Happy Paradise: May Chow's Neo(n)-Cantonese Concept Headed by Chef John Javier
Updated: Sep 20, 2019
The other night, I checked out Happy Paradise, May Chow's Neo-Cantonese venture on Aberdeen Street, for dinner with a few friends. The neon lights cast a moody blue and purple hue over the entire cha chaan teng-style space, including the food - as you can probably tell from my #nofilter pics.
I had wanted to go for a proper feasting here rather than a few rushed cocktails by the bar after dinner elsewhere (which is the only way I'd experienced Happy Paradise until then). We arrived at 6:30pm on a Monday evening, and as expected, it was quite empty at the start. The space quickly filled up though to the point that it reached maximum capacity (including the bar) over the course of the night.
The Head Chef, John Javier (previously of Quay, Momofuku & Master) prepared us a special dinner with all of his and May's favourite picks from the progressive menu, which I've briefly recounted below. All in all, this was a crazy good meal and I can't wait to go back to try more dishes. If I didn't know what "neo-Cantonese" meant before, I definitely do now after experiencing John's playful and brilliant interpretations of traditional Cantonese dishes such as cheung fun (rice noodle roll typically served as dim sum) and drunken chicken in Shaoxing wine. Some dishes we had below:
For this creative take on "cheung fun", the chef doesn't use rice noodles but instead hammers scallops into very thin sheets before rolling up and frying. The sauce is a traditional chili sauce, which complemented the scallop nicely.
I've had these thick ox tongue skewers twice now, and on both occasions, enjoyed the immensely rich flavour of the sauce with the Chinese-style chimichurri. A nice way to kick off the meal but I would advise you to pick this or the scallop cheung fun if you're planning on ordering both the famous steak + chicken main dishes below.
A super refreshing squid and veg dish, which cut up our otherwise heavy meal nicely. This counts as our salad dish of the night, right?
Surprisingly, one of my favourite dishes served here... pig brains! Although I'm hardly picky with my food, I'll admit I tend to have slight aversions to dishes containing brains, livers and animal innards in general. So it really speaks to John's impressive culinary skills that he was able to completely convert me with this dish. The flavours here were unmistakably Chinese. The brains were beautifully silky, almost like shirako but more delicate, and were accompanied by a burnt pear sauce, white soy, and roughly chopped scallions.
This is a seriously indulgent treat of tender slices of skirt steak and tangy konbu on a bed of silky cheung fun cooked in a seaweed butter sauce. Flavourful and delish, although definitely too heavy for some!
Slow cooked at two temperatures for the ultimate tender bite, this yellow chicken is steeped in Shaoxing wine, ginger, scallion, rice and chrysanthemum flowers. I loved the slightly burnt rice crisps that added a crunchy texture to the rice.
Restaurant Details - Happy Paradise:
Address - UG/F Ming Hing House, 52-56 Staunton Street (entrance is on Aberdeen Street), SoHo
Tel - 2816 2118
Opening Hours - Daily, 6pm-12am
Instagram - @happyparadisehk