You can get almost any type of food in Hong Kong - everything from French cafes and sushi flown in from Japan to local Chinese street noodle carts and FIVE GUYS. However, whenever friends visit from out of town, we like to show them restaurants that are unique to Hong Kong.
Roots is definitely a twist on the traditional Cantonese fare that is prevalent throughout Hong Kong. Chef Stephanie Wong takes French cooking techniques executes traditional Cantonese fare using a blend of Eastern and Western ideas and ingredients. It's a very unique cuisine that you may not even fully appreciate unless if you really know traditional Hong Kong dishes.
Chef Stephanie Wong took a slightly unusual path, working as a banker at HSBC for almost a decade before deciding to pursue her love of the culinary arts. She traveled to France to work with Alaine Ducasse before coming back to Hong Kong to work at places such as Amber.
She opened her own place, Roots, after a successful run as a pop-up in PMQ. Her new menu at Roots is playful, creative, and most definitely expresses the uniqueness of Hong Kong through her creative lens.
Starters are fun, such as the salted egg yolk tofu toast with shaved white truffles (left - HKD198) or comte cheese gourgeres topped with kale chips, Iberico ham, and a mountain of cheese (right - HKD128).
The restaurant is called "Roots" and to me it sort of holds a double meaning. Stephanie is reaching back into her Cantonese roots while literally serving "roots" on her menu. This was another favorite dish of mine. Not only were the flavors of the roasted root vegetables refreshing and healthy, I loved the artful plating with the paper-thin cauliflower petals.
Meat and Seafood
Out of all the dishes we tried, the Roasted French Spring Chicken glutinous rice was definitely the one that impressed us the most. The chicken was delicious and the glutinous rice had a lovely crispy bottom that was addictive.
Several dishes incorporate salted duck egg, an umami-filled Hong Kong staple that is often used to add flavor to dishes in Cantonese cuisine. Th steak was solid, though overall this dish was less interesting than others.
Here, a classic Cantonese favorite fish (grouper) is cooked in a very traditional French style. (to be honest, I prefer grouper prepared the traditional Cantonese style, simply steamed with ginger, scallions, soy sauce), but this one was fine.)
The salted egg yolk tart has a traditional French crust, salted egg infused custard, and is brûlée at the top, a nod to the Macanese or Portuguese egg tart.
General Thoughts - Roots Wan Chai
We fell in love with this place the first time we came. We especially were smitten with the roasted chicken over glutinous rice, which we thought was really special, reminding us of "bao zai fan" 煲仔飯 or Chinese claypot rice. I also loved the roasted heirloom roots salad, an promised to myself that I would order it again. We have since returned a few more times and tried a few more dishes. Our favorites remain. On one visit execution of the dishes wasn't quite as good as we remembered, but we hope that it was an off night in the kitchen.
All in all, we have enjoyed the creative dishes at Roots, which are a bit different than many of the other restaurants in the Wan Chai area. Definitely worth checking out!
Roots Wan Chai
7 Sun St, Wan Chai