Feb 24, 2011|
HK Magazine: Where did the idea of a paper-themed restaurant come from?
Tony Ng: It was just by chance that when I went to Taiwan around two years ago to do food sourcing for my restaurants, I came across a paper product factory called Carton King. It sold carton- and cardboard-made souvenirs and it also ran a restaurant. I believed this concept would amaze Hong Kong people, who always love new stuff, and that is how I brought the whole thing to Hong Kong.
HK: Are you particularly interested in paper art or art in general?
TN: Not really. I am not an art-lover or an environmentalist. I was a chef. I started up this restaurant to give people an understanding of creativity.
HK: What will this restaurant be serving?
TN: My restaurants always promote healthy dining. We use five-grain rice, black rice and rice milk as the main ingredients. I believe that healthy eating and green-awareness is a good match for this Beijing/Shanghainese restaurant. To win in Hong Kong’s competitive market, you need to outshine the others with something exceptional.
HK: Do you think your customers will care more about the restaurant décor than the food itself?
TN: For sure, the people will be more attracted by the paper gimmicks first. Many of them will come here just to take photos. But once they visit us more than once, they will get bored of the paper environment—so, we’ll have to think of a new concept. In the future, we’re thinking of doing a “panoramic night view of Hong Kong” thing. Of course, we’ll have to keep up our food quality as well.
HK: Do any of your heavier customers worry about the chairs collapsing?
TN: Customers might think paper chairs are fragile when they first look at them. But our chairs have been tested and can each bear a maximum weight of 182 kilograms. Most customers find them firm and not easily collapsible, and they keep rocking the chairs—which can ruin them.
HK: Tables, chairs, cups and even the cashier table—nearly all the furniture here is made from paper, but why isn’t the food served in paper bowls as well?
TN: As we sell noodles in hot soup, the steaming liquid can shorten the life of the paper products very easily. We are now using plastic bowls that can be cleaned and reused. We have a product made with thick paper. It is washable and suitable for holding snacks, but it costs a lot.
HK: Is it cheaper to run a restaurant with carton and cardboard?
TN: It’s more expensive! Though the raw materials are rather cheap, we have to pay for the handiwork. Also, wear-and-tear is more noticeable than in normal restaurants. Our carton walls and chairs can easily be stained with oil or sauce, even though we polish them with a layer of wax.
HK: What are your future plans for the company?
TN: I am planning to open another branch of the restaurant in a tourist area, most probably Causeway Bay or Tsim Sha Tsui, and I hope this new venue will have an interactive zone where every customer—especially kids—can learn to make paper items and have fun.
Visit Slim Taste at 9/F, 11 Stanley St., Central, 2530-1199