If you’re looking for 100-page wine lists and potatoes handpicked from the side of a Welsh mountain, Hong Kong's considerable list of high-end restaurants will have something for you. However, if you want fantastic food for not a lot of money, travel to the Kowloon neighborhood.
Kowloon’s unpretentious local restaurants and overcrowded canteens offer Hong Kong’s best Cantonese cuisine. Additionally, many of the city’s remaining Dai Pai Dongs can be found here as well as the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant, which offers Dim Sum for just a few dollars.
As the historic home to Hong Kong’s immigrants, Kowloon offers some fantastic ethnic options—from curries in Chung King mansions to steaming bowls of Pho in Kowloon City.
Cantonese Food and Markets
While Hong Kong Island may have many of the Michelin starred (and expensive) Chinese restaurants, many would argue that the best, most authentic Cantonese restaurants can be found in Kowloon. After all, this is where locals eat—and locals are the most demanding customers when it comes to Cantonese cuisine!
Kowloon's neighborhood restaurants in areas like Mongkok and Yau Ma Tei may not have starched table cloths and white-gloved waiters but the food is very good and very cheap. However, it’s hard to recommend a single district or street for Cantonese cuisine – whether that be Dim Sum or BBQ – as there are restaurants everywhere.
The streets hosting the Temple Street Night market have dozens of basic canteens serving up steaming bowls of wonton noodles or freshly cut BBQ pork and rice late into the night, while the area immediately outside Mongkok MTR station is also teeming with restaurants.
Tsim Sha Tsui and Knutsford Terrace
Around Tsim Sha Tsui, you’ll find a lot of overpriced tourist traps—mostly serving up uninspiring western food—although there are exceptions.
Knutsford Terrace is Kowloon’s party district and there are a number of Western, Japanese and Asian restaurants clustered along the strip, as well as at Observatory Court around the corner.
It’s worth mentioning that many of the major malls—including the huge Ocean Terminal and the edgier Langham Place shopping malls—also have proper sit-down restaurants, even some highly regarded ones.
Indian Food at Chungking Mansions
For a great place to fill up cheaply for lunch, the Indian and Pakistani food inside Chungking Mansions is a better, tastier alternative to Tsim Sha Tsui. For decades, the mansions have been a magnet for sub-continent immigrants; amidst the phone shops and currency exchanges, you’ll find kiosks doling out keema naans, samosas, and other delicious snacks from Delhi.
The mansions themselves are a maze, and for first-timers, it’s usually better to be guided by one of the restaurant tours at the mansion's main floor. However, you should choose your restaurant carefully, as you’ll find both good and bad in ample measure in these parts. For the best, you can’t go wrong with the Dehli Club, one of the area’s oldest restaurants and still a local favorite.
On the upper floors, you’ll find dozens of full-blown restaurants (be warned: the restaurants are usually as decrepit as the building itself and you’ll be lucky to find a window let alone air con).
Vietnamese Food at Kowloon City
Kowloon City delivers more ethnic food choices as Thai and Vietnamese immigrants have set up restaurants to cater to their respective communities across the neighborhood.
While splashy magazine features mean many of these basic canteens have moved modestly upmarket, the food remains authentic with little dumbing down of the spices and flavors for the local palate (prices are fair, too).
Most of the restaurants are on the streets just south of Kowloon Walled City Park; the best time to visit it is in the evenings.