It would be fair to say that the restaurant scene in Hong Kong is heavily influenced by dining trends from around the world, trends that often make a restaurant extremely popular in the beginning, until it is replaced by the next foodie trend. There are then, however, restaurants that, even years after opening, still have hour-long queues to wait for a table, despite the number of new openings around them. Yardbird is a clear example of this. It first opened in 2011 on Bridges Street (see previous review here) and continues to be one of Hong Kong’s most loved spots for a casual dinner. Towards the end of 2017, Yardbird left its pokey home in Soho and moved to a huge space in Sheung Wan.
The new space has the same general feel as the old one, with that minimalist, industrial style and monochrome colour scheme. You’d think that with a bigger space in a less central location, waiting times would be shorter. We made the decision to go on the last Friday of 2017, when we figured a lot of people would be away and therefore we’d get in easily; no such luck. I called to ask how busy they were and was told it would be around a 90-minute wait to be seated, but that we could find a spot in the standing bar area and have some drinks and snacks while we waited. We decided to chance it and, once we nudged a few people who were comfortably taking over far too much space on the standing bar, we found a little nook amongst the crowd. We were actually then moved to some seats at the bar less than an hour after arriving.
The bigger venue also brings with it an expanded menu, including a wider selection of cocktails and sake on tap. I particularly enjoyed the Yaki Lime, which was basically a reinvented version of a mojito made with grilled lime for a more intense flavour.
Although there were a number of new dishes on the menu too, I think we mostly stuck to our old favourites, as, if you know it’s good, why change it? We started with the eggplant salad – I’m not sure if this is new to the menu, but it was certainly a new one for us. It was beautifully refreshing, with lovely contrasting textures from the soft aubergine, to crunchy cucumber and crispy fried shallots, and packed full of flavour from the tangy tosazu dressing. I think this dish will now become one of our go-to favourites.
From the skewers section, we always go for the chicken meatball and it was just as delicious as it always is, served with that amazing egg yolk and tare dipping sauce. Apparently tare (which is traditionally made with soy sauce, mirin and sake) is not thrown out at the end of the night, as the depth of flavours is created by adding the ingredients to yesterday’s batch, to the point that Yardbird’s current sauce still contains traces of the original sauce from when the restaurant first opened. That must explain why this sauce is so delicious and we never allow the efficient waiters to take it away once we’re done with our meatballs!
The thigh skewers are another failsafe choice and were just as succulent as ever.
We were also recommended to try the ume thigh – a new one for us. The same thigh pieces are wrapped in shiso leaves to give them that intense, earthy flavour, and brushed with a sort of apricot chutney to add a touch of sweetness. Another new favourite for me.
Always trusty are the sweet corn tempura and the KFC (Korean fried cauliflower), which we simply could not come to Yardbird and not order. I found the sweet corn tempura to be a little heavy on the pepper this time, whilst the KFC was better than ever, with a good kick of chilli.
Having tried the chicken and egg rice a number of times before, we thought it would be best to try a new dish this time – the duck fried rice. This was a really enjoyable dish, packed with chunks of juicy duck meat, Japanese ginger and sprinkled with chopped shiso leaves. I did find, however, that it needed a dash of the tare sauce to make it even better – but maybe I’m just obsessed with that sauce!
I had heard that there would be new desserts on the new menu, but we didn’t see any and neither were we offered any, so we called it a night after our satisfying savoury feast. For drinks and abundant food, we paid a little over HKD1,000 for the two of us. Remember, Yardbird doesn’t add service charge, but we gladly tipped, as service at the new Yardbird might even be better than at the old. Its new location may be a little less central, but it’s not going to stop the crowds coming in every night of the week. We did have a chuckle at the obvious Yardbird virgins who, after scanning both sides of the menu a few times, asked the waiter, “do you not have any beef dishes?”
G/F, 154-158 Wing Lok Street
Tel: +852 2547 9273
No reservations. Open for dinner only. Closed on Sundays.