Comfort zone? No thanks, comfort (Chinese) food!
Last week, with a hint of disapproval, we talked about the situation we are facing in the city that once never slept and now has a government sending alarms on mobiles to warn that Queen Elisabeth Hospital is soon becoming a Covid hospital, a bit like it happens in other countries for natural disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis.
Today, to remind everyone there is still hope and Hong Kong cannot be that "sleeping beauty" forever, we will talk about what made us fall in love with her: her being modern and traditional at the same time.
Today we will tell you the story of Brenda, Tony, Dodo, their French bulldog, and the red lantern restaurant in Elgin Street, one of the few survivors from protests time and pandemic, which makes it even more a place of the heart and symbol of what we were and that we can still be.
Chongqing Restaurant in Elgin Street
We all know that leaving for an unknown and far away destination is certainly not an experience for everyone, especially when, from Europe, you arrive in Asia.
The average idea that an Italian has of Chinese restaurants is limited to dishes that never existed here, a bit like the infamous "fettuccine Alfredo" that we never heard about in Italy.
Arriving here is a combination of sensations, smells and traditions that led us, from day one, to try all the local restaurants and prefer one above all: Chongqing - Szechuan Cuisine.
In 2018, after what seemed like the longest flight ever, we made a stop in Elgin Street and met Brenda and Tony, who, over time, became a bit like mom and dad.
Here you will find a wide selection of traditional Szechuan dishes (therefore spicy to the nth degree), but also fried noodles, dumplings, xiao long bao and, last but not least, the famous Peking Duck.
We brought visiting friends and relatives to this place, all satisfied with both the cuisine and the kindness of Brenda, Tony but, above all, Dodo, their frenchie, the cutest mascot ever.
Our dog at Chonqing Restaurant
Brenda, when did you start running the restaurant?
We opened in 2004, at that time Hong Kong was still very busy and full of tourists, very different from now
Why did you choose Szechuan Cuisine?
We decided to go for Szechuan cuisine because there were not Szechuan restaurants in Hong Kong and our chefs were originally from that area. We also have some traditional Chinese dishes like Peking Duck (editor’s note: delicious), dumplings and vegetables. In the last two years we added the vegetarian menu to satisfy all kind of diets. Now many vegetarians in HK (she laughs because the writer became vegetarian 3 years ago!)
As we remember, Tony worked also in Italy, right? How was this experience?
Yes, he lived in Verona for 5 years working in a Chinese restaurant as a chef. It was before we opened this restaurant. That experience was not very successful but Italy is still in his mind!
If you think about your childhood, what is the best food memory you have of your family?
I remember my parents cooking all the time… We were a very big family, 8 people in total (Brenda has 5 siblings!)
What do you think about Hong Kong F&B industry in the next 5 years?
Right now, for all the restaurants is very tough! Many restaurants closed for good since Covid appeared! I think after Covid the situation will get better and everything will get back to normal because, for HK people, it is very easy to forget what went wrong. Also, everyone is thinking how to make more business after Covid. They are waiting impatiently.
We cuddle Dodo and hug Brenda, promising we'll be back soon.
With Brenda at Valentine's day
Leaving the restaurant, we retrace Elgin Street towards Sheung Wan. We cannot help but remember all the bars, restaurants and shops that have been here since our arrival, bringing back some memories of the past.
Therefore, as far as possible, we all have to support all these activities which, albeit with difficulty, continue in the hope that one day all this will come to an end, bringing people back to the streets, to restaurants and, of course, to airports.