New Restaurant Review: Happy Paradise

Riding high on her Best Female Chef in Asia win, May Chow first won hearts and palates with her Asian burgers at Little Bao, developed a solid following with her fusion food at ale house Second Draft and now nails the landing with her neo-Cantonese haute cuisine offerings at Happy Paradise.

You can see the fandango glow of the restaurant from busy Elgin Street below, and behind the banana-emblazoned door, it's like you've stepped inside that 80s episode of Black Mirror. Transported to another time, within another time, and it's down the rabbit hole you go with wonderfully incongruous flavours to match. The arcade-style interior is a display of neon tube lighting in bright pinks and blues and neon art installations, Formica tables and all the best parts of the decade known as the 'ugly one'. It's both futuristic and retro all in one, cheerful with a hint of cha chaan tengand, like everything May Chow embodies, very cool. Rad is probably a better word for it - and one usually reserved for something that deserves it.

Her food is really quite emotive with its nostalgic nod to recipes of the past, masterfully prepared, and she uses carefully considered, choice ingredients. May herself was on the floor to explain the ethos and ingredients to her diners, and this was a great help to our party in understanding the depth of the endeavour to create each one of these dishes. It elevated the appreciation of the entire experience. I'm not sure that without her guidance the meal would have been such a resounding success for us, but with the right passion and training in her staff, it certainly could have been.

The service is good too. Lots of cool-cat helpful sorts were milling about, and we got a great wine recommendation on the Zarate, an Albariño from a small organic wine cellar in Spain that was sharp and crisp and an excellent accompaniment to the cuisine (although it did deviate us from the undisputedly awesome aperitifs).

Little Bao has some hot little bevvies, and Chef Chow then opened an ale house, so it's no surprise that Happy Paradise's cocktail list is alight with taste possibilities. The cocktail menu is divided into openers and more powerful closers depending on where you're at during your dinner, and these tasty tipples are reason enough to venture through to this nifty neon nook. There are sweet little umbrellas in the Pink Flamingo, and they all have cool names like The Unbeatable Conman or the pina colada-like Durian Painkiller.