Bursting the food bubble and traditional pre-conception of what is Hong Kong cuisine and local food culture, Yenn Wong and David Lai’s new modern establishment, Fish School, is now open to all.
There are no boundaries in the ocean or at Fish School, so guests can expect an intimate, fish-focused restaurant serving modern multi-cultural Hong Kong cuisine that encourages exploration and discovery of the local resources that seafaring fishermen and dried seafood vendors have to offer.
Culinary Director David Lai has crafted a flexible menu subject to the seasons allowing freshly caught fish to take centre stage at every meal. Guests can watch Executive Chef Chris Ma in the open kitchen as he dishes up fish and crustaceans that are familiar to Hong Kongers combined with delectable flavours borrowed from the West: truly reflective of the multi-cultural Hong Kong of here and now. On the doorstep of Sai Ying Pun’s dried seafood market, all of Fish School’s sauces and pastes are homemade from scratch.
Three types of freshly caught fish are offered daily and dished up with a variety of cooking methods. The catch of the day can be baked in sea salt and herb crust, grilled over charcoal, steamed in sea kelp, pan-fried with brown butter or oven roasted with olive oil and herbs. Guests can look to the blackboard and the team of friendly and knowledgeable servers for guidance on the most suitable preparation for their whole fish selection. Large crustaceans from the tank, sourced each morning from the market by David, are also ideal for sharing among friends and family.
Seasonal small plate starters that are great for sharing include the Charcoal grilled market fish sampler (HKD140);Cuttlefish tagliatelle, shrimp paste, ficoide leaves (HKD130); Monkfish liver foie gras presse with aged tangerine peel and roselle (HKD160); Marinated raw crab, sea urchin and rice (HKD205) and Mantis shrimp popcorn, cured duck yolk (HKD175). Veggie lovers will enjoy the Heirloom vegetables and herbs garden “Gargouillou,” a beautiful concoction of nearly 30 different kinds of herbs and vegetables in a delicate dressing (HKD145) andGrilled water bamboo, cashew praline, chestnut and apple (HKD130).
In addition to the vast selection of seafood on the menu, Fish School offers the highest-quality beef and chicken for the charcoal grill, sourced directly from Australia and Europe. The menu includes a D.A. Asturian “Casina” Beef Ribeye for two (HKD1200), Australian Wagyu Bavette (HKD330) and Long Kong Chicken (HKD290).
For dessert, Chris Ma creatively combines unexpected ingredients that surprise the palate: guests can dabble in a Pumpkin ice cream complemented by persimmon and melon; Mango, burnt coconut ice cream and coffeeor Strawberry, crème fraiche, ice cream and rose. All desserts are priced at HKD75.
Fish School’s cocktail list includes a variety of Hong Kong-inspired cocktails such as the Malted Milk, a combination of Diplomatico Reserva Rum, Cacao Blanc, fresh milk and Ovaltine served in an iconic Kowloon Dairy glass (HKD100); the Mandarin Collar, made with Tanqueray Gin, Aperol, mandarin, lemon, kumquat cordial, soda (HKD105); the Ocean Air, a blend of Talisker 10 Whisky, Tio Mateo Sherry, lemon, fresh passion fruit and sea salt (HKD125) and the Third Street Spritz, made with Tio Mateo Sherry, lemon, salted plum syrup, oyster leaf and cava (HKD75). Wine lovers looking for the perfect pairing will enjoy the Lucy Margaux ‘Monomeith,” a natural Australian Pinot Noir, or the Etienne + Sebastien Riffault ‘Quarterons Blanc Sancerre,’ a spicy and exotic blend that complements both fish and meat dishes. Wine at Fish School is available by the glass, carafe or bottle.
The concept of Fish School grew from Chef David Lai’s lifetime love of seafood and vast knowledge of local produce. “Seafood is special because it is a product that is not manipulated or raised by anyone; it is free to roam and hunt for its own food, making it uniquely natural,” said David. “It is also one of Hong Kong’s most exceptional natural resources and a massive reflection of our culture. So much modern food production happens on an industrial scale that we are lucky to have small boat fishermen that still go out to sea and bring their catches directly to our wet markets.”
Designers Paola Sinisterra and Ignacio Garcia created the Fish School interiors to pay homage to the history and aesthetics of Hong Kong and capture the appeal of the wet markets and the city’s traditional local shops. In search of an authentic, minimalist feel, the pair chose noble materials and kept them as close to their original state as possible. The oak plywood wall cladding is reminiscent of the traditional wooden crates used to transport fresh fish from sea to market and also served as a backdrop for Rocky Yip and James Woodward Jr. of Hong Kong’s Entendre Studios to draw the fish species that are featured in Fish School’s ever-changing menu. The rest of the interior details are rendered in hues of blue which are reminiscent of the sea, while the warm-toned ceramics, developed with the locally-based company FlowPlus Ceramics, evoke a scene of the sea bed while letting the food take centre stage.
Fish School’s private dining room, which comfortably seats 20, features a wall-sized window that peeks out onto one of Hong Kong’s oldest stone walls and the roots of the trees that hang off them. One wall of the private dining room features a gold leaf silhouette of Sai Kung representing the local fishing culture with a layer of white corals to remind guests of the importance of preserving the fragile marine ecosystems.
For those “in the know,” Fish School is hidden just off of Third Street in Sai Ying Pun. The buzzy, dynamic destination intrigues passers-by with a brightly-lit, bubbly sign just visible from the end of the street, and guests find their way to the entrance through a lush jungle of rubber trees and other plant species often seen in Hong Kong’s natural surroundings. Once inside, guests from near and far are sure to be hooked.