Within less than a year of opening, The Principal, a relatively new entrant to Hong Kong’s dining scene, earned a Michelin star for its fresh take on international cuisine. Tucked away in a corner on Star Street, it is located on the hipster side of the Wan Chai district where chic eateries and boutiques are springing up fast. Inside the restaurant, wooden floors, exposed brick archways and copper lamps create a welcoming ambiance that is both rustic and elegant.
Helmed by Chef Jonay Armas, the menu largely features European-inspired dishes that are part molecular and part classic, but many also have a subtle Asian twist. For example, his signature onsen egg is slow cooked to creamy perfection at exactly 63 degrees Celsius and is then combined with a wine and caramel reduction and topped with crunchy roasted corn and breadcrumbs.
Although he is originally from the Canary Islands, Armas cites his main influences as the Michelin-star restaurants that he once worked for in Spain. We spoke to the young chef about his cooking style, getting that Michelin star and his latest mouth-watering dish.
How would you describe your cuisine?
Chef Jonay Armas: I don’t like my style to be tagged to any region. Although, it has a very contemporary European feel, we are very open to influences from all around the world including Asia and South America.
Where do you source your ingredients from?
Armas: I try to find a lot of daily vegetables here in Hong Kong. But I also import many of the ingredients from France, Europe, Australia and Japan. At the end of the day, I just look for the best quality.
Name a dish on your menu that is inspired by Asian fare?
Armas: Now on the lunch menu we have hamachi that we have imported from Japan. We serve it with wasabi ice cream, seaweed, onions and cucumber. Sometimes it’s more about the ingredient coming from the region rather than the influence of a particular dish. I’ve been in Asia for a few years now including India and Indonesia.
Does the food from the Canary Islands, where you are originally from, influence your food at The Principal?
Armas: I have tried sometimes to have dishes that have ‘the Canary Islands’ touch. Some of them worked, and some didn’t really suit the palate of the locals. I guess my influence is more from the chefs that I’ve worked with and gained experience from in Spain.
What is it like having a Michelin star?
Armas: It’s great! I guess like any kind of job, you have to have a lot of passion for what you do. It takes a lot of hard work to build a good team. There is a fun part to getting it [a Michelin star] in there but there are really bad moments as well—the job sometimes is quite complicated. Star or not, what’s important are the daily customers.
What is the latest dish on your menu?
Armas: It’s very exciting to create new things. In the past couple of weeks, we have come up with a lot of new dishes for our degustation menu. They are a bit more novel and creative. I really like the new pigeon item that we serve. We cook the rice in the same stock as the pigeon, and mix the liver with truffle. It is then paired with an earthy crumble made from fresh mushrooms and herbs.