In 1997, restaurateur Danny Yip moved back to Hong Kong from Australia.
Having worked in the food and beverage industry since the 1980s, he vowed he would never open another restaurant again. “It was overwhelmingly exhausting,” he recalls during an interview with CNN Travel. Instead, upon returning to his home city, he founded a successful internet company. It didn’t take long before he broke his vow. Missing the action and the fun of the industry, he sold his company in the 2000s and opened The Chairman, a humble two-story Cantonese restaurant located in a quiet street in Hong Kong’s Sheung Wan district. It ended up being a sound decision — today, The Chairman is widely considered to be the epitome of modern Chinese restaurants.
The Chairman won the top spot in this year’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards — the first-ever Chinese restaurant to win the accolade, which is decided on by an academy of 318 voters spread throughout Asia. “It’s a straightforward restaurant — no frills, no gimmicks, just brilliant ingredient-focused Cantonese food,” says William Drew, director of content for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, which organizes the awards. “Perhaps its success is in part down to diners reevaluating what’s most important and concluding that unshowy destinations that are really dedicated to sourcing the best ingredients and creating imaginative and delicious dishes should be highly valued.” An obvious example of this is The Chairman’s “Camphor Wood Smoked 7 Spiced Goose,” which took months to develop — and it’s not even on the menu. Diners need to pre-order it.
First, the goose is marinated in the juices of chicken, duck, pigeon and goose for two days. Then it’s steamed in low heat for eight hours. Finally, it’s smoked in a gentle camphor wood fire, with a chef having to change the wood midway through the process. Three days of labor results in tender and moist slabs of goose meat and supremely intense flavors that require no accompaniments. “The Chairman is notable for its consistency through the years, but at the same time it has never stood still. It does not try to be anything it is not, but the culinary team are forever exploring new ingredients and creating new dishes,” adds Drew. To Yip, earning the top spot is a win for Chinese cuisine in general.