Modern

Where:
SAAM (fuck yeahhhh, fully functional website)
G/F, 51D Graham Street (just up from The Globe)
Central, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2645 9828

Price:
The seven course tasting menu cost HKD788 (+10% service charge) with seven half glasses of wine at HKD 348 (+10% service charge), so HKD1,250 in total.

The deal:
Chef Patrick Dang summarises his background and cooking in three sentences on his website, “I was born in Hong Kong. I was raised in Australia. The globe is my inspiration.” and if you had to categorise his restaurant, I’d say it’s ‘Modern European’.  There’s been a fair bit of press around SAAM and the new ‘Back to School’ set tasting menu which is being offered in September / October and as a few FYN homies had told me that they’d really enjoyed the menu, my linen loving self decided to forgive SAAM for proclaiming shit like “We want to take away tablecloths; while maintaining styled elegance” and rounded up some homies to go and check it out.

However, SAAM do not make it easy for you to book a table at their restaurant, outlining a long list of requirements to achieve a booking on their website.  You need a minimum of four people.  You need to pay a HKD200 deposit per person via bank transfer and then whatsapp in the proof.  You can book online but despite the bank deposit requirement, you still need to hand over credit card details.  For reservations of less than four people you go through the same hoops but it’s on a ‘first come, first served’ basis (which really seems contrary to the whole fucking point of a reservation??).  On top of all of that, SAAM will only hold your table for 15 minutes, so don’t be late homies. Either way, SAAM’s reservation shit is NOT easy.  I imagine some of this comes from the fact that SAAM is relatively small, probably seating 20 – 30 people and flakey no-show fuckers (yes HK, I mean almost all of you) would really mess their economics up.

Chef Dang’s vision for his ‘Back to School’ menu is his homage to all the HK kiddies headed back to school in September and is a play on all those mass produced school lunches but of course all fancy and cheffed up.  Each course is named simply and there’s a twist with each course, with the promise of bringing some lightheartedness to the table and no doubt, meant to evoke that innocent childhood feeling inside every diner. Cue every fucking food blogger overusing the adjective  “whimsical” and potentially throwing in some carefully researched Alice in Wonderland quotes about Chef Dang’s mad creations taking you down a fantastical and wondrous culinary rabbit hole.

SAAM kick off proceedings with an Irish oyster amuse bouche (which is in no way connected to the School Day theme).  There is only one waiter for the entire restaurant which means it takes him a few rounds to serve everyone’s food but he’s also knowledgeable, friendly and succinctly explains all of the food we’re about to eat.  The first course is  ‘Nutella & Toast’, where a small pastry (the “toast”) is stuffed with “nutella” (which is in fact a truffle panna cotta), served alongside a scallop crudo and some hazelnuts. It’s interesting and tasty enough, but definitely benefits from being presented within the context of it riffing on the appearance of Nutella toast.

This gimmicky (though tiny) opening course is followed by the simply titled ‘Cereal & Yoghurt’ which was one of my favourite fuck yeah highlights from the night. A small dish of fuck yeahhhh foie gras parfait is topped with a thin layer of pineapple jelly.  SAAM have scattered savoury crunchy granola and small peppered pieces of pineapple on top, with a few small piped blobs of almond yoghurt.  I fucking loved this dish because it was full of fuck yeah contrasts – the crunch of the granola against the soft foie gras, the acidity of the pineapple cutting through the fatty foie gras.  I could have spooned this foie gras concoction onto little toasted crackers all day and into my face, even without being loaded up with a cutesy school food story.

It is at this point that I start to panic regarding whether I’m going to be swinging by McDonald’s to get some McWings afterwards as each tiny though elaborate course disappears swiftly.  The wine pairing provides a half-glass with each course and SAAM are definitely showing some precision in their pours.  It isn’t one of those scenarios when you order a matched ‘half-glass’ wine tasting menu and end up getting generous almost full glass pours and you drunkenly roll your lush ass out of the restaurant.  I enjoyed the wine tasting but I guess I’m just a fucking lush cause I wanted more wine.

The third course of ‘Sausage & Egg‘ was the most successful in terms of the surprise factor that SAAM were gunning for.  The dish arrives with a super convincing ‘sunny side up fried egg’ which has actually been constructed from coconut and the spherification of some butternut pumpkin puree (which mimics the membrane of an egg yolk).  WHOA, SURPRISE NO-EGG EGG YO!

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Our helpful waiter instructs us to mix the ‘yolk’ with the ‘egg white’, to form a dipping sauce for your ‘sausage’ made from lobster. Sure it’s a bit gimmicky but even this grumpy, cynical gloomy fucker can let a little slice of corny no-egg egg sunshine into my goth as fuck heart and enjoy the fuck yeah pumpkin, lemongrass infused coconut sauce with the lobster ‘sausage’ sprinkled with madras curry flavoured bread crumbs

Next up was the ‘Fish & Chips’ course which didn’t play too hard to trick the fuck out of you with fancy shit.  Despite it not having a M Shyamalan twist, it was one of my favourite fuck yeah courses.  A decent sized slice of poached turbot is served on a bright green bed of mushy peas.  A ‘potato crisp’ is made out of thin reconstituted potato wafer, flavoured with vinegar powder, cleverly hinting at chips splashed with vinegar.  A ball of deep fried tartar sauce is as tricky as this dish gets and it was just a well balanced, fucking delicious course.  All I wanted was MOAR TURBOT. Much tender. So wow. Many fuck yeah fish related feels.

The ‘Gluten free noodle soup’ is described as a gluten free chicken instant noodle.  That’s because the noodles are actually made from pureed chicken breasts.  Our waiter explains that it takes five hours to make these noodles, explaining that it’s super fucking tedious to remove all the tendons.  Sure, it’s clever and chock full of technique but fuck, I’m not convinced the pay off was fucking worth it.  HOWEVER, the superior abalone broth which took two days which is poured over the noodles is fucking spectacular. I’d happily skip the extruded chicken mousse noodles for a gluten filled bog-standard wheat udon noodle as a pay off to get triple the amount of dat fuck yeah broth.

Rounding the corner into the final savoury course, it’s the ‘School Roast Dinner’ which doesn’t stray too far from what anyone would perceive as a roast dinner, except it’s been poshed up to the max with a singular ‘potato fry’ and ‘umami gravy’.  The Australian Wagyu short rib is cooked sous vide and then grilled so it can get some semblance of brown onto it.  Fuck, I don’t really get behind sous vide that much and I dunno why fancy ass chefs are so obsessed with letting meat sit in a warm bath all day rather than just fucking cooking it properly in the first place?? Blah blah tender blah blah gentle cooking blah blah even temperature, fuck off I know I know, I’m just not fucking into it.

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Either way, the beef was still fucking delicious and ‘umami’ sauce was just a fancy way of describing ‘concentrated mushroom’ sauce.  I gotta be real that I would have preferred a bit more char on my beef, but due to the lameness of warm bathtime sous vide beef, I get that you have to avoid overcooking it.  I also don’t know if the reconstituted potato smashed into a singular mega-fry shape added much to the overall dish, but the sides were all a side note to the fuck yeah beef.

The dessert course is the simply named ‘PB&J’ and it’s a peanut butter parfait with a grape sorbet, served with some tiny champagne grapes and lego shaped banana pudding.  It’s nice to look at and quite the hit with our table.  I categorise this one under a solid dish which is cute enough. My less curmudgeonly homies seemed to enjoy this more.  The flavours were a fuck yeah but didn’t seem to necessarily come together cohesively enough for me.  I just wanted more from this dish to move it from an interesting concept to a solid fuck yeah dessert moment.

What I liked about SAAM was that it was trying to do something interesting and have its food tell a story.  Was every dish as successful as it had set out to be?  Fuck no.  Was my palpable fear of going through one of those modern, food for ants tasting menus fulfilled?  Not quite, but on a scale of 1 to ‘I gotta get McWings on the way home’ hunger scale, I was probably a 6.5.  Which means that if SAAM hadn’t been so tightassed with their bread (fun fact, you gotta hand over HKD9 per person if you want bread. Like, R U SRS SAAM, HKD9 is really changing the economic metrics of your restaurant, when I’m already handing over HKD1200+ per person?) I would have been fine. Were some dishes fucking about with fussy techniques, just to do something different and provide a surprise moment?  Fuck yeah.  But there was still the occasional major fuck yeah moment like the ‘Cereal & Yoghurt’ foie gras parfait or the ‘Fish & Chips’ turbot with the mashed peas.  Chef Dang is putting something different out there which is unique in Hong Kong and while some of that may result in 5 hour chicken mousse noodles which don’t really outperform your run-of-the-mill standard udon noodle, I gotta admire that it takes balls to do something like SAAM.  And I’d take that any day over all the Mexican-Korean fusion horrors which have taken over this city.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah on pay day, cause this modern creative shiz don’t come cheap.  But I’ll caveat it that SAAM isn’t going to be for everyone.  I’d only recommend getting involved if you want to try something different and you can jive with the wank-off fact that you’re sometimes eating the story as well as the food. HOWEVER, DEM CEREAL AND YOGHURT, FOIE GRAS PARFAIT FEELZ DOE.

Where:
Seasons by Olivier E
Shop 308, 3/F Lee Garden 2
2-38 Yun Ping Rd
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2505 6228

Price:
HKD318 (+10% service charge) for the three course lunch set. I wanted to do four courses (HKD398 + 10% service charge) but due to tardy service, I fucking ran out of time.

The deal:
I’ve wanted to try Seasons by Olivier E because it seemed like they were doing interesting shit or if you would like a more verbose explanation of their restaurant you should check out their website which aside from having functional information like fully expressed menus (GO TEAM WEB SEASONS) also contains the explanation that “Like the passage of time itself, Seasons is in calm but constant transition, refining and redefining itself in a fluid, harmonious evolution. Chef Olivier’s philosophy is one of inclusion, pairing a classical understanding of French cuisine with a modern Asian sensibility and unbridled delight in the finest ingredients, not just from France, but from the world at large.”  Oh, ok if you say so Chef cause like sands through the hourglass, THESE ARE THE DAYS OF OUR LIVES.

Seasons by Olivier E is within the Lee Garden 2 shopping complex in Causeway Bay.  Every time I go to Lee Garden 2 all I am struck with is who the fuck is so goddamn minted that they not only need to buy their little brats Versace Youth threads and HKD350+ haircuts, but they need two floors providing them a variety of obscenely overpriced children’s goods?? Major sads when I realised that I’ve probably walked past 5yo HK children who are wearing the equivalent of several months of my salary.  Rich brat shops aside, the restaurant itself is meant to have four areas which are each inspired by a season (GEDDIT?) when I was actually there though I guess I just saw it as the ‘shitty seats outside the restaurant in the shopping mall’, ‘seats nearest the kitchen’, ‘back salon for tai tais’ and ‘outdoor bar area which looks rad but is hot as all hell and unusable until October’.

Chef Olivier Elzer has worked at all the big names, with his bio saying he’s worked at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon and Pierre Restaurant Hong Kong. I guess that’s kinda in the way that every fucking chef seems to have worked at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Amber or NOMA these days.  Yes, I fucking get it – you’re classically trained in French but you love to forage for some seaweed to get some umami into your dishes while demonstrating your love and appreciation of Asia by throwing in some sea urchin every now and again.  I’m starting to wonder if I can claim that I’ve worked at Amber because I’ve eaten there more than three times.

Seasons by Olivier E is not fucking messing about, with a huge ass open kitchen which looms over the main dining room.  I counted about ten chefs doing their thing and it looked like a tight ship where everyone was hauling some serious ass as I made my way to the Back Salon for Tai Tais section.  I was impressed with the Seasons by Olivier E lunch menu which was filled with fuck yeah sounding choices – there’s nothing worse than when you read a set lunch menu and you’re just trying to choose between what seems the best of two fucking boring options which are trying to cheap out on ingredients.  I snacked down some fuck yeah bread while I made these big decisions, ticking off the bread test and noting that Chef Olivier’s carbs have done his French origins proud.

For my starter, I went with the burrata, olive oil and fresh tomato caviar  (requiring an additional HKD50).  The fresh tomato caviar wasn’t exactly what I expected (I was envisaging some sort of molecular monstrosity) but it was almost a tomato seed reduction of sorts, each piece mimicking the intensity of a sun dried tomato without givine me those late 1990s feels.  While the tomato caviar might have been interesting it all pales in comparison to DAT BURRATA.  I don’t think I know enough adjectives to describe how fucking majestic it was – a barely there solid outer with the liquid cream inside with a drizzle of no doubt, some fancy ass olive oil.  All of the components worked together but while I can appreciate the thought that went into it, I would have been just as happy to have eaten that boss bitch burrata on its own on a little bit of thinly sliced toast before sitting on my hands to ensure I didn’t succumb to my base desires to rub fuck yeah burrata all over my body.

For my second course I got the escargots fricassee with tomato and Pastis sauce. Seasons cooked the snails perfectly, so they didn’t turn into chewy fuckers but this dish was all about the fuck yeah tomato and Pastis sauce.  I’m not normally fucking down with Pastis (cause I don’t get no satisfaction from anise flavored spirits) but in this magical sauce it was mixed with a touch of tarragon and just gave it this fuck yeah depth of flavour that just wouldn’t quit. I scraped the plate clean with a piece of bread, only because I don’t know if the tai tais on all the surrounding tables would have appreciated me licking it clean.

At this stage I was getting relatively full, cause Season’s Portions are very decent in size.  If I did my time again at Seasons, I’d probably only go for two savoury dishes and a dessert.  However, as it was my first time at the Seasons’ rodeo, I’d piled in with ambitions to smash up four courses as I’d envisaged tiny-ass French style portions.  For my final savoury dish, I ordered the beef tenderloin fricassee.  Fuck yeah, the beef was cooked fucking perfectly – juicy, tender and all that good shit.  While I can’t remember much about the salad, I can only assume that it was fresh and beautifully presented because that just seemed par for the course during this meal.  However, I haven’t forgotten the crispy fuck yeah sweet potato fries which were fried in a light tempura-style batter and were a motherfuckin’ carb filled treat.  The only fuck no is that these sweet potato fries came in a delicate appropriate portion vs the indecently sized portion that my fat guts desperately desired. CARB LYFE = BEST LYFE.

I gotta give a fuck yeah mention to Chef Olivier who I spotted ducking into the back dining room a few times to quickly check on how shit was going.  Unfortunately, one thing that let Seasons by Olivier E down was that their staff seemed well intentioned but didn’t seem to have a clear system on exactly who was doing what and in what order.  Or maybe it’s because the clientele at Seasons by Olivier E is dominated by tai tais with their voluminous hair styles, bejewelled clothing and designer handbags so there’s no need for service to be clicking along at the rate of knots cause they’ve got all fucking afternoon to swan about in Lee Gardens 2.  However, I was a bit devastated cause I’d been eyeing off people ordering the camembert in two textures for dessert (the menu claiming these textures to be the real and the creamy one) and I desperately wanted in.  However, after we finished our mains this is when Seasons’ service slowed down hard – it took just a little bit too long for someone to clear our plates.  We waited again for a dessert menu to arrive.  Waiters blew past our table, some clearing plates for other tables and some idly setting up new tables, but no-one came to see if we wanted to order any dessert or get the included coffee or tea in our set lunch.  Finally someone did come to ask but shit was just too fucking late and as a non-tai tai, I had to drag my sorry non-bouffant hairstyled ass away from Lee Gardens 2.  Fuck no Seasons Homies, now I’ll never know the real and the creamy Camembert textures or the other potential for fuck yeah desserts at Seasons by Olivier E.

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Verdict:
Fuck yeah! It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a set lunch menu which was filled with fuck yeah choices and even fucking better, each course was a memorable, well executed fuck yeah.  Sure, the tardy service at the end resulted in my fuck no Camembertless experience, but fuck me, at least I’ll always have those fuck yeah burrata memories. Chef Olivier, imma comin’ back for your dinner time eats.

FYN Update:  I went back to Seasons by Olivier E last night for dinner and did the 6-course Carte Blanche Chef’s choice menu for a pricey HKD1,188 but it was fucking incredible.  One of the best meals I’ve had in 2015.  I watched impressive looking steaks sail out of the kitchen in wooden boxes with smoking sprigs of rosemary stuffed inside.  The Carte Blanche menu was thoughtful as fuck, beautiful and fucking delicious.  The chocolate dessert course was a dark chocolate mousse with coconut ice-cream and chocolate salted popcorn and I don’t even go that wild for chocolate but I want to eat it again right the fuck now. FUCK YEAHHHHHH ON PAY DAY, GET INVOLVED HOMIES.

Where:
Café Gray Deluxe (lolzzz, the website comes with a sound track of clinking cutlery and the happy sounds of punters in their restaurant. So fucking atmospheric!)
The Upper House, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway
Admiralty, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 3968 1106

Price:
Three course lunch set costs HKD395 (+10% service charge).

The deal:
Café Gray Deluxe is one of those places that you rattle off as a place to take someone, inevitably a first time visitor to HK, when you want a restaurant that has a view.  Which should set off the alarm bells because imma gonna get all religious on yo ass for a second and tell you that the Restaurant Gods do not generally give out the good shit with both hands, meaning you tend to either get a fuck yeah view or you get fuck yeah food but it’s rare to get a good serve of both. Some restaurants are even unluckier and don’t get any sort of handout at all, bombing out on all counts.

Café Gray certainly ticks the fancy box and got its hand out of fuck yeah views in spades.  After getting delivered to the restaurant by kilometres of upwards escalators which take you past swirly modern art sculptures, you walk across the bridge into the AFSO designed dining room which is surrounded by fuck yeah views of Victoria Harbour and the Hong Kong skyline streams in from all angles through the large surrounding windows.  A fleet of well groomed women with slick backed hair will coo in polite tones, asking for your name before you’re swiftly taken to your table.  The staff at Café Gray are excellent, killing it from start to finish, all smiles, non-intrusive and always ready to assist in any way you could require.  When all the niceties are said and done, I decide upon what I’m going to have for lunch, opting for the set lunch menu because otherwise shit gets pricey fast with starters ranging from HKD145-HKD310 and mains clocking in at HKD385-HKD595.

Chef Gray Kunz’ blurb on Cafe Gray promises modern European classics with influences from his time in Asia.  You can definitely tell it’s doing modern because there’s no linen tablecloths.  However, Cafe Gray did provide the thinnest, most bullshit linen napkin I’ve encountered to date in Hong Kong.  My napkin was like a sad, old wrinkly ballsack, clearly having spent zero time in contact with an iron and also suffered the indignity of being so threadbare and worn out that it actually had a sizeable hole in it. This seems like fuck no poor form for a restaurant that’s comfortable with charging its patrons mains that start at HKD385.

For entree, I ordered the salmon tartare, which didn’t seem to be anything too revolutionary on the menu and didn’t fail to surprise when it arrived.  I was struck with how perfectly down the middle of average this dish was.  The tartare was raw salmon combined with avocado and served on top of a crispy rice wafer, with all of this surrounded by a sea of pomelo sacs.  I get what this dish was meant to achieve, the raw salmon should have been complemented by the creamy avocado, with the crispy rice wafer providing some textural contrast and the pomelo should have been the acid to cut through the salmon to provide a fresh, bright note to the dish.  However, the salmon was cut too finely, meaning it was almost textureless and the tartare itself wasn’t seasoned enough, to the point of being bland.  This flat salmony mess was further exacerbated by the pomelo lacking the intensity in flavour to provide the fresh, citrus counterpoint against the salmon.  It felt like the kitchen should have nixed this dish or reimagined it after they’d tasted the substandard bland-ass pomelo they’d been provided with.

For main, I had the veal meatloaf “Wallenberg”.  Cafe Gray’s meatloaf is a take on the classical Swedish dish, Wallenbergare – which are fancy ass burger patties named after some ballin’ rich as fuck Swedish family.  Wallenbergare is a breaded patty made with veal and cream, often served with small green peas and lingonberry jam.  Cafe Gray’s fancy ass meatloaf follows this serving suggestion with artistic splashes of red lingonberry sauce and small, bright green peas carefully dotted around the plate.  Despite my scepticism about having fine dining meatloaf, it was fuck yeah veal times and the lingonberry sauce was a sweet though tart affair which cut through the rich veal mince.

Dessert was a caramelised white peach served with chamomile and honey, and a scoop of milk tea ice-cream.  Oh yes, there’s that really fucking obvious reference by a chef who is clearly a well travelled culinary nomad, proving that shit by making a local reference to a classic HK drink.  The ice-cream definitely had that milk tea feel to it, but I don’t know if that’s a real feat of culinary achievement given that it’s just gotta reference some sweet black tea and a bit of evaporated milk to replicate that milk tea feeling.  Despite the ice-cream, this dish was entirely forgettable and didn’t elicit any strong feelings at all, except a dull ache of being a bit bored by it all.  I just really don’t give a fuck if there’s chamomile infused honey, I can’t get that fucking excited about cubes of warm, slightly mushy peach masquerading to be some sort of a fancy dessert just because it’s served in purposeful stacks with an ice-cream quenelle hanging about on the side.

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To round off the meal, you’ll get some rough hewn chunks of milk and dark chocolate, which is a nice fucking closing touch.  The black Americano that I ordered was fucking excellent too, which is always a surprise on the upside because I always expect the worst from hotel associated restaurants when it comes to post-meal coffee.

My biggest issue with Café Gray is that its food doesn’t match the restaurant that it wants to be, or at least what its prices say it should be.  When you are charging those prices, your food should be fucking memorable and if you were to recommend it, you should have a handful of dishes that you thought were fucking unreal and your homies would be fucking stupid if they didn’t take your recommendations on board.  Sure, the service and the ambience of Café Gray is a fuck yeah and when you take your parents here or someone who hasn’t been to HK before, they’re gonna get dazzled by the view and interiors and think it’s a fucking incredible restaurant.  It’s the sort of restaurant that some fresh faced kid who doesn’t know any better would take his girlfriend on a Big Date, because he’s heard it’s got a view and it’s pricey so it must be good. But it’s always the small details that move a restaurant from being serviceably satisfactory to a major fuck yeah which can justify a large price tag.  Café Gray definitely fucks this up, clearly not having that eye for detail to elevate itself to the next level, which shows itself in crinkled, holey napkins and dishes that leave no memorable mark on your psyche.  I just imagine whoever’s running Café Gray taking a look outside their windows at the fuck yeah view, ordering some expensive martini and then just dialling the rest in, because why bother trying that hard with the food if people don’t mind paying for the privilege of the view?

Verdict:
Fuck no, because this is one of those adequate meals which is no big deal if someone else that you don’t care for is paying but if it was your own hard earned bucks, you’d be very underwhelmed at what you’d just paid for.

Where:
Mume (lolz, Taiwan’s websites are as bullshit as HK.  Try their FB page out instead)
四維路28號 (No. 28, Siwei Road)
大安區 (Da’an District)
Taipei, Taiwan

Phone:
+886-22700-0901

Price:
NTD5200 (USD165 / HKD1300) for food and cocktails two people.

Where:
Sussing out where to eat when I visit Taipei is never straight forward because as someone who can’t read Chinese, you’re left to rely on Tripadvisor, Yelp, shitty adjective heavy food blogs and sycophantic press pieces which never give you a clear steer on whether shit’s actually good or not. Yeah, I’ve got trust issues because I’ve had so many substandard recommendations from people that I don’t believe most people can work through the distraction of a cool interior (see also: Mott 32) or what they think everyone should like, rather than being able to accurately judge whether the actual food was any fucking good.  For example, I tried asking my hotel concierge for a recommendation for local Taiwanese food and all they could fucking provide me with was a map which listed Carnegies and a red hot tip to go to the shopping mall next door to have some French or Italian.  UM EXCUSE ME CONCIERGE HOMIE, AREN’T YOU MEANT TO BE PROVIDING ME WITH HELPFUL LOCAL KNOWLEDGE?
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Separate to misguided concierge conversations, we made a booking for a relatively new restaurant called Mume.  Mume is run and owned by three young chefs – Richie Lin (from HK), Long Xiong (from the US) and Kai Ward (from Australia).  Emphasis on young cause I read somewhere that Kai Ward is only 24.  TWENTY FOUR.  I could barely find my ass with both hands when I was 24, let alone establish my own restaurant in another country.  The Mume boys boast some big name experience, with their resumes listing Noma, Per Se and Quay (not that I think Quay is as good as everyone says it is, fuck that snow egg bullshit) and now they’re pushing their own Modern European restaurant in Taipei.  I read a blog that described Mume as having “Scandi-inspired fare” which caused me to have a mini-melt down. Srs guise, Scandi?! Some people just want to watch the world burn.

Mume is named after a Taiwanese flower and is gunning for that casual modern restaurant vibe.  Yeah, you know what that means – thick ropes are draped from the ceiling with large filamented industrial light globes which barely light the room, cool Taiwanese waiters swish around sporting shaved head and man bun tonsorial combinations, there’s an emphasis on local seasonal ingredients and predictably, no tablecloths, because you know, nothing says modern and casual than eschewing tablecloths.  A cool as fuck playlist pulses in the background of this modern restaurant interior and because I’m a Grade A stalker, I tracked down Chef Kai’s Spotify Mume Playlist that was playing at Mume so you too can enjoy modern fuck yeah covers and remixes of Sexual Healing, Don’t You Want Me and Feel it in the Air Tonight which would be perfect to drink overpriced cocktails to. Not that this happened at Mume cause our fuck yeah cocktails clocked in at a very respectable NTD300 (HKD75 / USD10).  Love dat Taipei value, always.

Given Mume is gunning for that modern, innovative theme there’s no way these kitchen bad asses can use conventional menu terms like “Entrees”,  “Mains” and “Desserts” and they’ve used contemporary terms like “Smaller”, “Bigger” and “Sweeter” instead.  If there had been a tasting menu option, I definitely would have been down for that but instead, the two of us piled in for four “Smaller” and two “Bigger” dishes and a side of bread.

I always judge a restaurant by its bread because good fuck yeah bread is a reliable indicator of a restaurant that gives a fuck.  Bread isn’t a freebie at Mume and the Country Rye Sourdough costs NTD180 (HKD45 / USD6).  However, Mume’s bread was such a fuck yeah that I wasn’t even bent out of shape that I had to pay for it.  A decent sized round of rye sourdough comes out fresh from the oven, cut into four steaming hot wedges and the only appropriate way to pay respect to this fuck yeah bread is to instantly smear it with butter.  I was less impressed by Mume’s fancy butter options of beer butter and smoked beef fat butter because when bread’s that fucking good, I’d rather have my fucking glorious bread straight up with a high quality, plain salted butter.

Despite the ridiculousness of having to order “Smaller” dishes vs “Entrees”/”Starters”, I quickly got over that initial irritation given that as soon as our first entrees “Smaller” dishes arrived shit looked beautiful as fuck.  Mume is doing that modern food which looks fucking amazing through a combination of sauce smears, colour combinations, clever crockery selection and small vegetable shoots which were inevitably tweezered into place. The Wagyu Tartare (NTD 380 / HKD95 / USD12) is simply described as beef, clam mayo, confit egg yolk and grilled toast and it was fucking delicious, the slightly briny clam mayo cutting through the rich beef and egg yolk combination.  My only complaint was that I was only provided with two tiny pieces of grilled toast which was definitely more aesthetically pleasing but meant that I didn’t have enough bread for my tartare.  The simply titled Squid (NTD380 / HKD80 / USD10) sees raw pieces of squid, smoked pieces of engawa (a thin muscle of the dorsal fin of a Halibut) and taro served in a hot prawn broth, reminiscent of a Singaporean prawn mee soup.  Fuck yeah, the slightly chewy engawa and the squid pieces was really fucking interesting from a texture perspective and probably my favourite “Smaller” dish of the night.  The Concentrated Carrot (NTD280 / HKD70 / USD9) was a solid vegetable dish, a whole baby carrot was dehydrated slightly (I’m guessing, no one told me what made it concentrated) and served with red rice koji (rice grains which have been covered by red mold), ginger cream and lovage oil.  The textures and the flavours were different and the slightly celery-like flavour of the lovage was a different touch to the ginger cream.  However, end of the day my capacity to get that fucking excited about a carrot is still relatively limited and Mume’s carrot can’t compare to the most majestic carrot dish of my life that I had at Sixpenny in Sydney.  The Crispy Amadai (NTD420 / HKD105 / USD14) was also another fuck yeah, visually stunning as the skin of the amadai/tilefish has been fried to make its scales individually stand up and crispy.  Accompanying it was a roasted red pepper puree, toasted almonds and tomato raisins which worked with the sweet, white flesh of the fish.

For mains “Bigger” dishes, we ordered the “Chicken” (NTD780 / HKD195 / USD25) and the “Beef Shortrib” (NTD920 / HKD230 / USD30).  The beef short rib was that typical modern beef plating that you can expect – two cubes of pink beef, a smear of burnt onion sauce, two thin slices of mushroom, a singular baby carrot and a couple of vegetable shoots perched on the side.  Mume’s beef game was a fuck yeah and the burnt onion sauce pulled everything together.  It might have been sous vided but I got zero background from the waitstaff so I don’t really fucking know.  However, the fuck yeah of the mains “Bigger” dishes was definitely the chicken – the menu simply provides the description of “cauliflower, lily bulb stem and Pedro Ximénez jus”. The dish presents a piece of chicken breast and a roulade made from the darker meat.  Predictably, the roulade is my fuck yeah favourite because fuck dat breast meat bullshit.  But fairplay, Mume’s chicken in both forms wasn’t dried out or lame at all.  I just fucking loved how it all worked together, the chicken with the sweet wine jus against the cruciferous, slightly bitter vegetable notes from the cauliflower puree and the grilled green lily bulbs. Complex flavour times, yo.

For desserts “Sweeters” (really Mume?!), we ordered the Orange (NTD 300 / HKD75 / USD10) and the “Strawberry Cheesecake” (NTD280 / HKD70 / USD9).   The “Orange” uses ponkan, a Chinese Honey Orange and is served with Murcott Yoghurt and Lemon Verbena Mousse.  The “Strawberry Cheesecake” is a burnt cream cheesecake, almond crumble and a strawberry sorbet.  For both dishes, everything has been snap frozen and then smashed into a thoughtful pile on some really fucking beautiful stone-like plate.  Your Instagram is going to love that shit.  The “Orange” was just ok, unfortunately, the ponkan didn’t have enough of that intense citrus flavour to make this dish really pop against the slightly acidic frozen yoghurt hunks.  However, the “Strawberry Cheesecake” was a major fuck yeah – far more successful than the “Orange” because all the individual components provided more of a contrast against each other.  The sorbet punched you in the face with its strawberry flavour and the frozen shattered cheesecake had more of the sour dairy flavour going for it than the yoghurt in the “Orange”.  Combine that with the pieces of nutty almond crumble and this was fucking incredible.  Perhaps the “Orange” would have been more impressive if I’d never known the “Strawberry Cheesecake” but fuck that, just take it as a hot tip to stick with the superior, more attractive “Strawberry Cheesecake” option.

While Mume’s service was prompt and friendly, I’ve got two tiny criticisms around Mume’s service.  The first is that we were given barely any explanation about our dishes – for a restaurant which prides itself on its local produce and seasonal ingredients, every dish was explained as simply as the menu descriptions.  I couldn’t tell you a single thing about where a single ingredient was from or how shit was prepared.  The other thing I’d have liked more of was just to have the meal spaced out a bit more timewise.  The kitchen was pushing out dishes at the speed of light and I’m hoping it was due to enthusiasm rather than something more fucking sinister like trying to push us out in time for a second seating.  We sat down at 6pm and we had all four of our entrees “Smaller” dishes by 6:20pm and even with asking for a 10 minute break before dessert, we were paid up and out of the restaurant in just over an hour after we sat down.  Not gonna lie, I’m sure the rapid speed at which I shoved food into my face may have contributed to this aggressive turn around as well.

But that’s two small things because Mume is definitely executing on its promise of modern European food in new ways in a cool as fuck modern setting. I think shit might be expensive by Taipei standards but given the good distortion my perception has undergone by Hong Kong prices, it seemed like exceptional fuck yeah value times for the quality of food we received.  Now excuse me cause I’m off to listen to Chef Kai’s playlist again and to pretend I’m back in Taipei and eating dat fuck yeah strawberry cheesecake.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah – once you’re tapped out on fried chicken and dumplings at the night markets, you should definitely get yo ass down to Mume.

Where:
Penthouse by Harlan Goldstein (I’ve said it before but fuckkk, WTF is this panoramic spinning website bullshit? STAAAAHP HARLAN STAAAAHP)
30/F, Midtown Plaza (Soundwill Plaza II)
1 Tang Lung Street
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

FYN hot tip:  If you’re getting a cab here, ask to go to Times Square and walk the rest of the way.  If you’re getting the MTR to Causeway Bay, as if you’d ever go to Exit A “Times Square” also known as “The Never Ending MTR Exit to Hell”. Exit F “Hysan Place” all the way, baby.

Phone:
+852 2970 0828

Price:
We were out at HKD800ish a person, including wine.

The deal:
I read about how bona fide restaurant critics who write for reputable publications like the New York Times have to visit a restaurant several times, just to make sure somewhere is genuinely and consistently shit or good.  I’m trying to hold Fuck Yeah Noms to these same exacting standards which is why I made sure I went to Penthouse by Harlan Goldstein THREE fucking times for dinner before I actually wrote it up.  OK, I’ll level with you homies – the lack of recent FYN content is more attributable to HK being relentlessly hot as balls atm which has rendered me completely useless and unable to do anything other than try and get my core temperature to return to normal by listlessly binge watching an entire season of TV in one hit in my underwear on the couch, worshipping at the altar of air conditioning.

FYN artist impression of my last month in HK:

catshallow

I’ve written up Penthouse by Harlan Goldstein before for its fuck yeah lunch set before.  But it deserves a review of its dinner menu because it’s become one of my new favourites in HK as it’s killing the whole package – consistency, ambience, attentive staff and fuck yeah inventive but not ridiculously awkward modern food.  From an interior perspective, it’s impressive with its fuck yeah views of Victoria Harbour displayed through floor-to-ceiling windows (although this has been slightly marred by the inevitable construction of another skyscraper in front of it) and is jiving for a trendy but not stuffy vibe.  Yeah yeah, you know what that means – no tablecloths, but I’m not gonna get my linen grump on cause Penthouse actually are achieving that relaxed dining atmosphere without cheaping out on all the other interiors with enough wooden parquetry flooring and marble walls to keep shit classy.

For all the slams that Harlan may get for being all bombast and bleating about being a celebrity chef, at least he’s fucking in his restaurant and not just emailing in a menu design from another goddamn continent.  Last week when I swung by, Executive Chef Joe was actually on the floor checking in with tables and on this night, he enthusiastically took our table through the menu, effectively telling us that everything’s really special and the only things that we shouldn’t order are the soup, pizza and the ham because we can get stuff like that anywhere.  Everything sounds rad as fuck, even if we have to make some tough decisions to ensure we don’t explode from overeating.  One of the things I fucking love about Penthouse is that their menu changes regularly which means you’re not going to be eating the same old shiz all the time but they don’t do innovation just for the sake of trying to be inventive, which means you avoid staring down a bullshit plate of some red hot Mexican-Korean mess.

We got shit started with a tuna tartare, made from Spanish bluefin tuna and a slow cooked egg (HKD228).  I don’t want to get my egg-wank on but that egg’s yolk was such a fuck yeah – intensely golden and creamy and fucking incredible with the fresh as fuck tuna tartare.  The Spanish chicken behind it probably spent her life as a happy fucker, pecking at the finest golden kernels of corn under a blazing Spanish sun to produce dat deep golden yolk.  Just to pretend we’re going to make some healthy choices, I ordered one of my favourites, the Organic Beetroot Salad (HKD168).  Despite the fact that quinoa shit is some ancient gluten free pseudo-grain and trendy as fuck atm, Penthouse take red quinoa and mix that shit up right.  Fuck yeahhhh, dem fresh flavours – earthy red and golden beets, fresh coriander and cooling cukes are slamming up against the slightly tart cumin spiced Greek yoghurt honey dressing and piquant red Spanish onions. Some blogging assholes would say it was a ‘fiesta of colours’ but I’ll just say shit was fucking gorgeous and refreshing as fuck.

The seared Italian baby squid (HKD188) was served with Lebanese eggplant, tiny rounds of crispy chorizo and saffron aioli was another solid starter.  However, this is all just warm up for my favourite at Penthouse, the pasta round.  I may have already mentioned that Penthouse’s black truffle and uni pasta is one of the best fucking things I’ve eaten this year but I didn’t see it on the menu this time and instead we ordered the Spaghetti Chitarra and the Pork Cheek Taglioni.  The Spaghetti Chitarra is a hand made spaghetti served with Spanish red prawns in a secret red sauce with shaved Bottaga Di Muggine cheese.  I enjoyed this dish a lot and was down with its fuck yeah, bisque like flavour derived from cooking this sauce with stock made from prawn shells.  However, once the rush of carbohydrates had subsided I realised that I’d paid an eye-watering HKD448 (before the 10% service charge) for some pasta with three to four whole prawns perched on top. I made sure to get every last dollar value by sucking out the prawn heads to get all dat briney sea flavour into my life.  But fuckkkkkkkk no, I just can’t get behind a USD60+ prawn pa$ta dish from a value proposition perspective.

Sliding back a bit on price, the cured pork cheek tagliolini clocks in at a far more respectable HKD288.  I fucking love fine textured pastas like tagliolini cause they have so much surface area to catch sauce.  OK, I’ll be real, I fucking love ALL pasta cause I’m an equal opportunity carb whore.  But the problem with taglioni is that if it’s cooked too long (eg. Giando), it turns into a textureless fuck no mess.  Penthouse’s taglioni was a fuck yeah and comes served with all the good shit – a slow cooked egg, cured pork cheek, white truffle butter, pecorino cheese and porcini mushroom powder.  DAT SAUCE though was an epic fuck yeah and once the pasta was gone, I asked for more bread because as a table, we had a responsibility to ensure every last bit of that fuck yeah sauce was taken care of.  As the bread was baked to order, I spent the next five minutes fending off eagle-eyed waitstaff who were trying to do the right thing and efficiently clear our table of our plates while I aggressively defended my white truffle and pork sauce smeared territory from being unceremoniously washed down the sink instead of being rightfully in my belly.

We didn’t order it this time but I gotta give a fuck yeah shout out to Penthouse’s Spanish suckling pig.  If you’re into fuck yeah pig, I gotta highly recommend that you get involved as this bad boy is slow cooked for 12 hours before finishing it off at a high temperature to get that pig skin crispy as fuck. The accompaniments are a massive fuck yeah and move it past from the usual default awesome status of roast pig to being something pretty fucking epic.  Penthouse serve this with a serve of fennel mustard green salsa which has a mellowness and depth to it when paired with the pork.  It’d be too fucking easy for this gang to just serve up pork and some sort of appley sauce, wouldn’t it?  It comes with a whole roasted head of garlic and you should smear it all over whatever bread you can find.  All of this is served on a shredded cabbage salad which has been tossed through with a vinaigrette to give you some acid to cut through dem fatty pork times.

Through all of my Penthouse experiences though, I gotta be real with you and say you’ve got shit for brains if you don’t fucking listen to me and make sure you power through dessert.  It’s a crucial FYN pro-tip for life that you ensure that you order the ridiculously named Harlan’s Surprise Dessert Platter for Two-Three (um, I may have fucked the exact name up) for HKD358.  It’s a mix of all sorts of fuck yeah desserts with the centrepiece being some sort of peanut butter sorbet which had been subject to some liquid nitrogen, to give it a meringue like appearance. The flavour changes and I’ve had it in an equally fuck yeah summer berry incarnation.  The liquid nitrogen means that the sorbet is a light as fuck treat which melts as soon as it comes in contact with body heat.  Just to keep shit interesting, there’s puddles and spoonfuls of different sauces and flavours for contrast.  Powdered dusts, chocolate mousse, banana tiramisus, gelato and white chocolate lava cake, leaving you to change up your dessert experience depending on how you want to mix that shit up.  It’s interactive which makes it sound like it should be a massive wank off but our table did take a quiet moment just to eat and experience all the fuck yeah emotions that were going on.

intenseemotion

So Penthouse’s shit is not cheap but I can get down with the fact that the quality of the ingredients is reflected in this (except for the Spaghetti Chitarra, cause fuckkkk USD60+ pasta dishes).  I always have a fuck yeah time at Penthouse and the staff are on their shit which means you’re always well looked after.  It’s got a bit of atmosphere without being stuffy which I think makes it a fuck yeah venue for hot dates and fun homies.  I know I’m a supporter for a restaurant when I go home and I instantly whatsapp my fellow greedy ass homies to ensure that they know they have to get their ass to a restaurant.  Proof’s in the pudding yo cause after I went last week, I went home and texted five homies that they had to get their asses down to Penthouse.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah on pay day, if you haven’t been already you better get yo ass down to Penthouse and try this shit out with your best homies.  You better believe it, this is one of my favourite dessert experiences in all of HK.  DEM LIQUID NITROGEN DESSERT FEELS.

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