(CNN) — Opening a new restaurant in Hong Kong is tough.
With one of the highest per-capita concentrations of restaurants in the world, this is a city that makes you work for your reputation -- no matter how much talent you have.
The result has been an abundance of private kitchens -- ventures by (usually) successful chefs looking for greater intimacy, or new entrants to the market who want to suss out the climate before diving into Hong Kong's ambitious dining scene.
The private kitchen boom started around 15 years ago, when restaurant owners tried to sidestep the city's notoriously high rents for ground-level properties by moving upstairs into residential and even industrial locales.
They acquired private club licenses to avoid the regulations and fees placed on public restaurants.
This means they can't advertise openly or post menus for passersby.
And as long as Hong Kong's rents stay firmly planted in the "are you kidding me?'" zone, there will always be a place for private kitchens.
Here are 10 of the best:
Yin Yang Coastal
Yin Yang Coastal was one of four Hong Kong restaurants featured at the world-renowned Gastronomika festival in San Sebastian in 2015.
Using fresh produce from the restaurant's own organic farms, Margaret Xu Yuan offers creative interpretations of her Chinese gastronomic heritage.
She first opened her dining venue under the name Kitchen Yin Yang in Hong Kong's Wanchai neighborhood in 2008, eventually moving it to the seaside district of Tsuen Wan before changing its name to Yin Yang Coastal.
This move meant more opportunithy to reinvent the oldest gastronomic culture of Hong Kong -- fishermen's traditional cooking, which has been declared an intangible cultural heritage of the city.
The signature Yellow Earth Chicken is roasted in a terracotta urn designed by the chef and is a must-order.
Yin Yang Coastal, Ting Kau Beach, House 117, Ting Kau Village, Tsuen Wan, New Territories, Hong Kong
Pomegranate is a Mediterranean kitchen founded by Lebanese chef Maria Bizri in 2012 in Hong Kong's Wong Chuk Hang neighborhood.
A full-service catering company, its dishes highlight the flavors and aromas of the Mediterranean and are infused with the scents and spices of Asia.
Maria spent her childhood between Beirut and Damascus, where her grandparents lived. Her cooking style has been shaped by her experiences with big family kitchens and communal, sociable dining.
Food writer Mac Ling is enthusiastic about Pomegranate's cuisine: "Put it this way; if I was getting married, of all the private caterers in Hong Kong, I would definitely want them to cater my wedding."
Dining at Home
Dining at Home serves Indian food most Hong Kongers haven't been exposed to.
Owner Puja Rajwani is Indian herself, with a Chennai mother and a father from Pune, though she is a proud born-and-bred Hong Konger.
A deep love for the city and a decade of working in the food industry in the UK led her to create her own Hong Kong-based start-up, which differentiates itself from other great Indian eateries around the city by the type of cuisine on offer.
Though Indian food is popular, Rajwani felt the people of Hong Kong had nowhere to experience Sindhi cuisine.
The recipes have been passed down through generations and use no ghee, butter or cream and only a little oil. Instead, a combination of powerful spices and prolonged cooking times enhance the dishes' flavors.
Forget garlic naan and rogan josh; highlights here are the bhel puri, crushed almond Sindhi chicken curry, masala chai-infused bread and butter pudding, cardamom vanilla ice cream, warm carrot saffron halva and the house samosas.
Dining at Home is located in Mid-Levels. Full address given upon booking. For more info email email@example.com
Cuore was founded by Andrea Oschetti, part-time Italian chef, part-time biker-meets-writer.
He shares his love of food and culture through his cooking, while his thirst for adventure shines through the photographs and artifacts that are strewn across every spare bit of space in the cavernous loft where his dinner parties are held.
Andrea has done everything, from low-altitude flying over the Kruger into Zimbabwe to biking over the ancient trails of Bhutan.
His energy, food and stories reflect these explorations.
When it comes to the food, in true Italian form, Andrea sticks to the simple, high-quality meals Italians are renowned for.
Menus are customizable and designed according to the seasons.
His handmade truffle ravioli, nearly-zero-sugar chocolate cake and bottarga with spaghetti are some of the hits to have wowed guests.
Cuore is located in Wong Chuk Hang, outside the Aberdeen Tunnel, next to Ocean Park. Full address given upon booking. For more info email firstname.lastname@example.org
Lifestyle brand Eat Ethio -- helmed by Ethiopa-born Helina Tesega, who lived in Shanghai before coming to Hong Kong -- includes a wonderful supper club.
Diners can expect slow-cooked chicken that falls off the bone served with injera (fermented flatbread) made with "superfood" teff.
Then there's the distinctive Ethiopian flavors of kale sauteed in kibbeh (seasoned, clarified butter) and spicy red lentils served with ambasha bread.
Eat Ethio is located in Hong Kong's Sheung Wan neighborhood. For more info email email@example.com
Dine Art merges fine Italian cuisine with modern art.
Dishes highlighting Italian chef Cosimo Taddei's heritage are showcased in a gallery that doubles as a private dining room, complete with handcrafted wooden table and candelabras.
Plates come laden with refined ingredients in playful combinations.
Top picks include hamachi carpaccio, tomato essence, raw scampi, basil and topinambur (Jerusalem artichoke) chips.
Then for dessert there are treats like deconstructed tiramisu with coffee jelly and crumble.
Though the cuisine doesn't exactly sway into uncharted territory, the location is mesmerizing, with cutting-edge art adorning every wall of the warehouse space.
Dine Art, Kwai Bo Industrial Building, 40 Wong Chuk Hang Rd, Hong Kong
Choy Choy's Kitchen
While it's never wise to put too much faith in social media follower numbers, it's hard to not be impressed by the 300,000 likes that Grace Choy has accrued for Choy Choy's Kitchen in just six years.
Choy, who buys nearly all her food from Hong Kong farms, believes it's a variety of factors that keeps the Kam Tin eatery bustling each day.
"Customers and fans have told me they love my food because it is good and natural, cooked with heart and creative," she says.
"You can't help but be creative when you love something so much; it flows naturally. They also love that I quit my office job to follow my dreams, and it keeps people coming back."
After 10 years on its own, Magnolia closed up and this year merged operations with Corner Kitchen, where they will continue to offer private dinner parties.
Magnolia's success comes from offering consistently good, unpretentious food at reasonable prices, such as Cajun BBQ ribs, cornbread and pecan pie.
Magnolia, Ground Floor No. 21 New Street. Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Kea's Kitchen is actually located on a boat at the Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter.
The menu includes dishes like baked trout with Himalaya sea salt, green mango salad and spicy lime sauce topped with roasted macadamia nuts.
The food is tasty, the location unforgettable.
You're essentially eating dinner on a three-story yacht facing open waters, providing for an unusual and memorable experience.
Kea's Kitchen, Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter. For bookings/info email firstname.lastname@example.org
When she's not working as a lawyer, Mina Park runs Korean eatery Sook, which offers comfort food with a twist.
Dishes include inventions like kimchi Bloody Mary and dukbokki (rice cakes) with chorizo, alongside more classic dishes like the lotus root and mung bean pancakes.
While she often does collaborations with popular inner-city restaurants like the Pawn, the Woods and Ping Pong Gintoneria, Park's acute eye for style and impeccable taste means it's worth paying her clean white dining space in the Chai Wan warehouse region a visit.
Sook is located in Chai Wan. Full address given upon booking. For more info email email@example.com