Hipster food has been a bit of a trend lately on my blog. Ramen, Pho, and now to top it all off, I give my thoughts on Yardbird in Sheung Wan, undoubtedly one of Hong Kong's most hottest hipster venues. I tried (quite successfully) to avoid Yardbird for some months after being having fellow hong kong foodies gush at me about how fantastic their shochu list is (snore) or how all the waitstaff are foreign (double snore) and how all the clientele are who's who of hip Hong Kong (triple snore - and not even true). 

The kind of people who eat at Yardbird are a mixture of regulars (to which there are a lot of, and who'll probably get a table quicker than you or I will), and nice, fashionable and generally lovely hot people. But the regulars dominate the presence of the split level dining room (with bar and a few tables upstairs, and the open kitchen and majority of tables downstairs). The regulars are the kind of people who make a big deal out of kissing the owners cheeks twice as they walk past, and splurting out grating small talk like 'dahhling you must come to ours for our new year do, you just must'. 

I hate those kind of people, but they're good for business because they're the 'in crowd' and i'm sure the owners of Yardbird are acutely aware of that fact. Keep those idiots happy, and you can rest assured that business will be strong for the foreseeable future. Anyway enough of a rant about the people. Yardbird is so popular that they purposely don't take bookings (they don't need to, they're always going to be constantly at capacity). As is a trend with trendy casual restaurants, you get there, put your name down and have a drink at the bar whilst you wait for your table. The friendly guy manning the door was quite apologetic when he said that tonight was extremely busy and the wait could be anywhere up to an hour and a half. An hour and a half, on a saturday night, in a city of nearly 9 million at one of the hottest restaurants in town? That's nothing. I've waited for 3 hours for restaurants on a tuesday night like Chin Chin and Cumulus in Melbourne, a city of half Hong Kong's population. Either way we were seated after about 40 minutes, and a drink at the bar. 

Yardbird is all about Yakitori, the japanese chicken dish skewered and cooked over coals. Yakitori is a delicious thing, and in Japan, traditional yakitori involves eating and cooking all parts of the chicken. Heart, liver, tail, neck, all of it. If its edible, its cooked. Yardbird seeks to tap into this 'only-in-japan' way of eating yakitori by offering all the strange bits of the chicken, as well as some more normal cuts like thigh, breast and wings. For simplicity sake, each skewer is priced at $38 which is quite a palatable amount at first. Though after you order a few different skewers, and remind yourself that each skewer is $38, then the bill tends to inflate. Other items on the menu are a little more substantial in their size, and offer somewhat better value. 

We started with salted edamame, the japanese unripened soybeans still in their pods. Covered in rocksalt, you simply squeeze the edamame into your mouth.... until it pops (oh baby...). Anyway, these are a nice simple snack to pick at in between other dishes. 

Our first sampling of yakitori came in the form of Chicken Gizzard, which a crispy fried garlic garnish and a drizzle of olive oil. The gizzard is fantastic, which tastes like a slightlier chewier section of the breast. You're never in any doubt that you're eating chicken, however. These were probably the standout yakitori. 

Next to our table is the Chicken Neck served with Yuzukoshō and black pepper. The Yuzu paste is absolutely lovely, and adds a nice citrusy flavour to what is a fairly gelatinous and sinewy part of the chicken. 

The chicken wings are served with a housemade Shichimi Togarashi, a nice mixture of sichuan pepper, orange peel, lemon peel, dried ginger and sesame seeds. They even give you a sampling of their shichimi to take home with you, which is nice. 

The chicken breast is served upon a nice wasabi and light soy sauce mixture, and the meat has a lovely smokey flavour about it (so did all of it, but the breast perhaps more so). 

Of the non-yakitori dishes we had, the sweet corn tempura balls were substantial in size and a very novel way of eating corn. The corn was very sweet and juicy, which is something I haven't encountered with corn in Hong Kong. Yardbird have really managed to get themselves onto some nice corn, so well done. 

The KFC (Korean Fried Cauliflower) was for me the standout dish, and according to other openrice posts, a perennially popular option. The cauliflour balls are batered and fried in a seriously tasty yuzu, chilli and plum like sauce topped with a smattering of sesame seeds and garnished with fresh lime. I love it when restaurants do interesting things with otherwise bland vegetables, and this dish reminds me of the excellent vincotto fried brussel sprouts being served up at Portêno in Sydney. 

The wine list also deserved a mention, everything on the list is very new world, with Italian, Spanish and Argentinian making up the majority of the bottles. France and Australia are most likely purposefully underepresented, so you're likely to try something you've not seen before. They serve the very, very serious Besserat du Bellefon NV Champagne (and are the only ones in HK as far as I know to serve in house). I had a glass of the Italian Pechorino, which is a very seldom used/grown grape varietal in a small section of the south of Italy that has a very chenin blanc like palate profile. The drinks list is bolstered by a very impressive sake, shochu and japanese spirit list, as well as some interesting cocktails. 

Another thing I should note is the atmosphere, which is loud, noisy and generally fun. The music is great, BUT it is played at a somewhat ear splitting volume making regular conversation hard unless you're shouting (which everyone else is doing anyway). 

All in all, I enjoyed Yardbird. Once you get over the uber-pretentious clientele  and the fairly pricey yakitori, and the silly music volume you're left with a very cool concept in Sheung Wan. Yardbird doesn't represent for me the pinnacle of what Hong Kong has to offer food wise. For me, the best food in terms of value, taste and atmosphere comes from dingy noodle shops, and congee joints. But Yardbird, is, what I hope Hong Kong's restaurant scene is turning into, especially around Pok Fu Lam & Sheung Wan. In Hong Kong, there are really two main dining options: cheap, dingy and good value, or expensive, formal and exclusive. Yardbird fits neatly in between the two. It's too casual to be a special occasion place (especially with no reservations), but not quite cheap enough to be an everyday option. 

A lot of the people who go to yardbird sit endlessly at their table sipping their wine and overanalysing their dishes. They're complete wankers and they're missing the point.  Yardbird is not a groundbreaking gastronomical experience, or amazing, or life changing, its just cool, and that's probably all it sets out to be. 

You can't help but feel cool when dining at Yardbird, it's a cool place.