Sassy prides ourselves on keeping our fingers somewhat on the pulse in the city, but there’s one restaurant opening which we’ve been seriously amiss in not covering until now… Yardbird managed within a few short weeks of opening, to become the most talked about restaurant in the city. Queues formed outside. Waiting times are legendary. EVERYONE was talking about it. But does it really live up to all the hype? The short answer of course is that nothing can, and expectations have been raised so sky-high that after an hour-long wait for a table you’re expecting the best chicken in the world when actually what you get is pretty-bloody-good-chicken… Keep reading to find out more…
Yardbird is just a little further down Bridges Street than sprawling super-resto Oolaa. It’s only open in the evenings, and is staffed by black tee-clad servers who are just a teensy bit cooler-than-thou. It has a sunny, cosy, cheerful interior, with two floors of high-top seating and pretty pumping music. The concept is pared-back yakitori, with a simple menu divided into “Small”, “Yakitori” and then a section called “Bigger”. We kicked off with a round of margaritas and felt smug to have arrived relatively early as the people poured in and either accepted their waiting time from the very pleasant hostess (no snarky looks here despite the popularity) with zen stoicism, or looked vaguely horrified and wandered back up to Oolaa instead… The margaritas were delicious, as was the yummy Hitachino Nest Ale we sipped on afterwards (it makes me happy when a concept follows all the way through with bird-themed beer!). We ordered a few of the “Small” dishes to share to start, including one dish which was genuinely unpleasant – a plate of fried chilis of which some were deliciously sweet and occasionally one would be crazy spicy, in a kind of gastronomic Russian roulette which was vaguely sick-making. This seems to have subsequently disappeared from the menu… Good call.
The stand-out of the starters was without doubt the KFC, or Korean Fried Cauliflower, which was fabulous. Hot, spicy, sweet, a little bit crunchy and a little bit soft… You could make a whole meal out of this and never get bored, and never feel for the lack of meat. Also great was the Sweet Corn Tempura – balls of batter-bound sweet corn kernels that explode in the mouth with juicy goodness. By now, we’d forgiven them for the chili dish and had moved into feeling great about Yardbird again.
We moved on to sampling the yakitori dishes, which are basically all different chicken parts, like Thigh, Breast and Wings naturally, but also Neck, Knee and Skin. Salty and finger-licking good, we were big fans. You should probably just order one of every single bit, because the presentations are fun and interesting (including the Meatball which comes with a raw egg yolk as a dipping sauce). By the time our “Bigger” dish arrived – the Fried Chicken, we were a bit chickened-out, but soldiered on as we don’t like to be beaten. Unsurprisingly (given that Yardbird’s Head Chef and Owner is the former Head Chef at Zuma), it’s essentially the same fried chicken as Zuma serves, but at a more reasonable price point which is a nice bonus!
At the end of our meal we were more than happy with our experience – the fun atmosphere, the music, and the yummy food all combine to make Yardbird somewhere you’ll want to visit again and again. It doesn’t feel like a Hong Kong restaurant at all… It feels like it belongs in New York or London, where people expect a bit of buzz and hipness with their food to get them ready for a night out. Plus, it’s always so great to come across a HK resto that’s independent rather than owned by a big chain – you can feel that there’s soul and passion behind the place. For all these reasons, we’re big fans, and are already craving our next hit of KFC.
Yardbird, 33-35 Bridges Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, 2547 9273
Open Monday – Saturday 6pm til Late (Closed Sundays)