Author: Sgt Noms

Where:
Cochin Delicatessen (OH GOD HK, Y U NO WEBSITE GOOD?!)
26 Peel Street
Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2561 3336

Price:
I got my fuck yeah nom$ invitation on, but estimate a common person would probably get out at HKD550-700 a head (excluding booze), depending on how you order.  I WANNA LIVE LIKE COMMON PEOPLE, I WANT TO DO WHATEVER COMMON PEOPLE DO.

getmoneysquirrel

The deal:
Cochin Delicatessen is on the lower half of Peel Street, where Chicha used to be – you know, the place that used to fleece you HKD240 for three tiny ass Peruvian “inspired” tacos.  I’m a bit surprised they closed because I really thought that overpriced bullshit tiny-ass tacos and miniscule thimbleful servings of ceviche should have been a concept for the ages (lolz).  Cochin Delicatessen is part restaurant, part delicatessen and part bar and has been opened by Chef and Director Renaud Marin after busting out stints at Upper Modern Bistro and St George.

Cochin is straightforward and unpretentious in its decor – all warm tones and blue accents, with wood panelling and Mediterranean patterned tiles on the tables.  Their waiter homies are most definitely on their game too, which is impressive for a new place.  We kick our night off with a bucket of hot baguette slices.  I judge all restaurants by their bread, because fuck, if you can’t be bothered serving fuck yeah bread it’s highly likely that you can’t be bothered with the finer details of anything else.  One bite in and I’m like fuck yeahhhhh, this is most def carb life = best life times and I discuss with Sir Crunch-a-lot whether this is the work of Gregoire Michaud / Bread Elements again.  We admonish ourselves on not being so fucking presumptuous that every time we have fuck yeah bread in HK that we automatically assume that Gregoire fucker is behind it.  So we wave down the waiter to ask whether Cochin make their own bread and then he launches into this speech about how there’s this French guy in HK who does all their bread who supplies a number of restaurants and I bellow at him “IS IT GREGOIRE?!”.  Turns out it is and to make sure that I’ve truly established that the baguette is a fully righteous fuck yeah, we slammed six more buckets of it and took the leftover pieces home for breakfast the next day.  The meek might inherit the earth, but I’m telling you that the greedy fucks shall inherit all the goddamn baguette.

Living up to the delicatessen part of its name, Cochin offers a number of starters ‘From the tin’, including anchovies, caviar and pate.  We get involved with the “Pate Louis Ospital”, opting for the Espelette (180g) which comes with a serve of pickles and some baby gem lettuce halves (HKD180 + 10% service charge).  Chef Renaud lets us know that the mushroom pickle recipe is his grandmother’s which means that his family has had the honour of slamming fuck yeah pickles for at least two generations.  However, this is all just warm up for the beef tartare.  Cochin’s Beef Tartare is described as “Polemard” 150g smoked sardines, pickled avocado and melba toast (HKD210 + 10% service charge) and it’s breathtakingly beautiful as fuck.  It’s the sort of dish that arrives and there’s an awed silence at the table.  Accompanied by two barely there thin slices of bread, the beef tartare is an absolute fuck yeah triumph with a depth of flavour from the mixture of fresh beef and two-week aged beef from Polmard.  To fit in with Chef Renaud’s obsession with the sea and the land, it’s accompanied by small daubs of creamed pickled avocado, pieces of smoked sardines, baby red shiso leaves and watercress.  Every single component on that dish is adding something, rather than just being a useless decorative accent.  It’s complex and a dish of contrasts – the fresh beef vs the aged beef, the slight fragrance and bite of the shiso vs the creaminess of the avocado vs the egg in the tartare and the salty briney sardines with the whisper of smoke vs the raw beef.   More importantly, it’s me vs the tartare and I know that when I close my eyes at night, I dream of love which is patient, forgiving and always eternal and it looks exactly like Cochin’s beef tartare.

iwantyou

While you’d largely classify Cochin as French, there’s clearly influences from other cuisines.  I’m always a sucker for the Italian dish, vitello tonnato and Cochin’s is accompanied by confit lemon, capers and anchovie boquerones (marinated white anchovies) (HKD170 + 10% service charge).  It’s a very decent sized serve and similar to the beef tartare, everything in this dish has a purpose and it’s delicious as fuck.  We summoned two more buckets of baguette so we could ensure that we had vitello tonnato on bread and any stray bit of the creamy tuna sauce was also mopped up into my face.  If Chef Renaud’s obsession with surf and turf ends up in fuck yeah times like this, then I hope his obsession never ceases

Under “Bigger plates to share” and also under “For one” is the Rabbit and Foie Gras Pie (HKD195 + 10% service charge).  While my pedantic self can’t fully understand why you would place “For one” dishes under a “Bigger plates to share” title, the Rabbit and Foie Gras Pie is pretty fucking rich so I think that you can easily share this between four people so you can all have a little taste.  The Rabbit and Foie Gras pie arrives innocuously enough, a dome of puff pastry about the size of a fist with two baby gem lettuce halves chilling on the side.  But inside is where the fuck yeah magic happens – stuffed with foie gras, pan fried rabbit (both pieces and mince), confit shallots, garlic, parsley, thyme and spinach. It’s a perfect balance of the rich, fatty foie gras against the stronger flavoured rabbit, with the slight acidity of the confit lemon cutting through all of it and balanced out with the parsley and thyme.  But this is something honest and pure, and as saltwater wells in my eyes, all I can think about is that this is emotional, this is true love and I’m a better, more fulfilled person for knowing this pie.

scully_crying_gif_w_620

Under ‘For two or more’ there’s the Fadi organic chicken 81 days, available in a half or whole serving (HKD475 / HKD990 + 10% service charge), accompanied by two sides of your choice.  Clearly a Fadi organic chicken gets to live a pretty pampered life and has probably flown to HK on a premium economy flight at that sort of price.  We opt for the half and this chicken is fucking incredible, perfectly roasted with flavour packed meat that belies its privileged upbringing and 100% organic feeding consisting of corn crumbles, wheat, soya, barley, oats and sunflower seeds that sounds like a fancy health bar you’d buy for HKD78.  But it’s the sauce it comes with which is a major fuck yeah, made from the chicken juices, ginger, honey, lime and lemon.  No shame that after my first taste of this sauce from the gods, I put my cutlery down to throw up some air punches before plotting how I can most politely guzzle whatever sauce is remaining after my homies are done with it.

The Zaragoza suckling pig shoulder (HKD650 + 10% service charge) also comes with two sides and writing about roast pork always puts me in this quandary because I fucking love eating well executed roast pork but it’s so fucking boring to write roast pork wank.  Crispy skin, blah blah, juicy meat, blah blah.  However, don’t let my porcine related lassitude deter you though because Cochin’s suckling pig is a serious and major FUCK YEAH.  It’s everything you could hope and dream about, and doesn’t suffer from that HK bullshit roast pork serving size where you barely get any pork even though you’re laying down cash.  This could easily be shared between four to six of your best homies.

We were lucky enough that when we went to Cochin that Patrice Marchand of the famous Marchand Brothers was serving up his cheese.  We watched him serve his cheese to other patrons and it was fucking glorious to see someone so totally into his craft that his happiness was palpable.  Given the amount we’d eaten, we went for a selection of five cheeses (HKD295 + 10% service charge) and went up to the counter to discuss and hear more about the cheeses.  Patrice Marchand asks us at this point “Are you sure you only want five cheeses?” as he starts to stack our cheese board up with more glorious fuck yeah cheese choices and at this point our only answer is:

illallowit

The cheese at Cochin is clearly a major drawcard and if any of you are seriously into your cheese, you MUST get yo asses down to Cochin ASAP.  We ended up opting to skip dessert and there’s no scant cheese servings here (Imma looking at you Epure with your delicious but tiny ass cheese serves).  In fact, at one point we’re even a little bit daunted by how much cheese we’ve been blessed with.  There’s so many special fuck yeah moments happening but the absolute cheese champion for me is the ‘Bleu de brebis ciré’, the result of allowing ewes roam the Pyrenees Mountains while eating wildflowers and fresh grass at altitude before turning their milk into a soft, moist blue cheese which punches you in the face before whispering goodnight to you and kissing you on the neck.

It’s at this point, I’m grateful for the downhill slope down Peel Street because I’ve smashed through an insane amount of fucking delicious food, Old Fashioneds and wine.  But more than anything, it is so often that a new restaurant in HK is based on the idea of what is trendy and mashes together any number of ingredients to form something that they think the punters want.  How else can I explain those HK moments when I’ve looked down at a bowl of corn chips with a side of guacamole topped with sea urchin and salmon roe and thought ‘What in the ever loving fuck in this trendy ass mess?!’. But for all of that, Cochin comes blinking out of that dark, tortured HK trendy bullshit to be a testament to one chef’s vision to show you the food he loves which takes references and inspiration from not only his own experience but also from his family, the ingredients and the countries he’s been to produce something that’s heartfelt and laid bare for all to see. This shit doesn’t happen all that often in HK, but I just can’t think of anything that makes me fucking happier than to eat food where a chef has considered every single element on every plate and in its totality means something more.

Verdict:
FUCK YEAHHHHHHH! As you can imagine, I work my way through an inordinate amount of restaurants and I fucking loved Cochin so much that I went back twice in one week.  I’m gonna put it out there my FYN homies even though we’re only halfway through 2016, Cochin is going to be one of the best fuck yeah new restaurants in 2016.  JUST GO ALREADY, OK?!

Where:
Little Kitchen HK (FUCK YEAHHHH, a properly designed and informative website!!!)
1/F, Cheung Lok Building
No. 112-114 Saiwanho Street
Sai Wan Ho, Hong Kong

Shit’s a little hard to find, so make sure you follow the instructions on their website – to which I would add that when you exit the Sai Wan Ho MTR, turn right then cross Shau Kei Wan Road at the intersection with Tai On Street/Shing On Street. Follow Shing On Street and take a left when you come to Sai Wan Ho Street. Little Kitchen is located about halfway down, opposite the Park n Shop.  You’ll see a tiny doorbell on the wall to the right with their logo on it.

Phone:
+852 5616 4114

Price:
HKD500 (no service charge).  No corkage.

The deal:
When I first moved to HK, I thought that private kitchens were so interesting and a Grade A1 way to be a boastful, know it all fuck.  Yeah, I fucking know a place – it’s a private kitchen.  But then the accreting creep of HK disappointment took the steam out of that for me as well, realising that private kitchens were often a pain in the ass to book, food which is often inconsistent in quality and even when they claimed ‘no corkage’, you ended up getting stung for it when they didn’t actually have a liquor licence. In my quest to Journey to the East (because fuck, the Journey to the West is so played out), I rounded up some of my East side homies to check out Little Kitchen HK in Sai Wan Ho.  HOLY FUCK, that’s like nine stations after Central.  I’ve been riding the East so fucking hard at the moment, so much so that I’m even obnoxiously giving the suburbs unbearable hipster names like “Nopo” for North Point and “Sai Ho” for Sai Wan Ho.

Little Kitchen is a small, straight forward dining room, sitting 24 guests with no bullshit first / second sitting palava.  The open kitchen sits in one corner, so you can see Chef David Forestell and his crew doing their thing.  He’s observant as all hell too and at one point when I’m just looking around to see what’s going on, he asks if we need anything or had any questions.

Little Kitchen has a strict BYOB policy and truly doesn’t charge corkage.  If you’re an alcohol bitch like me and have similarly lush homies, this is gonna be an exciting economic prospect.

parksandrecsaubreythankyoualcohol

The deal is simple at Little Kitchen, Chef David runs a weekly menu consisting of a recommended four course set.  On the phone he let me know that if you wanted to change particular dishes or if there were any specific dietary requirements, he could make changes (although a surcharge would apply).  The weekly menu is posted on their website and their FB page and provides for Firsts, Nexts, Mains and Finish with a focus on seasonal ingredients.  Little Kitchen HK’s website claims “no specific dish will ever be repeated”, which means, how much point is there really for me to step you through what we had there?

While we wait for our food, we smash through some fuck yeah multi-grain bread made by Bread Elements.  Everyone already knows that I have a rock hard boner for Bread Elements bread, so I take this as a promising omen of good shit to come.  I didn’t even know it was Bread Elements bread at the time, but when I got home I messaged them to ask if they were on the bread supply to Little Kitchen HK because I almost automatically assume that any time I get decent bread in HK that it’s done by those fuckers.

The Little Kitchen HK menus are described in quite an idiosyncratic manner. For example, the pork rillettes are described as “Rillettes, Meaty Softness, Vegetable Confetti, Tiny Sparks of Colours, Toasted Croutons, Like We would Forget?” where Vegetable Confetti refers to a fine dice of carrots and celery. However, my favourite dish of the night was the Main course, the “Scottish Salmon, Cold-water Farmed, Long Leeks, the Real Deal from France, Lemon Beurre Blanc, Touches of Herbs and Wine”.  The salmon was tender as fuck and each element carefully thought through, I wanted to rub my face into this dish so I could capture every last bit of the Lemon Beurre Blanc because it was so carefully nuanced, balancing the lemon, butter and white wine into major fuck yeah times.

parksandrecsbutter

Our Finish (aka dessert) was the “Panna Cotta Milk meets Cream, Rhubarb Explorations, Stalks of Wonder, Warm Madeleines, a feat of Single Minded Foolishness (but tasty nonetheless)” and it’s fucking delicious.  Little Kitchen HK also gives everyone a small take away bag of chocolate sable cookies with a touch of sea salt to take home which is a real nice fucking touch and gives me something to remember our meal the next day.  As we’re finishing up, they also gave us a complimentary cup of mint tea. So thoughtful! So earnest!!

I think ultimately what I really fucking enjoyed about Little Kitchen HK is that this is clearly the singular vision of Chef David and he’s producing a weekly menu which he’s passionate about and driven by what’s seasonally working.  Service was quiet and efficient, I wouldn’t have minded a bit more explanation on what we were eating but that’s just because I’m a pretentious as fuck asshole who loves to know the wanky details of where my food grew up and who were its best friends.  But for someone that’s looking for a heart felt experience, perhaps a small dinner with four friends or an intimate casual date where you can BYOB, I’d most definitely put Little Kitchen HK on your list.  Depending if you can get your insular, parochial west-side homies to leave the common as fuck embrace of Sai Yung Pun / Sheung Wan and get their gentrified asses to Sai Wan Ho.

westsidestorytheresaplaceforus

Verdict:
Fuck yeah!! I BELIEVE IN YOU WEST SIDE HOMIES, you can most definitely travel to the East.

Where:
Morty’s Delicatessen
Shop 2-14 Lower Ground Floor, Jardine House 1
Jardine House, 1 Connaught Place
Central, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 3665 0900.  You can also order your sandwich shizz online – fuck yeahhhh, welcome to the future HK. BUT  WHO WILL WE FAX NOW?!

Price:
HKD148 for the large Reuben sandwich meal.  +10% service charge if you eat it in the restaurant.

The deal:
Hong Kong is the business for so many fucking things, but there is some shit that it is just NO GOOD at.  Such as how to use an umbrella in a crowd, websites, walking in a straight line and bearable humidity levels during the months of July and August.  In this category of HK fails, I’d also add sandwiches.  I don’t know why it’s so fucking hard to get a decent sandwich in HK but I’d heard some good shit about Morty’s, a New York style delicatessen, which has just opened in the lower ground floor of Jardine House.  Sandwich related hope in HK is indeed a bold proposition and seizing upon this tiny sliver of carb related hope, I rounded up two of my best American homies, Ms Two Serves and Ms Siuwaan, so we could get our fill of carbs and stacks of pastrami.

morganfreemanhope

Morty’s is doing some brisk trade and we pulled a time-tested HK move and got there right at 12pm to secure a table.  The menu offers a number of different sandwiches, smoked meat and specialty sandwiches, including all the big bangin’ classics you’d expect such as the Reuben, Classic Pastrami, Club Sandwich and the Grilled Cheese.  I went for the Reuben because if I was gonna judge whether Morty’s had its NY sandwich game on, I didn’t want it to be on some bullshit new age smoked truffle chicken sandwich with grilled shiitake mushrooms, arugula and truffle mayo.

The Morty’s claim is that its pastrami is “cured between 5 & 21 days, rubbed with a top secret spice blend & then slowly smoked with techniques passed on by Morty’s great-grandfather”. The menu also declares proudly in caps that “ALL SANDWICHES INCLUDE HALF PICKLE & FRIES OR HOUSE SALAD”.  I predictably went for fries because fuck me, I ain’t interested in that house salad bullshit.  I did watch half a dozen or so paunchy office workers sigh and choose the limp, uninspiring salad to earn the privilege of being able to report to their over priced personal trainer that they did indeed forego potential spud related happiness for the “right choices”, in a forlorn attempt to stave off their fat fuck destiny that’s written in their desk bound existence in the money mills.

shut up about your diet

When our sandwiches arrive, they look fucking great.  Three layers of bread and a fuck yeah looking slab of pastrami in there, with a pile of fries on the side.  However, once we catch sight of the pickle on the side, our entire table has a flashback to the ALL CAPS menu claim of “HALF PICKLE” and we stare down what looks more like a quarter of a tiny ass pickle.  Ms Siuwaaan is even less impressed, declaring it to be a mere eighth of a pickle.  To add insult to injury, Morty’s not-really-a-half pickle is also entirely lack lustre, a soggy-ass mess with not enough piquancy or brine to make it fucking pop.  For me, I imagined that this is what it feels like when a pickle gives up on life.  One of my lunch comrades went past the existential pickle problems I was imagining and went straight to much saltier territory, declaring that it felt like a flaccid dick in her mouth. Either way you take it, fuck no to limp, impotent pickles.

van-damme-snake

I pile into my sandwich and the menu had described it as “Slow Smoked Pastrami, Swiss Cheese, Thousand Island Dressing & Sauerkraut on House Rye”.  First off, Morty’s pastrami is fucking great.  I got the medium fatty brisket and the spicing and cure on the pastrami is fucking delicious.  Look, I’m sure there’s better pastrami available in the USA but as far as HK goes, Morty’s pastrami is legit.  However, Ms Siuwaaan and Ms Two Serves were less impressed, as they had ordered fatty brisket which looked remarkably like medium to lean brisket.  But this is the thing, a sandwich has to be the sum of all its parts and as I plowed through my gut-buster of a large Reuben Sandwich more and more flaws became apparent.  I started off pretty fucking excited about my sandwich but with each bite, I became less enamoured with what was going down.  Why was the Swiss cheese not melted enough?  Why was the only indication that there was even Thousand Island Dressing on my sandwich was the fact that I could see some pink sauce in there but couldn’t taste a fucking thing?  How come the sauerkraut was much the same, physically there but from a taste perspective it was bland as fuck, with none of the sour, fermented kick you would expect from sauerkraut?  The house rye bread was adequately fine but if you’d switched it out for country white bread, I’m not sure I could have tasted the difference as it didn’t have any of that dense, chewy and deeper flavour that I’d hope to get from a rye bread.  The fries that came with my sandwich were also completely unremarkable, so much so that I even left fries behind.  And trust me, deep fried potatoes with salt should be an easy fuck yeah slam dunk which generally sees me shovelling them into my face until they’re all gone.  All I can think about is that this is a sandwich that has been created to look the part, but no one has thought about it critically as a whole.

So the three of us sit there, our souls weary and Ms Siuwaan looks at us with heavy eyes and heart, stating simply “I don’t even know why I get excited about anything new in HK anymore, because it always ends in disappointment”.  So we sit there in silence with our cold fries and untouched sad-ass looking salads and allow yet another HK sandwich related tidal wave of ennui soak us to our jaded, worn out bones, as the shards of any sort of HK carb related glory lay shattered around our feet.

Verdict:
Fuck no.  Cause as I texted someone later that day – “Sad pickle.  Sad sandwich.  Sad carbs = sad fucking times”.

Where:
Noma Australia
23 Barangaroo Ave
Barangaroo, Sydney, Australia

Price:
AUD485 (USD372 / HKD2,890) per person (with the matched wines clocking in at AUD215 (USD165 / HKD1,280).

The deal:
The omnipotent reputation and weight of Noma is crushing. So much so that Noma can announce that it’s going to leave its digs in Copenhagen, Denmark and spend 10 weeks in Sydney, Australia and even with the eye watering price tag and not knowing exactly what this will entail, a throng of eager punters crushed the servers and snapped up all of the available tickets in mere minutes and then 27,000 wannabe customers piled onto the waitlist in the faint hope that someone might give their golden ticket away. Through some judicious planning which involved a coordinated syndicate of food obsessed assholes agreeing to target certain dates and table sizes, I was lucky enough to secure a booking for a table of eight and planned an international trip to Sydney around it.

Our booking was for Noma Australia’s third last night in town and I’d tried to stay on a relative media blackout, spotting the occasional picture online but resisting the urge to read the write ups so I could approach it without any preconceptions. Arriving just as the Sydney sun was slipping away over the harbour, we sit outside on the wooden table and benches as Noma’s waitstaff efficiently flit around and sort us out with an aperitif, their take on the Snakebite as we have a clear view of their chefs preparing various components in both their inside and outside kitchen. The choice of the Snakebite sets an indicative humorous tone which pervades some dishes, playing on a drink which traditionally is a blend of cheap beer and cider (sometimes with the addition of red cordial to hide the alcohol related atrocities which lurk below), favoured by young Australians who don’t know better other than they want to get wasted as quickly as possible. In this rendition though, it’s a cider / beer inspired blend made by Ashley Huntington of Two Metre Tall in Tasmania, using a combination of a seven year old ale, a two year old apple cider, a two year old pear cider and young soured ale, which is lightly effervescent and highly drinkable. I guess old Australian drinking habits die hard because I could have easily finished off a bottle of this.

Even at the end of ten weeks just as the Australian summer turns itself into autumn, the staff show not a shred of apathy and in fact seem to be beaming from their time in Australia, forming a guard to greet every table as they pass through the entrance and hold me back, René Redzepi himself is front and centre greeting guests with a beatific smile. I resist all urge to lunge towards him to grab a tuft of his hair to sew into my deranged voodoo chef doll which enjoys foraging and exploring the boundaries of local produce and instead smile politely and try to act like oh hay, no biggie, it’s just René welcoming me into motherfucking NOMA AUSTRALIA.

The Foolscap Studio designed dining room is straight forward and simple, taking cues from the Australian outback as well as Noma’s Danish heritage, with the art work taking inspiration from the ochre hued Australian landscape and the placement of several native blackboy grass trees. The Carl Hansen & Sons wooden tables and chairs have been shipped in from Denmark with the occasional wallaby fur pelt strewn across the back of a chair and a purposefully tousled bouquet of Australian foliage and flowers sitting in the centre of every table. There’s thirteen courses (ten savoury courses and three desserts) and no written menu is presented, with each course and the provenance of all the locally sourced ingredients explained by the enthusiastic staff at the beginning of each course.

The first tasting dish is the unripe macadamia and spanner crab, which uses thin slices of green macadamia nuts in a clear, chilled spanner crab consommé with a touch of rose oil. Served in an earthen stoneware bowl surrounded by ice, our waiter lets us know that it took the Noma team three days and several knives to figure out how to prise an unripe and stubborn macadamia from its shell. The sweet green macadamia is reminiscent of a firm water chestnut, playing well with the cool, sweet spanner crab consommé with only a hint of the floral rose peeking through.

The wild seasonal berries flavoured with gubinge (Kakadu plum), is a plate of native berries (including lillypillies, lemon aspen and muntries) and pickled lemon myrtle buds.  It’s beautiful as fuck, all pale pinks, greens, creams and yellows with the white powder of a Kakadu plum dusted all over. It’s an intense mix of sweet against sour, astringent and salty flavor profiles, the Kakadu plum powder reminding me of how the Taiwanese use plum powder on their pineapple or apples, to get that same fuck yeah salty and sweet flavor contrast.

The porridge of golden and desert oak wattleseed with saltbush looks innocuous enough, consisting of three saltbush leaves which are used to wrap a porridge made from two types of wattleseeds which have been boiled for hours to crack their tough outer seed cases, topped with a green oil made from anise myrtle. A finger lime and its caviar like insides is squeezed over this dish to cut through all the verdant flavours and nutty tones and this is the first dish of the night which knocks me the fuck over. I was the slowest person on my table to eat this dish because I wanted to understand every part of it on its own and all together and by the time I’d done this, I’d already eaten two of the three parcels, so I had to slow the fuck down so I could fully process what the fuck was going on in the final saltbush parcel as I declared multiple times that I was having a serious fuck yeah moment.

The seafood platter and crocodile fat, is five shellfish that are perched across smooth river rocks and topped with shards of chicken stock skin (imagine the film that forms when you roast a chicken and the oil drips to the pan and you allow that to cool slightly) painted with crocodile fat that look like the rock pools that dot our Australian coastline. I have no reference point for what crocodile fat should taste like and while the shards are interesting, it’s really all about the sweet simple flesh of the clams, mussel, pippi and oyster.

The WA deep sea snow crab with cured egg yolk comes with the René Redzepi’s claim that he thinks that this deep sea snow crab from Albany, located on the southern coast of Western Australia is one of the best in the world and it’s impossible not to feel some sort of patriotic pang of pride that this is Australia punching out its best on the global crab stage. This dish is fucking spectacular, the barely warm flesh of the snow crab just picked from its shell is mixed with an egg yolk which has been cured in kangaroo garum (fermented sauce made from kangaroo mince, which Noma started making back in October), rice koji (a fermented culture fed on rice, kept in a warm place)  and smoked butter. To mix this warm, sweet delicate meat with the cured egg yolk feels reminiscent of the salty egg yolks that you’ve had in Hong Kong, but topped with this barely there fish-sauce like note from the fermented kangaroo meat and koji creates something you’ve never had before but with a few familiar reference points.

That’s not to say that it’s all ecstatic rapture and the unbelievable swelling of new flavours. Noma’s take on the Australian tradition of the meat pie is made from dried scallops and topped with nasturtium flowers. The pie itself is a kelp crust, filled with nasturtium stems, topped with a brown, viscous and slightly grainy, sticky frozen topping made from combining dried Tasmanian scallops together with beeswax and elderflower oil.  Unfortunately, it reminds me of the brown grease that drips from my rangehood when it’s overdue for a clean. This is eaten with two accompanying yellow and orange nasturtium flowers (the earlier sittings at Noma ate this with a lantana flower), their peppery sharp flavour cutting through this greasy, rich scallop chilled fudge like paste but I’m unable to fully shake the smell of stale oil from my rangehood.

The next three courses are the BBQ’d milk ‘dumpling’ with marron and magpie goose, the simply named truffle and avocado and the sea urchin and tomato dried with pepper berries. The ‘dumpling’ uses a crispy milk skin crepe to wrap together a barely cooked marron (a small Australian lobster-like crustacean) with the meatier punch of the gamey magpie goose, all wrapped together in a nasturtium leaf. I’ve never eaten magpie goose but understand that it’s a bird from the Northern Territory that’s almost regarded as a pest given its predilection for eating mangoes.  The truffle and avocado is a single slice of creamy avocado, topped with a black truffle ragout which is a simple fuck yeah interlude from all the layered, complex dishes before it. To reset the palate for the final savoury course, it’s a clean and fresh fuck yeah dish of Tasmanian sundried bush tomatoes, dehydrated for eight hours, topped with subtle Southern NSW sea urchins from Ulladulla and a broth made from native pepper berries (with shades of the Sichuan pepper) and elderflower oil.

The final savoury course is one of my absolute fuck yeah favourites of the night, Noma’s take on the Australian pub meal, the abalone schnitzel with bush condiments. Or as it’s more affectionately known in Australia, the schnitty. Served with a knotted bouquet of Australian green herbs (including Warrigal Greens), Kakadu plum, nuts (palm nut, Atherton Oak Nut), an assortment of seaweed (sea fennel, glass beads and Neptune’s Necklace), a stem of mat rush and the tiniest half of a native Australian sandpaper fig. The abalone has been crumbed and fried, after some sort of complicated cooking technique applied to it, to make an otherwise chewy shellfish into something tender.  The schnitty is fucking great on its own but by combining a bite of this schnitty with the Australian accoutrements is when it transcends fucking everything.  It’s the sweet, young slightly starchy stem of the mat rush. The grassy bouquet of green herbs which cut through the fat of the schnitzel and smash you in the face. The finger lime makes another appearance with its acidic, citrus pearls bursting in your mouth to cut through the fried schnitzel and the green notes. I want to eat this dish again just so I can really get my head around all the fuck yeah Australian foliage and seaweed magic that was happening on this plate.

The next three dessert courses have been much discussed by the press and it’s easy to see why given the green ants on fruit and the highly photogenic riffs on the Australian classics, the lamington (a chocolate and desiccated coconut covered sponge) and the Golden Gaytime ice-cream (a toffee and vanilla ice-cream dipped in chocolate and wrapped in honeycomb biscuits, on a wooden popsicle-stick). ice-cream.  The first fruit based dessert, marinated fresh fruit, is simple, a piece of mango wrapped in a palm leaf and topped with small dried green ants, and a cube of pineapple and watermelon all set on ice.  I wryly smile to myself as I think about how instead of getting food for ants, I’m actually getting food with ants.  As you can expect, each piece of fruit is intense and represents a best in class example of that fruit, with the dried green eats tasting exactly as you’d imagine if you’ve ever squashed an ant.

The rum lamington is all white, an airy piece of cake which is pumped full of Black Head Rum made just north of Sydney, with the “coconut” made from grated solidified milk, sitting in a red pool of native tamarind which isn’t as sour as the tamarind I’m used to.  The native tamarind sauce cuts through the sweetness as the lamington dissolves to nothing in your mouth. While tasty it’s not knock your lights out delicious and relies more on its story and reference to what a lamington is.

The final course is the peanut milk and freekah “Baytime”, which looks like a little a mini-rustic Magnum ice-cream, with its riberry stick instead of the traditional wooden paddlepop.  The ice-cream component has been made from a raw peanut milk and there’s a caramel centre, before it’s coated with a freekah glaze, that gives it the appearance of the chocolate coating of a Golden Gaytime.  Freekah is an ancient grain which Noma have roasted until it’s dark and in the glaze, it tastes like a deep, roasted grain with some chocolate overtones (even though there’s no chocolate in it).  It’s fun and interesting, a humorous and earthy nod to an Australian ice-cream icon but not a blockbuster dessert on its own.  With the food all done, we go outside to take our final digestifs and René makes the rounds to the remaining tables outside, stopping in to say hello (although he didn’t make it to our table), before we leave to literally and mentally digest everything that’s gone before.

When I got home that night, I actually couldn’t sleep because I was too busy trying to process exactly why I had this downright, primal and visceral reaction to this meal. The feeling when your heart can’t even fit your chest and you shake your head because you can’t figure out why did this meal resonate in every part of your being?  And then days later, with some furious internal workshopping as to why this moved my internal needle so much, I slowly began to pull together the more nebulous threads to why Noma Australia felt so personally Australian. Because sure, at first glance the Australian connection is so fucking obvious, it’s the madness of René Redzepi and his globally sourced Noma team coming to Australia to seek out these indigenous ingredients which Australia itself doesn’t use with regularity and then making that work within some sort of commercial context.  It’s the subtle nod to Australian food icons such as the lamington or the meat pie. But then it’s the realisation that for all these new ingredients and highly technical preparative techniques what lodges it in my psyche is the association to personal shit that you know from actually growing up in Australia:

It’s the bunch of native Australian herbs with the schnitzel, which hit you in the back of your throat like the smell of freshly mown grass because fuck, we had the luxury and privilege of lawns in Australia.

It’s the quarters of lillypillies in the wild seasonal berries assortment that you remember from the novelty of being able to eat something that looked like a tiny pale pink apple, straight from the tree in your backyard as a kid.

It’s the verdant, fragrant oils distilled from Australian foliage used in the saltbush wattleseed porridge that remind you of the eucalyptus and lemon myrtle leaves you’ve picked when you’ve been in the Australian bush on school camp and crushed them between your fingers, to leave that green smell of fresh gum trees on your fingers that will never as long as you’re alive will remind you of anything other than Australia.

It’s the shellfish nestled in the smooth river rocks which throw you back to that time you were under the almost surreal azure skies and poking around the crystal clear rock pools of some remote part of Australia’s jagged coast line where every rock you moved with a stick saw five things move the fuck away from you.

It’s the use of nasturtium flowers and stems which remind you of how nasturtiums used to grow almost like weeds in your backyard and eating the flowers as a kid before you spat them out in sheer disgust, wondering why anyone would ever want to eat these stinky, peppery pungent flowers (and now look at you, you’re paying hundreds of dollars for the privilege).

It’s the smear of black truffle ragout on a piece of avocado which you already think FUCK YEAH AUSTRALIA because of the dire avocado situation in Hong Kong. But the truffle ragout paste is black and filled with vaguely yeasty and umami tones giving you some poshed up fancy as fuck take to all the avocado toast with a smear of Australia’s real black gold, Vegemite, that you’ve devoured in this lifetime.

It’s the delicate strand of glass bead and Neptune’s Necklace seaweed which burst in your mouth and remind you of the sargassum seaweed balls that you popped between your fingers when you were down at the beach on school holidays.

It’s when you eat the zingy green ants perched on the mango for dessert which while you’ve never eaten ants before, the taste reminds you of sitting on some warm lawn, the tiny stinging bites of these anty fuckers and the smell of the sharp formic acid after you’ve crushed their feeble bodies against your legs.

So you take this body of personal Australia experience and process that against the fact it’s been a Danish chef who’s shown it to you and then you set that against everything that’s conspired to let you be there, to have this in your existence. Getting the tickets to Noma Australia. Having the time and means to get your ass to Sydney to effectively have dinner. With everything lined up, you then get to have a dining experience which speaks so uniquely to what you know as an Australian and then expands upon that by showing you all sorts of shit you didn’t even know. Noma Australia moved me in a seriously major way and it crystallised everything I fucking love about food and eating.

Because what is better than food that moves you? Food where absolutely everything on that plate has been pored over and deliberated on to be a distillation of what a chef is passionate about, what he truly believes in and presenting this fucking incredible innovative take on unconventional ingredients and still make the sum greater than its individual parts. Where in the ensuing days and weeks, you’re still trying to fucking figure it out in your head as to why it was such a fucking potent experience? I eat so much all the time but I’ve never had an experience which has thrown up so many thoughts and questions days later. I desperately want to know every single thing and detail behind this meal so I can better understand how Noma ended up at this final point for their Australian menu and how did they distil so much of this fucking amazing country into thirteen plates of food.

This was a meal which at the time it hits you in the chest with the impact of something totally fucking new but then pulls you in by the shoulders, to kiss you softly on the forehead with familiarity and nostalgia.

And with that, I will never forget you Noma Australia.

Verdict:
ALL THE FUCK YEAHS EVER.

Where:
Soo Viet
247 Des Voeux West
Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2858 1855 (I don’t think it’s a booking kind of place though)

Price:
Mr Judgmental and I got out at HKD110 each, but he’s also a remorseless eating machine who forces me to be a better person.  Other people will probably spend less than HKD100 per head.  No service charge.

homerdonuts

The deal:
One of my loyal FYN homies chimed in on the Fuck Yeah Noms FB post (fuck yeahhh, like that good shit already) regarding my FYN review of Pho Bar and gave up the secret regarding the existence of Soo Viet.  She expertly claimed that while the pho was good at Soo Viet, the real star was the bun bo hue, which required you to pre-order it as this gave the restaurant enough time to prepare the stock and get their asses down to the wet market for the right ingredients.  This of course sent me into a frenzy and I messaged Soo Viet to find out how I could secure bun bo hue for lunch time and was given the fuck yeah news that they now have enough supplies to have bun bo hue on offer all the time.

Mr Judgmental and I sit down in the tiny restaurant and experience some confusion as to why they’ve chosen to feature prominently a massive blow up poster of an article for when the Soo Viet owner used to be the bar manager of Xperience, a bar in Wan Chai.  The menu is extensive and things are quite ambiguously named, so we narrow our choices based on what was deemed worthy of a photo and some chats with the owner.  This is how we end up with a fuck yeah serve of the SOO Viet Egg Roll (HKD43) (cha gio), fried pork spring rolls which you wrap in lettuce leaves, Vietnamese mint and mint, before dipping it in a sharp vinegar and fish sauce based dipping sauce.  I’m always partial to a bit of deep fried action and I can’t help but think that Le Garcon Saigon probably serve something similar but charge you HKD168 for it.  These fuck yeah spring rolls do go someway in easing our disappointment that the SOO Viet Ban Xeo Crepe (HKD55) is only available at night.

Mr Judgmental insists that our incoming two bowls of noodles is insufficient for our daily carb requirements and orders a Soo Viet Banh Mi (HKD42).  It’s tasty enough with the standard mix of pate, Vietnamese pork sausage, pickled daikon and carrots and coriander.  It’s all served on a baguette which hits a good balance between a soft inside and a crusty exterior, but not so fucking crusty that you end up with some sort of eating related injury by cutting your mouth up to shit. I won’t make bold claims that it’s the best banh mi in HK but I wouldn’t tell you that you need to definitely get involved either.

We predictably get a serve of Soo Viet’s pho, which is titled as the Soo Viet Noodle Soup (HKD65) and is your mega-serve of rare beef pho with all the trimmings (beef balls, tripe and Vietnamese sausage).  It’s tasty and I enjoyed it a lot but it falls more in the category of quick and easy beef pho vs the delicious as fuck, rich stock of Pho Bar which has been created with the deep, slow cooked pho stock concept in mind.  In fuck yeah times though, there is a generous serve of beef, tripe and other ingredients which has gotta rate for some points because there’s nothing sadder when you eat two measly slices of beef and half a beef ball and realise that you’ve come to the end of your “deluxe” pho experience and it’s just mint stalks, rice noodles and stock from here on in.

But it’s when we get to the off-menu, Hue specialty, the bun bo hue (HKD50) that shit really gets real.  We tried to quiz our waitress to find out if there were other off-menu items that we needed to get involved with but she assured us that this was it.  A bun bo hue is a spicy soup made by boiling down beef bones with lemongrass, baby bird eye chillies and fermented shrimp paste (mam ruoc).  When compared to a pho it’s got more of a sour, spicy jive to it and then uses a firmer round rice noodle vs the standard flat rice noodle.  Soo Viet don’t skimp on the ingredients and top this noodle bowl with beef shank, basil, coriander, fresh onions, shallots, Vietnamese sausage and lemongrass.  There’s also thinly shredded purple banana blossoms which Soo Viet fly in from Vietnam, rather than taking the easier option of just substituting in the cheaper and more readily available red cabbage.  The stock and the beef shank is really where it’s at though and the mix of flavours from the spice from the chillies, the deep beef stock and the fermented shrimp paste creates some real fuck yeah feelings for the bargain price of only HKD50.

opramindblown

So as it turns out, the best fuck yeah dish we had at Soo Viet is the one that isn’t on the menu.  This is where I am always and forever grateful for my benevolent and kind FYN homies who share the love and wanna keep me in FUCK YEAH NOMS.  And now all of us can share in Soo Viet’s bun bo hue fuck yeah secrets.  So to my best FYN homies, let it be known that always and forever, my love will run deep for you – cause my FYN homies clearly are the BEST FUCK YEAH HOMIES.

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhhhhh! Cheap and tasty as fuck Vietnoms – most importantly, I’m still dreaming about the bun bo hue.  Yeah, you Sai Ying Pun assholes are most def gonna be into this good shit.

%d bloggers like this: