Monday, 28 September 2009

Food Journey #23 - Battle of the Salad Bars in Hong Kong

We have seen an influx of Salad Bars in Hong Kong during the past 24 months and seems to me that we in Hong Kong have finally realised that importance of eatting vegetables on a daily basis. A few commercial salad bars that immediately comes to mind includes Dressed Salad, Just Salad & MIX Salad located in Three Sixty, all located in the heart of Central serving up to the expat population (mainly) and the local population. Thus, I decided to do a quick review and share with you each of my individual experiences with 3 different brands which are positoned very differently.

Essentially, Salads are the simplest dish it can possibly be as it is simply just Leaves + Dressing, not exactly rocket science. You have a pack of romaine lettuce, few drizzles of olive oil + balsamic vinegar, there you go, your plate of salad right there! This gives me a thinking to why some salad joints can so easily screw up the "salad".

MIX Salad

Personally, I am a good friend of the guys that are behind MIX and firmly believe the concept is great as Hong Kong needs something like this. However, my experience at MIX Salad at ThreeSixty is an absolute stinker and I have also realised that some of their branches are closing down (referring to Causeway Bay Branch).

a) The ingredients, toppings & choice of leaves are not very appealing to start off with especially the tomatoes looked like it had been sitting in the fridge since 1999.

b) For the price of HKD45 for a small salad and HKD75 for a large salad, they are absolutely shooting themselves with the price. Why would anyone order a $45 salad which was approximately 1/4 the size of Dressed or Just Salad aside from myself for the purpose of reviewing in my blog. The difference between a small & larges salad was enormous!

c) The choice of toppings were boring and was particularly expensive to top up on the salad.

d) Biggest mistake was to order my salad with the Sweet & Spicy Vinagarette which was purely FOUL! I did not taste any substance of spicy flavours in the dressing but instead, it was more like a sweet & sour sauce and imagine the pairing with veggies and yes, it didnt pair well at all. The salad was so bad that I had 1/2 the box which was small enough and had to run downstairs to fetch myself a sandwich instead.

Honestly do not see why & how they have customers, corporates lining up every day for a salad, does that tell us that there aren't any genuine good salads in Hong Kong. Vow to never return to this place ever again and definitely the 1st to be eliminated from the battle!

Address: 4/f, ThreeSixty, The Landmark, Central (中環德輔道中12-16號置地廣場4樓Three Sixty超市Food Court內)

Food Quality (5* the highest): *

Price for Lunch (5$ = very expensive): $$$

Just Salad<

Location for Just Salad in Central is spot on and their guys are impressive in securing good locations. With 2 locations, one in Cochrane Street and one in World Trade Building, both located in the hub of Central. What's more, their Cochrane Street location is extremely close to our office therefore a regular for majority of our colleagues. Have always people arguing between the difference Just Salad & Dressed Salad, in fact, I think there is still a gulf in the level between the 2 brands even though both are imported salad brands from The States.

a) With a regular salad priced at HKD45 per bowl (Very Good Size) including 4 toppings, the ingredients are in quality much better than MIX Salad and at least there is a wide range of toppings to be choosen including Avocado, Portobello Mushroom, 1 whole Boiled Egg etc. However, one downside is that the toppings do not always seem very fresh and appealing. The additional topping which you have to pay extra such as Pesto Chicken, Salmon, Scallops does not appear to be worth the extra money to pay for. Finally, the free slice of bread is always extremely stale. Enough said!

b) Staff at Just Salad does not seem to speak very good English considering majority of their clients are expats and are quite poorly trained. On a few occasions, the regular salad which I order at Just Salad are charged differently which baffles me a lot as it is the same size & ingredient and as a regular customer, I have no clue why sometimes it is charged at $55, sometimes at $60 sometimes at $45!

c) The experience or ambiance at Just Salad is another area which needs to be improved. I enjoyed watching the staff chopping & stiring up the salad as that always provides a bit of entertainment for us customers but the general vibe which I experienced whilst approaching the salad bar was a local salad bar attempting to be western even though the brand is originated from the US. It has that very local substance and the 2nd floor is extremely cramped during peak hours.

In my opinion, Just Salad has its areas for improvement such as quality of toppings, ingredients, service and ambiance but in general, the level of satisfaction & taste is much much better comparing to MIX Salad. For those that like a bit of Asian flavours, I highly recommend that Yuzu Dressing as that is a delight.

Address: 30-34 Cochrane Street, Central, Hong Kong (中環閣麟街30-34號地下B舖
Tel: 2850 6818

Food Quality (5* the highest): ***

Price for Lunch (5$ = very expensive): $$$

Dressed Salad

If our office was located in IFC, this would be my local salad bar to have the freshest salad daily. It seems to be ridiculously busy on the weekdays during the peak hours and is also busy during the weekends. A hip place full of Tai-Tais, corporate employees, model-wannabes, fashionista wannabes and buff guys, girls & fitness freaks coming out from the Pure Fitness gym above. I managed to avoid all this crowd and decided to visit the location in Queens Road East (opposite Hopewell Centre) in Wan Chai on a fine Sunday to try out once again in a different location.

a) With a regular salad priced at HKD48 per plate (very generous portion) including 4 toppings, the ingredients are in top quality & form comparing to above joints. The selection of toppings is much diverse and also includes my favourite -- Anchovies which is a definite KUDOS!

b) The moment you step into Dressed Salad, there is a sense of hip & coolness about the place. Very similarly vibe that tickles me everytime I walk into Cafe O, the Macs, the cool high bar seating and the smooth tunes that is on the stereo. My definite cup of tea in terms of a relaxed healthy Sunday lunch.

c) I recieved some comments from our Geoff's Twitchen fan page on facebook that the service is not so up to scratch. Agree to a certain point especially in the IFC location during lunch-hours as there is always a long queue of hustling & starving office workers all waiting to be fed. Maintaining top-notch service during peak hours is something which Dressed Salad has to work on for sure. However, my experience in the Wan Chai was pure fab as staff were friendly, courteous and were extremely helpful in helping you to choose your toppings! Plus, they all spoke perfect English as well!

d) Pricing point starting at $48 for a large plate of salad is something which I think is very reasonable as you know you are getting the service, ambiance & the freshness of the products in return. However, the additional charges on the attractive toppings such as grilled chicken etc could be quite hefty if you want your salad slightly more luxurious.

e) Highly recommend the Salad Wraps -- must try!

The Winner of the Battle of the Salad Bars in Hong Kong award goes to Dressed Salad as the quality of salad, ambiance, service, staff wins by a gulf of a distance. Highly recommend you all to visit the location in Wan Chai as that is an extremely chilled out location and one of the cool spots in Wan Chai for some people watching if you are bored. Do you agree with my review and if not, leave me a comment today!

Happy Eating!


Address: GF, 202 Queen's Road East, QRE Plaza, Wan Chai, Hong Kong (灣仔皇后大道東202號 QRE Plaza 地下1號舖

Tel: 2893 4848

Food Quality (5* the highest): ****

Price for Lunch (5$ = very expensive): $$$


  1. I have to disagree with your verdict here... maybe it's because I am near IFC so I use Dressed IFC and Just Salad in WW Building. Dressed has an appalling system and they are incredibly disorganised and slow at peak hours; plus they messed up my order at least 50% of the time (before I stopped going). I don't care how flash they look, or how many iMacs they have, if they can't do the basics they don't get my dollar.

    Just Salad has just as good, if not more, variety; and they move the line quickly even at peak hours. I agree re: the bread though, but I never take it anyway.

  2. I had dressed salad in the wanchai location last week and maybe due to sunday i thought service and quality was perfect. will return again only on sunday.

  3. Hi Billy & Florence,

    Peak hours in Dressed Salad is a nightmare -- totally agree. However, do pay a visit to the Dressed Salad in QRE Plaza in Wan Chai, very chilled out venue indeed.

    For Just Salad, it has more varieties but I feel they are not as fresh as Dressed.

  4. Being a regular to Dressed since its Wanchai location opened I do agree with your assessment that Dressed is the best custom made salad only restaurant in Hong Kong.

    Just to give other some background about Dressed. It is a brand originated from Atlanta, Georgia, USA. It was brought to Hong Kong by one of the executive of Levis who love fresh and healthy food. The two retail locations in Hong Kong are supported by a service kitchen in Chai Wan, which prepares and orders all the ingredients for each location. Ensuring the freshest of ingredients each day, with the minimal of wastage.

    Remember to control yourself at Dressed, you can come up with a very expensive salad simply by getting carried away when choosing the ingredients for your salad.

    I do not agree with the analysis of the service delivered by the two locations; at least during non-rush hours. I believe their IFC locations is the better trained location with a smoother operation. The set up at the Wanchai location is a bit weird to me. Having the customer ordered, pay for their salad and wait causes a congestion in front of the counter.

    Several months ago some of the staff at the Wanchai location were pretty dense. They were not familiar with their own order sheet, requiring the customer to repeat their salad ingredients over and over again.

    Fortunately, the owner of the franchise recognized these and several other deficiencies and is working to correct and improve its operations.

  5. Hi Vinko,

    Agree with you totally and in fact, the senior staff at the Wan Chai outlet is a friend of mine and she mentioned that you are a regular at Dressed.

    Back to your point, I simply think there is no other salad bar which is on the same par as Dressed at this moment in terms of food, ambiance & service. Closest could be Just Salad but it is a country mile off.

    Happy Eating!


  6. I go at least three times a week to Just Salad in WW House after Mix decided to hike their prices and halve their offerings and although the salad is always good (agree with your assessment of the yuzu dressing) the place itself is an absolute disaster area.

    Unless you're ordering off the menu, you have to place your order before you can see what there is. It's so loud you can't hear what the servers are asking, half the time you don't get the right order (their soup is good, but next to impossible to actually buy it) and you can't see what's actually in the chiller (and I'm tall). Finally, there's a huge bottleneck as everyone stands around waiting for their orders to be fulfilled.


  7. Hi Katherine,

    In fact, I have not visited the WW House Just Salad and have only visited the location on Cochrane Street. Never enjoyed their not so clever approach in upselling soups: -- "Your salad is a good pairing with this soup." Personally believe that the Just Salad staff thinks we consumers are stupid.

    Have you tried Dressed Salad and let me know your comments on this.

    Happy Eating!