive glass building — PMQ in Central — that puts over 100 artists, fashion designers and chefs under one roof.
PMQ’s industrial architecture and pop art mural (by artist D*face) are easy to find. The address: No.35 Aberdeen Street, Central, Hong Kong Island
PMQ’s aim is to nurture young designers. Rent is high in Hong Kong, but this building gives them an affordable space to showcase their works. In return, the artists have an “open-door” policy to the public, meaning anyone is welcome to come in and even take photos.
PMQ opened in spring 2014, and already, most of the studios are occupied. My team and I love this creative hub so much that we visited three times.
Set aside at least a few hours to explore all the little shops and studios. If you’re short on time, I recommend heading straight to one of my favorites: The Refinery HK, a colorful and poppy fashion boutique.
Here, you’ll find unique quality accessories like pancake and taiyaki (fish waffle) bags. The Refinery HK carries various select brands, from both Hong Kong and worldwide designers.
The boutique is curated by London designer Elizabeth Lau, who also has her own witty and playful fashion line.
She had just gotten back from a buying trip to Paris Fashion Week. Every season, she hunts for creative pieces like the earrings above.
Elizabeth styled me in this outfit. Can’t get enough of the “Where’s Waldo” hat with a veil.
In a city dominated by big brands, it’s a relief to see this spotlight on indie design. We saw yellow ribbons tied to the front of this jewelry shop, in support of the Occupy Hong Kong movement.
John Skeleton wears one of these ribbons to support the student protesters. (Photos by me, Eric Bergemann and Melissa Rundle).
PMQ stands for Police Married Quarters, since this was the previous incarnation of this site. Remnants of the historic building remain, such as an underground tunnel that show the old foundations.
In urban Central, this courtyard is a welcome green space. The design is modern, while the Chinese bamboo adds a relaxing atmosphere.
I squished another panda at the Chocolate Rain studio and store in PMQ.
As you’ve seen in my other travel guides to Hong Kong, “kawaii” cute design is big here. Chocolate Rain’s original mascots are on every imaginable piece of merchandise: toys, stationery, clothing, home goods.
The gallery space is all about interaction. Customers can take lessons on sewing, painting, doll-making, and more. The restaurant Eat & Play encourages fun with food, through cooking classes.
How cool to see founder and designer, Prudence, painting designs right at the table.
Chocolate Rain and I are currently taking part in a hotel decoration project in Hong Kong. Keep your eyes peeled for announcements, and maybe you can join us for the opening next year.
PMQ’s artists work in different mediums, from bamboo to glass. Melissa got this unique lotus necklace in a Japanese ceramic studio.
If only I could show you photos from inside each store! I hope these visuals give you a sense of the fun, high-quality designs that you can find at PMQ.
The art hub is also home to several creative new restaurants. My friends and I were invited to brunch at Aberdeen Street Social. In the words of John Skeleton, “It’s the perfect place to have a relaxed meal, and take a break from the fast pace of Hong Kong city life.”
This is the latest venture of Michelin-starred British chef Jason Atherton, a protege of Gordon Ramsay. The restaurant concept encourages socialization, hence the name.
Two huge floors with outdoor terraces, set in a green garden — unheard of, in Hong Kong!
We started with a trifecta of fresh fruit and vegetable juices.
Atherton’s modern British cuisine takes the stuffiness out of fine dining. His brunch menu is a home-run of favorites, including the lobster benedict above.
John praises the “simple fare like the avocado on toast with poached eggs, to the amazing flatbreads featuring ingredients such as London cured smoked salmon, Iberico ham, and king oyster mushrooms.”
Save room for the house-made pastries, like the Sweet Social Cheesecake and Matcha Mascarpone (my personal favorite). And you can’t leave without trying at least one creative cocktail. I enjoyed the Indian-flavored cocktail with a papadum (above), and “What The Doctor Ordered,” served with a pill jar and prescription.
I also ate at PMQ’s Chinese restaurant, Sohofama — here’s my review.
It’s obvious why PMQ is one of my favorite places to visit in Hong Kong. I’ll be back in HK soon for a new project and video… stay tuned for more!
If a single photo could sum up the awesomeness of Hong Kong, it would be this one: Cats in space! “Ground control to Major Tom-Cat…”
Hong Kong is known as a shopping and eating destination, but I always associate the city with modern art. There’s a wonderful annual art fair, and cute public installations such as the one above (see also the 100 Doraemons and Hello Kitty cafe).
Did you know that Hong Kong’s cool art scene extends even to restaurants? Let me take you on a tour of “edible art” in the city, from Basquiat murals to strawberry molecular desserts… and Miffy Cake!
For my foray into “cats space travelling,” I wore a Shakuhachi Future Minimal dress from West LA Boutique. It’s become one of my go-to pieces: the spongy fabric and pleated skirt are comfortable, yet give you a polished look.
Filmmaker Melissa Rundle and I turned the robot-cat into a Scottish Fold, by covering its ears. This funny mural was by the entrance of Hung Hom station (the exhibit constantly changes, but is usually something cute). This character is Jentle-Cat, a Hong Kong mascot.
Time to experience more art, this time combined with food. My friends and I went to Bibo, a new French restaurant that takes “the art of fine dining” quite literally.
John Skeleton shares his impressions of this eccentric Sheung Wan restaurant.”Even if there wasn’t any food to rave about, it would still be well worth your time to check out this strangely eclectic mix of pop and street art, all seamlessly blended into an integrated experience that calls to mind Paris of the 1930s.”
Every crevice of Bibo is decorated with modern masterpieces by artists I’m sure you’ve heard of: Keith Haring, Banksy, Takashi Murakami, Invader.
Even though the works are so eclectic, the interior design feels cohesive.
Each dining space was surrounded by different works. We had Space Invaders and an 8-bit princess next to us.
Within minutes of sitting down, we knew Bibo was a gem. Our waiter was fun to chat with, and the warm bread was so satisfying (served with red pepper spread) that we devoured two orders. The creative cocktails, with flavors like Asian 5-spice, were some of the best I’ve had in the city.
John writes, “The gastronomic delights are just as fabulous as the décor. Using the finest ingredients and heavy on luxurious items like truffles and foie gras, the contemporary French menu is sure to please.”
“Even better, for Goths and those with a passion for the Belle Époque, what is most likely the best selection of absinthe in Hong Kong is presented in the traditional style – mixed with ice-cold water slowly dripped from an elegant fountain over a sugar cube on a slotted spoon.
Highly recommended is Butterfly, a take on a U.S. pre-Prohibition recipe that uses mint and other herbs to put a unique spin on the classic Green Faerie.”
When we set up this photo, our waiter joked, “I don’t think Jean-Michel Basquiat wants to eat lobster tonight!” But we were delighted by this dish, as well as a Dover sole and Australian Wagyu filet mignon.
Dessert was both tasty and a work of abstract art: spiced rum sponge cake with vanilla chantilly and strawberry sorbet. We devoured the baked-to-order chocolate and black currant soufflé so quickly that I wasn’t able to take a photo of it! Trust us, it’s a must-eat.
Everything about Bibo works: the smartly-dressed staff, expertly prepared food, and cheeky decor.
On another evening, we ate at a new Chinese restaurant inside the art hub, PMQ.
John says, “If you’ve sampled the exquisite international delights of Hong Kong’s gourmet scene and are looking for something a little more local, SOHOFAMA offers a little slice of Chinese home cooking with a healthy philosophy of sustainable eating to back it up.”
I confess that I usually am not fond of Chinese food. It tends to be heavy and often seasoned with monosodium glutamate, which makes me nauseous. What a relief to eat at Sohofama, where the chefs use “locally sourced, organic ingredients to create Cantonese comfort food without any MSG or excessive grease.”
True to this approach, the art mixes Chinese and modern, all with a clean and warm feeling. The interior design is by G.O.D., a local design collective.
Co-owner Edwin Chuang (who also invited us to his Pacific Cebu Resort) told us that the chandelier was an impromptu piece, made from colorful toy water guns.
Sohofama has its own organic herb garden, and uses these ingredients in its dishes. We tried mocktails made from fresh berries and mint.
John’s favorite “was the xiao long bao, well-balanced dumplings with a thin skin surrounding savory soup and meat without any unnecessary oil.” Also marvelous are the 24-hour drunken prawns, and a seared organic pork with garlic that tastes just like beef.
Next, we returned to one of the most creative and delicious restaurants in all of Hong Kong: Naked Gurume Gyarari (グルメ画廊).
John raves, “Once again Justin Chan’s Japanese fusion tapas establishment came out the winner among all of the amazing places we visited this time around. ” Above is the “Sexy Naked” sushi — we had it the first time we visited, and couldn’t get it out of our minds.
“Naked never fails to impress with its menu, from black truffle lotus root chips to a poached crow’s egg with big-eye tuna on a crispy wonton wrap.” On the right, Justin wowed us with tapas that combine sea urchin and an olive oil roe (made using molecular gastronomy).
Like last time, each dish was a winner, and drew from the chef’s personal experiences. We adored this grilled hamachi collar with vegetables and mashed potatoes.
Chef Justin ended with a flourish: a dessert plate full of strawberries in just about every form imaginable, including freeze-dried and sun-dried. “Friendly staff and an elegant, chic modern Asian atmosphere, its always good to get Naked in Hong Kong!”
Ready to admire more food and art? “Hong Kong is known for having just about every variety of cuisine available from around the world, so the problem becomes how to figure out just which place to visit when you have a hankering for a specific culinary genre. If you’re in the mood for authentic Thai, Chachawan is the place to go,” says John.
“Highlights of our meal included Khao Pad wok of fried rice with crab meat, egg, and spring onions, and the succulent Pla Phao Glua, a salt-encrusted whole sea bass stuffed with lemongrass, pandanus, and lime leaf, lovingly cooked over a fire and served with a chili dipping sauce, perfect for sharing with a group of friends!”
The atmosphere at Chachawan is just as inspired, with an intricate mural by Caratoes. Love the detailing on the golden claws.
Finally, we tried the cutest food of all… a Miffy cake! These confectioneries, shaped like the Dutch characters Miffy and Melanie, are sold at Arome Bakery (which has many locations all over Hong Kong).
You can pre-order the adorable cake online, and pick it up from any branch. At one restaurant, the diners next to us brought out a Miffy cake! It was so sad when they cut off her ears.
To celebrate Eric’s birthday, we ordered him a chocolate mousse Melanie cake. The shape and face are 100% on point. You must be wondering, how did it taste?
See for yourself, in the funny video above. Things got pretty crazy when we cut the cake… “Miffehhhh!”
PS: Someone asked which camera I use for photography. From mid-2014 onward, images are taken with the Sony A7, a mirrorless DSLR camera. My travel videos are mostly filmed on a Canon 5D Mark II, which is what many fashion bloggers use to shoot outfit photos. Underwater footage is from a GoPro camera.
PPS: Speaking of cats, Basil Farrow has sniffed out a favorite new book: The Art of Gothic, by Natasha Scharf! This full-color tome covers the many manifestations of Goth, from death rock to cyber to Lolita. My friends SiSen and Gothique Prince Ken (GPK) are featured…
… and I’m interviewed in the Japanese Goth section, along with a full-page photo. (Makeup by Jennifer Little of A Little Artistry, hair by Isolde Semple, styling/assisting by Tracy Cake). For a gorgeous, comprehensive and intelligent overview of Goth subculture, check out Natasha Scharf’s The Art of Gothic (available here).
Coming up: I’ll announce my next two destinations, and unveil a new design! I hope the video made you smile. Would you want a Miffy cake for your next birthday?