Hong Kong’s Mexican food scene has long stagnated around tacos and tortillas, a situation that Verde MAR set out to alleviate when it popped on to the scene in late 2015. With a native chef helming the kitchen and access to some of the rare ingredients from the region, Verde MAR has quickly become one of the most exciting new proponents of Mexican cuisine in the city.
Verde MAR is Vivian Wong’s second foray into Hong Kong, following another of the city’s beloved Mexican joints, Mr. Taco Truck. The name Verde MAR translates to ‘green sea’ in Spanish, a reference to the colour of the Sea of Cortez, where the cuisine is rooted. The aim here is simple: to redefine authentic Mexican cuisine while crafting an unforgettable night-out for locals and visitors alike.
From the pleasant atmosphere to the warm and welcoming service, the restaurant represents a true slice of Mexican hospitality led by a team who is passionate about real Mexican food. Leading the charge is Executive Chef, Eligio Escobedo, a Mexican native with over 25 years of experience specialising in Mexican and Cuban cuisine. Born into a family of restaurateurs, Eligio studied at culinary school in Mexico and worked at different restaurants and hotels around North America before continuing on to Asia.
Following stints in Beijing and Bangkok, Eligio landed in Hong Kong, brandishing a treasure chest of rare Mexican ingredients and the know-how of an experienced, well-travelled chef. At Verde MAR, Eligio takes cues from familiar traditions and recipes while putting his own modern spin on the food. Above all, he showcases his love for some of the more underrepresented ingredients from Mexico.
One such ingredient is the cactus – a staple ingredient of the Mexican and Central American diet. Thanks to relationships with a special supplier, Verde MAR is able to fly cactus in directly from Mexico weekly, giving Hong Kong epicureans a chance to taste this unique ingredient. Prepared simply on the grill with a squeeze of lime juice, the cactus is crunchy and soft, its fleshy texture packing in plenty of nutrients.
The rest of the menu is teeming with fresh ingredients from around the Caribbean and Pacific Coast, from the red snapper ceviche with lime and avocado, to the Seven Sea Soup chock-full of briny ocean produce, and the spicy shrimp diablo, which gets its kick from potent Mexican chillies.
While the menu aims to excite and educate, it’s not bereft of the usual crowd-pleasers: tortillas are all made in-house, and there’s a wonderful selection of al pastor pork tacos, cheesy quesadillas, and ‘wet burritos’ with your choice of chicken, pork or skirt steak drenched in a vibrant tomato sauce.
With décor inspired by an authentic Mexican hacienda, Verde MAR sets the scene well with its vibrant interiors and cosy courtyard strung with fairy lights and classic star pendants. An array of native plants adds a welcome dose of greenery, while piñatas made by Eligio himself hang from the ceilings in a nod to Mexican art and tradition.
From the thoughtfully sourced décor to the tongue-tingling cuisine, Verde MAR is slowly yet surely changing the landscape of Mexican food in the city, giving Hong Kongers an authentic taste of south-of-the-border flavours and hospitality.