33-35 Bridges Street – Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Japanese, Asian-fusion, Hot Spot, Chicken-themed
For the first time in years, I had the opportunity to travel to Hong Kong on business. I had forgotten what a beautiful city it is and how easy it is to navigate. And for the first time I was not with a large entourage with every night booked at the Intercontinental or Felix at the Peninsula. I was determined to find cool obscure food spots and drag along my associate Andrew if he was game. Luckily, he was. On this particular night we met up with a friend of a friend named June who was also on business in Hong Kong. We were all up for the adventure. We started at the Intercontinental Lounge and each had a ‘Peak Me Up’ tequila based mojito-type beverage. Off to a great start. We got acquainted with one another and off we went to ‘Soho’.
About two weeks prior to the trip one of my random Instagram friends posted several pictures of the Yardbird logo and some fantastic looking food. I checked it out and it seemed to be a bit of a hot spot taking no reservations and recommending coming early and often. Items are served until they run out. The menu is Asian fusion of sorts. The Chef is Canadian Matt Abergel, formerly of Masa in New York and Zuma in Hong Kong. However, this was not a traditional Japanese restaurant of the caliber of Masa, rather, a fun Chicken-themed, all sorts of Asian fusion comfort food kinda joint. Everyone there was an expat. We followed dinner with visits to a couple of expat bars as well. Best I not recount that portion of the evening.
The menu opens with a small plates section offering classics like edamame and Japanese pickled vegetables as well as interesting twists like ‘KFC’ (Korean Fried Cauliflower) and Sweet Corn Tempura. The second course is Yakitori or skewered chicken. Every part of the chicken is on the menu from breasts and thighs to gizzards and tails. You’ve heard of nose to tail? This is it with chicken. One interesting item is the ‘oyster’ which is two pieces of round dark meat located near the thigh. Some consider it the most flavorful part of the bird. The balance of the menu moves into Big Plates, Rice and Soup.
Luckily, we took their advice and arrived early. We scored a nice little window seat in the corner and perused the cocktail menu, which features Sake, Japanese Whisky, Wine, Beer, Specialty Cocktails and Shochu, a japanese distilled beverage. The cocktail program was creative and we were all compelled to try some interesting drinks. I had the Bloody Kim Jong Il, a bloody Mary with Kimchee. It was great, but a bit spicy to enjoy more than one. June ordered the Yaki Lime, which was a wickedly sweet rum, lime, mint and sugar drink reminiscent of a mojito. She also could not have a second. Andrew had the Whisky Lemonade, which was pretty straightforward. June switched to one of these as a second. I tried the El Chonie, which was Sapporo, tequila, lime and salt.
Our waiter gave us the background of the restaurant and walked us through how to order from the menu. He suggested 3 small plates, 3 yakitori and one big plate. And I might say that was too much food! But then it turned out we had some heavy drinking ahead and a good base may have been our saving grace. But we got to try many of the recommended dishes. There was really only one we didn’t care for and thankfully it arrived last, the chicken meatballs with tare (Japanese grilling sauce) and an egg yolk. It wasn’t the egg yolk so much as the consistency of the meatballs. Hmm, there’s no indication of what part of the chicken was in these mystery meatballs. The top dishes were the KFC, Sweet Corn Tempura and the Fried Chicken.
Below is a run-thru of our meal, course by course. All prices are in Hong Kong Dollars. The exchange is about $8 HKD to $1 USD. And Yardbird is Cash Only, plan accordingly!
KFC – KOREAN FRIED CAULIFLOWER yuzu, chili 75
SWEET CORN TEMPURA salt, pepper 85
PICKLES ONE 30 / ALL 100
daikon, red shiso
napa fennel, sweet vin, yuzu
wasabi, soy sauce 38
tare, egg yolk 42
sea salt, lemon 42
garlic, kewpie 140
Yardbird is a great concept and I’d highly recommend checking this spot out if you are ever in Hong Kong. The neighborhood is very quaint. There are a few hills and your taxi may have some trouble locating it, but it is worth the journey.