#theWanderlist: Chinatown ‘Chinoiserie’ Stylings at Ping Pong 129 Gintoneria and Fu Lu Shou

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Above, Ping Pong 129. Below, Fu Lu Shou

Chinatown-style ‘Chinoiserie’ is chic again thanks to two new nightlife destinations in Hong Kong, Ping Pong 129 Gintoneria and Fu Lu Shou. The first venue, a Spanish-based gin bar, actually opened softly this past March… the same week of my birthday, and is the brainchild of a dear friend of mine, co-owner and bar manager, Juan Martinez Gregorio, originally from Spain.

Juan has been living in Hong Kong almost as long as me, and worked in corporate marketing for fashion brands like Puma, before letting it all go to follow his dreams, which is to eventually start an intimate F&B venture, hence Ping Pong 129 in Sai Ying Pun, his latest passion project. Meanwhile, Sydney transfer, Ping Lam and her husband, moved to Hong Kong less than two years ago, and immediately opened up dream lifestyle businesses with the hugely successful The Nail Library on Po Hing Fong, and now with Hollywood Road’s Fu Lu Shou, a new rooftop lounge and restaurant serving up American and English Style Chinese Food just the way a few of us who grew up with it… love it.

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+ “History, Gin, and A Bit of Art”

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At Ping Pong 129, Juan serves up smooth and refreshing gin-based cocktails, 40 of them, each with their own particular brand of gin from around the world, plus 10-12 more gins from distilleries in Spain. Each Gin and Tonic is garnished with a variety of herbs, like rosemary, basil, and thyme, or lemon and orange peels, and served with their own particular kind of tonic water to really bring out the best in the Gin’s unique flavour. There’s the Indi tonic from Seville and a Wilkinson tonic from Japan. 

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However, the most appealing thing about Ping Pong 129, is that it is housed in a beautiful double-height basement, unassuming within its own neighborhood. One can drink a refreshing gin cocktail while sitting in a tastefully, spacious bar that once served as a local Ping Pong gym. The whole effect is laid-back, relaxing, and very pleasant.

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Juan’s silent partner, an interior designer and art collector, displays his own collection of local Hong Kong art elegantly throughout the space’s “as-found” walls in a very planned and methodical way. The art’s positioning in the bar’s interiors is pretty cheeky. Iconic works by Hong Kong darling, Nadim Abbas, a series of Chinese Windows with black mirror, are placed above a heavily tiled wall on the same level as actual Chinese windows within the found site. 

Other artists’ works, like Tsang Tsou Choi’s (King of Kowloon) graffiti based prints blend seamlessly with the rough finish of the existing wall.

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The furniture is retro, with some of the sofas and loveseats clad in a patterned print, reminiscent of the decades depicted in Wong Kar Wai’s film, In The Mood For Love. Even the simple red door on 2nd Street, is the original door to the Ping Pong Gym. Juan and company just added a bit of red neon this door to highlight that the bar is opened for business. Ping Pong 129 is a great example of a business moving into an untapped neighborhood’s old building, and offering something new to lifestyle, while simultaneously paying tribute to a site’s existing space.

DRINK Ping Pong 129 Gintoneria . 129 Second St., Nam Cheong Hse, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong . T: +852-91581584

+ “It Tastes Exactly Like Chinatown, But Better”

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Ping Lam’s Bali-esque outdoor lounge space at Fu Lu Shou is clad with a giant size graffiti print of the characters; Fu, Lu, & Shou, a Ming Dynasty concept of deities representing, “Happiness”, “Prosperity” and “Longevity”. Ping, who identifies completely as an Australian with Hong Kong-based roots, went for a niche market in the city, by offering Western style “Chinatown” favorites for those of us who’ve grown up fed by Chinese Food in the West. Of course Western based Chinese food is completely a unique concoction, loosely rooted in the East, but is completely different than what’s on offer in Hong Kong.

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Ping is quite brave for serving dishes like, a “Big Arse Dim Sum” (a giant “siu mai”), English Style Prawn Crackers, a Sweet and Sour Pork (which hit the right spot), Kung Pao Chicken (the best non-sichuan version of this dish i’ve tasted), Beef in Black Bean Sauce, and other delicious surprises like the Fried Banana. My date and I knocked down about 4 servings of Old Fashioned each. (A little secret about Ping and her husband, they’re both crazy about Scotch Whiskey, so while scotch drinking is not overtly “Chinatown”, i’m glad their love for Whiskey is not wasted here.)

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Things I want to point out is Ping’s taste in decor and interior design. Fu Lu Shou, definitely gets a lot of its design details correctly, the G.O.D. Mahjong Pillows on the lounge areas for instance, the hanging bird cage chairs, the modern rattan furnitures, capped off with candles on a heritage low-armoire… even the bar’s tabletop is lined with mahjong pieces. I especially like the metallic screen stenciled on the main-dining feature wall inside the restaurant with the words, “Eat, Drink, and Be Prosperous”. The rice bowls are authentic “chinatown” style, imported from Paris’ own Chinatowns (hard to find in Hong Kong now), and chopsticks are available grouped together on a tin container in the middle. 

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The food is a better version of the American Chinese Food you grew up with, because there’s no fake powder-just-add-water stuff here, and no MSG. All ingredients are fresh and sauces made from scratch. The mixologist behind the bar comes to Fu Lu Shou from the Upper House which explains the smooth blends of his drinks. Give it all a try. It’s like being “back home”, but even better because you’re not eating in a mall and you feel very good about it from the beginning right to the very satisfying end!

EAT Fu Lu Shou . 7F, 31 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong . T: +852 23368812

JJ.

Last Thanksgiving, my friends Jiki and Kester cooked an amazing Turkey feast at their new home in Discover Bay. Aside from having the chance to devour a great home cooked meal, I had the pleasure to meet for the first time a friend of theirs Mr. Andre Eichman, who turned out to be a very talented and seasoned photographer whose 25 year experience ranges from fashion editorial, and extending to portraits and architecture in and around China.

We got to start chatting about his personal projects at the moment, the most exciting being an on-going series of work titled, Post Cards from the Concrete Jungle, where he takes snapshots of Hong Kong, writes notes on each shot, then mails the work to himself as a postcard, when once received, he then scans them and uploads each every card to his blog here. 

Andre’s second most exciting personal project (not any less exciting than the first of course) is now a book, titled The Chairman and I, a collection of intimate Mainland Chinese portraits with statuettes of Chairman Mao. 

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A few works from this vast series will be on display at Above Second in Sai Ying Pun, May Wong’s fringe gallery known more for her curated exhibits of “street art”. A fringe photographer himself, Andre’s personable and humble nature is not reflective of the thorough and somewhat obsessive attitude he puts in towards the literal documentation of “everyday Hong Kong” in the postcard series and the sheer effort of collecting stories/portraits across the Mainland for The Chairman and I.

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I truly recommend Mr. Eichman’s show at Above Second. Definitely something not to be missed.

Andre Eichman’s work has appeared in the Sunday Times Magazines, the Royal Geographic Magazine, Wanderlust, Vogue, and W Magazines. Globally, he’s exhibited in New York, Tokyo, Singapore, Shanghai, and California.

PHOTOGRAPHY The Chairman and I: Original Photographs by Andre Eichman at Above Second. 31 Eaastern St. Sai Ying Pun 

JJ.

Charles Munka’s “EPISODES” Show Sets Stage in Sai Ying Pun

The more these big name galleries open up in Central, the more art enclaves expand west and east of the Center. As I mentioned in the previous post, Art Island East in Chai Wan (the end of the blue line) has become a go-to hotspot for art and artist studios, but also popping up in Sheung Wan are your design shops (Konzepp 33 and Signed-by) and in Sai Ying Pun, you’ve got Jasper Wong’s above second (as in Second Street) art space, specializing in unsigned and new graphic artists, and as of late, street/non conventional art. 

On June 24th, above second played host to the opening of the Charles Munka solo show, titled “EPISODES”, a series of graphic prints and illustrations on canvas and paper.

A completely graphic window designed by Charles Munka greets visitors at entrance.

The work, black pen and ink on white paper, are large scale reproduction of pages from the artist’s notebooks.

Charles Munka, also known as QUES, is a member of the French art crew, LCP United, and has made a name for himself within Hong Kong and globally through his exhibitions and live collaborations with the likes of Andrew Meza’s BTS and Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder collective.

From above second:

Munka’s style is strongly influenced by hip-hop and the progressive L.A. beat scene. Using mixed media, Munka’s work captures a new style of art that blends more traditional aspects of graffiti and his identification with contemporary and historical imagery from film, video games, and pop art.

At the end of the gallery space you’ve got this amazing piece, which I feel is really the highlight of the whole exhibition.

I personally felt that the work above reminded me a bit of this:

And maybe a bit of this, Picasso’s Guernica:

With a bit of texture much like Basquiat’s work:


So basically I just mentioned to him that I liked his work because it was a bit Mayan, a bit Picasso, and a bit Basquiat. Im not sure what he really thought me of when I mentioned Guernica and Basquiat to him… but he completely got the Mayan reference.  As in it really was his influence.

The artist, Charles Munka

Also spotted, Musician ReBEARTH Chuckles and Model + Kapok Ingenue, Chris

Graphic Designer, Emilie Sarnel and above second’s Jasper Wong

and MC Yan of radiodada.hk, wearing a shirt he’s designed. I have one from him in English I got from the Kapok Naihan-Li Exhibit.

“Episodes” by Charles Munka / Above Second, 31 Eastern Street, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong / p: 852.3483.7950 / e: jasper@above-second.com / above second website

Charles Munka / e: charles.munka@gmail.com / p: 852.6647.9402

xJJ