Hong Kong is a place that’s been uninterruptedly, incredibly wealthy since World War II. As such, it’s somewhat of a Disneyland for adults. For generations, people from around the world have migrated to this city of roughly seven million with two simple goals: to make money and to spend it. We’re here to help.
It doesn’t take long to track down hedonism, which mostly comes in the form of after-hours spots crammed with locals throwing around their dollar bills. On his first night in the city, one BlackBook informant was taken to Rick’s Café, a pub with an international crowd. Upon noting the beauty of the waitresses, he was told they could be his for a price, and was then handed a baggie of cocaine.
In case anyone is unduly worried that stories such as this might become endangered as China exerts more power over its prized Special Administrative Region, rest assured that the erstwhile Communist country has no intention of getting all up in Hong Kong’s capitalist grill. As the number of mainland Chinese millionaires grows, so does the number Yuan they spend with abandon across the border.
Luxury apartments—purchased by mainlanders as status symbols but never actually used—stand empty on both sides of Victoria Harbour. The Peninsula hotel’s own hospitality team advised us to visit a mall as an afternoon diversion “to watch Chinese people shop.” Truly.
After dark, the fruits of those infamous shopping sprees can be seen across the city in Hong Kong’s many clubs. There are three main party sectors in town, corresponding roughly to, well, the three main sectors in town, period. Wanchai is where soldiers have always gone for R&R, and it still maintains the sort of slouchy, tropical, mildly seedy colonial vibe typical of such a place. Still, some big-name bars line the outskirts, like Propaganda, Hong Kong’s classic gay bar that, in keeping with the city’s party ethos, is most popular on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
For more obvious glitz, head to LanKwai Fong, also on Hong Kong island, or across the harbor to TsimShaTsui on the Kowloon side. Since most of Hong Kong’s high finance offices are on the island, its clubs often have a restaurant element to cater to the after-work crowd. Azure takes up the top two floors of a skyscraper, with one level devoted to dining and the other to drinking. Almost-neighboring Sevva is also ostensibly a restaurant, but the food and service is so bad that it’s become an infamous symbol of the “only in Hong Kong” trope: only such a wealthy city would allow such bad restaurants to thrive. But it’s pretty and all the right people are there, taking in the view of the city lights and each other.
Hong Kong is indeed a food city, but it almost seems like the more you spend, the less quality you get. One exception is FINDS, which doesn’t have a view, but does offer interesting Scandinavian food.
A short and lovely ferry ride takes you to Kowloon, where Aqua Spirit is the hottest rooftop bar at the moment. But sometimes classic makes for a better choice than trendy, which is why the lobby bar at the InterContinental is our top locale at which to imbibe. It isn’t a rooftop, but it has unobstructed views of the waterfront, and is the best place in the city to catch the nightly light show. The bartenders’ heavy pours here make the experience all the more lovely. It’s crowded, though, so if privacy is in order, The China Clipper on the top floor of the Peninsula is available for discreet encounters. The only way in is to rent out the whole floor, or charter the house helicopter.
Whether you prefer elite or populist, the key to nightlife here is the view of the gorgeous, twinkling city, and its myriad of people, spending and sipping.
Los Angeles is a meat town. The heartier the better, too: there’s always lots of unseasonal braising happening here. And while there are old standbys for carnivore-minded dishes all over the city (Chinese in San Gabriel Valley, Mexican in random pockets everywhere, the occasional steakhouse), right now a particular batch of restaurants is really laying it down – and on thick. Herewith, the dishes everyone is ordering.
Lazy Ox is arguably the best restaurant in town. As with all the best – and trendiest – places right now, the menu changes constantly and seasonally. But one permanent item is the paleron. It’s a fancy word for a roast, and it comes with candied kumquats and Cream of Wheat. It is, quite simply, the classiest Cream of Wheat dish ever.The restaurant and its clientele provide the perfect setting for this culinary dichotomy: stylish, upscale, but never stuffy.
All the way across town, Waterloo & City is picking up the slack in Culver City’s once dynamic, now slightly lagging food scene. All by itself, it’s making the strange little town a destination again. It opened this summer and immediately became part of the food elite, almost as much for the design as the grub. It’s an old mid-century diner redone as a gastropub. The most talked-about dish? The King’s Plate, which includes five terrines (rabbit and pistachio, smoked salmon with fried egg, other rich delectables), plus drippings and toast. That’s right: just drippings, in a jar, meant to be eaten straight. You can bet on other restaurants following suit, and soon.
For something a little more casual, Villains Tavern is making good, unfussy food. Food that’s way better than need be for such a drinks-driven bar. The cheeseburger is a half-pound behemoth, topped with (too much) lettuce, bacon-cherry marmalade…and bacon. It may not be the most elegant thing to eat, but you’ll end up finishing the whole delicious thing, and it’s a good hangover deterrent. Because you’ll be drinking, too. There’s a whole menu of fancy cocktails, brightly colored libations that match the jewel-toned glass lining one side of the bar, and the Gothic mirror reflecting the colors to every corner. The best may be the Belladonna, a Makers Mark cocktail with mint, citrus, and – buzzword approaching – a bramble of blackberries.
Not all of L.A.’s hot ticket foodstuffs are nighttime-specific. Mendocino Farms is a Downtown sandwich shop where, frankly, I’m surprised more be-Dockered fistfights don’t break out. The sandwiches are that breathtaking, and the specials are often sold out by 11:30. One of those specials is the lobster roll. It’s not traditional. They add bacon. Welcome to L.A.
The Pimm’s Cup has a long and proud history in Britain, one of tennis and big hats and dressing in summer whites. A polo match practically doesn’t count if there isn’t any Pimm’s on hand to sip whilst stomping divots. Pimm’s No. 1, the liquor the drink is built around, was first assembled in the 1860s, a heady mixture of gin, a liqueur, fruit, and various spices. To make a Pimm’s Cup, one adds something sparkly (like ginger ale or carbonated lemonade) plus citrus and cucumber. Unsurprisingly, this concoction is popular in the grand hotels lining the beach in Santa Monica (aka California’s Little England). But over the past couple of months, it’s become the cocktail to order amongst L.A.’s coolest imbibers.
Perhaps it was this year’s World Cup that spurred the lust for Pimm’s on the West Coast. Such was the demand for the stuff that there was a rush for Pimm’s No. 1 at the Whole Foods in Venice Beach, where they actually sold out of the previously dusty, neglected bottles.
The traditional preparation of a Pimm’s Cup makes it an excellent day drink, perfect for quaffing on a balcony at Shutters or the Shangri-La, two hotels with tried-and-true versions. Coming into L.A.’s real summer (August to October, where nights can reach 80 degrees), it’s a perfectly acceptable evening cocktail, too. And with all the fruit and liquid additions that go into a Cup, the drink is a good match for L.A.’s current mixology obsession.
The most interesting bars in the city are experimenting with their own, updated renditions. At Varnish, the drink is called the Fruit Cup. The bar mixes its own base (gin, Grand Marnier, cherry Heering, and CarpanoAntica Formula) and adds muddled fruit, cucumbers, and Sprite to finish it. The not-quite-native When in London is Drago Centro’s contribution — their version adds straight gin to the Pimm’s-and-fruit base. Now we’re moving quickly away from sparkly drink territory and into the land of serious boozing.The Brits would appreciate the gesture.
Drago’s Pimm’s Cup, in addition to increasing the alcohol content, makes use of strained berries for a deeper flavor. At First & Hope, the barkeeps stick to citrus but make their own Pimm’s, and add ginger beer for a darker, spicier flavor.
With lingering World Cup fever, a hot Indian summer, and a city-wide passion for complicated cocktails, L.A. has made itself a Pimm’s Cup town.