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Restaurant founder Lindsay Jang vividly remembers the nighttime drive from the airport to her apartment in Sheung Wan when she first arrived in Hong Kong in 2009 with her partner and her nine-month old daughter, Lili. Looking around at the buildings slotted into the sides of the jungle-coated mountains, she thought to herself, “Will I ever know where I am? Is this going to be familiar?” Fast-forward more than a decade and, of course, the answer is yes.
Two years after she landed, the Canadian-born entrepreneur opened the late-night Japanese izakaya Yardbird Hong Kong with her business partner, Matt Abergel, on Bridges Street in SoHo. It was a full-fledged commitment to the city that she had fallen in love with. Soon after, they launched Ronin, Sunday’s Grocery and most recently Roti Tori at BaseHall, which they plan to expand soon. “Hong Kong is a place of opportunity,” Jang says. A place where, for the duo, “the stars just aligned.”
[Hong Kong is] a mash up or collaboration between New York and Hawaii.
She now lives in industrial Chai Wan in a building that looks out onto the ocean. The Dragon’s Back trail is walking distance from her front door, a juxtaposition that makes her describe Hong Kong as “a mash up or collaboration between New York and Hawaii. You have this intense city, the hustle and bustle. But wherever you are on Hong Kong Island, you can drive 30 minutes at the most and be at a beach or at least in nature.”
A typical day will take Jang from her home in the east end of Hong Kong Island to Yardbird’s current location in Sheung Wan — a space nestled between traditional medicine and dried seafood shops that have been passed down through the generations. It’s here in the heart of the city that she’s surrounded by buildings in pinks, greys and blues, the beeping crosswalks, the ding of the tram, and the jingle of local radio stations being blasted from taxis or shops that she’s come to find iconic of Hong Kong.
Jang was born into the food and beverage industry — her grandparents left Hong Kong in the late ‘50s and ‘60s, establishing Chinese restaurants in their new hometown of Alberta, Canada. Her father later trained as a civil engineer but ended up buying a restaurant too. It’s almost full circle then that she’s returned to her ancestral home, founding a successful business in the city they fled.
When you walk around Hong Kong, food is everywhere.
Hong Kong is an exciting place to be a restauranteur. “[Food] is woven into the fabric of people’s lives,” she says. “When you walk around Hong Kong, food is everywhere, people are eating all the time in all kinds of places.” Cantonese cooking has become something a lot of the world is familiar with because of immigration and travel, and “people come here to eat.”
On her days off, she often returns to The Chairman, One Harbour Road and Celebrity Cuisine for dim sum or dinners with friends. She loves cha chaan tengs (Hong Kong-style cafes) and dai pai dongs (outdoor food stalls) that don’t have English names or menus too, and the seafood restaurants in the fishing villages of Cheung Chau and Lamma Island that you have to hike or take a boat to reach. “Cantonese cuisine is still the star of the show here, everyone is passionate about it and where they deem best.”
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