Happy Paradise: Chef May Chow’s modern, neon-lit cha chaan teng

Updated on April 11 2017

Hot off her win as Asia’s Best Female Chef 2017, May Chow‘s highly anticipated new venture, Happy Paradise, is now officially open on Staunton Street, serving up modern versions of classic cha chaan teng–style dishes in a throwback setting that’s all neon lights and underground-parlour vibes. Here, Chow delves back to the roots of technique-driven Cantonese cuisine, a departure from the fusion-inspired fare that kickstarted her success first at Little Bao, and later at gastropub Second Draft (located in Little Tai Hang).

Happy Paradise interior
Interiors are inspired by old cha chaan tengs, mahjong houses and Shanghainese barber shops.

Manning the kitchen is executive chef John Javier, who previously cut his teeth at Quay, Momofuku Seiobo and Master in Sydney. Together with chef Chow, the pair have come up with a progressive Chinese menu, using a mix of modern and traditional techniques to revive old Cantonese classics with a new look and feel. A short, 20-item menu caters to those looking for an early evening snack, full-on dinner, or late-night bites paired with a round of cocktails.

Happy Paradise
This is not your typical chicken fried rice.

Wherever possible, the team has sourced local ingredients, as in the yellow wine chicken (HK$328) — slow-cooked at two temperatures for optimal texture, and flavoured with Shaoxing wine and stir-fried seasonal mushrooms, ginger, scallion and rice. The tea-smoked pigeon (HK$180) is another signature item, marinated in a five-spice rub, deep-fried for a crispy skin, and smoked with jasmine tea leaves. Braised pomelo pith is a Cantonese classic, and at Happy Paradise, chef Chow presents a refined version, where the pith has been soaked and blanched for 24 hours to erase its bitterness. The fruit is then braised in a Shaoxing chicken stock and given depth of flavour with a layer of black sesame foam, dried shrimp roe and prawn oil.

Happy Paradise
Pigeon is marinated in a five-spice rub and smoked with jasmine tea leaves.

Other dishes on the menu include pig ear terrine with chilli soy (HK$88); pig lung with almond soup, taro, yam and bamboo (HK$158); smoked fish with cauliflower and watercress (HK$178); and sweet and sour pork with burnt pineapple (HK$198). While some dishes like the pig lung are geared towards more adventurous diners, there are definitely some instant crowd-pleasers, including a sumptuous char siu rice draped in eggy yolk.

Happy Paradise
Chef May Chow’s smoky take on sweet and sour pork with pineapple.

Drinks deserve their own special mention, with innovative cocktails crafted by head mixologist Chanel Adams (previously at Barmini by Jose Andres in Washingto,n D.C.). Following in the footsteps of the kitchen, everything from the infused syrups to the herb extracts are made in-house, resulting in some killer craft cocktails.

Happy Paradise
Durian has never tasted so good.

Signatures include the Durian Painkiller (HK$128), a blend of toasted coconut cream with fresh-pressed pineapple and durian-infused rum; the Kowloon Soy Smash (HK$128), an ode to the premium soy sauce company with Alipus Mezcal, offset with citrus, Thai basil, ginger and crunchy soy “crystals”; and the Drunken Plums (HK$118), a riff on a martini which incorporates the tang of Shaoxing wine.

Happy Paradise
The Kowloon Soy Smash is an ode to the centuries-old soy sauce company.

Open from 6pm until late, Happy Paradise is a walk on the wild side with its unconventional cuisine and neon-blasted interiors conjuring up images of underground Chinese parlours and gambling dens. Meanwhile, the “polysexual” playground is meant to attract and inspire people from all walks of life, creating an inclusive and communal space for celebrating each individual — a philosophy that adheres close to chef Chow’s principles as both a chef and a community leader.

Happy Paradise is open Monday-Saturday from 6pm–midnight for walk-ins only. 

Happy Paradise, UG/F, Ming Hing House, 52-56 Staunton Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2816 2118

Post image Related: Q&A: May Chow, Asia’s Best Female Chef 2017