Hidden gem: 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 and mostly French cooking. With no website, marketing and even no Instagram account, the restaurant still books out weeks in advance.
Behind the pass: Lai trained and worked at fine dining restaurants in San Francisco and in his hometown 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 was, and remains, instrumental to Neighborhood’s fare. 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 maximise your highly sought-after booking at Neighborhood, order one of the large platters for sharing in advance. The shining star of these is a salt-baked chicken, served with rice in a creamy yellow wine and morel mushroom sauce. Don’t miss out on the ever-changing specials menu, which might include octopus caught in local Hong Kong waters, wild game in autumn, or Pyrenees lamb come springtime.
BYO allowed: The wine list is as compact and well-considered as the food offering, 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.