Our evening at the Temple Street Night Market included maybe a few too many beers… so our fourth day in Hong Kong got off to a slow start. Which then ended up being a slow start to a perfectly slow, relaxing day. All of this eating and walking and writing and drinking and eating and eating… it can get exhausting. You all think it’s just fun and games over here. Okay, it kind of is.
It would be a shame to stay in one of the nicest hotels in the world and not take advantage of some of its amenities, and that’s exactly what we did. Chao went for a swim in their beautiful indoor pool while Mike took on a little workout/steam action, before sinking back down on the outdoor terrace to enjoy the weather–by far the best we’ve had on our trip so far. Right around 70 degrees and not a cloud in sight. We weren’t about to waste our newly zen-ified selves (or the glorious weather) on more crowd surfing, so we hopped on a bus for Repulse Bay and Stanley Market.
We stopped at Repulse Bay Beach first and took a few pictures (that, surprisingly, don’t really do it justice):
Beautiful views, but not too much in the food department, so we made our way over to Stanley Market. We found a restaurant with prime, people-watching seats, and settled in for a few hours of observation, good food, and a few beers.
Once we’d seen half the neighborhood walk by, we hit the road. The bartender at Lily & Bloom (where we at our first night in Hong Kong) told us about this famous mixologist from Japan and insisted we try our bar before we leave town. Remember how in Japan everything worth going to was hidden? Tucked into a back alley or on top of some strange, seemingly residential building? Well, seeing that the famous mixologist is in fact Japanese, his bar is situated on the 24th floor of an office building in Causeway Bay. Getting to that office building was a different story altogether. After a period of wandering/bad directions, we finally found the building. As we perused the building’s directory, we noticed “bar” in very small letters–the only mention of our destination in sight.
Our friend at Lily & Bloom also warned us about the sign on the door at b.a.r. EXECUTIVE, which claims that the bar is “Members Only.” We followed his advice and ignored the sign altogether and grabbed seats at the quaint-but-luxurious bar. As with all things, it’s not about the size of the bar–it’s about everything behind the bar. In this case, a selection of every liquor ever made and a hyper-talented mixologist. Dressed in a sharp suit, Ichiro Hiidrome was just starting two cocktails for the other gentlemen in the bar as we perused the menu.
This is where it got interesting. Ichiro’s technique when mixing the cocktails is, without a doubt, like nothing you’ve ever seen. It’s like this stylized ritual, a ceremony that ends with a delicate, loving pour. For a split second, it almost looks like he’s messing with you. That couldn’t actually be how he… but then obviously it’s effective because the cocktails were all delicious:
It’s worth hanging out there for a little while just so you can see him repeat this exact same process as other customers enter the bar. Once things slowed down a little, we started chatting a little with Ichiro, mainly about Japan. So, how did this top-level Japanese mixologist end up in an office building in Hong Kong? Well, once he had mastered his craft in Japan, he wanted to share it with the people of Hong Kong. He was not, however, interested in the street-filling swarms gushing into his bar (hence, the “Members Only” sign).
Our time with Ichiro also shed light on Hong Kong’s bar business. After walking around in several different neighborhoods, we noticed there weren’t a whole lot of standalone bars. Turns out the government is pretty strict as far as liquor licenses go–generally, if you’re looking for a drink, you’ll have to go to a restaurant. Luckily, Ichiro got his liquor licence and his office space before some of those changes came into effect. To further ensure the quality of his cocktails, he has his own import business so he can bring in the best ingredients from Japan.
After a good deal of conversation, a few more performances from Ichiro, and four not-so-cheap cocktails, we decided it was time to handle our tab and say our goodbyes. After one more bar, a ferry ride, and a quick walk back to our hotel, we decided to grab one celebratory drink at the Peninsula’s top-floor bar, Felix.