The chronic congestion of China’s biannual Golden Week vacation period means that many Chinese travelers will be opting to avoid the crowds and head abroad for their upcoming time off at the start of October. For those who still want to celebrate China’s National Day with traditional Chinese fare, Michelin star restaurant group Hakkasan is offering its first ever special Golden Week menu at its locations across the globe.
Between September 29 and October 12, Chinese tourists in London will be able to sample items such as Peking duck with caviar, spicy Sichuan rib-eye beef with enoki mushrooms, Hakka stewed pork belly, fried rice with diced abalone, and deep-fried sesame balls with green tea and peach as part of a special prix fixe menu for an auspicious £88.88—which comes with a gift box of golden macaroons at the end of the meal to mark the occasion. Locations in Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco, and Shanghai will also be offering Golden Week menus, and Chinese visitors have the option to pay with their China UnionPay credit cards.
In order to see what inspired the restaurant’s decision to cater to Golden Week travelers for the first time, we caught up with Executive Chef Tong Chee Hwee for an interview before the busy period. Chef Tong took the helm as Head Chef at Hakkasan’s original location in London in 2001, which received its first Michelin star not long after opening. In 2005, he became the first ever Chinese chef to win the prestigious “London Chef of the Year” award, and the restaurant’s popularity has prompted a flurry of global openings that most recently included its first mainland China location in Shanghai.
What inspired you to feature a Golden Week menu?
This is our first time celebrating the China National Day at Hakkasan. National Day is a significant, meaningful time of celebration for the entire nation, so we decided to specifically create a Golden Week menu. We hope domestic and overseas Chinese will both be celebrating this grand holiday.
What is the concept behind this year’s set menu?
I have carefully selected and integrated traditional Chinese dishes into this menu, hoping to present the original appearance, aroma, and taste with an innovative twist, so that Hakkasan’s customers will not only enjoy the taste of Chinese tradition but will also experience the pleasant surprise.
Your special Golden Week menu will be served at locations around the world, including Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco, and Shanghai. Which location do you think will get the most interest?
With all the efforts I put in, I certainly hope it is popular in all locations—Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco, and Shanghai. If I had to pick one city, it would probably be Shanghai, since it is the place with the largest Chinese population after all. On a national holiday like Golden Week, Chinese usually tend to celebrate it by having a traditional Chinese meal. With our themed menu specifically created for the Golden Week, many will be willing to try.
What percentage of Hakkasan’s customers outside of China are Chinese travelers?
I believe it is approximately 20 to 30 percent. I am unable to provide a specific number because it fluctuates between peak and off-peak tourist seasons. Hakkasan not only attracts Chinese customers; we host customers from all over the world every day. That is the reason Hakkasan has locations around the world and is incredibly popular.
Your first restaurant was opened in London, and you launched several locations across the world before finally opening one in China. Why did you decide to choose the locations in this order?
The first Hakkasan was opened by Alan Yau in London because there were no upscale Chinese restaurants in the city at that time. Yau understood London’s market and its lack of upscale Chinese food like Hakkasan; therefore, he made the decision.
The first Hakkasan received positive responses and superior reviews from many. In 2003, we were the first Chinese restaurant in Europe to be awarded a Michelin star. Since then, we have been pleased to see many come here for fine food. We then slowly expanded Hakkasan to more locations in the world, for our fans’ convenience, and are hoping to spread our brand message.
Does Hakkasan adjust its menu or recipes for local tastes at each location?
I cannot say all Hakkasan menus are the same: 70 percent of the content is, but the other 30 percent is not, due to the fact that produce has different availability and seasonality in different locations. We usually develop a menu based on specific local circumstances, but 70 percent of the content is roughly the same among them given that Hakkasan’s identity is always unchanged.
What is your favorite menu item at Hakkasan?
Crispy duck with superior caviar, roasted silver cod with Champagne and honey, and stir-fried black pepper Angus strip loin.
This interview was translated from Chinese by Jasmine Lu.