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Where is it? Down a hidden laneway, surrounded by rowdy bars, wet markets and antique shops, Neighborhood is – at first glance – an unlikely gourmand’s destination. Yet diners come from all over town for a taste of chef-owner David Lai’s seemingly simple, appealing, mostly French cooking. With no website, marketing and even no Instagram account, the restaurant still books out weeks in advance.
Who’s the chef? Lai trained and worked at fine dining restaurants in San Francisco and in his native Hong Kong, including Spoon by Alain Ducasse, but was first inspired to cook by Alice Waters at Chez Panisse when he was studying art history at the University of California, Berkeley. Her seasonal, produce-first philosophy still informs Lai’s style at Neighborhood. A humble but well-respected personality in Asia’s restaurant industry, Lai was voted by his peers to receive the Inedit Damm Chefs’ Choice Award 2022.
Order ahead: To get the best out of a meal, it’s best to order in advance one of the large platters for sharing. Chief among them is the salt-baked chicken served with rice in a creamy yellow wine and morel mushroom sauce. And check what’s on the ever-changing specials menu, which might include spring lamb from the Pyrenees, wild game in autumn, and local seafood sourced daily from the market.
BYO allowed: The wine list is as compact as the food menu, with under-the-radar labels selected by consultants Reeze Choi and Wallace Lo of Somm’s Philosophy. Diners are also welcome to bring a bottle from their own collection, under the restaurant’s very reasonable corkage policy.