Italian

Where:
Pici
GF, No. 16 St. Francis Yard
Wanchai, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2755 5523 (but no reservations so I dunno why you want the number)

Price:
HKD200 per person, including one drink.  No service charge, so don’t be a stingy asshole and leave a tip on top of that, ok?

The deal:
The Pirata Group, owned by Manuel Palacio and Christian Talpo, are behind the pasta bar, Pici.  Pici is their fourth HK restaurant as they continue their march to HK restaurant domination.  At least they’re going about it in a far more dignified manner than their Black Sheep Restaurant compatriots and thinking up their own new shit rather than just jetting around the world and nicking licensing concepts from places that they wanna flog.  OK I’m joking my Black Sheep Restaurant fanboys before you rabidly start shouting “HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN THE ORIGINAL CONCEPTS LIKE BELON!!! LE GARÇON SAIGON!!! BUENOS AIRES POLO CLUB!!!” at me. I’ve always been a Pirata fan, handing out fuck yeahs to both The Optimist and Pirata and I frequently trot them out as recommendations when homies ask me where to eat in Wan Chai, cause what’s not to love about fuck yeah casual restaurants which still bring the good vibes, generally attentive service and fuck yeah food with strong, well executed cocktails on the side.  Pici is situated in the cute but often disappointing Star Street Precinct in Wan Chai.  I mean, I always feel that there should be lots of cool shit happening in Star Street but how often do you actually get your ass down there?  I guess every time I need to buy posh as fuck candles that smell like spruce for rich, stylish friends who already have everything or that rare occasion when I can think of nothing better than throwing my cash at a HKD2,400+ canvas bag which is tucked in next to a succulent and a Japanese analogue alarm clock for HKD1,850.

Pici is named after a thick, hand-rolled pasta, which originates from the province of Siena in Tuscany, Italy. So it’s no fucking surprise that its specialty is pasta and they only serve freshly rolled hand rolled pasta made daily. I’m fucking into this idea – do one thing, do it well and don’t have a menu which is the length of a queue of people lining up for free Tempo tissues in Causeway Bay.  I arrange to meet Ms This is Bullshit (refer to this review of 27 Kebab House to check the vintage source of that nickname) at a very leisurely 2:30pm on a Friday and assume that we’re gonna be fine for a seat, because Pici is running that NO RESERVATIONS game.  BZZZZZZT INCORRECT, even at this late hour on an alleged work day, it’s a full fucking house and we still have to queue and wait.  What the hell HK, don’t any of you smug assholes have to go to fucking work??

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FUCK ME, LET ME KNOW YOUR FUCK YEAH SECRETS SO I CAN MAKE MY ESCAPE FROM THE SALT MINES AND DRINK WINE ALL THE TIME AT 3PM ON A FRIDAY.

Once the Tai Tais with the Good Hair clear off and I squeeze myself into the tables to get stuck in.  My first order of business is to order an Aperol Spritz (HKD80) and in a promising sign for an Italian restaurant, it’s fucking beautiful, resplendently orange, fizzing with the hope of good HK times while an orange peel and a mega fatty green olive chills out on the side, living la dolce vita.  Sìììììììììììì motherfuckers, welcome to the good Italian life.

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To start, we get a serve of the parma ham and get stuck into the complimentary bread with some olive oil.  I’m into this simple shit and appreciate restaurants that still give you free bread.  I gotta say that in Singapore, no one seems to dole out the free bread anymore which makes my carb loving and free stuff loving heart sad.  I rectify this sadness by eating three bags of free bread with olive oil.  The parma ham is A1 fucking delicious but I guess it doesn’t really require a red hot kitchen to produce this, just a chef who knows where to procure the good shit.

This is all just warm up for the main namesake event, the pasta course.  I ordered the Pici Amatriciana (HKD85) – which is the restaurant’s namesake hand rolled pasta and a sauce made from cured pork cheek, tomato sauce, black pepper and cheese.  When I was ordering it though, the waiter did stop to let us know that it is quite a salty sauce, and checked whether we were ok with this.   I swing pretty salty when it comes to not only my opinions on half-assed restaurants, but also when it comes to food, so I didn’t think that this was going to be a problem.  However, give the Pici homies the truth in advertising award because their pasta sauce for this dish is, surprise surprise, really fucking salty.

It’s no doubt due to the salt-cured pork jowl and the generous amount of pecorino cheese, but given I received a warning, what was I really expecting??  Am I now one of those dumb ass customers who order dishes like tomato soup and then sends it back for tasting too much like tomatoes?  Like ummmm, cash me ousside howbow dah, food which was given a salty warning is predictably, really fucking salty.  This makes me start to think about how I should just take to pre-warning everyone and everything in my life about potential shit that could go wrong so I can always pull the Get Out of [insert relevant bad shit] Here card.  I mentally note to tell any future lovers that I’m a bit shit in bed with a tendency to dial it in because I’m a lazy fuck (literally), so I’ll never disappoint anyone ever again.

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Turning my attention away from my future excuses and putting the salt levels aside – what is more galling is the white, greasy chunks of fat which haven’t been rendered down properly, which is strewn all through the sauce.  Pici are not shy about the sauce amount too which means that their very fucking good hand made pasta is completely overwhelmed by this salty, greasy mess and it isn’t given any space to sing its glorious, Ode to Carbs.  It wouldn’t have taken much either to make this dish right either, just dial back the salt levels a bit and take out some of the fatty chunks, give me a little bit more pasta and it would have been fuck yeah pasta times vs this so-so dish which I guess was ok enough for only HKD85.

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I cast some longing looks at the table next to me as they get involved with some fuck yeah looking carbonara pasta and in a rare show of restraint, turn down the offer of ordering dessert because I’ve decided to stop saying yes to dessert when the mains were disappointing as you rarely find the redemption you want in the pudding course.  I step out in search of liquids to parch my raging thirst and feel sad about my choice in dish because a fuck yeah hand made pasta drowning in fat and salt just seems to be so contrary to Pici’s whole concept.  That is, a restaurant with straight forward food that is perfectly simple and only uses the best quality ingredients and I assume, should be executing its shit perfectly as well.

Verdict:
These don’t happen often but I’m handing Pici a JURY’S OUT.  Everything about it was stacking up for a fuck yeah except for that overly fatty, salty pasta sauce. I’m normally super digital as to whether I’d go back to a place or not but in this instance, I feel that I probably just chose a dud dish and the other pasta dishes on the menu are probably in fuck yeah territory. Pici homies, you are fucking lucky that your actual pasta itself was up to scratch otherwise I’d be handing you a big fat, fuck no.

Where:
Osteria Felice
Shop 16-21 G/F Hutchinson House
10 Harcourt Road, Admiralty

FYN Hot Tip:  It’s accessible from outside Hutchinson House (not from within the building).  You’ll need to go to the corner, next to the Pacific Coffee on the Lambeth Walk side.

Phone:
+852 2516 6166

Price:
HKD1,100ish for two people excluding booze.  Note that we ordered enough for three to four people. I reckon you could probably get out for HKD300-400ish per person before booze with more sensible ordering.

The deal:
The Epicurean Group (the group behind any number of restaurants that none of you ever eat at – ie. Tim’s Kitchen, Xia Fei, Agave, Club 97 and Jimmy’s Kitchen) have recently opened up the Italian restaurant, Osteria Felice with minimal fanfare in the awkward Admiralty location, Hutchinson House. Osteria Felice has the veteran Executive Chef Brian Moore at its helm and is touting a  traditional Italian menu based solidly on no-fuss classics. Antipasto, pasta, pizza yassss are all things I can get behind.

Osteria Felice has taken up residence at the former site of Il Milione, the really OTT  bombastic gold filled Italian restaurant which outside of the press and the meaningless Michelin star, I never heard anyone IRL talk about ever.  Needless to say, I never ate at Il Milione because I could never find enough motivation to drop a big stack of cash to actually eat in an unnecessarily gilded though ultimately tacky Italian restaurant in Admiralty.  I sometimes wonder who even puts together these restaurant concepts? Like seriously, who thinks “You know what people in HK want?  They just wanna ball so hard over a bowl of pasta in Admiralty while basking in gold EVERYTHING. Fuck, let’s call it ‘THE MILLION’ in Italian and ship in a totally insane amount of gold fittings to make it feel more DECADENT!”.

Since these ill-conceived golden days, the Il Milione decor has been stripped down to something more accessible, keeping a clean well fit-out look with wooden oak parquetry floors and a large open kitchen at the back.  Osteria Felice is set up as half bar / half restaurant, with the bar portion relatively full of suits, presumably sucking back some after-work drinks to dull the arduous endeavour of working for The Man.  Given there’s barely anywhere to get a post-work drink around the immediate Central / Admiralty side of town, Osteria Felice should probably see some good trade here with a decent 2-for-1 happy hour from 5 to 8pm on certain drinks.

I firmly believe that any Italian restaurant worth its salt should be able to punch out a FUCK YEAH Negroni, so as I hustled my parched ass across Statue Square towards Hutchinson House, I put in an S O S emergency message to Sir Crunchalot, to ensure that I could hit my pre-dinner Negroni aperitif as soon as I got to the restaurant.  Sir Crunchalot reported back that Osteria Felice had a good looking selection of Negronis and his continual pursuit for luxury meant that he naturally ordered the most expensive one for me, the Barrel Aged Negroni which costs HKD150 (+10% service charge, versus the bog-standard HKD80 Negroni) which has been aged in an American charred new oak barrel for minimum 2 months.

When I get to the restaurant, we are the only customers eating in the dining room, but it’s an early weeknight just post-Christmas at a newly opened restaurant, so I don’t think this is necessarily indicative of their normal trade.  However, in far more upsetting news, despite the pre-ordering to ensure a running start on aperitif time, when I get to the table, my Negroni is nowhere to be seen.  I sit down while I feign some enthusiasm for trying out a new place, desperately trying not to let my Negroni-less disappointment ruin the entire meal.

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Our waitress is efficient but not particularly chatty and as we lay down our order, there’s not much chat or background on the dishes.  It’s not long before our first antipasti is laid down on the table, the burrata and smoked sardine crostini (HKD265 +10% service charge).  I’m pretty excited as I’m a total hussy for burrata and Osteria Felice’s menu notes that they regularly ship the best mozzarella and burrata from around Italy to ensure optimum freshness for their customers.  When our burrata and sardine crostini arrive, I’m pleasantly shocked because my general experiences of crostini in restaurants, had led me to believe that crostini was Italian for miniscule pieces of crusty bread that allows restaurants to provide a scant amount of bullshit topping for an unfair amount of coin.  Osteria Felice’s crostini game is super tight, providing us with two decent slices of toasted bread, topped with a generous amount of creamy fresh burrata and a large smoked sardine fillet. The burrata is off the motherfucking chain and when paired with the just salty enough, smoked sardine fillet, I’m filled with deep love and an unfettered desire to be completely engulfed in this cream filled embrace forever.  Unnnnnnnnnnnnf, Osteria Felice’s burrata, you better believe that I want to bathe with you in some cheese:

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Our second, generously portioned, starter arrives, the roasted bone marrow with grilled bread (HKD158 +10% service charge) which consists of three large half bones and it’s everything that you’d expect from the description.  The only thing that has me scowling at this point is that my pre-ordered Negroni still hasn’t arrived 25 minutes since the pre-order was put in and I bitterly cast my mind to Osteria Felice’s menu which had claimed “having an antipasto with an aperitivo is essential to having a good life” and my thirsty ass self is so desperate for my Negroni and this said promised good life. I chase this up and 10 minutes later, my aperitif arrives just in time for mains with not a single apology or facetious nicety attached to it which is some fuck no form. The barrel aged Negroni is solid but my judgment is too clouded by waiting so fucking long for my HKD150+ drink that I don’t feel I can pass an unbiased opinion.  Especially as a barrel aged Negroni really just needs to be poured into a glass.

There’s an extensive traditional Neapolitan pizza section, with most of them ranging from the mid to high HKD100s and we went with the Calabrese (spiced salami, eggplant, basil and smoked buffalo mozzarella, HKD198 +10% service charge).  Osteria Felice have some fancy as fuck electric oven which lets them bake their pizzas at a super high temperature in less than 90 seconds, in keeping with Neapolitan pizzas not being baked for extended periods of time.  The true measure of a Neapolitan pizza is always gonna be about the crust and it’s fucking great and exactly what I would expect from a Neapolitan pizza.  Fuck yeahhhh, I can get behind a thin sourdough base, slightly soggy in the middle and a dense, just charred chewy crust with the right amount of fuck yeah bite.  The toppings are well distributed and the combination of the tomato sauce, spicy salami, fresh basil and mozzarella cheese keep a good fuck yeah balance overall.  In a testament to the decent serving sizes at Osteria Felice, we had to box up half of this pizza to go which meant I got to test out what I feel is the true measure of a fuck yeah pizza – that is, how it reheats the next day.  Osteria Felice’s smashed this test with flying colours, as I made this the centrepiece of my nutritious and balanced fuck yeah breakfast the next day.

Our final dish was the roasted half duckling with grappa preserved cherry sauce (HKD388 +10% service charge). I’m normally fundamentally opposed to fruit and meat, in particular, feral as fuck apricot.  Like really, who wants that grainy ass sub-par ugly sister to a peach in a meat dish ever?  But I can deal with cherry with meat and the duckling was fucking rad.  The grappa preserved cherry sauce was bang on in its sweet-sour balance and resulted in fuck yeah times with the rich, tender duck.

One thing to note is that we ended up with a disgraceful amount of food for two people, which I can attribute to my low expectations on HK serving sizes given my experiences at every other new restaurant.  However, Osteria Felice are doling out super fucking generous serving sizes and what I described above could have easily fed four people.  Maybe it’s cause we look like a couple of greedy fuckers but I feel our waitress should have sounded some sort of warning.  For two people, one antipasto, half a pizza and a secondi / main would have been plenty.

FYN Artist impression of how I left Osteria Felice:

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Italian food is so easy to hit the mediocre-to-boring mark as it relies so heavily on simple execution with red-hot ingredients.  But when it’s done well, it’s so fucking awesome and every dish we had at Osteria Felice was really well executed and it’s clear that there’s some high quality produce and ingredients underpinning their dishes.  It’s been awhile since I’ve been impressed by a pure Italian restaurant in Hong Kong and I’ve reflected quite a few times in the week post this meal about how much I fucking enjoyed it.  I definitely need to round up a decent number of solid nommin’ homies so I can properly smash through their menu and try their pasta as well.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah! My massively expensive, pre-ordered MIA barrel aged negroni escapades aside, I’m into Osteria Felice just punching out solid fuck yeah Italian food and giving me all dem burrata and pizza based feelings.  Will Osteria Felice survive its awkward Admiralty location though? I don’t know, but it’s well worth a look and I gotta get back for more fuck yeah burrata ASAP.

Where:
MyHouse (HOLY FUCK, it’s a perfectly functional HK restaurant website)
202 Queen’s Road East
26/F QRE Plaza
Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2323 1715

Price:
A very reasonable HKD380 per person for food only (before tip, no service charge is included).  Cocktails come in around the HKD100 – HKD120 mark and there’s a fuck yeahhhh reasonably priced wine list too.

The deal:
When I read about MyHouse, I wasn’t sure if it was gonna be something new and innovative or would it just be one of those venues that tries too fucking hard.  My spider senses were tingling once I read all the prose about it being a creative space where people should feel that they’re at home.  The idea of the venue moving from a coffee / casual lunch spot which then morphs to an after work drinks spot, then dinner and then into a club / music venue.  The emphasis on it being a music place where each table has its own turntable, allowing customers to pick up some old school vinyl before playing their own individual soundtrack at their dinner table. That’s if you’re not enjoying the VINYL ONLY house DJ.  Then there’s the whole shebang about it being about natural wines and sustainable seafood.  I’m just so fucking jaded with wank-off pretentious concepts which don’t deliver that I imagined that it might be a bit like going to dinner theatre.  As in, there’s a whole shit tonne of things going on but in the end, the substandard food is distracting you from the amateur dancing, as you suck back some awful house wine in a futile attempt to put some enjoyment into the clusterfuck of an experience by getting wasted.  Just as the cheap wine headache squeezes your brain into oblivion, you tumble out of some grimey venue, dazed and confused as fuck with an overall feeling of “FUCK ME, WHAT JUST HAPPENED THERE?” as an overwhelming tsunami of mediocrity washes over you.

However, one of my random FYN homies has been non-stop singing MyHouse’s praises which is why I decided to put my healthy scepticism to one side and get myself down to QRE Plaza in Wan Chai.  I feel like I’m spending all my time in Wan Chai at the moment.  WAIT, that came out fucking wrong.  I feel like I’m spending all my time going to restaurants in Wan Chai at either 239 Hennessy Road or QRE Plaza at the moment given all the new digs that have opened there (The Optimist, Zahrabel, Momojein, El Mercado (UGH but just don’t go) and Pirata).  As soon as you exit the lifts, MyHouse is killing it with its fuck yeah Mohamad Ghamlouch designed interiors. It’s got that spacious converted loft apartment feel of your fuck yeah non-HK dreams cause let’s face facts, you’re really stuck paying HKD27,000 a month for 350 square feet of Sheung Wan apartment feelings.   MyHouse is all natural wood and massive industrial globular light bulbs, bathing everything in fucking beautiful warm light. They’ve tucked plants just under the ceiling and large windows open up onto the salubrious view of….Hopewell Centre. The space is split between a massive cocktail bar, individual dinner tables, a private dining area, a DJ podium and a bar area.  It’s clear that it’s all carefully thought out with purposefully mismatched block coloured plates, curated art work, vinyl record sleeves stacked in bookshelves and wrought iron fixtures.

I had anticipated that MyHouse would be more like bar snacks to go with trendy cocktails but MyHouse’s Executive Chef Peter Birks has got some serious cooking game going on.  He’s managed to escape the grips of Dining Concepts and prior to cheffing it up at MyHouse he was the Chef de Cuisine for Carbone HK.  After some judicious Internet stalking it appears that he’s an Aussie Caboolture boy done good.  Go well my Strayan sonny!  However, upon reading the MyHouse menu I guess it’s best described as European with some strong Italian influences given the pasta and pizzetta section.  More importantly, I realise there are many things I want in my life.  This is where I flag down our waiter and he’s 100% across the menu and gives meaningful and well thought out suggestions.  Fuck yeahhhh, floor staff who know their shit.  Our waiter homie recommends that we order five to six dishes as well as being super helpful on helping us pick out some fuck yeah natural wine. I gotta mention that throughout the whole night the MyHouse service is super tight from start to finish and even though they’ve only been open for a few weeks there’s no relying on any soft opening bullshit. Fuck yeahhhhhh MyHouse, show those new HK restaurants that just cause your shit is new it doesn’t mean that your service has to be a red hot mess.

While we make decisions on the menu our bread arrives and it’s this large, open crumbed thing of fuck yeah glory.  Our table smears each piece with French salted butter and smashes through it relentlessly.  I’m having a bit of a bread related moment, because it’s just so fucking good.  Our waiter asks if we want more bread and my greedy-ass mouth has no other option but to declare “YASSSSSSSSS”.  We later pressed the MyHouse homies for the details behind their bread and they say that as their kitchen is too small they are getting the goods from Bread Elements.  Even writing this paragraph about the Bread Elements foccacia loaf is hitting me right in the feels because FML, why am I not eating this crumby bastard right the fuck now??

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In a nod to pretending to be into healthfulness we start with the “Truffle buttered asparagus with Iberico jamon, poached egg and parmigiano reggiano” (HKD148).  It’s exactly as promised and every element is fucking great.  However, I just don’t think I’d order it again because let’s be real, just how fucking exciting can asparagus with egg and cheese really be??  Fuck off vegetables, I don’t need to pretend to be healthy cause let’s face facts, I’m a fat fuck at heart and I’d rather spend my bucks on meat and fuck yeah carbs.

This is where the “Ox-tail, orange and sage ragu over crusty bread” (HKD118) arrives and OH MY FUCKING GOD.  While it’s simple in concept, it’s fucking unbelievable.  The ox-tail has been slow cooked until it’s falling apart with gentle orange peel overtones and sage for herbaceous fuck yeah feelings.  It’s served on a piece of that fuck yeah Bread Elements foccacia loaf which has been toasted in butter to make it even more fucking delicious, providing dem crunchy feels against the ox-tail ragu.  You better believe that we demanded even more bread so we could scrape every last bit of that ragu into my life from the cast iron pan.  Why would you order HKD148 asparagus when HKD118 fuck yeah ox-tail ragu is on offer?? Don’t fall into the healthful vegetable trap homies, you’re not impressing anyone!

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Our waiter had recommended a pizzetta which is fancy Italian nomenclature for ‘tiny pizzas’.  We ordered the “spicy salami, nduja, provolone pizzetta” for a very fair HKD98.  It’s about as wide as two fists and it’s deep crust style, its bottom crispy fried in olive oil and topped with fuck yeah salami and nduja.  Like seriously, what’s not to love about nduja – ie. a spreadable pork sausage mixed with roasted peppers and spices?  Predictably, there’s some arugula scattered about as well which I guess is an acceptable salad accompaniment when it’s on top of a salami pizza.

My generally insatiable lust for carbs almost met its match by the time I got to the pasta course. The “veal cannelloni with porcini béchamel” (HKD228) was small in size but rich as fuck.  The flavours were a fuck yeah symphony of balance.  Sure, the veal cannelloni was a good fucking thing but the true magic was the porcini béchamel sauce.  The dish is grilled to give the béchamel a browned maillard crust and just when I thought I couldn’t handle any more of these overwhelming feelings for béchamel sauce the subtle nutmeg spicing kicks in on the back end.  The only thing that can contain my unbridled emotions is to tearily wave the waiter homie over, begging him to bring me MOAR BREAD so I can get every last bit of béchamel into my being.

However, despite the fuck yeah pasta times this is all warm up for the star of the masterpiece, the “Porcini rubbed short-rib with aged balsamic” (HKD458).  This slow cooked Canadian beef short rib presents itself sliced into pieces, with a now-clean bone presented right down the middle.Unfortunately, there’s  more fucking arugula on it, and given the amount of arugula on the other dishes I was definitely at peak arugula levels by this stage. Yo MyHouse, diversify your garnishing portfolio and get some cress or something.  However, the most important thing to remember is the fuck yeah glory of MyHouse’s short rib which is sprinkled with large chunks of French sea salt which catch your tastebuds periodically to ricochet more fuck yeah feelings through your body.  The beef is pink and soft like butter, but charred on the outside.  This juicy fucker tastes so distinctly of beef and happiness that I’m not even sure if the salt I’m tasting is from the French sea salt flakes or whether it’s because I’m weeping tears of joy into my food.  My fellow dining homie that was with me at this point takes a moment to stop shovelling beef into her face, just to exclaim “Fuck, I think I’m at the Vatican because I just saw GOD”.

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At five dishes we were truly full as fuck and as a massive fat cunt, perhaps our waiter’s recommendation of six dishes was a bit punchy.  Or perhaps most normal patrons don’t take it upon themselves to eat a loaf of foccacia each on top of their ordered dishes.  Just to round off our MyHouse experience we took a bottle of red wine to the couched bar area and split a dessert, the salted caramel panna cotta (HKD88).  Layered in a stemless wine glass, I was most definitely into this.  Each layer had a different texture and flavour, going from chocolate to the salted caramel panna cotta to a foamy cream, all topped with some salted caramel popcorn to give it some crunch and dem salty burnt sugar feelings while we enjoyed some cool house tunes from MyHouse’s DJ.

So I’m totally willing to take this one on the chin and be proven wrong that restauranteurs actually can fully formulate a concept which has every potential to be a massive pretentious wank-off but instead throw down a massive fuck you to half-assed execution and pulls together something which is unique and killing it in an unprecedented SEVEN WAY FUCK YEAH slam of interiors, concept, food, music, drinks, service and price point.  Yassss MyHouse, you better believe my short ribbed filled body is READY.

Verdict:
FUCK YEAHHHHHHHH!  In a fairly flat year of only just ok new restaurants in HK, MyHouse has gotta be a strong FYN contender for one of the best new restaurants of 2015.  GET INTO IT ASAP FYN HOMIES, CAUSE THIS MYHOUSE SHIT IS JUST SO FUCKING RIGHT.

Where:
Pirata
29/F & 30/F, 239 Hennessy Rd
Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2887 0270 (fuck yeahhhh hand me my shades cause we’re in the midst of a blindingly bright technology revolution cause holy shitballs, you can book on whatsapp +852 6479 6736 and online)

Price:
We were out at HKD750 a person (before tip, as there’s no service charge), for dinner and cocktails/wine. This was for an obscene amount of food and a big ticket steak item so reckon you could easily get out for less (maybe HKD500 for food only?) and still be full as fuck.

The deal:
Last week, I went to Pirata for a fuck yeah negroni aperitif right before I got slaughtered HKD308 for garlicky, stir fried rice and another HKD308 for a salty as fuck broccoli and beef stir fry at El Mercado.  Pirata’s classic Negroni was so fucking good that in an effort to erase the painful memories of half-assed Peruvian-Japanese food, we also ended up back at Pirata afterwards to sample some of their extensive fuck yeah vermouth selections.  Pirata seemed like it had a good thing going on with its exposed industrial lighting, stripped back concrete and friendly staff which is why only one week later, I was back at 239 Hennessey Road to try Pirata for dinner.

Before I truck on with the review, I gotta make it clear that I fucking love negronis and I’m taking a stand against all the variations and twists on this, that and fucking whatever on this fuck yeah glass of Campari based perfection.  Why does everyone want to fuck the good classic shit up with adding totally unnecessary liquor to a Negroni like mescal, sake or in the most ultimate fuck no sacrilegious times, taking out the Campari?? White “Negronis”, Y U even a thing?!

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I’d ended up getting a late booking for Pirata because these fuckers are as popular as taking a nap nap in HK Ikea on the weekend.  I wasn’t too upset because that meant FUCK YEAH NEGRONI TIME at the bar while waiting for our table.  Our table was ready earlier than expected and we went down one level to the restaurant with the promise that our cocktails would come down later.  We checked out the menu which isn’t anything revolutionary, but nor is it meant to be, with their website mentioning grandmothers and grandfathers one billion times and Chef Stefano Rossi’s deal declared to be “wholesome and homely fare that pays homage to his roots”.  We put in our order and our starters arrived super promptly. Unfortunately, the same speed wasn’t applied to my homie’s pre-dinner cocktail which required multiple follow ups and only arrived long after our starters, although it was finally accompanied by many heartfelt apologies from our waitress. Fuck no, so thirsty…

Despite the tardy cocktail, the starters were solid performers. The grilled octopus skewers (HKD180) were fucking delicious, fuck yeah charred tender pieces of Mediterranean octopus and herbed whole small potatoes all on a skewer.  Despite the utterly cornball name of MMM (My Mamma’s Meatballs, HKD95), the pork and beef meatballs in a red sauce were absolutely fine but nothing exceptional.  But this is probably because my heart belongs to Posto Pubblico’s FUCK YEAH meatballs, now and forever until the end of time.  The burrata and 24 months parma ham (HKD180) was without surprises but a fuck yeah nonetheless.  I’d definitely order the creamy as fuck burrata and parma ham if I was chilling by the bar and needed aperitivo snacks as I drank a fuck tonne of Negronis.

For our pasta course, we shared the Pappardelle with Duck Ragu for the fuck yeah price of HKD150.  Pirata’s house-made pasta being the fuck yeah stand out, with a perfect thickness to give it a fuck yeah bite-through texture.  I gotta confess, I’d be more enthused about this dish if Pirata hadn’t used duck breast (which I thought was a bit dry) but all in all, the duck, onions, carrots, celery and marsala wine made the whole dish pretty fucking satisfying.  We’d ordered Pirata’s Lobster Linguini (HKD280) and I was slightly hesitant because I’ve been burned so many times by ordering lobster pastas in restaurants because you get some half-assed dish that relies on a wing and a prayer, with the prayer taking the form of a bland as fuck, overcooked crustacean ontop of some average-ass pasta and an overinflated price tag.  However, Pirata surprised on the upside, nailing a fuck yeah balance between a tasty well-cooked lobster and a tomato and basil based pasta sauce which used a lobster shell stock to keep shit interesting.  I gotta give the fuck yeah props to Pirata for ensuring that its lobster was of a decent size and while it was served with the shell on, it was broken down in such a way that it was easy to access the lobster meat without having to conduct major surgery at the table.

All of this was a solid, pleasant warm up though because the boss bitch of our meal at Pirata entered the arena, the Bistecca Alla Fiorentina which wasn’t fucking about either with its HKD750 price-tag.  But it is a massive 1kg t-bone steak, served with a side of herbed potatoes. Our waitress wheels out this fucking incredible looking T-bone masterpiece and it’s sliced tableside, before being stacked back together and presented on the table.  Fuck yeahhh, don’t be taking my bone away because I guarantee I’ll be able to get more meat off that. Aside from the sheer fuck yeah spectacle of this massive t-bone which had our table collectively sporting one massive beef related stiff, it was fucking delicious and immaculately cooked to medium rare.  There was a good layer of fat to keep the beef proceedings tasty and it had been salted and charred to give it a fuck yeah browned outside while being a glorious, juicy motherfucker inside.  I contemplated pretending that I had a dog so I could have an excuse to ask to take home the leftover t-bone, when in reality it was just gonna be yours truly sitting on my sofa, messily decimating whatever was left on the bone without the need to maintain any shred of table manners.

While Pirata also offer a butcher’s cut 500g flank steak (HKD330), I gotta put a strong FYN statement out there of whyyy would you want to waste your time with what I can only imagine to be a more restrained beef experience?  FUCK YEAH, if you do go to Pirata DO NOT pussy out and not back yourself, because you most def need to get dat Bistecca Alla Fiorentina with all of its fuck yeah grandiose, bovine beauty into your soon to be embettered existence.

I pride myself on powering the fuck through pudding but after the majestic 1kg T-bone, even my greedy-ass ways was grudgingly yielding to the idea that perhaps it’s not necessary to hate-eat my way through dessert at the end of every meal.  We asked for the bill and that’s when our waiter came back to set us up for dessert.  We politely let him know that we weren’t having dessert and he pretended that he didn’t hear us and awkwardly continued to set up small plates, and that’s when it hit me…FUCK YEAH, COMPLIMENTARY DESSERT IS INCOMING:

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It was never expressly stated whether it was because my homie’s negroni had taken half an hour to arrive at the beginning of our meal but our charming hostess let us know that we just had to have dessert.  Fuck yeahhh, I won’t say no to free dessert and we smashed our way through a panna cotta and a tiramisu. Both desserts were a fuck yeah – the panna cotta was creamy and all that good shit, set off with a just tart enough berry coulis but my increasingly cholesterol laden heart would have to award that coffee flavoured sponge filled tiramisu bastard the bigger fuck yeah.

For all the complaining about how fucking hungry I am all the time and how HK restaurants are constantly serving me small bite sized eat$ which are meant for ants, I was so stretched to my physical limits post-Pirata that I could almost see through time.  As soon as I managed to torpidly stagger through my apartment door, I had to get naked ASAP.  No, not because I was so turned on by homely, rustic fuck yeah Italian food but because I couldn’t suffer through the tyranny of a waistband anymore, as my food stuffed chassis threatened to send my buttons ricocheting across my apartment. Am I proud of the person I have become?  You better believe it.  FUCK YEAH.

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhh, I can get behind straight forward, rustic Italian eats for an appropriate price point with the option of fuck yeah negronis before hand.

Where:
Cecconi’s Italian
2/F, 77 Wyndham Street
Central, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2565 5300

Price:
HKD750 each for three courses and a bottle of wine between two people.

The deal:
Cecconi’s has moved from its Elgin Street digs to the cursed second floor of 77 Wyndham Street. There’s some bad mojo going on that floor because I’ve been to so many different unmemorable restaurants at that location. I heard a rumour that it’s now haunted by the Ghost of David Laris, who slaps steaks and choreographs awkward dances for leggy models while screaming in anguish the names of restaurants past, before fixing his steely gaze upon you.

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“LAAAAAAAARIS”, The Ghost of David Laris shouts in a double barrelled reference to his former Laris restaurant and his last name. Cries of “THE BELLBROOK!” have also been known to ricochet across the floor before The Ghost of David Laris rhythmically slaps another steak while shouting “NO PRETENCE! NO PRETENCE!” at all that dare to pass. Regardless of the rumoured second floor hauntings, Cecconi’s has rebooted itself less than two months ago, shipping in Chef Michael Fox (of Cecconi’s Melbourne and Vue de Monde fame) to flog their contemporary Italian fare.

We’re seated by our slick head waiter and settle on our choices from a menu which at least seems interesting. Cecconi’s bread game was on good form and I’m shovelling their fuck yeah bread and grassy, intense olive oil into my head while I settle on the “Poached veal, fried tuna mayonnaise, caper berries” (HKD178 +10%) for my entree, pondering whether there should be a comma between fried tuna and mayonnaise. I always fucking love that classic Italian veal vs tuna vitello tonnato combo and I was looking forward to checking Cecconi’s shit out, even while I did think that HKD178 is not an insignificant amount of cash for a starter.

However, while leaning towards being expen$ive, Cecconi’s starter was a beautiful fuck yeah – poached slices of medium-rare veal against the deep fried cubes of creamy, shredded tuna. This fuck yeah combination of proteins was set against a herb sauce, mayonnaise and briney, punchy capers. Fuck yeahhhhh, even at the price point I can get behind this substantial serving of masterfully balanced ingredients with its fuck yeah presentation. It was fucking great, I would most definitely order this again and I’d recommend it to anyone who is never happy with just the one animal on their plate.

Although the secondi dishes looked really interesting I always judge an Italian restaurant by their pasta and I decided to give one of their less traditional pastas, ordering the “Pumpkin ravioli, red mullet, bouillabaisse sauce, shiso” which clocks in at at a solid HKD238 (+10% service charge). It arrived looking pretty rad – packets of ravioli against several precisely poached pieces of red mullet. This dish was interesting in the sense that I’ve never had pumpkin ravioli with bouillabaisse and shiso but while I was ok with this dish I can imagine that a lot of people would not be down with this fairly fishy dish. The bouillabaisse sauce is giving off some big seafood feels which I can jive with but I could imagine some people don’t appreciate being socked in the face with a shellfish broth when they’re getting their pasta on. I get what was meant to be happening here – salty bouillabaisse sauce reminiscent of the ocean is meant to play against the sweet red mullet and the pumpkin filling of the pasta, with a fresh herbal shiso note thrown over the top of it all. While I liked it enough at the time, I certainly wouldn’t be telling anyone that they have to get involved with this dish if they were to come to Cecconi’s. I always think that a fuck yeah pasta should involve deep, primal emotions where every fiber in your body is desperate to cram every last piece into your being while you force yourself to eat slowly so this carb-filled dream can last as long as possible. I didn’t get such feelings from Cecconi’s pasta, which means that sure, you can file this one under an interesting dish where I’ve never had that flavour combination before but fuck me, I don’t know if my lifetime ever needs me to revisit said flavour combination. My dining homie ordered the duck parpadelle which he was more underwhelmed with, declaring it to be only a 6/10. So I’m assessing that Cecconi’s pasta performance hasn’t exactly killed it and for an Italian place, they’re on the edge of a FYN fuck no death knell because I’m of the view that Italian restaurants need to slay on the pasta front if they want to claim they’re the shiz at what they do.

While the entree and main servings had been of a decent fuck yeah size, I stayed true to my FYN motto and decided to power on though pudding. While I wanted to get the tiramisu (fuck yeahhh, cream, coffee and liquor – what’s not to love?), I decided to mix shit up and go for the “Mango panna cotta, macadamia, coconut sorbet” (HKD78 +10%).  After one bite, I knew that this is where Cecconi’s was going to stave off the fuck no death knell of an only adequate pasta course through their monumental fuck yeah efforts on the pudding front. Cecconi’s panna cotta game was off the fucking hook with every component pounding its fist down in a resolute FUCK YEAH. Even though I’d been served a very generous scoop of coconut sorbet, I desperately wanted at least two more scoops of that fuck yeah, delicately flavoured snow white coconut beauty in my life. Then you pair that good sorbet shiz with a perfectly smooth panna cotta which wasn’t a gelatinous mess (fuck no to over-gelatinised rock hard panna cottas), sweet mango and some toasted macadamias and you know you’re having a major FUCK YEAH dessert moment which makes up for the interesting though not amazing pasta experience.

Aside from the major fuck yeah entree and dessert that I had here, the staff at Cecconi’s were definitely on their shit all night and get a big fuck yeah for consistent, attentive service. In a HK rarity, our waitress was even able to remember who ordered what and accurately presented all our plates without checking, so I gotta give props to that. Cecconi’s head homie was a solid fuck yeah host – checking in at appropriate points to see if everything was ok and keeping us well watered all night. What a novelty for HK – a restaurant which actually kept my wine glass filled all the time instead of my normal go to move of where I cast desperate eyes trying to find anyone to help me, while my parched tongue lies thick and boozeless, a victim of apathetic and inattentive service.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah! While Cecconi’s might not have nailed the pasta dish, everything else I ate there was a fuck yeah and I gotta throw my full hearted support behind waitstaff who are on their A game from start to finish. I’d definitely brave the chance of running into The Ghost of David Laris again, even if it was just to have that veal and tuna dish and mango panna cotta in my life again.

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