Hong Kong

Where:
Happy Paradise
UG/F 52-56 Staunton Street (Entrance on Aberdeen Street)
Central, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2816 2118 (but predictably, NO FUCKING RESERVATIONS)

Price:
We got out at HKD650ish per person, including two drinks each.  The receipt claims that all service charge/tips goes directly to the staff which I give a resounding FUCK YEAH.

The deal:
May Chow’s latest restaurant, with John Javier as Executive Chef, occupies the space where the old Butchers Club Steak Frites (RIP) joint used to be, above Stanzione Novella.  Whoever would have thought that charging too much cash for steak frites when every second restaurant opening in 2015 was a steak frites place would not have the staying power to limp through the battlefield of fad hungry HK consumers and nefarious HK landlords, driven wild by the desire of always getting more?

Snippy obvious observations aside, Happy Paradise is stylistic as fuck though and you can read any number of reviews of Happy Paradise and tick off the following phrases like a restaurant review bingo board – “neo-Cantonese”, “neon filled dive bar”, “80s inspired”, “modern cha chaan teng” and “cantopop soundtrack”.  For me, it reminds me of a glossier version of the old Forever Lounge in Tai Hang (before they renovated themselves only slightly to take some of the edges out), shiny purple and pink neon but without the buckets of Blue Girl, slightly sticky worn out furnishings and the heavy, weary acceptance written across the faces of tobacco soaked older men.

Our waiter is immediately onto us all Misty Copeland style (ie. ON POINT) and setting us straight on how to order our drinks and food. The drinks menu is split into two pages, one named “easy” and the other “adventurous”.  No, it’s not just how I like my eggs paramours but Happy Paradise’s code for drinks that are best before dinner (“easy”) and ones after food (“adventurous”).  I get the “Pink Flamingo” (HKD118 +10% service charge), Jamaican rum, passionfruit, Campari and lime, which shows a fuck yeah balance between sweet, bitter and acid.  Keeping with the pink theme, I sneak a sip of my homie’s “Swoon Lee” (HKD108 +10% service charge), white rum and watermelon with a salted black lime rim, reminding me of the salty lemon lemonades I used to suck down in the cha chaan tengs.

Our first dish, is the Scallops “rice roll” (HKD110 +10% service charge) is the one dish that almost every single person who goes to Happy Paradise will tell you to order.  It’s a take on “cheung fan” (ie. rolled rice flour noodles) except pureed scallops are made into flat sheets which are steamed and then rolled.  Served with soy sauce and chilli oil, there’s only four tiny pieces. A flicker of concern dances across my psyche given that one of the concerns I had with Happy Paradise was spending all my money on stylish but tiny ass food for ants.  I guess my old fears die hard, especially given that May Chow is also behind Little Bao (yes I know, the clue is in the first half of the name).  Regardless, it is fucking delicious and an innovative take on this traditional Cantonese dish and reminds me of the upside down interpretations like the fucking amazing Mapo Tofu Burrata that you also get at May Chow’s other restaurant, Second Draft.

I was seriously jonesing for the cuttlefish toast, because it reminds me of my nostalgic Strayan childhood with bastardised versions of Chinese food like prawn toast.  But I also balk at paying HKD58 (+10% service charge) per person for tiny bits of deep fried bread.  I obviously don’t balk hard enough because I ordered it anyway and it’s fucking great.  Of course, how hard is it to fuck up deep frying things on white bread? Regardless, it’s a good combo with the sweetness of the cuttlefish brought out by the accompanying sweet corn puree and rounded out by the black garlic puree.  HKD58+ enjoyable for a few bites?  I’m not entirely convinced and make another entry into my ever increasing autobiographical tome, “The Carbs Made Me Do It“.

One of the specials when we were there was a cold steamed egg (HKD88 +10% service charge), which sounds fairly unremarkable.  But fuck, this was one of the most incredible dishes we had that night.  This steamed egg was the smoothest, silkiest thing that I’ve eaten in recent memory.  I don’t know how the fuck they got this egg into this wondrous state of being but one bite in and my heart is filled with the snaking guitar licks of Santana and before I know it, Rob Thomas is imploring me to “Give me your heart, make it real or else forget about it”.  YES, IT’S THAT FUCKING SMOOTH:

robthomassmooth

Topped with ginger, scallions and yuzu, there’s this green shoot on top which I can’t quite place.  I ask our waiter homie what is up with this slightly crunchy, not quite gelatinous vegetable and he tells me it’s ice plant that they’ve, quote, done some “special stuff” to.  Upon some research, I’ve since discovered it’s also known as kudzu and has the tendency to become an invasive species, choking ou the habitat of native vegetation.  Well, invade my heart Mr Ice Plant Man because I am most def into the way your unique, slightly stiff though yielding cellular structure is doing its thing against the smoothest, egg custard ever and is topped with the slightly sweet and vinegary dressing.

iceplantbaby

We were pre-warned that the Tea Smoked Pigeon (HKD178 +10% service charge) comes out medium-rare.  Happy Paradise are not kidding and it comes out closer to rare.  I am ok with this though and I thoroughly enjoy every meaty, just cooked bite of this sky rat, with the follow through of the smokey tea.  I also like that Happy Paradise serve the whole bird up, its head attached traditional Chinese style and its scrawny limbs all askew.  Perhaps don’t order this if you have squeamish homies.  Or maybe a better alternative, find yourself better homies.

tracy-wanttobemyfriend

The Yellow Wine Chicken (HKD328 +10% service charge) is the most expensive dish of the night.   It’s a fuck yeah, the slow cooked chicken served with a broth made from glutinous rice wine, Shaoxing, and mushrooms, topped with chrysanthemum petals and crispy puffed black and Japanese rice.  A chicken claw is perched just on the edge of the bowl, like it’s trying to make some bold but ultimately futile escape from its Shaoxing infused fuck yeah fate.

To close it out, we finish with the Char Siu Rice (HKD158 + 10% service charge).  It’s inevitable that everyone will compare this to their local char siu joint and how their local haunt is soooo much cheaper.  Happy Paradise’s char siu is leaner than what you’d traditionally find at your local BBQ shop and served on top of a deconstructed egg, the yolk forming the sauce and a egg white patty.  There’s a side plate of the locally produced, sweet Kowloon Soy Company soy sauce and an earthen pot shaped like a pig, which holds liquid lard for you to mix into your rice.  In combination with the rice, soy, egg and lard, it’s obvious that this magical equation is gonna come out at as a celestial FUCK YEAH. Live lard, play hard because for the sake of my heart’s health, I’m glad that lard isn’t served this way with everything I eat but for the sake of my heart’s happiness, I sure wish it was.

naomicrying

I reflect upon this meal as the pulsating synth of Madonna’s 80s pop-new wave classic “Into the Groove” shimmies across the Happy Paradise landscape, it’s here I realise that for me, I’m into a place like Happy Paradise.  Why?  Because it’s a place which acknowledges where it comes from in both a time and place while dragging it unabashedly into a decade that’s sitting closer to 2020.  I think of how fucking bold it is to put yourself in whatever form that may be out there and not give a fuck what other people might think and in the candy tinged lighting and formica tabletops, Madonna closes out our night by singing about only feeling this free when she’s dancing.  In some sort of dramatic as fuck corollary, I can’t help but think that perhaps when you’re running your own kitchen and doing something that runs right down the vein of what you are as a chef, this must be your own version of throwing your head back and unapologetically dancing free.  And I’m so fucking into that.

Verdict:
I’m not convinced this is gonna be a hit for everyone but for someone who wants to see what a stylistic, new interpretation of HK food could be without resorting to smothering shu mai in truffles and gold flakes, it’s a resounding fuck yeah.

stop_penis_erect_archer

Where:
Fu Lu Shou (OMG I KNOW I ALREADY SEMI REVIEWED THEM BEFORE)
L7, 31 Hollywood Rd
Central, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2336 8812

Price:
Shit’s kinda hazy but cocktails were HKD100ish and food was HKD150iish – fuckkkkkkkkk I know, two half assed reviews and I can’t still tell you how much coin to expect to drop.

The deal:
After trying about three times to book a table at Fu Lu Shou (hot FYN tip, perhaps don’t try on a THURSDAY to book a table for a FRIDAY at one of HK’s newest, hot as fuck bars) finally made my triumphant return to Fu Lu Shou (or FUK LUK SAU cause we are in Hong Kong S to the mother fucking A R after all and not CHINA). You guys are going to start to think that I’m a Fu Lu Shou shill and they’re comping me shit which is why I’m always talking up their shizzzzz.  But don’t worry, I’m still paying for my own descent into a luscious (emphasis on lush), boozey and cuddly beach bikini body with my own hard earned HKD.  Back the fuck up junk season, imma coming for you.  Seriously though, I think their Sweet and Sour Pork is even fucking better than their fuck yeah prawn toasts and chicken wings that I had last time.  I tried some of their other cocktails but while the Ham Leng Chat (Salty Lemon cocktail) was interesting, I didn’t fucking love it.  But no matter because the star of the goddamn masterpiece is their take on the Dark and Stormy – the Typhoon 8.  I necked four of those glorious gingery rum filled bastards, amounting to a destructive Typhoon 32 force of nature, in a very punchy effort on a school night (after warming up on two other cocktails and three glasses of wine – which also explains why I STILL can’t provide super accurate price guidance).

Verdict:
From the bottom of my profanity filled heart, I fucking love you guys – I hope you can weather the fickle HK bar scene and continue to keep me in nostalgia filled, FUCK YEAH sweet and sour pork on a long term basis.

Where:
Mak’s Noodles
G/F, 37 Leighton Road
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2893 0006

Price:
HKD40ish for a bowl of congee.

The deal:
It’s well documented about the tears that I shed when it was discovered that Praise House @ iSquare TST had closed down.  Like an emotionally vulnerable girl who’s just had their boyfriend run off into the night without even saying goodbye properly, I’ve gingerly tried to get back on the congee dating scene.  I’ve been scouring lists online which claim to have the best congee in HK (and eliminating any of them which mention the very utilitarian though not inspiring Wong Chi Kei).

Mak’s Noodle is famous for its wonton mien/noodles and in the same way that the newspapers always refer to Xinjiang as “restive Xinjiang”, Mak’s wonton mien is always referred to as having “springy noodles” and “tiny serving sizes”. Mak’s clearly doesn’t give a fuck about its serving sizes though as everyone continues to flock there and any stupid ass celebrity chef who blows through town making a TV show will stop in. Anyway, the pei dan sai yuk juk (preserved egg + salty pork congee) is decent at the Tin Hau Mak’s Noodle branch but the same cannot be said for its Causeway Bay branch.  It looked ok and the bowl certainly wasn’t as tiny as the wonton noodle bowl but the juk just lacked anything memorable about it.  The consistency of the porridge wasn’t smooth enough and the flavour was just not memorable at all.  Like a date with a physically attractive guy who doesn’t have any interests outside of cricket, all the physical components were there but there was nothing interesting to pull it all together or warrant a second date.  It certainly wasn’t enough to move me on from the torrid and passionate love affair that I’d been having with the juk at Praise House. As I finish my substandard juk, the memories of Ms Praise House swirl around me like a Simple Minds’ song, ‘Don’t you, forget about me…don’t don’t don’t don’t’...

Verdict:
Fuck no.  But I must find the strength to move on, Ms Praise – I gotta face the facts, it’s fucking over.

Where:
Wing Kee Noodle (榮記粉麵)
27A Sugar St
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2808 2877 (definitely not a booking place, kinda like Yardbird)

Price:
HKD42 for the four option noodle bowl.  HKD7 for a can of drink.  Fuck yeah local prices!

The deal:
A local noms homie took me to have “Trolley/Cart Noodles” (車仔麵 – je tzai mien) which is one of those old as fuck HK dishes which dates back to when a street food vendor would push his noms trolley around and let people choose whatever the fuck they wanted in their noodles.  I don’t know why whenever I think of this image I get TI’s ‘Whatever You Like’ in my head and imagine Trolley Noodle Man singing at people ‘You can have whatever you like’ while gesturing towards a plate of pig’s intestine.  Apparently this was something that was big with the poorer HK peeps.  Now, if I was a hipster restauranteur, I would totally gank this idea and call my restaurant Mini Mien, get a big fuck off black, white and red graffiti piece on the wall with a group of Communist style commoners holding aloft their chopsticks and bowls instead of Mao’s Little Red Book, serve people a thimbleful of broth out of a tiny blue + white china teacup with three strands of noodles, add some foie gras as an option and charge HKD118 a bowl.  You heard it here first at FYN, Mini Mien coming to a tiny Sheung Wan / Sai Yin Pun joint replete with wooden crates, a tattooed United Colors of Bennetton cast and no service charge soon.

On the way over, my noms homie was starting to freak out that I was going to have a temper tantrum when I realised that we were going to a down and dirty local place.  I assured him that I am always down for local noms and I didn’t want to go to some sanitised restaurant in the World Trade Centre.  Crammed onto a tiny table with a random old lady, you then pick a) what goes in your noodles and b) what type of noodle you will have (ie. egg / rice vermicelli / instant noodles) .  Toppings include beef brisket, beef tendon, pork, wonton, pig skin, tofu, vegetables, stewed radish, balls balls balls (fish, squid, beef, etc.) and pretty much every part of a pig’s/cow’s digestive system (tripe, intestine) you could want.  I fucking showed my local noms homie when I proceeded to order all the weird shit for my noodles – beef brisket (ok, not weird yet), intestines, tripe + tendon.  I call it weird shit but we all know the cool people are calling it ‘snout-to-tail’ these days.  I think Trolley Noodles could be pretty fucking boring if it wasn’t for the tasty as fuck broth that Wing Kee were serving.  I’ll be real with you – I’m a little bit turgid thinking about dat broth.  You should then add some spicy as fuck chilli to make things hotter and then you just need to smash it into your head as quickly as possible.  No tissues provided (pay as you go) and if you linger, the waiter is going to throw a receipt at you and a look so dirty that you’ll need to shower and then he’ll pretty much push you out the door.  I caught a glimpse of the kitchen floor as we left and the hygiene levels definitely looked a bit fuck no but like a Kelly Clarkson single girl’s anthem ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you *dramatic pause* STRONGER’.  I averted my eyes because what you don’t see properly, can’t hurt you surely?

Verdict:
Fuck yeah local noms!  Fai dee (hurry) the fuck up though before they turn Wing Kee into a much needed TWELFTH Sasa in Causeway Bay (yes, I fucking counted on the Sasa website. WHY DO WE NEED ELEVEN SASAS IN CAUSEWAY BAY?!).

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