Hong Kong Tatler: Happy Paradise
Happy Paradise's entrance on Aberdeen Street may be slightly difficult to spot. A narrow corridor opens into a square dining space, with colourful fluorescent lighting adding a psychedelic aura to the vintage-style décor reminiscent of Shanghainese barbershops and old cha-chaan-tengs. The neon-lit bar overlooks the main dining area where tables are generously spaced out around old school banquettes and diner-style chairs straight from the Seventies. The extensive use of mirrors adds a sense of space and depth to the establishment.
At the helm of the kitchen is chef John Javier, whose previous tenure in Australia garnered raves before he headed to Hong Kong to open Happy Paradise with May Chow. Together they created each recipe on the one-page a la carte menu, where classic Cantonese dishes keep their roots but are refined and enhanced by contemporary preparations such as sous vide cooking. We began our meal with salt and pepper Bombay duck, the soft, creamy fish lightly battered and deep fried until golden brown and moreish with a dash of peppered salt giving it a lift in seasoning.
Happy Paradise offers a wide selection of cocktails, their beverage menu progressing from classics-with-a-twist to ingenious new creations featuring Chinese liquors and Asian elements such as soy sauce, five spice, chrysanthemum, and durian. The Unbeatable Conman is a perfect start to the meal. The fresh citrus notes of lemon and grapefruit match well with a touch of Cynar rounded off with the sweetness of honey. Served very cold, it is a brilliant complement to the starters.
Notwithstanding the casual ambience and set up, service at Happy Paradise is attentive and friendly. The service team is well-versed in the restaurant's concept : from the food and drink offerings to design details, all are described and explained with great enthusiasm. The team is knowledgeable when it comes to cocktail and dish pairings, and portion control is on point.
A dinner for two including one cocktail each amounts to a bit over HK$1,400. Happy Paradise offers a deceptively simple menu showcasing dishes and cocktails that are well-thought-out in concept and spot-on in execution. The ambience may not suit those who intend to have a fine-dining experience, but the restaurant is worth visiting. The food and drink will take you to food-lovers' paradise and you will leave happy as they promise.