They Belon Together
In just three years, Chris Mark and Syed Asim Hussain have created a culinary kingdom boasting Ho Lee Fook, Carbone, Chôm Chôm and a string of other foodie landmarks. The enterprising pair tell Madeleine Ross about their latest ventures
hen chris mark and Syed Asim Hussain announced plans to open a Chinese restaurant in Soho in 2014, they were ridiculed in the local media. “‘Why would you open another Chinese restaurant in Hong Kong?’ we were asked time and time again,” recounts the highoctane Asim, who goes by his middle name. “One publication even referred to us as Beavis and Butt-head. I’m still trying to work out who’s who—i mean, am I Beavis or Butt-head?”
But they had the last laugh. Ho Lee Fook, their buzzy Chinese fusion restaurant on Elgin Street, is now a magnet for hipsters, bankers and out-of-towners. Ask for a table between 7pm and 9pm and you’ll be met with a friendly but invariably frustrating “that will be a one-and-a-half-hour wait.”
“There’s a lesson in that,” says Asim. “If you really believe in something, it’s important to stick to your guns and stand by your convictions. Things often seem foreign to the critics and consumers, but we’re okay with that; we’re okay with rattling the cage; we like to do that.”
Ho Lee Fook is just the tip of the iceberg that is Black Sheep Restaurants, the dining empire the pair founded in 2012. Chris and Asim have created some of the city’s most popular venues, including bold New York-style Italian restaurant Carbone in Central, Vietnamese bistros Chôm Chôm in Soho and Le Garçon Saigon in Wan Chai, and the steak-frites sensation La Vache!, also in Soho. This year they’ve added two more gems to their trove of food concepts: Belon, a neo-parisian bistro on Elgin Street, and Maison Libanaise, a Lebanese restaurant adjoining the escalator in Soho.