Fusion

Where:
Second Draft (FB Page)
G/F, 98 Tung Lo Wan Road
Tai Hang, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2656 0232.  YASSSS they take bookings – I’d also recommend making a booking because both times I’ve been they’ve seemed fairly busy.

Price:
Around HKD300 – 350 a person, including a couple of drinks.  Estimate around HKD200 per person for food (including 10% service charge).

The deal:
Second Draft is a collaboration between May Chow, the chef and founder behind Little Bao, and James Ling from The Tap Ale Project, who have their craft beer and simple eats in their Mong Kok restaurant/bar.  I’ll level with you, I didn’t have high hopes for Second Draft when I heard it was doing fusion modern food with craft beer, expecting that I’d be desperately trying to beg some beardy hipster waiter with tats to bring me some over-complicated food for ants which is trying too hard to be clever before I had to take out all the cash ever out of my wallet and then cruise for a second bang bang snack on the way home.   I never got into Little Bao because while I really enjoy the food at Little Bao, it’s exactly as the name promises – LITTLE.  Combine that with no bookings and its tiny (though delicious) baos the size of of a small child’s fist, it resulted in me cycling through this intense rollercoaster of fuck yeah and fuck no emotions whenever I ate there.  Such as “WOW this is fucking tasty” to “UH OH, how many of these little fuckers am I gonna have to eat to even touch my sides?” and then after some basic arithmetic I realise that the answer is “fuck tonnes x HKD78 each before tip = MY BANKRUPTCY, PLS TO HAVE IT”.

*cut to Sgt Noms’ matcha ice-cream bao sandwich melting under the hot, shower of impending bankruptcy tears*

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Second Draft is in the hip enclave Tai Hang, which I have a soft spot for even if it’s never really developed a knock out dining or bar scene.  But I guess that’s the hard to please game that hipster Tai Hang likes to play.  Second Draft is directly opposite where Stones (RIP) used to be and it’s a bright, simple space with sea-green walls, stencilled English/Chinese signs which say cute as fuck things like “NO SMOKING” and “BEWARE PICKPOCKETS”.  The back wall lists all the craft beers and hand pump beers that are available, our cheery waitress and knowledgeable bar dude telling us that that’s the best place for us to choose our beer from as they can’t keep the menus updated enough to keep up with their changing roster of beers.  I’m not the most knowledgeable fucker when it comes to beer but my more learned beer lovin’ homies are impressed with what’s on offer.  I stick to my Subject Matter Expertise and take down a Chen Pei Negroni (HKD120 +10% service charge), a lighter take on your traditional Negroni with Ford’s Gin, Aperol, Mancino Rosso and Aged Chen Pei (mandarin peel) and watch our bartender homie lovingly make this delicious as fuck cocktail with a beaker and a fucktonne of care.

The menu at Second Draft is split into Bar Snacks, Small Plates, Greens & Grains, Sandwiches, Fish & Meat and Chiella with the claim that they have taken traditional gastro-pub food and made it their own by riffing on traditional pub food by adding Asian touches.  Yes, I’m a sceptical fuck so I’ve already got my Why Are You Doing This? Pants at the ready to slip straight into when I get some bullshit Euro-Asian mishmash dish.  But I’m trying to be open minded so I keep them neatly folded to the side while I take a moment to appreciate that Second Draft have gone to the effort of having both English and Chinese on their menu which I give a massive fuck yeahhhhhh.

No self-respecting pub can claim to have their shit together if they can’t make good fries and Second Draft’s Tai Hang Fries (HKD68 + 10% service charge) are dusted with cumin, dried chilli and Szechuan peppers to give it a little bit of ‘ma la’ numbing spice, with a serve of aioli on the side.  There’s also chopped takana (pickled mustard leaf) fried into the mix which reminds me of the chai po (salted, preserved turnip) used by the Hokkien folk and is generally fried and used in omelettes or congee.  You wouldn’t think fries are something that are hard to execute but this week alone I’ve had two fuck no sad fries incidents in HK restaurants so GOLD STARS TO SECOND DRAFT, you know how to fry the fuck out of those potatoes and I showed my eternal appreciation by getting a spoon so I could eat the remaining spice and takana mixture left over when I’d decimated all the fries.

The Buffalo Wontons (HKD82 + 10% service charge for five wontons) are not stuffed with buffalo but are filled with Three Yellow Chicken and Chinese celery.  The name comes from the buffalo sauce which is where shit gets real, referencing the sauce normally found on a buffalo wing (but without the blue cheese), it’s just sour enough and a touch spicy.  To be honest, I can’t remember that much about the wontons but I do know that I wanted to bathe myself in dat fuck yeah sauce.

The Mapo Burrata (HKD138 + 10% service charge) references mapo tofu, and it’s optically creative by subbing out the white tofu with a white ball of burrata.  The ball of burrata is served on the pork “mapo” ragout, with some baby spinach leaves chilling on the side.  Finished off with a red, spicy Szechuan influenced sauce there’s that ‘mala’ spicy numb thing going on which plays against the coolness of the creamy burrata and the fresh spinach leaves.  Fuck yeahhhh, riffing on traditional Chinese dishes and actually producing something clever and delicious as fuck.  Definitely add this dish to your Must Order dishes if you find yourself at Second Draft.

It’s at this point that I realise that I’ve slipped into some sort of alternate HK reality slider because I realised we’ve been blessed with fuck yeah, top notch service all night.  What is this?!  Is our waitress attentive, friendly and totally on her shit?  Is she sniffing empty beer glasses and identifying what beer we’ve been drinking so she can get us another one before we even get a chance to desperately throw down thirsty face shade to try and get more drinks?  Is she equally fluent in English and Cantonese and busting out the charm and affable service bilingually across all the tables?! Is this really a waitress or a fallen angel from the Efficient Service Heavens as she changes all of our plates AND cutlery so we can enjoy our next round of food without it being tainted with all the dishes that have gone before??  I’m not used to this level of kindness in the wilds of HK Hospitality and I’m afraid that this vision of beautiful, efficient service is too good for this harsh and cruel HK world.  Don’t leave us our celestial hospitality angel, we want you, we need you, we love you.  PLEASE STAY.

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Someone had given me the red hot tip to smash up the Sandwich section at Second Draft and we went all in, ordering three of them – The Shanghai Dip, The Reuben and Fried Chicken sandwich (HKD98, HKD128 and HKD98 + 10% service charge, respectively).  Also, Bread Elements by Gregoire Michaud are doing their bread so at least you can be guaranteed that you’ll be avoiding the sad times and carb crimes that normally accompany most HK sandwiches.  The Shanghai Dip’s been getting some major promo at the moment as it was part of some Ultimate Sandwich Contest that’s been doing the rounds.  24 Hour braised pork leg and pickled cucumber is piled onto a ciabatta and served with a side of Stonecutter Scotch ale pork jus on the side, for you to get your dip on. It’s solid enough but I really thought I was going to enjoy this one more than I did, the dipping sauce and braised pork just being a bit too sweet for me to really get my full Fuck Yeah Sandwich on.

However, the Second Draft Reuben storms it home, using a dark beer bread and sliced pastrami, melted swiss cheese, pickled red cabbage and a young ginger dressing which in combination DING DING DING rings my FUCK YEAH SANDWICH bell so fucking hard.  In a major win, everything’s the right temperature which means that the sliced pastrami and its fatty streaks are still melting, the Swiss cheese is not a congealed slice of sadness and the toasted beer bread is actually still warm when it’s served.  Sure it’s not a traditional Reuben sandwich but I’ll take this one over some of the super sad ones I’ve had in HK.

We’d been seeing some fuck yeah looking fried chicken sandwiches being delivered to the other tables so we piled in for this one.  When it actually arrived at our table I realised that it wasn’t on any sort of appropriate bread but it was in fact constructed from, MY NEMESIS BRIOCHE.  In case you’ve forgotten about my feelings regarding brioche, please refer to my greatest contribution to the internet to date:

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Sir Crunch-a-lot tries to calm me down as my face screws up into what resembles a cat’s anus, “Maybe the brioche won’t be that bad? I mean, it still looks really good”.  He’s not lying, there’s a fuck yeahhhh looking fried piece of Three Yellow Chicken with Nam Yu (fermented tofu) Mayo, Pickled Ginger Coleslaw on BULLSHIT BRIOCHE.  As predicted, I can’t get turned on for brioche and as I eat my fried chicken sandwich, the brioche goes from being slightly offensive to being downright BULLSHIT when it disintegrates into a thin piece of soggy, slightly sweet bread.  ASIDE from the BULLSHIT BRIOCHE though, the fried chicken sandwich contents are FUCKING AMAZING.  The fried chicken is fried perfectly and the pickled ginger coleslaw brings a fresh, zingy bite to it and cuts through the grease of the fried chicken.  Don’t freak out about the fermented tofu in the mayo because it’s more just a of a low bass note that rumbles through the whole fuck yeah sandwich affair.  BUT WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY do people still insist on using toasted brioche for savory foods???? *falls to the floor with flailing arms, hands in rictus gripped into flipping the bird and gnashes teeth, amongst broken dreams and inferior bread choices*

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Don’t get me wrong, the Fried Chicken Sandwich was still FUCKING DELICIOUS.  So delicious that I added another order of the Fried Chicken (HKD108 + 10% service charge) so I could continue to get my fuck yeah chicken on without the distress of facing MY NEMESIS BRIOCHE.

I wasn’t exactly sure what the Octopus and Pork Belly (HKD148 + 10% service charge) would be, billed as “Nam Yu Braised Octopus and Pork Belly, Chimichurri and Pickled Garlic”.  This was my least favourite dish of the night because I didn’t really get what it was trying to be.  There were pieces of octopus and some pork belly sitting in a tomato gravy and some baby peas just floating about.  There was something nostalgic about this dish for all of us, touching on something from our childhood of peas and gravy but ultimately I just didn’t know what the sum of these parts was meant to be and I was neither better nor worse off for knowing this dish.

HOWEVER, the Flower Crab Pasta (HKD198 + 10% service charge) doesn’t suffer from this fate at all and when it arrives, it’s a pile of thick Shanghainese noodles, stirred through with a butter sauce, hand dressed pieces of Flower Crab and shredded cucumber.  There’s a whole egg yolk on top, hidden under the empty carapace of the Flower Crab which is meant to be broken and mixed through the noodles before eating.  It’s fucking gorgeous and this dish also brings the FUCK YEAHHHH feelings.  There’s the dense chew of the Shanghai noodles and the sweet pieces of crab which is matched with black vinegar to bring that Shanghainese crab feeling.  The noodles are coated with creamy, fat fuck feelings from the egg yolk and butter sauce but it’s also balanced with the acidity of the black vinegar and the fresh cucumber slices which pierce through the richness, so it’s all the dark and the light, the ying and the yang and the fuck yeahhhhs and the MEGA MAJOR MIGHT JUST HUMP THE TABLE LEG FUCK YEAHSSSSSS.  Just like a 90s power love ballad, YEAH YOU CRAB JUST TO KNOW YOU’RE ALIVE:

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This crab noodle dish was so fucking amazing that I trotted my fat little legs straight back to Tai Hang no less than FIVE DAYS later so I could get Mr Pinchy and his Carb related friends back into my life again.  Except I fell into a trap for young players and as I expectantly sat at my table, dreaming of the crab related love and happiness that was soon going to be in my face, my smiley waitress broke the sad news to me that Second Draft don’t do the Flower Crab Pasta before 6pm.  My heart breaks into a million pieces, my eyes shine with disappointed tears and FML, this is what it sounds like when foodie blogging assholes cry:

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So all of my reservations about Second Draft turned out to be incorrect, because I fucking loved it so much more than I ever thought I would.  Casual eats with top notch service, reasonably priced food which is riffing on the East / West thing but isn’t a total shit show, good beer/drinks and I can even book that shit so I’m guaranteed a table?  Sign me up for that good shit, preferably after 6pm so I can get that sweet fuck yeah Flower Crab Pasta in my life ASAP.

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhhhhh!!  I might even be able to move past the offensive use of brioche because dat Reuben Sandwich, Flower Crab Pasta and Mapo Burrata giving me serious LIFE.

Where:
Okra (fuck yeahhhh, absolutely useless HK restaurant websites)
110 Queen’s Road West
Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2806 1038 (but they don’t take bookings, but more on the reservation bullshit later).

Price:
HKD500ish for the food per person.  HKD660 per person including sake.  The bill very clearly states that the 10% service charge goes directly to OKRA’s staff.

The deal:
Chef Max Levy has recently opened up OKRA in Hong Kong, after establishing OKRA in Beijing.  If you read the press, it’s often mentioned that Chef Levy was the only non-Japanese sushi chef at Sushi Yasuda in New York.  OKRA Hong Kong is currently in soft opening and after hearing some good shit around the traps and seeing all the Instagram #foodie #foodporn shiz, I decided to get my ass down to its small, 12 seat restaurant with a few standing tables that can accommodate two to three people each in Sai Ying Pun.

When I emailed OKRA Hong Kong to ask about bookings, I received a polite and swift response that they don’t take bookings, but given their location they were fairly confident that I should get a seat.  However, another homie gave me the low down that when he’d emailed OKRA Hong Kong about bookings he’d received a detailed email about how they only take bookings for 6pm and you have to do the tasting menu.  Like thanks a lot you OKRA assholes, that’s just fucking dandy for anyone that may have a J-O-B and can’t get their weary ass down to Sai Ying Pun for super early stupid o’clock dinner times.  Seeing as I’m suffering from a crushing case of Jobitis, I resigned myself to the no booking scenario, arriving at OKRA Hong Kong around 8pm.  We were politely told that our hopes of getting a counter seat were pretty much a big fat zero given that they were five parties ahead of us (even though no one was sitting at the counter yet) but we were welcome to eat at one of the standing tables.  Fuuuuuuuck, I get it, reservations are a pain in the goddamn ass for restaurants because customers are flakey, tardy dickwads who often don’t even have the decency to call up to cancel but FUCK, as a responsible customer who never ditches a booking, it still gnaws at my inner being that I am the one who is reaping the failed crop of no-seat-uncertainty sown by rude as fuck doucheknuckles who can’t keep bookings. Taking a more positive view, at least we didn’t have to wait to get a standing table but real talk, this sad sack of bones, blood and fat barely held together by some skin is not built for endurance sports like eating an entire meal standing up.

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I calm my rattled no-booking nerves by ordering a bottle of the Kaze No Mori Nama Akitsuho Muroka Nama Genshu Junmai sake (HKD418 + 10% service charge), after some considered discussion with our fuck yeahhhh, friendly as fuck waitress.  She promises a light effervescent fizz to it and the aroma of dried yuzu peel, green banana and fresh bamboo while giving us some nice chat about the Akitsuho rice that’s used to make it from Nara.  It all makes sense and with the green banana note resonating the loudest, I try not to glare too enviously at all the seated, comfortable OKRA homies, enjoying the privilege of a chair while eating dinner.

OKRA’s menu is split into an A-side (smaller eats) and a B-side (slightly larger), with the a recommendation printed at the top to essentially order one A and one B per person.  I interrogate my waiter and he brims with unbridled delight when he talks about the food while he makes some thoughtful recommendations, which makes me pretty fucking excited for my meal. Fuck yeahhhh, waiter homies who give a fuck.

Our first dish is the Carabinero Prawn Soup (HKD78 +10% service charge) which our waiter recommended not only for the sweet, delicate flavour of the red Spanish prawn but also the fact that OKRA smoke their own Buddha’s hand (a citrus fruit that looks like a yellow claw) and then incorporate it into a dashi stock, which is poured over the prawn.  He does point out that a reason he likes it is because it “makes a cool photo”.  Ohhh, cause that’s why I order dishes:

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However, when our dish arrives we realise that while the menu claims is “Red Spanish prawns with smoked buddha’s hand dashi” it was clearly not drafted by some particular as fuck pedantic asshole because it’s a singular prawn chilling out elegantly in a no doubt, carefully selected ceramic bowl.  Which surprised us a bit, given that the menu claims that ALL dishes are built for sharing and at no point did our waiter point out that perhaps we should order three prawns, given that there’s three of us eating.  While I’m not that into photos, I was definitely into this sweet, sweet prawn which we dissected into three pieces, its sweet, raw body gently cooked by the hot dashi broth that is poured over it.

Our serve of Sashimi Ume (HKD178 +10% service charge) is the closest to a traditional Japanese dish that we ate all night and consists of “three types of fish” from Fukuoka and is everything you can hope for from sashimi.  I bristle at the menu drafting because I am a pedantic asshole, as one of the sashimi items is a cherry prawn.  OKRA, Y U say fish when it’s a crustacean?! But inaccurate copy aside, it’s still fucking delicious and off the charts sweet, which I guess is more important than imprecise menu descriptions.

The Bafuni and Smoked Anchovies (HKD160 +10% service charge) was fucking magical, combining flavours that I’d never had before, even if it was firmly in food for ants territory.  OKRA Hong Kong use some shit hot bafun uni imported from Hokkaido and pair these creamy fuckers with paper thin slivers of salted buddha’s hand, anchovies, shredded pieces of tofu skin and shiso.  The anchovies are purposefully not particularly salty or strongly flavoured which allows each component to sit quiet and confidently in fuck yeah territory.  If only I’d had this entire bowl to myself instead of having to politely share it with my dining homies.

We move into the B-Sides and despite the claims of it being larger, I’m already contemplating the high chance that I’m gonna have to make a bang-bang stop after OKRA Hong Kong to ensure I’m not going to bed hungry.  The Unakyu Foie Gras (HKD238 +10% service charge) is a predictable fuck yeah because how can combining house made BBQ unagi (eel), honey miso duck liver and sanbaizu sauce (dashi, rice vinegar, soy sauce and mirin) not be major fuck yeah love?  The Roasted Beef Love Handle (HKD188 +10% service charge) also resonates with me and not just because I affectionately grab my own love handles while contemplating how this Black Angus Prime Chuck Tail Flap served with burnt olive oil and soy sauce is fucking delicious but how I deeply wish that my love-handled cow had really committed harder to being a fat fuck, so there’d be more fuck yeahhh roasted beef love handle for me to smash into my desperately wanting face.

The Unagi Fun (HKD168 +10% service charge) is a new menu item and it’s roasted eel over crispy sushi rice and pickles, which sounds simple as fuck but it’s executed perfectly.  I am still dreaming about the crispy sushi rice and the rich, just fatty enough, caramelised eel.  It’s at this point, I start to throw some serious shade at the menu’s claim that dishes are meant for sharing.  Maybe sharing between ants who fucking love precisely prepared and thoughtful Modern Japanese influenced cuisine?  Or perhaps for sharing between homies that don’t really eat and sustain themselves on a mixture of cocaine, cigarettes and black coffee?

As our waiter’s suggestion on the number of dishes to order was clearly off (perhaps because he isn’t a unrelenting eating machine like I am), we added some more dishes as I was still far closer to hungry than full.  We ordered a serve of the Hentai Quail Tatsuta (HKD108 +10% service charge) which sounded so fucking tiny on the menu, described as a “half baby quail marinated in a secret sauce of 2 herbs and spices and fried with preserved ginger and spring onion” but was tasty as fuck.  But let’s be real, after sharing this with three people, one-sixth of a quail is not really gonna make me the Mayor of Satiety Town.

However, my insatiable desire for MOAR FOOD paid off because if I hadn’t piled in for additional dishes, I would have missed out on the Chicken Fried Buri (HKD258 + 10% service charge).  I’m at imprecise menu drafting fever pitch now because there’s no actual chicken in this dish and it would be more accurately described as yellowtail fish/buri prepared in the style of fried chicken.  FYN Fun Fact:  Yellowtail is known as hamachi if it’s under three kilograms but it’s only when a yellowtail really commits to being a big fucker of at least five kilograms does it earn its big boy stripes as a buri.  

Japanese nomenclature aside, this dish was fucking unbelievable and it may be one of the best things I’ve eaten so far this year.  The buri is coated in a super thin, subtly spiced batter and deep-fried til it’s all crunchy and shit.  However, the buri is all white and still slightly cool and raw in the middle, served on top of a tangy, “crystal sauce”, grated fresh white daikon radish and some peppery micro-daikon sprouts.  I’m awash in fuck yeah feelings because this dish is just throwing multiple contrasting texture, temperatures and flavours at me and I’m feeling it so hard.  It’s the contrast of the temperature of the hot deep fried batter vs the cool middle of the buri.  It’s the contrast of the textures – fresh green micro-sprouts vs the buttery flesh of the buri vs the crispy batter.  It’s how all the flavours combine, the buri, piquant sauce, the batter, the peppery micr0-sprouts and the cool daikon radish.  All I know is that I’m caught in a tsunami of fuck yeah emotion and the tidal waves of buri love crash down upon me until I know that my life is now better for knowing this fuck yeah dish.

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After the epic chicken fried buri, I would have fucking loved a dessert to round off this meal and declare it THE END.  Unfortunately, OKRA Hong Kong didn’t have any sweeties going which meant that we flagged down the bill and went to find somewhere else for fuck yeah cocktails and chairs.

So when thinking about the whole deal, if not for the whole NO BOOKING palaver, I’d be so into recommending OKRA Hong Kong because these cats are doing something which they clearly believe in and are executing the fuck out of it.  The staff were passionate as fuck, knowledgeable and completed invested in making sure you were having a fuck yeah time  The food was so fresh and while clearly Japanese in origin was modern but utilised subtle flavours or techniques which were additive to the experience vs some sort of gauche frankenfusion bullshit mish mash which tries to drag well established cuisines into something imaginative.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah for the inventive but tiny food but fuck no with the no bookings unless it’s at 6pm reservations policy.  I’m just too old and lazy to be messing around with that hipster, no booking bullshit.  But trust me, when the omakaze-style private dining room opens upstairs and I can make a glorious and certain booking, I’ll be most def rounding up some like-minded homies to check OKRA’s shit out and see what else they can do.  I just wanna do it from a seat and without the chance that I’m on my feet for the whole meal or even worse, desperately combing the backstreets of Sai Ying Pun with a furious hunger in my belly,  searching for a Plan B because I got jammed at OKRA.

Where:
Mrs Pound (fuck no fail website though, it just links to their FB page)
6 Pound Lane
Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 3426 3949 (no reservations – apparently they were taking reservations but too many people in HK were flakey fuckers so they’ve moved to ‘first come, first served’.  FLIGHTY HK DOUCHEFUCKS, THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS)

Price:
HKD600+ for two people.  No booze.

The deal:
Mrs Pound is painfully fucking hip in a way that Cool HK is gonna be eating up that shizz whole heartedly in a month or so.  I can already see the breathless Foodie Magazine and Sassy reviews now about this hidden hip Sheung Wan secret! To die for fusion menu! Sheung Wan speakeasy with burlesque overtones! Modern twist on Asian classics!  Fucking exclamation marks aside, key leading indicators that the dark and neon back-lit Mrs Pound is smashing it out of the Hip as Fuck park:

  • POP UP POINTS:  Started at the PMQ markets as a pop up, before graduating into a fully fledged restaurant.  Fuck me, all it needed was to have started at Clockenflap to score more points in this fucking category.
  • HIDDEN, SECRET COOL HK POINTS:  Store frontage is a vintage stamp shop with no obvious way to get in – which means you have to ‘crack the code’ on how to fucking get in.  We got off easy because my homie was able to simply pull open the door (suspect that someone before us didn’t close it properly). This shit actually works in piquing punters’ curiosity as evidenced by the fact we actually got ambushed by a girl when we were leaving who asked us ‘What is going on in there??  I CAN HEAR MUSIC.  IS IT COOL IN THERE??’.
  • REFERENCES TO THE PAST POINTS:  Aside from the vintage stamp store front, the waiters wear vintage Topshop floral tee shirts. OLD SHIT, YO.
  • ASIAN MATRIARCH PEERING OVER RESTAURANT WITH BACK STORY POINTS:  Mrs Pound allegedly “prepares her own style of Asian street food.  Marrying classic flavours with contemporary flair”. Restaurant comes complete with a twee as fuck diorama containing photos of some retro Asian lady with a bouffant and cat eye makeup, actual feathers and a tassel in the scene.  See also:  Missy Ho’s, Mama san.
  • FUSION STREET FOOD POINTS:  The menu is a mash of Asian fusion dishes which have the potential to be a mega-fuck yeah or a fuck no fusion fail of epic proportions (example:  beef rendang poutine, laksa bibimbap).
  • IZAKAYA POINTS:  It’s the normal new style restaurant deal, food on sticks = more expensive and more exciting than food not on sticks.  Add shiso and we’ve got ourselves a bonafide hipster party.

Mrs Pound is as fresh as a pair of boxed Nikes, so it’s still in soft open.  Which is really code for “Please cut us some goddamn slack when we fuck up”. I really fucking wish I could go through my life throwing a ‘soft opening’ card at all of my shortcomings as well.  Oh hey work, sorry I missed that deadline – you know, soft opening.  Oh hey relationships, sorry I was a massive ballbaggin’ fuckhead at dinner because I spent the entire time texting other people and making boring as fuck conversation – but you knowwwww, soft opening.  Oh heyyyyyy attempts to be healthy, sorry I fell face first into half a bottle of red wine, six mojitos, numerous bowls of peanuts and McDonald’s on the way home instead of going to the gym, but you know – SOFT OPENING, MOTHERFUCKERS.

Despite the ‘soft open’ warning, Mrs Pound’s waiter homies were fucking on their shit – speedy, friendly and enthusiastic as fuck about the menu and the concept.  However, Mrs Pound’s soft opening moments meant that they don’t have a alcohol licence yet (fuck yeah though, cause it’s BYO time my frugal bitchezzz) and half of their menu was not available.  No rendang poutine, rendang bao or non-cake desserts.  I had so much deep want for the two rendang items but that soft opening ‘sorry sold out’ card was quickly thrown down.  We ordered some skewers, the bulgogi pork belly with fresh chopped shiso (HKD38 each) and the restive Xinjiang spiced lamb (HKD40 each).  The skewers were a fuck yeah, even if bordering on an exxy price point.  But fuck yeahhhh, I can get behind dat cumin spiced lamb shoulder skewer with its FUCK YEAH, garlic chive pesto sauce.  I wanted to spoon that green, chivey sauce onto EVERYTHING.  The waiter had recommended the Sriracha street corn (HKD58) which had the potential to be ‘just corn’ but it was also a buttery tasty fuck yeahhhh – grilled corn slathered with Sriracha kewpie mayo, lime zest, ginger, garlic and pecorino cheese that was getting its melt on.

The razor clam mirepoix consisted of razor clams steamed with chinese sausage/lap cheong, butter and a mirepoix (finely diced carrots, celery and onion) and was definitely a fuck yeah but at HKD168 for only two razor clams, it felt a bit like food for ants. Even if it was delicious as fuck, expensive food for ants.

However, the fuck yeah highlight of the night for me was the laksa bibimbap (HKD168) which was a bang on mash up of Korean vs Singapore with the bibimbap stone bowl style rice with the laksa flavours of SE Asia.  The hot as fuck stone bowl comes out with the laksa flavoured rice, cucumber, carrots, chicken and raw egg which is stirred through.  Shit only gets better when the rice sits in there and gets its crispy onnn.  FUCK YEAH, LAKSA BIBIMBAP.  FYN homies, you need this shit in your life ASAP.

Sadness though around the ‘ma la’ Sichuan chicken wings which were the most disappointing thing I ate at Mrs Pound.  At HKD75 and the promise of Sichuan pepper, chilli and garlic chicken wings I was so fucking excited but the batter was a bit thick for me.  Sorry 2 say Mrs Pound, your shit wasn’t better than my one true chicken wing love, MCWINGS at McDonald’s.  But that’s a lot of love to conquer.

We finished the night off with a slice of coconut cake given that there were no other more exciting desserts (no potential for HK egg waffle, peanut butter, condensed milk ice-cream sandwiches cause you know, soft opening). It was tasty enough but it’s not a dessert that’s been haunting my well fed fuck yeah dreams.

So I had a pretty fucking rad time at Mrs Pound and despite my natural inclination to be a real cynical fucker about these hip as fuck restaurants and the heartbreak that I didn’t get rendang poutine, shit was fucking fun.  It’s gonna totally be the hot new kid on the block, so round your hip homies up, pull on some stone stamp levers to get in and get dat grilled corn, restive Xinjiang lamb and laksa bibimbap in your life.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah on pay day cause shit’s almost verging on food for ants territory for the price point – best game day strategy is to not go starving.  For the FYN dames out there, time to convince someone to take you on a date there and half-heartedly reach for your wallet when the bill arrives. OH REALLY, YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE.

Unfortunately, sadder times for my penis possessing FYN homies, you cock rockin’ folk are fresh out of luck but on the plus side, Mrs Pound would be a fuck yeahhhh date location.  Godspeed to all of you just looking for a goddamn love connection with a side of contemporary Asian fusion food.

Where:
MAMA SAN by Will Meyrick
1/F, 46 Wyndham Street
Central, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2881 8901

Price:
HKD550 a person, including drinks and an ok amount of food.  Fuck yeah, better than expected price point.

The deal:
Although the name is “Mama San by Will Meyrick”, as far as I’ve been able to tell he just designs the menu, oversees the set up and then he fucks off back to Bali.  Chef Meyrick’s Bali credentials are pretty fucking serious with Sarong and Mama San behind him in Bali.  I haven’t eaten at either but have heard good things.  FYN truth tea time, I fucking love Balinese food – fuck yeah to SE Asian influences, fresh island ingredients and dat fuck yeah spicing.  But I know that Mama San isn’t meant to be Balinese food per se, but souped up modern South East Asian taking a predictable reference to Asian street food.  Mama San HK is name dropping influences like a rapper displaying just how culturally diverse their love for beautiful women can be – yo check it Australia, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Mama San HK’s decor is what you’d expect from a new Dining Concepts restaurant – suitably on trend with its moody fucker interiors – dark wood tables, strategic red accents, and black and white photos of Asia taken by Will himself while he was predictably learning authentic street food techniques.  A large retro style portrait of what presumably is Mama San herself, keeps a submissive, demure downcast glance across the room.  Whatever they paid Will Meyrick to design the menu has paid off, because it all sounds tasty as fuck.  If I rattle off what we ordered, it’s all going to sound like fuck yeah noms – such as “tuna betel leaves with lemongrass green tomato sambal matah and bumbu pasih”, “crispy salt bush lamb with ginger, coriander, lemon segments and pomegranate sauce”, “crispy whole snapper with three-flavor sauce – wild ginger, turmeric, pineapple, chilli and tamarind” (yeah I know, I counted five fucking flavours there but let’s not dwell on semantics – their menu, very offensively, doesn’t even use commas), “slow cooked crispy pork belly with green papaya, dried shrimp, apple, eggplant, peanuts and black vinegar caramel” and the “Cambodian duck with sweet potatoes, shallots and peanuts”.  Serving sizes weren’t particularly large and the food certainly didn’t look as fucking impressive as the photos I’ve seen on the HK food blogs around the traps or the glossy press photos.  But really, shit was ok too, with enough coriander, lemongrass and chilli to adequately tick off the Asian influences card. It’s almost trendy Asian food by numbers – #1) raw fish with coriander and lime in some sort of a wrap #2) protein with ginger, coriander and lemon grass sauce #3) some sort of whole fish – baked in salt or glazed in a sweet + sour sauce #4) some sort of a beef rib with more lemongrass and #5) some sort of slightly watery curry with duck or chicken in it.  Someone asked me a few days later what was the best thing I ate at Mama San HK and I struggle to remember a dish which elicited a solid fuck yeah or a vivid memory of any description.

So, my ongoing weariness and malaise with Mama San and all the other new restaurants which follow that typical big dining group in HK model – everything is just so fucking adequate, aided by smoke and mirrors in the form of sleek, modern interiors with industrial decor.  Before you get there, you read the press releases about Mama San with some big name chef that really has minimal responsibilities past designing the menu but props, the menu sounds new and innovative with its references to riffing on Asian street food from around the region with references to nahm jim jauw dressing, pounded chilli kaffir lime leaves and pomegranate sauces. There’s the social conscience angle as Mama San HK gives local Balinese staff from its Balinese restaurant the very noble opportunity to work in HK for better wages, without being trapped on a floating hell of a cruise ship.  Then you add the economic element – the price point is either just slightly above what is comfortable or the serving sizes or just that touch smaller than what they should be.  But this is the business and this is their game – you make everything slightly different enough to get punters in the door and then you add in a couple of drinks with a few ‘modern Asian’ cocktails that have slices of chilli, kaffir lime leaves or smashed up lemongrass in it.  Add some non-confronting food which delivers what it promises (but only just) and with the trendy decors and enough punters in there to give it a bit of a buzz, everything is comfortable enough that with a big group of friends who you actually fucking like, no one is going to have a miserable night. But when the Saturday night buzz of cocktails and fuck yeah homies has dissipated, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m being fucking gamed – because while everything is perfectly fucking acceptable, it’s not anything more.

Chef Menu Designer Meyrick’s bio proudly lists working in Australia at Longrain and Jimmy Liks, and the influence is pretty fucking evident (refer the very exotic sounding tuna betel leaves with lemongrass green tomato sambal matah and bumbu pasih – which totally rips off Longrain’s signature smoked trout betel leaf).  But shit’s not a good fucking sign because while I have fuck yeah memories of Longrain, Jimmy Liks was always Longrain’s less attractive, though well intentioned sister.  So by the time we get to Mama San HK, we’re already onto the third most attractive pan-Asian influenced sister and imma gonna have to Tinder style, swipe left on what is starting to feel like a photocopy of a photocopy.

The verdict:
So. Shit wasn’t terrible and if a friend organised a dinner there, I wouldn’t cause a fucking fuss and demand a change in venue, but I’m not enthused enough to go back on my own volition. Especially if you’ve been to the superior Longrain or the less-superior-but-still-more-impressive Jimmy Liks in Sydney.  Fuck no – I don’t wanna play this just adequate though economically sensible HK dining game anymore.

omarallinthegame

Where:
Ho Lee Fook (R U fucking serious??  A TUMBLR is your official website??) See also their FB Page.
1 Elgin Street (the lower bit, more towards Hollywood Road)
Central, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2810 0860 (it’s one of those bullshit no bookings unless >6 people)

Price:
We got out at HKD460 each – between two people we had two mains + one salad and two cocktails.  In retrospect, we might not have needed two meatageddon mains.  I always go on high alert when I’m in trendy, of the moment joints which always seem to subscribe to “food for ants” sizes but no fear here, servings are fucking generous.

The deal:
I know everyone’s losing their shit over Ho Lee Fuk with Chef Jowett’s modern take on old school Hong Kong cha chaan tengs and its cavernous, trendy dark Chinatown retro New York inspired decor but I just can’t get over what a fucking stupid name it is. Ho Lee Fook actually translates to “good fortune for your mouth” but all I can think about is people going “I’ll see you at Ho Lee Fuk” OMG LOOK, IT SOUNDS LIKE HOLY FUCK. JEEEZ WHAT A GODDAMN GAS.  Every blog I read calls it quirky, hilarious and cheeky though – so perhaps I’m just a dour faced bitch who prefers it when people are straight forward with their F-bombs. It just feels like when places give their dishes stupid ass names like ‘The Big Bertha Wonderburger’ or ‘The Big O Chocolate Sinner’ and I always make it a point not to say the stupid fucking name and then some asshat waiter will repeat the full dumb ass name back at you.

We rolled into Ho Lee Fook at 815pm, with no booking because you can’t fucking book a table unless you have more than six people.  Front of house let us know that we’d probably be waiting til around NINE FUCKING THIRTY for a table.  I would normally be concerned that I would eat my arms off by then but I saw Chef Jowett Yu and the Ho Lee Fook homies smashing together Wagyu Short Ribs that I desperately needed in my life. FINE YOU NO BOOKING ASSHOLES, have it your way because I am now beholden to your beef, so we took ourselves up Elgin Street to have mojitos until they called us.  At 930pm we still hadn’t been called, but we stomped back in to demand satisfaction in no uncertain terms as they apologetically told us that a table was finishing their dessert and should be fucking off fairly shortly (ok, they didn’t drop the F bomb).  I was about to have a no booking hunger induced meltdown but Ho Lee Fook offered as a free cocktail while we waited.  Fuck yeah to alcoholic free shit to soothe my harried no booking soul.  I got their Mule cocktail (ginger beer and booze based) and despite every Asian sensation in my body being heightened by it being free, I can confirm I ordered another one later (which I paid for) and it was still a fuck yeah.

Ho Lee Fook’s menu is green with black writing on it and their restaurant is not a brightly lit fucker, so if you’re colourblind or old, sorry to say – sucks to be you, you better get your more able homies to read out shit to you.  Given that we’d ordered two main serves of their beef wagyu short rib with green shallot kimchi and their pork char siu, they recommended we get our veg on with the heirloom tomato salad with duck egg, cucumber and Chinese olive leaf.  UH OH, use of heirloom – tick another one off the hipster checklist.  But it was delicious as fuck and a good light primer before MEATAGEDDON.  The beef wagyu short rib comes cut off the bone (ready for white folk and dainty eaters), glazed in soy sauce and spicy jalapeño puree on the side.  It was fucking unreal – Ho Lee Fook showed the love to that motherfuckin’ beef rib ensuring that blogs across HK are declaring “melt in your mouth!” and “absolutely cooked to perfection!”. But ain’t nobody got time for those overwrought cliches, so fuck dem xoxo and extraneous exclamation marks off and know that this was the good shit with a special fuck yeah mention for the jalapeño puree.

We also ordered the pork char siu because we’d been told there was only one left and FOMOOGP (Fear of Missing Out on Goddamn Pork) meant we had no other option but to get fucking involved.  There was no real twist on this from a flavour perspective, pretty much being a classic charsiu but it was clearly using some fancy as fuck, high class pork.  Due to the menu being unreadable due to its colour choices, I can’t tell you exactly what this pig got up to prior to its death, but I assume that it was probably some Australian porcine princess which got its grassy nom on under the open skies, with a gentle breeze caressing her delicious belly.

For dessert, we shared a Granny Smith apple granita, with Calpis sorbet, mochi and red koji jelly which they comped given the no booking / waiting palaver.  It was an amped up, modern version of an Ice/Ais Kacang (Singaporean / Malaysian ice based dessert which mixes a number of textures / ingredients).  Given my full as fuck status from annihilating the preceding meatageddon, this tart appley bitch with its contrasting sweet and chewy textural components was a motherfucking, refreshing as fuck treat.

Special shout out to their A1 grade friendly homie, Olivia, who not only gave us free cocktails and a dessert because of the wait, she also made sure we knew which items were about to sell out so we could get our orders in and kept the service efficient as fuck.  FUCK YEAH to super fucking adorable service homies who have got their goddamn shit going on.

Verdict:
NO, I am NOT going to lazily close out my review using their name to make a “holy fuck” pun.  Fuck vindicating that shit, but FUCK YEAH!!

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