Hongkongers’ well-known creativity when it comes to food is on show at a new restaurant in Wan Chai that offers new twists on dishes served in the city’s popular cha chaan teng and dai pai dong diners.
The ambience is certainly there at Kasa, a Cantonese restaurant in Shui On Centre.
It is decorated like a movie set, with antique window frames in front, immediately evoking a sense of nostalgia for old Hong Kong.
Owner Adrian Lo Chun-shing, who was born and raised in Hong Kong in the 1980s, recalled that what he missed most while studying in the United States was Hong Kong-style Cantonese dishes.
After graduating with a degree in international relations, Lo decided to return to Hong Kong to pursue his childhood dream of opening a restaurant.
He started off by learning the basics as a manager trainee in a local restaurant chain for two years before setting up Kasa.
Lo met Ciro Tam — now the restaurant’s head chef — and together the duo gave familiar local-style dishes a touch of rock ‘n’ roll.
Instead of boring slices of white bread, for instance, a hotdog bun is used in Kasa’s corned beef, tomato and scrambled egg sandwich.
One might wonder if the food tastes as good as it looks or whether the new look is just a gimmick to lure customers.
Well, underneath their fresh appearance, the dishes follow the secret recipes of Lo’s grandmother, assuring diners they are poised to experience the comfort food that some of them may have missed for ages.
The outlet offers three, strictly MSG-free, meals a day.
At lunch time, the signature dishes are round and cute, such as claypot rice balls embedded with mozzarella cheese and Chinese preserved sausage, as well as Chinese “Scotch eggs” made of steamed minced pork and preserved vegetables coated in breadcrumbs.
By dinner time, salt-baked tilapia and roasted stuffed duck grab the limelight.
The tilapia is first marinated with slices of orange and lemon, garlic, sea salt and egg white and then completely buried in salt for a 20-minute bake.
The duck requires patience and sophisticated culinary skills to prepare.
The bird has first to be deboned inside to make room for fried rice with sea urchin, onion and fresh dill. It is then sewn up, quickly deep-fried and roasted for 20 minutes.
Kasa offers a fresh take on desserts, as well.
The molten custard cake is like chocolate lava cake except that it overflows with creamy, heart-melting salted egg-yolk custard.
The Cantonese yau cha guai, or dough fritter, is sprayed with cinnamon sugar and tastes best when you dip the pieces into condensed milk.
Those with a really sweet tooth might order the plain-looking ice cream with a surprising flavor resembling that of toast spread with peanut butter and condensed milk.
A wide range of Hong Kong-style cha chaan teng drinks is also offered to round off a meal.
Soy milk, apricot kernel drink, cream soda mixed with fresh milk, 7 Up with salted limes, “Black Cow” (a Coca-Cola float with chocolate ice cream) — you name it, Kasa has it.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 11.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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