Ba Yi – a local’s local

27 Apr

Ba Yi restaurant frontBa Yi is one of those neighbourhood restaurants that I’ve always wished I had. Sadly the closest London’s Elephant and Castle ever got was the once-great but now distinctly average Dragon’s Palace on Walworth Road. Well, no more. I’m in Sai Ying Pun now and happy to be a mere five minute walk from one of the best locals in Hong Kong.

Ba Yi specialises in cuisine from Xianjing province, which has more in common with Pakistani or even Turkish cooking than typical Chinese fare. As such it centres on lamb, mutton and camel (yup) seasoned with heaps of cumin and chilli, salt and pepper. It’s simple, rustic, and goes down brilliantly with a Tsingtao or three, which are served for some reason in strange metal tankards at Ba Yi – maybe glass is a premium commodity in Xianjing.

Over two visits I’ve eaten my way through most of the menu, taking in must-haves of mutton pancakes, mutton skewers, shredded fried potato and mouth-numbing green beans with lamb and Sichuan pepper. The pancakes are an interesting take on the classic Peeking duck-style affair – a DIY job involving wheat pancakes, fried, minced mutton, a mirepoix of fried veg with some fried cabbage and a slightly spicy tomatoey sauce on the side.

Lamb dumplings are also good, if a little chewy, and the rack of lamb is fine but comes slathered in the same tomatoey sauce which makes it difficult to taste the meat through. The standout dish for me is the skewered mutton – generously seasoned with salt and cumin and grilled over a high heat for an intensely sheep-y flavour. A chicken stew was pretty good but to be honest, everything after the mutton tastes a bit bland.

If you order beforehand they will roast you a whole leg or even an entire lamb – dosed up with a dusting of cumin and served at the table. I’ve no idea if it’s authentic or not, but it’s a busy, boisterous place to go with a group and get stuck in. Even the Michelin guide has recommended it – so make sure you’re hungry and get down asap. Actually don’t, or I might not be able to get a table.

Ba Yi: 43 Water Street, Hong Kong

+852-2484-9981

Around HK$200 a head without beer

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One Response to “Ba Yi – a local’s local”

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  1. Hong Kong Day 1: Lamb Bam, Thank You Ma’am | syntaxfree - September 10, 2012

    […] ability to sit on ass under said roof squealing at cat videos, check – we headed out to Ba Yi restaurant for dinner. It specializes in Xinjiang cuisine, especially lamb dishes, although it also has […]

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