I’ve always thought that Upper Lascar Row, aka “Cat Street” parallel to Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan, was one of the best preserved streets in Hong Kong. Walking through this pedestrian-only alleyway, lined on both sides with an amazing selection of Chinese Antiques, traditional furnitures, and vintage junks, I really get a sense of Hong Kong’s craft and aesthetic history because it’s all here on display. To me the 100 year old Cat Street really feels untouched, and locals and tourists alike can still come here to find items, decorative and historic, real and replica… to take home that is uniquely of an old Hong Kong style.
On a rainy Wednesday evening, when all stalls were closed, I came in after work to check out for the first time the Man Mo Cafe, the first concept restaurant to open on Cat Street. For better or for worse, once one “destination” restaurant opens, others will follow… however its on this street that founder of Man Mo Cafe, Swiss-born chef Nicolas Elalouf, aimed to not only establish a Chinese-focused restaurant which was rooted within history (possibly an unavoidable decision due to such an iconically historic site), but to formulate a humble Cafe which allows Elalouf to combine his own expertise for what he had learned in the west in order to create something new for Hong Kong.
I doubt that a “Destination” restaurant was Elalouf’s intent with Man Mo Cafe, however, armed with a duo of amazing chefs, one from Robuchon and another an award winning chef from the Original Din Tai Fung in Taipei, Elalouf has made it clear that his fusion dishes are unlike any other. Scores of restaurant reviews from the likes of Hong Kong Tatler and Time Out Hong Kong have been published since they’ve opened earlier in the year, and all have been unanimous… the balance of the eastern tradition of dumpling making, with the western tradition of preparing delicacies, is absolutely achieved in their signature dishes.
Some of my favorites include the Burger Buns (glazed Char Siu Bao) featured above, which come complete with a vial of thousand island dressing that you squeeze into the bun after biting off the top of it.
The Tomato and Mozzarella Cheese Dumpling.
The best… this Foie Gras Xiao Long Bao will melt in your mouth.
This Panfried Shanghainese, Truffle and Brie Dumpling, is another best dish.
We loved this savoury Steamed Ratatouille dumpling, filled with delicious vegetables and a tangy tomato sauce. (I felt like I was eating a Western dish… but I was eating it with chopsticks from a steam basket).
To end the dinner we had a taste of Man Mo’s famous Nutella Ball in Sesame Seed Pastry.
As well as a bit of these delicious HK Egg Lemon Tarts.
I went to try Man Mo Cafe at the invitation of architect, Daphne Mandel, whose works have been on display in the gallery-esque space of the restaurant for the last month, and who did an interview with me here on the blog. Apparently her works have been selling really well. We also met up with a mutual friend who introduced us, designer Thuy-Tien Crampton, of the amazing children’s wear fashion brand, La Petite Caravane.
Daphne’s Hong Kong facade works on display is one of a planned series of rotating exhibitions for this simple yet elegant space.
Daphne’s exhibition is actually going to get extended because works have sold and new works have just been placed up on display this past week to take its place.
Here’s a photo of all of us with Chef Nicolas at the end of the evening.
Word on the street is that there have already been offers to purchase this independent restaurant by a bigger restaurant group. Whatever happens to this place, hope the quality keeps up. The pricepoint is not that bad either, about 800HKD for two people. The service is fantastic and food items get made only when ordered, so dont expect to rush your meal and give it some time.
EAT Man Mo Cafe . 40 Upper Lascar Row (Cat Street), Sheung Wan, Hong Kong . T: +852 26445644 . Tue-Sun 12-3 and 6-Midnight