Why Did these 5 Established Hong Kong Restaurants Shut Down in 2018?
5 of Hong Kong's most prominent restaurants and why they closed
While Hong Kong is a mecca of international cuisines and new dining concepts, it also has a darker side that can ruin even the most established of eateries. Let's take a look at 5 great restaurants and what ultimately forced them to shut down in 2018.
1. Seasons - July, 2018
This promising French fine-dining restaurant's closure came as a huge surprise since in 2015, it was the recipient of a Michelin Star. With such might and pedigree behind it, the sudden closure of Seasons is indicative of Hong Kong's volatile market when it comes to F&B. Located in Lee Garden 2 Mall, Causeway Bay, Seasons was known for its open kitchen, quality ingredients, attention to detail and delicious food. There was a constant attempt to balance a more nuanced and traditional understanding of French cuisine with Asian sensibilities. The restaurant's décor was rather stunning as it was split into four distinct sections that reflected each season. The centerpiece of Seasons, though, had to be its open kitchen where veteran chef Olivier Elzer and his team plied their trade in front of diners.
Why Did Seasons Close?
After losing their Michelin Star n 2017, Chef Olivier Elzer left Seasons to focus on other projects. In 2018, it was revealed that Seasons was to be replaced by "an exciting kids-oriented project," according to Hysan Development Group. Whether it was due to losing their Michelin Star or simply because the need for a child-themed attraction was too great, Seasons certainly didn't deserve its sudden closure.
2. Rhoda - September, 2018
Rhoda was a restaurant with an interesting concept and design. Set up by British chef, Nate Green, Rhoda boasted industrial design, a meat-heavy menu and was located in Sai Ying Pun District. The signature of Rhoda was its charcoal grill, where meats of all types and ages would be cooked to perfection. Just some of the specialty meat offerings included,  "45-day dry-aged Mayura wagyu rib eye, slow-cooked Te Mana lamb shoulder and Brink's Farm free-range chicken." Sporting an open kitchen and backed by Hong Kong F&B giants JIA group, Rhoda first opened in 2016 to much fanfare, but eventually saw thinning crowds.
Why Did Rhoda Close?
It's possible that since Rhoda primarily focused on meat dishes, the dining concept was not condusive to large groups with differing food requirements. Alienating large segments of the population is never a good idea, and perhaps realizing this, early in 2018, Chef Green added a vegetarian menu to his lineup. It featured dishes such as  "smoked mushroom ravioli with pumpkin and broccoli, braised Fukuoka turnip with Madeira sauce and shallots, and vanilla cheesecake with Yorkshire rhubarb." However, it seems that the menu expansion came too little too late as the restaurant remained largely empty before closing down.
3. American Restaurant - April, 2018
American Restaurant, located in the heart of Hong Kong's Wan Chai District, was known for its blasé wait staff, eclectic décor, but most of all for its Beijing-style cuisine. Among its most famous dishes was, of course, Peking Duck and sizzling prawns, which was as much a visual treat as a taste-based one. American Restaurant was also popular because of its large portion sizes, raucous atmosphere and general boisterous vibe. Having opened its doors in 1950, this place really was quite an established historical destination. The restaurant got its confusing name since it used to be a hotspot for American Navy sailors and also because Hong Kong locals used to call the restaurant "Mei Lei King" which sounds like the word 'American.'
Why Did American Restaurant Close?
Unfortunately, this was a restaurant that relied on its reputation and refused to keep up with the times. One of the main complaints that people had was that American Restaurant did not accept credit cards or modern forms of payment. Since this is the type of restaurant for large groups, diners often had to run down to ATMs to withdraw cash. The décor also never updated, and while long-time patrons found it appealing, the younger generation often didn't have quite the same reaction. The wait staff, while endearing once you got to know them, could come off as rude to new visitors which may have spoilt the experience. Still, it's sad to see such a veteran of Hong Kong's F&B industry take its final bow.
4. She Wong Lam - July, 2018
She Wong Lam is a bit of a controversial restaurant - especially with a younger crowd - as it specializes in serving snake soup. After a history of 110 years, this legendary eatery in Sheung Wan shut down for good. She Wong Lam enjoyed the bulk of its popularity in the 1970s and 1980s, when it was believed that eating snake soup would boost one's strength. The typical ingredients in snake soup include  "the meat of various snake species, chicken, pork, sugar cane, mandarin peel, and white pepper. It is garnished with chrysanthemum petals and finely sliced lemon leaves."
Why Did She Wong Lam Close?
Snake soup is no longer commonly consumed in Hong Kong and many youths simply aren't attracted to the prospect of eating snake. Then there's the problem of actually handling the snakes, defanging them and preparing them. She Wong Lam's current 'snake master' is well into his 90s and simply can't find anyone to replace him. His family have no interest in continuing his line of work, so in this case, She Wong Lam's closure is simply a sign of the moving times.
5. Mercato - November, 2018
This amazing restaurant, located in Hong Kong's popular Lan Kwai Fong District, was well-known for its inventive and fun takes on Italian cuisine. Veteran chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who has worked in Hong Kong for 35 years, had earned an army of loyal followers and patrons after opening Mercato in 2016. Aside from delicious Italian fare of the highest quality, Mercato was known for introducing interesting promotions and fresh interpretations of their menus. One such example was with their "Great Pizza Bake Off," which pitted inventive dishes like Ma Po Burrata Pizza against a Spicy Honey Pizza. With such a fun and contemporary flare, it seems strange that Mercato decided to close its doors.
Why Did Mercato Close?
Mercato, like many businesses before it, fell victim to Hong Kong's skyrocketing rent prices. After the latest spike in rents, Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten simply opted not to renew the restaurant's lease. Unfortunately, this is a harsh reality for many restaurants that open up in Hong Kong - especially in popular districts. Here's to hoping that rents soon become more affordable in Hong Kong.