Located on Upper Lascar Row (also known as Cat Street) just below Man Mo Temple in Sheung Wan, the aptly named Man Mo Café is tucked behind one of the street’s many antique stalls. In contrast to its bric-a-brac surroundings, the restaurant is decorated rather simply, with interchangeable frames hanging from wires on the walls to create a rotating exhibition of local artists. The ceiling is made from wood and carved intricately with two birds, while the outside space is quaint and cute, with a few benches and tables with rolled up blankets to keep warm. It’s these personal touches in the restaurant that really make it shine. Unfortunately, the choice of furniture sets it back a bit as the veneer covered tables look rather inexpensive and don’t really match the choice of dark wood and black leather chairs. The plates and cutlery are all blue and white china that have been collected from the surrounding stalls and they really set the stage for the modern twist to what is normally very traditional food.
The food at Man Mo Café is not your usual meal of dim sum, but is a big spin on the traditional steamer baskets of dumplings and buns. With two chefs whose backgrounds involve Robuchon and Din Tai Fung respectively, the food promises to be well-executed and very much fusion in style. There is a good selection of food to choose from, with 24 items on the menu, but the portions are small, allowing for the tasting of many of the restaurant’s dishes. The burger bun, truffle brie dumplings and foie gras xiao long bao proved to be our favourites, with some stand out and rich flavours. The burger bun came together with a small vial of thousand island sauce that you have to squeeze into the bun, and the result is something that tastes similar to the famed In-n-Out burger. The foie gras xiao long bao flavours were rich, but not overpowering; unfortunately, the skin of the dumpling was a let down as it was a bit thick for our tastes. The bouillabaisse was also a pleasant surprise, as it was tasteful and came with two small and delicate wontons, with crispy wonton skin served on the side. For dessert, the restaurant offers some twists on Hong Kong classics. One example is the classic glutinous rice ball with sesame seeds that is normally filled with red bean, here with nutella. Another was the Hong Kong-style egg tart, but a shortbread crust substituted the classic flaky puff pastry, and a lemon meringue filling replaced the egg custard. Both desserts were well executed and tasty, although the nutella ball could have been served a little hotter, as the centre was not fully melted. Overall, the food demonstrates fusion food at its best and was surprisingly well seasoned, tasteful and interesting.
There are a healthy variety of drinks to choose from at Man Mo Café that includes wine, champagne, signature cocktails, spirits, teas, juices and soft drinks. Unfortunately, the choice of wine, beer and champagne is limited to four reds, two whites, one rosé, one champagne and one beer. They are also limited in price range, as all of the bottles of wine fall between the HK$300 and HK$500 range, so if you’re looking for a lot of choice or something high end, they don’t really offer it. What was a highlight of our beverage experience were some of the signature cocktails. All seven of the cocktails were made with a base of tea and the two that stood out were the ManMojito and Caipirostchai, which were light and refreshing. Alcoholic drinks range in price from HK$65 to HK$90, so prices are extremely reasonable.
There was not much to say about the service in that it wasn’t intrusive, nor were we ignored. Servers were polite and able to recommend their favourite dishes, and the owner was on hand to present dishes and answer questions. The time in between dishes was a bit lengthy, but we hope that this is because each dish is either steamed or cooked fresh upon ordering. All in all, we felt that the service was quite a personal experience, without being overwhelming.
A meal for two including cocktails and wine comes to around HK$800. If you’re looking for something a little more unusual and off the beaten path, then Man Mo Café proves to be an excellent choice.