Sad news, Sydneysiders. It doesn’t look like Master Dining is going to be reopening here anytime soon. But for anyone visiting Hong Kong, Master’s head chef John Javier is teaming up with Little Bao’s May Chow (recently named Asia’s best female chef) to open Happy Paradise, a modern Cantonese bar and restaurant in the central part of the city.
“I did a collaboration dinner with May Chow last October. We got along like a house on fire and I had just closed Master. She called me up a few weeks later and asked me if I wanted to check out Hong Kong,” says Javier. “I was literally on a plane within 24 hours.” Since then, the precocious young chef has been eating his way through Hong Kong’s markets, trying everything and anything that isn’t available on these shores.
“Being in Hong Kong, all of a sudden I’ve got access to ingredients I had never even come across in Australia. The menu has really started to take shape and I’m doing all new dishes.” He says nothing’s locked in yet but he’s excited about a dish of braised pomelo skin, black sesame, dried shrimp roe and prawn oil; a sticky rice and roasted bone-marrow item with spicy shiitake paste; and a pig lung-and-Chinese almond soup with lotus root, Chinese yam, bamboo and young coconut.
“We’re getting pretty experimental with techniques but still striving to capture those Cantonese sensibilities. This has been the biggest challenge for me yet being a ‘gweilo’ (foreigner/Westerner).” But he says, “It’s the best food I’ve ever cooked.”
The bar element, developed in collaboration with Singapore alcohol suppliers Proof and Co., will riff off the modern Cantonese menu. “Bright, smashable cocktails with local influences. We’ll also have a super curated list of local microbrews as well as organic and natural wines,” says Javier.
Javier and Chow are calling the cuisine neo-Cantonese, referencing the traditional techniques they’re using elements of, but also their flippant, fluid and loud cuisine and style. That idea will be reflected in the design by Adelaide’s design studio Mash (Africola, Motel Mexicola and Hotel Jesus). “They’ve been really great. It’s a take on the aesthetic of Hong Kong spas and massage parlours. They’ve covered the entire ceiling with neon lights … it’s crazy.”
Happy Paradise is set to open at UG/F, Ming Hing House, 52–56 Staunton Street, in central Hong Kong in late March or early April.