• Jenni Lien

Happy Paradise | Boisterous flavours and atmosphere at this new Chinese spot in Soho

It’s no secret that eating out in Hong Kong usually puts a decent dent in your wallet. So people often rely on reviews (press or from friends), Instagram posts, and whatnot to determine whether or not a new place is worth trying. When May Chow's (winner of Asia's Best Female Chef 2017) new restaurant Happy Paradise first came out, a few friends had told me it was interesting but the portions were small, it was really more like a bar, and that they weren’t sure if they’d go back. Seeing as I have a big appetite and don’t really drink, it didn’t seem like my kind of place so I never went until a few weeks ago when I needed to find a place for dinner in Soho for a Friday night date. A few bites in and oooooh, I realized what a mistake I’d made. I should have gone to Happy Paradise way sooner. Lesson learned. Believe blogs and Instagram posts if you want, but take them as what they are: an opinion. Try places out for yourself!



What did we eat that I loved so much?



First off, the sourdough egg waffle ($88). I was on the fence at first because $88 for a possibly gimmicky take on the Hong Kong classic snack seemed a bit much. But holy moly that was some insanely addictive fishy (bottarga aka salted and cured cod roe) cream with smoked oil served alongside for dipping. Calorific and worth it.



The Szechuan fried chicken ($158 for half a bird) was also a hit. Presentation-wise it was a bit meh, but the bird was juicy (even the breast!) and crispy, with a light numbing pepper batter. Even though I usually like my fried chicken sauced, this hit the spot.



My favourite meat is pork so I had high expectations for their char siu rice bowl ($158) that came with a pot of lard (insert drooling face here). Unfortunately this dish was oddly flavourless and heavy for my taste. And apparently I’m all about putting fried lard all over my food (see any of my previous happy rants about fried lard in char kway teow) but find the liquid version underwhelming.



Last but certainly not least, the sauteed prawn with pan-roasted pumpkin ($138). The prawns were a perfectly slightly undercooked, the black sesame sauce was rich without being too nutty, the prawn oil was super fragrant, and the pumpkins sopped up all the juices/sauces. I loved everything about this dish, and actually put some of my char siu rice in this dish to eat with the leftover sauce.



We also tried the cold steamed egg custard with okra and scallion juice ($78). My date liked it and said the texture was very silky, but I thought it was too plain.

Verdict

We were too full for dessert, but I can’t wait to go back and try more things off the menu. It’s definitely a place I’ll be recommending to out-of-towners. Atmosphere-wise, it was a bit loud (though we did go on a Friday night) but overall a nice, funky option for a date.


52-56 Staunton Street, UG/F, Central, 2816 2118


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