Modern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

robthomassmooth

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

iceplantbaby

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

tracy-wanttobemyfriend

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

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

naomicrying

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

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

Where:
Burnt Ends
20 Teck Lim Road
Singapore 088391

Phone:
+65 6224 3933

Price:
It really is gonna depend on how much steak and wine you order, I’d estimate around SGD90 per person including 200g of the cheapest steak each, before booze and tip (no service charge included). And it’s SG, so of course booze ain’t gonna be cheap.

The deal:
Burnt Ends is the one restaurant in Singapore that I get asked about all the time by my HK homies re: whether they should bother going.  Before I moved to Singapore (yes for the blog only homies, it’s true – I’ve left HK and it’s all about Majulah Singapura.  But why be a blog only homie?  Get onto my Fuck Yeah Insta or follow the rad as fuck Fuck Yeah Noms Facebook page or if you wanna get personal, friend the fuck out of me on my personal profile), I never made it there on my previous SG visits because I was too busy throwing myself head first through all the hawker centres ever.  Burnt Ends is definitely a restaurant that has all the indications of a restaurant that international visitors are going to be all over because it always appears on those lists.  You know, those stupid destination lists you read in the airplane magazines accompanied by a moody night time shot taken from outside the restaurant with the glow of the restaurant illuminating some beardy, tattooed chef in a leather apron with his arms crossed.  It’s also #14 on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017 list (as sponsored by S. Pellegrino and Acqua Pana) which means from a FYN perspective it’s also highly likely to be overrated AF, overpriced and a total ball ache to get into.  For reals, when did we start giving any sort of weight from a problematic list sponsored by a WATER company, which doesn’t even require its “voters” to remain anonymous or pay for their own fucking meals??  Despite all of this, I ended up at Burnt Ends cause I still fucking love to check out hype beasts even if you’re odds on to be disappointed and destitute by the end of proceedings.

aliceinwonderlandadvice

Now I get that reservations are a pain in the ass for every restaurant because customers are total dick bags who like to no show without giving any warning which kills your ability to get dem dollars, but as a diligent booking honouring customer, I just want to be able to book my shit and not have to wait hours for a table.  Burnt Ends has this booking policy of only taking dinner bookings at early o’clock (ie. 6pm or 6:30pm) otherwise it’s walk in only.  I’m definitely too much of an old, grumpy fucker who needs instant gratification to be dealing with being told it’s going to be two hours before I can get a table, even if it means that I can wait at Potato Head Folk across the road and get involved in some fuck yeah cocktails. 

idontwannadeal

After about 90 minutes, I’m well liquored with fuck yeah cocktails and our table is ready.  It’s the outside bench which faces onto the road, which I’m cool with but I’m guessing if you’re here for a special occasion or date night, you’re going to want to be inside so you can see the Burnt Ends show.  As a restaurant that bills itself as Modern Australian barbecue, it’s all about its custom built four tonne, dual cavity ovens and three elevation grills.  I can get behind what they’re trying to do, using wood ovens and grilling techniques to bring the best out in the fresh ingredients, letting the produce dictate what the daily menu should be. With everything that may be going on from a vibe and interior perspective, nothing can distract me from the fact that prices on this menu are substantial by the time you’re looking at whole point of being at Burnt Ends (ie. the roasted meats).  Sure there’s some affordable snacks which range from SGD10 – SGD20, but by the time you’e looking at the meat section it’s SGD26 per 100g for flank, SGD50 per 100g for striploin and if you want to get into some 45 dry aged Mayura OP Rib, you’re gonna be laying down SGD490 per kg.  Or perhaps you wanna try their famous roasted leek (with hazelnut and black truffle) at a mere SGD42 (+7% GST) – FUCK ME AND PAINT ME A POOR CONSERVATIVE for not wanting to get on board with laying down SGD42 to see just how good a leek can be.

Our server is friendly and efficient, talking us through the menu factually but not giving much more colour on top of that.  When ordering our starters, it’s clear that they aren’t gonna be big and they are designed to be eaten by one to two people.  The Grissini and Taramasalata (SGD12 +7% GST) is good fuck yeah times.  Taramasalata is a Greek dip made from bread, onions, olive oil, fish roe and lemon juice.  This brings back the memories of my Aussie-Greek friends would always bust this out at parties and as a mark of respect, I’d park myself right next to that dip bowl and pay it grave reverence by bowing my head and inhaling as much of this bread dip on more bread.  But fuck, Burnt Ends’ version surely is delicious but SGD12+ for one piece of crisp flatbread with some dip on it? I’m not so fucking down with that but it does make me estimate the cost of the Taramasalata Takedowns I’ve executed at my Greek homies’ parties at around SGD180.

Next up is the Duck Hearts Peri Peri (SGD8 +7% GST) which I’m excited about cause I fucking love organs and all their chewy, interesting textures.  There’s some peri peri sauce to give some contrast to the deep, iron of the hearts, but who fucking cares when these duck hearts are bitter little fuckers which have had the life cooked out of them?  I try to move past this by having some Sobrasada (SGD14 +7% GST), but as delicious as raw cured sausage is with bread, there’s just nothing exciting at all about this dish.  The Beef, Marmalade and Pickles (SGD14 +7% GST) is absolutely fine too, some braised beef which is using the acidity of the pickles and sweet marmalade on some more bread.  I deliberate and chew on this, trying to process what is exactly so exceptional about this place which causes the hype machine to praise it as a BEST EVER or MUST VISIT in Singapore, nay, ASIA.

The Burnt Ends’ Sanger (SGD20+7% GST) is one of their famous, signature dishes which can only explain why I ordered something which sounds like the epitome of basic, boring “OMG FOOD IS SO GOOD, I’M SUCH A FOODIE, FOOD IS LIFE” fare.  For reals, pulled pork shoulder – CHECK, coleslaw – CHECK, chipotle aioli – CHECK and you know it, my eternal and undying nemesis – brioche bun – CHECK.  Wahhhhhhh, get my hair shirt out and squeeze it onto my cliche filled body cause I’m obviously a sadomasochist fucker who wants to flog myself with the cat-o-nine tails of trendy food cliches.  The hits keep coming and even though it’s SGD20 and stuffed full of trendy food tropes, it’s so fucking tiny and most def food for ants.  I get my scalpel and surgical mask out so I can dissect this to share amongst us and find it hard to focus because my eyes are starting to glaze over as I choke back another yawn.  In that one bite there’s the pulled pork which is a bit dry and soggy coleslaw, which causes the brioche to lose its structural shit because NEWSFLASH, BRIOCHE IS GOOD FOR FUCKING NOTHING.  Oh, you know where this is going, FUCK NO.  But because it’s minuscule, I guess at least its lacklustre SGD20+ fuck no sting is swift?

gotcerseieyeroll

For our steak, I opted for the Flank with Burnt Onion and Bone Marrow  (SGD26 per 100g +7% GST) cause fuck no, I can’t afford no SGD50 per 100g + 7% GST striploin shenanigans.  Like most things I ate at Burnt Ends it was cooked well and tasty enough, but there’s nothing exceptional that sticks in my memory. Maybe it’s cause I cheaped out and didn’t go for the ball breaking SGD50/100g option? But I don’t think it’s unreasonable that I expect that a SGD26/100g steak option should leave some sort of impression on me other than “I guess it wasn’t fucking terrible”?

In this sea of high priced malaise, it’s the Bone Marrow Bun (SGD12 +7% GST) which finally manages to shake a little bit of fuck yeah excitement into my Burnt Ends #asiastop50 life.  A sesame flecked bun which is wrapped in foil and baked til it’s crispy as fuck on the outside but still soft on the inside with its fuck yeah bone marrow stuffing, all melted and buttery.  I have so many fuck yeah feelings regarding this bun, that I double down and get another order of it.

tracymorganiwouldliketo

So, I get that Burnt Ends’ jam is meant to be food which show cases the ingredients but there’s the difference in doing the ingredients right and not overcomplicating things, while still showing me something new and then just doing shit in a fine but completely unremarkable manner.  Burnt Ends is in no way terrible and these hyped up restaurants are always battling against expectation but for me, if I have to lay down the big bucks, I want something that makes me pause and think about what’s going on.  Not just that each bite is costing me too much money for a complete lack of excitement, regardless of whatever fancy as fuck grill and oven contraptions you may be slinging in the kitchen.

Verdict:
Fuck no because shit ain’t worth the bucks nor the no booking palaver.  But if you’re visiting Singapore and really wanna get involved, I recommend ordering two Bone Marrow Buns and smashing a glass of red before applying the appropriate hashtags to your Instagram post and moving along.  But I will concede, there’s a few people where you’d still be so fucking excited about Burnt Ends, such as:

  1. You’ve been in a coma for the last 15 years and someone using a grill on meat in a restaurant and eating something delicious on a piece of toasted bread is the most amazing concept you’ve ever heard of
  2. You like going to restaurants which are on lists because getting to tag your shit with #asias 50best, thank the chef for looking after you and listing which arbitrary ranking number it came in at because this still counts for something in your dull, desolate existence.
  3. You’re an old fucker who’s now living DA ASIA LYFE and you need to take your hot new young thing to DATE NIGHT to show you’re still hip with the homies but you also don’t want to feel too Old Man River eating a SGD45++ serve of sea urchin on a grey, soulless slate while an immaculate waitress listlessly serves you extra bitch face as you try to get your ancient bones to deal with sitting on a concrete slab bench as ambient techno discretely throbs in the background.
  4. Someone else is fucking paying, so who gives a fuck if you’re dropping all the bucks ever on pedestrian but still delicious, overpriced bits of meat on bread.

For everyone else, there’s most def more interesting and fuck yeah eats to spend your Sing Buckas on.

Where:
12,000 Francs
G/F Elgin Building
43A Elgin Street
Soho, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2529 3100 (but holy fucking shit, they have an online booking system that actually works.  IT’S THE FUTURE AND HK, MY BODY IS READY)

Price:
HKD320 per person (including service charge) before booze.

The deal:
12,000 Francs is a relatively new Elgin Street restaurant, run by Woolly Pig Concepts (the same gang behind The Beach House, Madam S’ate and the former Madam Sixty Ate in Wan Chai) and its kitchen is headed up by Conor Beach, former chef at the French Art wankfest Bibo and the Repulsive Bay, Balinese restaurant, TRi.  I visited TRi before he left and I was into his detailed as fuck take on Balinese food (but not the frosty, nonchalant service I received from their entirely disinterested Russian waitress) so was looking forward to see what direction Chef Beach was going to take at 12,000 Francs.  This was even despite receiving a press release for 12,000 Francs which declared that this was “A story of food, ambition and power“.  Like holy fucking shit, R U for real HK PR firms, someone paid you to write this??

 wank-peepshow
12,000 Francs is probably best billed as Modern European and their schtick ethos is being all about traditional and contemporary preservation methods such as pickling, salting, smoking and curing.  This is where the name of the restaurant is derived from – the 12,000 francs that Napoleon Bonaparte offered in 1795  to anyone who could devise a method of preserving food to keep his armies in food, which was claimed 15 years later by Nicolas François Appert who kept the fuck yeah noms flowing  for Napoleon’s armies by shoving food into wine bottles (like partridges and green beans) that were heated to boiling point before being sealed.  FYN Fun Fact:  Appert really got into this preservation shiz and showing off, reaching peak bragging rights when he managed to can an entire sheep.  

I’m into 12,000 Francs clean and modern aesthetic by an Aussie designer, Emma Maxwell – teal clad walls, white, grey and black mosaics, warm golden lighting from chandeliers made out of wine glasses and the occasional gold accent.  A long, high table is run down the middle and some smaller tables are placed at the back of the restaurant.  Fuck yeahhhh, restaurants which achieve a modern look without falling into the easy trap of just hollowing out a restaurant and leaving you to eat in a concrete cave in the pursuit of minimalistic, industrial modernism while saving the bucks on actually designing an interior.  12,000 Francs manages to feel intimate without jamming a billion tables in, so you’re not forced the indignity of continually bumping into strangers next to you.

Historical preservation techniques aside, 12,000 Francs is all up in doing everything from scratch and the providence of its ingredients.  The menu is divided into four sections, Picked + PottedSmoke + Salted, Vacuum + Fire and Sugar + Sweet. Bread isn’t doled out for free at 12,000 Francs (HKD40 +10% service charge) but it’s so fucking good – some of the best bread I’ve had in HK this year.  A mixture of white and whole wheat flours from Japan, with barley malt for depth, this glorious carby dark angel is righteous as fuck.  With a large open crumb, thanks to its high hydration levels you’ll want to slather the slightly nutty cultured butter all over it and get it into your face as fast as possible.  

Our next few starters were all small plates.  The Stracciatella (HKD130 +10% service charge) is a creamy fucker, served with sundried tomato, curry leaf, and chilli.  Stracciatella is the creamy, GOOD SHIT found inside mozzarella and the sundried tomato gives it a small touch of acidity and sweetness, with the curry leaf and chilli providing a tiny bit of heat to round off the creaminess of the stracciatella.  The duck rillettes (HKD130 + 10% service charge) are also major – made from confit spiced duck and a side of mostarda which offsets the fat of the duck rillettes.  However, the King of Starter Town was most def the Foie Gras Parfait.  12,000 Francs might be tight on providing bread with their foie gras parfait with only a few pieces of bread but they are not stingy with the foie.  Large and in charge, this foie gras and chicken liver parfait is fucking amazing and it’s served with some pickled jalepenos on the side, which bring the fire and the acidity to contrast against the rich and beautiful as fuck parfait, rounded off with a touch of mezcal in the parfait.  OH and then no biggie, be still my fatty boombah heart cause they top this cardiac unfriendly treat off with crispy fried duck skin.  YASSSS get that good shit onto bread, set my heart on fire with your textures and get into my life ASAP.

The only problem with the above starters is that due to my sloppy ordering choices, all of the above needed to be eaten with bread and then add in the two extra serves of malted sourdough I’d thrown in, even this rapacious carboslut was in serious BREAD TOWN by now.  Maybe I was just overwhelmed by my delicious New World wine or numerous choices on the 12,000 Francs menu but by this stage, I wish I hadn’t ordered everything ever that had to be eaten with all the bread.  I know right, call me the WAHmbulance, I’m dying here in delicious, sourdough breadtown.  FYN NOTE – NOT A FAULT OF THE RESTAURANT, RATHER MY INABILITY TO GET MY ORDERING SHIT TOGETHER:

breadcat

Ploughing into the large sharing mains, we bypassed the Fire Roasted Suckling Pig which sounded fucking amazing but also came with a 90 minute preparation warning (so FYN homies, if you’re into dat porcine good life, be organised and call that shit in).  Instead we opt for the Short Rib Pastrami (HKD450 +10% service charge) and it looked so fucking delicious when it arrives, delicately pink inside and charred on the outside, sitting alongside a clean long rib, accompanied by sauerkraut, vibrant green pea shoots and a mixture of barley and rye risotto.  I get where this dish was trying to go, the smokey spiced slightly fatty pastrami should have been playing off against the fresh pea shoots and the earthier barley grains, while the sauerkraut should have been that piquant counterpoint against the fat of the pastrami.  However, fuck noooooooooo the pastrami short rib was squarely on Struggle Street – while the flavour of it was well done, it just couldn’t save the cut of meat from being far too fucking fatty which was exacerbated by it being served at a far too cool temperature.  This results in you having to choke back a congealing, fatty piece of meat which eliminated your carefactor about every other component on the dish because no amount of well pickled sauerkraut or verdant, fresh pea shoots can save a fucking disgusting piece of cooling fat, no matter how well spiced it is.  GROSS.

clintdisgust

12,000 Francs recovers with the Merguez Lamb with Beef Sausage (HKD160 +10% service charge).  This reminded me a lot of the Middle Eastern influenced Modern Australian food I used to eat, with its spicy and earthy Middle Eastern vibes being kept fresh by the onions, sumac spiced yoghurt and fresh pomegranate sacs, bursting with sweetness.

Barrelling into dessert, we order both options that are available.  The first is the boldly named, Better Than Nutella (HKD98 +10% service charge), I mean duuuude for real, you’re gonna pit yourself against Nutella, with all of its childhood nostalgic memories that people harbour for this sweet, hazelnut spread?

iwantallofyounutella 

The alleged Better Than Nutella is a combo of warm chocolate hazelnut mousse, bread pudding and milk sorbet.  I’m not the biggest chocolate slut out there though so I’ll level with you, I don’t get that stiff for chocolate heavy desserts, but I imagine if you did, this would probably be your jam.  It’s well thought out, a mixture of temperatures with the warm mousse and the cold milk sorbet and the bread pudding and toasted hazelnut pieces give it enough texture to keep shit interesting against the mousse. But shit gets real when it comes to the KA Pastry (HKD80 +10% service charge), the coyly abbreviated Kouign Amann.  For those that don’t know what a kouign amann is it’s a Breton cake which translates to CAKE BUTTER and is traditionally a mixture of dough (40%), butter (30%) and sugar (30%), which is the sort of maths that I can get behind. The Cupping Room sells them and last year, I was so hard up for these souped up croissants on steroids with their delicious as fuck caramelised sugary crust, flaky butter stuffed pastry and the salt which pierced through the buttery fat. That was until The Cupping Room a) never had any and b) when they did, they were skinny and burnt as fuck.  However, the 12,000 Francs version of the kween is next level, adding a maple syrup gel to the kouign amann pastry, serving it with caramelised maple pecans, pumpkin and cumquat spiced puree and a cannelle of vanilla ice-cream just chillin’ on top of the kouign.  It’s an immense fuck yeah – I’m feeling Autumn, I’m feeling sweetness, I’m feeling salty, I’m feeling butter and most importantly, I’m feeling LOVE FOR THE KWEEEEEN, now, always and forever:

ilana-glazer-yas-queen

So what brings the feels at 12,000 Francs is actually that every dish on their menu is considered and hasn’t been thrown on there just the please the masses.  There’s something intensely personal about what they’re trying to do, to show case the produce and ingredients that they use through certain techniques and how they’re paired off and contrasted against each other.  When you’ve been to enough new restaurants which scrawl a bit of graffiti on a wall, throw down some liver into the menu and label shit ‘nose to tail’ and then blare some generic Spotify playlist called “Williamsburg Brunch”, I gotta give props to a restaurant where every element has been thought about and still comes out at a decent price point per person.  Enough props that I can even look past that gross, cold, fatty as fuck pastrami short rib.

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhhhh – check this shit out now if you’re in need of a small dinner or a cool date spot in Soho with a bit of vibe and won’t leave you bankrupt.  But honestly, I reckon that 12,000 Francs is really going to hit its stride in about 3-6 months.  MY 12,000 FRANCS HOMIES, MAY THE FICKLE HK RESTAURANT GODS BE KIND TO YOU, I wanna see what you guys accomplish in the long run.

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.

mjfrustrated

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:

kanyecoolphoto

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.

oprahcrying

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:
Zurriola (you can check my original review out here)
18/F, The One, 100 Nathan Road
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2253 7111

Price:
Yo, I got my invite on.  I’ve included the prices below for the Zurriola menu items.

getmoneysquirrel

The deal:
It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of Zurriola since Executive Chef Daniel Birkner moved across.  If you catch me on my FY Noms FB (for real though, why wouldn’t you want a random internet homie to show up on your page to give you a ‘Fuck yeahhhh’ when you deserve one), I’ve encouraged any number of random internet FYN homies to check out Zurriola’s beautiful and inventive Modern European food when they’ve asked me for a recommendation.  Of course, it’s also imperative that you definitely finish up that rad as fuck meal with Zurriola’s seriously major cheese platter.  I can’t emphasise this enough, you are definitely living your life wrong if you don’t get all Kanye up in that French raw milk cheese deal and be all “Where are you Yeezy Cheesey??”.

Zurriola are running a game menu in November and December, in line with the European seasons.  As it’s allegedly Autumn in HK, this means we should be getting all romantic and shiz, wearing ridiculous Arctic suitable puffa jackets and cuddling up with big round goblets of bold reds and then celebrating the changing leaves by eating strong, robust game meats of delicious wild animals like deer and boar.  Let’s just push to one side the fact that it’s almost mid-November and most of HK is still puffa jacket free, but honestly I’m led to believe that HK will get cold at some point in time.  NO REALLY, I SWEAR WINTER IS COMING.

GoTwinteriscoming

To console myself with the fact that it feels like I’m always going to be a sweaty-ass mess in HK, I tried to hide my weather related disappointment by eating a fuck tonne of delicious wild animals paired with all sorts of earthy, warm ingredients like pumpkin, mushroom and celeriac.  I got my invite on here, so I managed to get a taste of everything even though Zurriola’s game menu isn’t meant to be eaten as a ‘tasting’ menu.  Rather, you should pick a starter and a main of your choice.  Before flinging yourself head first into all the French raw milk cheese with fruit bread that you can get your dirty mitts on.  So with my Deer Hunter pants firmly on, let me tell you about all the Zurriola game offerings that I obliterated my way through.

bambirabbitscream

  • Venison tartar (HKD178 +10% service charge):  I have always been partial to the meat of the majestic deer.  Maybe it’s because they’re so damn adorable or maybe it’s just because I fucking love bold, gamey flavours and rare as fuck meat.  So you can only imagine my unbridled enthusiasm towards small cubes of raw venison meat which have been dressed with dehydrated mushroom powder to deliver that fuck yeah umami earthy punch.  There’s also some thinly sliced cauliflower, cauliflower puree and micro-red shiso leaves to gently hint at some sort of cruciferous, anise style flavour. My fucking beautiful, beyond rare tartar – I’m swooning at the very thought of you.
  • Pheasant consommé (HKD108 + 10% service charge):  The pheasant consommé wouldn’t necessarily be for everyone but I reckon for people who can appreciate a super labour intensive consommé which has fucktonnes of flavour layers, you will be all up in this broth based shiz.  Just cooked pieces of pheasant with poached cubes of celeriac and celeriac puree are served in a clear brown consomme made from the roasted carcasses of pleasant pheasants and madeira.  The madeira gave it that warm, fruity roundness and reminded me of the overtones of red dates and herbs that you get in Chinese herbal chicken soups.  If only medicine was this fucking delicious and involved delicately prepared tender slices of pheasants.
  • Paté of wild boar (HKD208 +10% service charge):  This can be served either hot or cold and Zurriola served up the hot version.  It’s a mixture of strong wild boar meat and pistachios, served with mushrooms and pickled onions to cut through the rich boar meat. I could have eaten three of these.  I could have eaten it cold.  I could eat it right the fuck now and be fucking happy with my life.
  • Wild Boar Bourguignon (HKD348 +10% service charge):  This dish doesn’t look that big but it packs a heavy punch thanks to its rich fuck yeah flavours from the wild boar meat, braised vegetables and some water chestnuts for contrast.  It’s not Zurriola’s fault that HK is still so fucking hot that it seemed like this dish was two months too early.  I’d probably say this is your most ‘traditional’ style dish so maybe order this one if you’re into predictable through comfortably hearty fuck yeah dishes?
  • Venison loin (HKD540 + 10% service charge):  This is NOT cheap shit and I guess those wild running European Bambis aren’t cheap by the time you hunt them down and air-freight their chilled adorable carcasses to Hong Kong.  I assure you that this was a special fuck yeah moment though, beautiful pieces of venison loin served with a puree of creamy, sweet Hokkaido pumpkin, a flourish of a Hokkaido pumpkin ribbon twisted into a flower and just candied ‘black’ walnuts.  Of course it was all art and beautiful as fuck.  But not as beautiful as it was eating this gloriously tender fuck yeah venison loin.  I was so taken by the ‘black’ walnuts that I asked for more details.
    FYN Fun Fact – a Lesson in Nutz:  Black walnuts are actually green walnuts which are picked unripe before the nutshell is built. These labour intensive fuckers than require pricking with needles and are watered for 10-14 days, requiring more needle pricking every damn day because it allows tannic acid to be discharged at the prick holes.  When all that laborious shit is done, the nuts are boiled in a syrup or broth to taste. These needy nutty bastards are then usually packed and sealed either in mason jars or vacuum bags and left alone for roughly a year.  You’ll be pleased to know that regardless of how long these inky beauties took to take this form, I managed to snack these up in mere seconds.
  • Ballotine of Deer Loin (HKD580 +10% service charge):  Fuckkkkk, I can’t lie to you and pretend that any dish that starts with a five handle is anything but really fucking expensive  But if it’s pay day, I’d say this ballotine is a boneless fuck yeah wonder.  Zurriola take the deer loin and roll it into a round, egg like shape.  It’s then served with a celeriac puree, Black Trumpet Mushrooms and a jus sauce that’s so fucking incredible you’ll want to bathe in it. If it was socially acceptable I totally would have licked the fucking plate.
  • Deer Shoulder 48/48 (HKD378 + 10% service charge):  While it may have a title that sounds a bit like a Justin Timberlake album, it is to signify that the deer shoulder has been cooked at 48 degrees Celsius for 48 hours.  Our waiter brings out the cooked deer shoulder to show it to us before it’s returned to the kitchen for slicing.  The menu might simply declare it as having ‘Brussel Sprouts’ and ‘Salsify’ (the root of the oyster plant) but of course it’s all fancy fucker times with individual brussel sprout leaves and swooshy black liquid trails painted across our plate.  The 48/48 deer shoulder has been seared before serving so it’s does get some char to it and it’s not an insipid mess that was cooked in a warm water bath.  SO FUCKING DELICIOUS.

One thing that I just cannot jive with at Zurriola is their fuck no plastic placemats which look like carpet underlay material.  While I’m all up in the food and there’s a fuck yeah harbour view, I just don’t think the dining room is modern enough to be trying to pull of plastic underlay placemats while charging HKD500+ for mains.

Despite dreaming about the cheese plate all day, I didn’t demand satisfaction at this point.  If only because I’d eaten my way through a small mob of delicious, tender deer at this point in time and was full as fuck.  One thing to note is the warning that you might find the odd piece of shot in their dish in a nod to authenticity and a sign of quality.  Unfortunately, no bad ass lead filled treats for me and I can report that my game meal was just full of fuck yeah delicious sauces and wild game.  If you’re jonesing for dem venison and wild boar feelings, it’s time to get involved before the end of 2015.

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhhh, cause oops I did it again, got lost in the game oh baby baby.  But fair warning, if you’re gonna pile in for the expensive venison related items make sure it’s on pay day.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: