Mexican

Where:
11 Westside
1/F, The Hudson, 11 Davis Street
Kennedy Town, Hong Kong

FYN Hot Tip:  The entrance is not immediately apparent nor marked – so you kinda have to duck around and go up a set of stairs.

Phone:
I dunno, I couldn’t see it on their FB page and they don’t have a website.  Like, if you can’t be bothered to put it on your own fucking FB page, why should I bother looking it up?  Largely no reservations anyway.

Price:
I got out at about HKD300 (including 10% service charge), no alcohol.  I had some snacks BEFORE dinner somewhere else and I definitely could have eaten more.  I’d estimate spending around HKD400-600 on food before drinks.

The deal:
The press got all revved up in April that Chef Esdras Ochoa, a real MEXICAN who is behind being the Sonoran MEXICAN restaurant, Salazar, in Los Angeles had booked himself a one way ticket to Hong Kong to open 11 Westside, his first project in Asia which was aimed at bringing real MEXICALI food to Hong Kong in Kennedy Town. I understand that it’s the HK based, Mexican Luis Porras from the Epicurean Group who is behind this 11 Westside jaunt, who are also “famed” for their other HK Mexican restaurant, AGAVE Tequila Y Comida in Wan Chai on Lockhart Road.  I’ve also done some additional sleuthing to try and figure out whether Chef Ochoa has since bought another one way ticket out of HK, as is the standard modus operandi for these chefs who set up shit in HK before fucking right off again but I haven’t been able to find anything conclusive so it’s entirely possible the Taco King of LA is still kicking about Kennedy Town and doing his MEXICAN thing.  So I guess Chef Ochoa is still FILTH – Failed in Flown in from LA, Trying HK?

read-you-to-filth

Predictably, 11 Westside is a no reservations joint.  Currently, they only take reservations if you book out at least half of the restaurant and seeing as it seats around 120, this is going to be as 0% helpful for most people.  But seeing as these guys have got a hour plus wait to get a table anyway, I get why they’ve given the big fuck you to taking reservations and will instead direct you to a terrace area where you can chill out and get some drinks while you wait.  A lot’s been said about their decor with most people liking it.  Those fringed chandeliers and slick black surfaces sure are distracting and might trick you into thinking it’s a cool place but I just couldn’t get past this weird Mediterranean Grecian thing that they’ve got going on, with these arches and cherub mural situated behind the bar.  How does this happen?  Do you walk into discussions with your interior designer and he’s all “So what’s the story?” and you say “We’re thinking LA, Mexican, taqueria, you know, the usual shit about ~taking references from Asia and paying homage to local ingredients~, green spaces and sexy tequila nights” and your interior designer quizzically looks up from his sketch pad through a cloud of one hell of a hangover and wearily goes “Look, my geography isn’t real red hot but is Mexico in Europe?  Is it kinda like Spain but in the Mediterranean? Do you know how much I love murals with cherubs on them with some fake ass vines and shit to make it feel like you’re one step away from a vineyard? Don’t worry, I’m also gonna put some potato peelers and kitchen utensils on the wall in picture frames cause ~paying homage to local ingredients~ amirite?” before chugging back on alka-seltzer tinged with regret as he puts his shades back on to try and shield his eyes from the indignity of still being conscious when the sun’s still up.

iloveurcontinent

When we rocked up we were told to expect an hour wait, but we were lucky and got a table within 15 minutes.  I’ve heard mixed things about the staff and service at 11 Westside but I’ve got no complaints.  The front desk girls were quite lovely, even if they couldn’t seat us immediately, and our waiter was fucking excellent and completely on his shit, all night long.

It’s a concise menu, split into GSC (Gucamole Salsa Chips), Appetizers, Tacos, Entree and dessert.  There’s been much chat about the price tag on 11 Westside’s HKD150 guacamole that consists of two avocados, red onion, cilantro and chilli which is mashed up table side for you.  Let’s just rewind on that fact for a second – it’s actually HKD150 + 10% service charge for guacamole.  That’s right, USD21 for guacamole and chips.  OR if you think about what went down for us, we ordered the GSC (Guacamole Salsa Chips) with an extra serve of chips and that’s HKD180 + HKD10 (+10% service charge ) = HKD209 / USD 27 for fucking chips, guacamole and salsa!!!!!!  FUCK MEEEE, I know HK rents are expensive and all but still.  I gotta draw the line somewhere and the line is drawn here, ESPECIALLY when the guacamole needed more salt and lime to bring some brightness and acidity, and the salsa was bland as fuck.  Apparently Ochoa makes his salsa that way because HK people can’t handle spicy shit (not that anyone asked).  I know some people in HK are ok with this new price point (!!) which just proves HK makes you go fucking insane.  GUISE, CUT IT THE FUCK OUT, USD27 for chips, mediocre guacamole and super average salsa just because they smash the avocados at your table is NOT OK.

cutit

The Carne Asada Fries (HKD118 + 10% service charge) are fucking great but really, how hard can it be to fuck up mixing grilled USDA prime shortrib, melting some cheese all over it and adding jalapeno, queso fresco sauce, chiptole mayo, onion and cilantro?  This is hardly complicated culinary shit to execute cause deep fried potatoes, meat and cheese is always gonna be a fuck yeah winner.  Less successful is the Stingray Flautus (HKD78 + 10% service charge) which is a rolled up tortilla that allegedly contains stingray but honestly it could have been any sort of mystery meat.  It was fine to eat, in the way that you eat a deep fried spring roll and it doesn’t really matter what’s inside because it’s deep fried and salty.  But after all the banging on about the inspiration behind 11 Westside, who really gives a fuck about what influences you’ve taken on to make a dish if you can’t even tell what meat is inside of it?

The 11 Westside menu lists five tacos, the Al Pastor, Pollo Asado, Carne Asada, Caulifornia Veggie and the Chef Ochoa Special.  11 Westside makes their own flour tortillas which means there’s a chorus of people going “Bitch, where my fucking corn tortillas at?” and I’ve been told because Chef Oschoa is going for a LA feel where flour tortillas are the go to.  I’m neither Mexican nor from Los Angeles so I dunno what is the truth.  I checked in with one of my friends from California and she reckoned this was bullshit, given she found corn and flour tortillas all over LA as well. 

I went for the Al Pastor and the Chef Ochoa special, which was some sort of pork belly taco (HKD50 + 10% service charge per taco).  The Al Pastor uses pineapple roasted pork with auchiote (a red-yellow spice with a mild peppery flavour), topped with that infamou$ guacamole, salsa molcajete and fresh pineapple. It’s got a good fresh balance going on with the slight char of the roasted pork and the fresh, clean flavours of the pineapple.  I judiciously ensure I eat every last bit of guacamole because I’m not one to leave money on the table.  I’m also super into the flour tortillas, flaky and grilled so they’re a bit crisp on the outside but still soft when you bite through.

However, the pork belly taco is a major fucking flop.  The skin and fat is just chilling out in there as greasy, chewy lumps.  There might have been other things happening in it which I’ve completely forgotten about because all I can remember is hitting a bit of flaccid rind and chewing on that, as my back molars were getting all gummed up and for HKD50+ for a few bites, I am not here for that. 

11 Westside tacos are most definitely tacos for ants and at HKD50+, shit is gonna get expensive real quick if you intend to find satiety on these tiny-ass bites.  In a FYN exclusive, I have secured some honest to God real life footage of the 11 Westside kitchen making HKD50+ tacos:

tinytacos

There’s only two main dishes on the menu and we went with the USDA Hanger Prime Steak (HKD268 +10% service charge). It’s served with more salsa, grilled vegetables and a stack of grilled flour tortillas on the side.  It’s all, straight down the line fine.  Sure, the steak is delicious enough but after eating various variations of all of these components in other dishes, I just can’t get too fucking excited about rolling some meat in a flour tortilla and thinking it’s that different to the tacos I’ve already eaten in flour tortillas with the same salsa, or the salsa that was already with the chips and the beef that was already on the carne asada fries.  Ultimately, this dish just felt like a derivative of everything else I’d already eaten that evening.

So the food at 11 Westside isn’t a terrible car crash – as in, it’s all very edible except for a few low points like that gross AF pork belly taco.  But more importantly, there’s nothing about this restaurant that makes it memorable or food which will show you something new or interesting (unless seeing an avocado getting mashed up by your table is really that revolutionary for you).  For all the horn blowing about bringing REAL MEXICAN to Hong Kong with the REAL MEXICAN chef, I just don’t know how anyone would get it stiff for this place.  From the no reservations policy and the waiting period, the weird Grecian style interiors and then fuck, the sky high price points for guacamole and minuscule tacos.  But then you read other HK reviews which are like:

11westside

And all I gotta say is, oh HK food writers, Y U so easily impressed??

mj-laughing_zpsgflv6hws

Verdict:
HK, if something like this is enough to qualify as one of the hottest openings of 2017, you really gotta check yourself before you really wreck yourself. A snoozey, lack lustre fuck no.

Where:
Black Ant
60 2nd Ave (between 3rd & 4th St.)
East Village, NYC 10003
USA

Phone:
+1 (212) 598-0300 or online reservations are available here (fuck yeah, OpenTable)

Price:
USD70+ for two people, after 20% tip/tax, excluding drinks.

The deal:
It’s so fucking hard to get decent Mexican in Hong Kong, I temper that statement with the hard fucking facts that I’ve never been to Mexico, I’m not Mexican and I have no Mexican friends who are showering me with Mexican food.  But I can only assume that good Mexican food shouldn’t taste like bland mushy textures, sadness and the optional extra of bankruptcy (given the price of Mexican noms in the Kong).  We went to Black Ant because I wanted something spicy to push out the jet lag and the niggling suspicion of coming down with a cold after 15 hours of fuck no germ bag times on the plane.  Black Ant was packed and people were eating some pretty impressive looking noms.

The first thing I knew I had to get in my life was their guacamole.  Everyone knows that while I’m all aboard the Fuck Yeah, HK train that the one thing I fucking miss in the Kong is being able to buy decent fucking avocados (check my interview over at The Branded if you want to see what’s up) – this is pretty much my reaction every time I buy an avocado and I’m fucking excited that imma gonna have guacamole and then when I finally cut that fucker open, it’s inevitably a black, rotten motherfucker inside and I’m all:

nooooo

The Black Ant Guacamole (USD13) was the fuck yeah answer to my parched avocado existence, smashed up creamy beautiful avocados with orange segments, passila (a type of chilli), crispy shallots, fresh radishes and lime juice.  I wept joyous tears as I delicately shoved crispy tortilla chips into my greedy, wanting maw, only pausing to shout self-serving abuse at Mr Noms that he was messing up his guacamole to tortilla chip ratio and if he kept that up, we were going to be out of dip before tortillas.

We ordered a serve of the Tacos de Cocochas / cod cheek tacos (USD13) which looked really fucking good with its colourful slaw and microherbs but I just wasn’t feeling it.  The cod cheeks (a slice of meat taken from a cod fish jaw) just had too much fucking batter going on and the cod cheeks were too rubbery, taking on a calamari like texture.  The taco had this fuck no earthy undertone – I wasn’t sure if it was the fish or the beet sprout elements in the slaw but there was just too many fucking flavours going on that weren’t working together.  The Enchiladas de Conejo (USD24) was a spicy braised rabbit and chilacayote ragout which was ok, but again, it just seemed like a whole bunch of flavours were thrown together which should work together but shit just didn’t seem to gel together.

For dessert, we saw everyone ordering the Churros Fondue (USD10) and what’s not to love about fuck yeah deep fried cinnamon style doughnuts which you dunk in three different types of sauces (cajeta/caramalised sweet milk, orange blossom flavoured cream and salty chocolate sauce)?  It was FUCK YEAH dessert times.

However, the best fuck yeah moment of the whole meal (apart from dat guacamole) was listening to the Class A1 wanker at the table next to us (and the Black Ant is noisy as fuck and you are crammed together, so we got front row seats to the show) who was telling his lady friend how he pretty much knew everything, ever, from how to seat people at a wedding, why people ate grasshoppers (high protein content which made them perfect carriers for flavours…not because cows are in short supply in any of those grasshopper countries) and then even punctuated an opinion with repeating “I AM AN ENTREPRENEUR” four times in one minute (not even fucking exaggerating).

Anyway, I’m on fucking holidays and I’m already feeling the arduous as fuck toil of writing about NYC NOMAGEDDON so fuck writing some meaningful and well constructed conclusion and check this graph I made of my meal at Black Ant in lieu of a proper summary:

blackantchart

Verdict:
Shit wasn’t terrible – but no dice for a recommendation/return unless you’re going for the guacamole only.  Fuck no.

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