Drinking

Where:
Meats (HOLY SHIT, a functioning website in HK – my, how you’ve grown up since I’ve left)
GF, No. 28 – 30 Staunton Street
Soho, Central
Hong Kong

FYN Hot Tip:  It’s where that piece of pedestrian trash Jaspa’s used to be.

Phone:
+852 2711 1812 or info@piratameats.hk, but lolz doesn’t matter cause fuck noooo, NO RESERVATIONS (but I get it, patrons are so fucking unreliable we’re no longer allowed the privilege of a guaranteed table.  GUISE WE BROUGHT THIS INDIGNITY UPON OURSELVES)

Price:
Chef’s menu is HKD420 for a fuck tonne of food.  Cocktails are HKD95.  No service charge, so don’t be an asshole and make sure you tip your servers (menu declares all tips go to the staff).  I’d estimate getting out at around HKD600-700ish before tip if you’re drinking.

The deal:
Meats is the fifth restaurant in the Pirata Group’s empire with the Scottish chef, Paddy McDermott at the helm.  Outside of Scotland, Paddy’s done his time in Melbourne (OMG small bars guys), Toronto and Dubai, before landing in Hong Kong.  I’m generally a big fan of the Pirata Group because I think the guys behind it, Manuel Palacio and Christian Talpo, actually give a fuck about their food and aren’t just pumping out any old shit which will bring in the HK bucks.  Which is why there’s some sort of poetic justice that they’ve set up their latest joint on the ashes of the Staunton St location which used to house Jaspa’s.  Which is probably the epitome of a HK smash and grab for cash which unfortunately works, because let’s be real, a lot of people are terrible at eating and making sensible decisions.

Meats’ ethos per their website is to present traditional and unconventional cuts of meat and show off their fuck yeah flavours by using a variety of techniques including house-smoking, rotisserie and charcoal grilling. Some are served just with raw sea salt to let shit speak for itself or they might get all fancy on yo ass, splashing about marinades made from jalapeños, Szechuan peppercorns or coffee.  I gotta be real though, even though I fucking love to eat meat, I just cannot get into the name Meats. It’s a name that sounds like it’s one badly positioned PR release away from a HK champagne brunch with topless male waiters with a tagline promising that you can get your meat while you watch your meat.  FYI HK SEXIST PR FUCK KNUCKLES, THAT IS NOT A PROMPT FOR YOU TO ACTUALLY EXECUTE THAT BRUNCH IDEA, OK?

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From a liquor perspective, Meats are running with a bourbon theme which I give a fuck yeah for meshing with its meat heavy concept.  I can also respect a restaurant whose cocktail list consists of three drinks only – the Old Fashioned, Manhattan and Whiskey Sour.  Cause fuck yeahhhhh, those are all drinks that I can fully get behind, so much so that I had two Old Fashioneds before dinner. When it comes to the wine list, in a similar style to the other Pirata restaurants, the wine list is short but with a good range of prices so you’re not gonna be bankrupt because you dared to live out a massive dream by having a bottle of wine with your meal.  Oh yeah, don’t tell me you don’t know the exact feeling that comes over you when you’re reading a wine list and you’re all “Nah mate, I’m cool, sure I’ll pick the wine.  What do you guys prefer, red or white?”  as you have to calmly mask your rising internal panic when you realise that bottles start out at a “cheeky” HKD1,000 before service charge before galloping uncontrollably towards Brokemotherfucker Mountain. 

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There’s an a la carte menu but our table went for the HKD420 Chef’s tasting menu.  The actual selection of this will change and you don’t receive any sort of formal menu which indicates what this will be but they will check whether your table has any allergies or things they don’t eat.  I took my A-team which means we left it completely up to Meats given we are a no allergy, we eat everything, hollow bellied cohort. Imma gonna tell you now – the Chef’s tasting menu consists of small plates of their dishes so you can get a taste of almost everything and while the serves themselves might not be big, there is a lot of content to cover and it ends up being generous as fuck.  DO NOT pre-game because you’re not going to need Maccas on the way home.  I’m gonna talk you through just some of the dishes we had, rather than a full blow by blow account because there were just so many fucking incredible things.

We start with some roast chicken croquettes with roasted garlic mayo, which are perfect appetisers to get things started and they reminded me of the fuck yeah croquettes you get at Pirata’s other restaurant, The Optimist. But then we’re barelling into a beef tartare which gets its seasoning from cured duck egg yolk and has pickled mustard seeds which cut through the rich beef and egg yolk with its acidity and slight heat.  No bullshit toasted brioche or pitiful dried out bread cracker to eat it on, instead Meats is serving this good shit on a crisped up beef tendon.  No gluten, no brioche, just crispy tendon tartare times = NO WORRIES MATE.

To make up for this gluten free scenario, the bone marrow is served with tarragon bread crumbs and anchovy butter.  I’m so into bone marrow, which means I always order it. Unfortunately, 80% of the time it ends in disappointment because it hasn’t been cooked enough so it’s a congealed fuck no mess or there’s barely any bone marrow in the awkwardly cut piece of bone which they’ve served to you.  No such problems here at Meats and for once, I’m not just looking at a piece of bone, desperately trying to smash a piece of bread into it as I try to extract any sort of value out of it.

So I know every western chef which moves to HK has to solemnly swear to HK Immigration as part of their visa conditions that they will “take influences from Asia” in their dishes and do a photo shoot in their chef whites, against the visceral, bloody back drop of a butcher in a wet market.  However, the two dishes that Chef McDermott has done that with aren’t too over the top in banging home the “I’m cooking in Asia bitches, check out how adaptable I am cause I’m using soy sauce”.  The beef tongue skewers are tender cubes of beef tongue cooked in oyster sauce are served with sliced fresh chilli, coriander and crispy fried garlic.  Another massive highlight are the lamb ribs – bite sized  pieces of lamb are served on the bone and are grilled with cumin, sesame and master stock.  This shit comes clean off the bone when you go eat it and if it wasn’t for the copious amounts of food coming our way, I would have hunkered down with a bowl of these and smashed way through them.

There’s some other things like Hanger Steak served with Korean BBQ Jalapaeno reslih and Smoked Bacon with miso and ketchup but they’re all footnotes next to the mighty, Iberian porchetta.  Meats take a pig, debone it, marinate the shit out of it with thyme, sage, tarragon, oregano fennel seed and white pepper which has been emulsified in extra virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar before rolling it into a pork roast.  The pork roast is them stuffed with a salsa made from the same green herbs used in the marinade before slow roasting it and then crisping up the skin. I know that I’ve sworn off ordering roast pork at restaurants because it’s often so fucking boring and poorly executed but this juicy as fuck, perfectly seasoned and yeah, of course this herbed up shit was fucking amazing.  Quote from Mr This is Bullshit who was three cocktails and half a bottle of wine in “I wanna regurgitate it so I can eat it again, so I can taste it again”

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The passionate as fuck and extremely affable, Nacho Lopez, the Meats restaurant manager checks in with us to see if we are full and of everything’s ok before serving our final dish. It’s the innocuously named Slightly Spicy Fried Rice, which uses pork and sriracha mayo, topped with a fried egg. This was my absolute everything, the fat from the pork melding with each grain of rice, with the slight spice of the sriracha, tomato and the broken egg yolk pulling it all together. It reminded me of all those Chinese banquets that always finish the meal with fried rice to signify not only the end but to add the final bookend to a meal, to ensure that you want for absolutely nothing and you’re completely replete. Which is exactly how I felt at this point in time. This is the dish that I woke up the next day and thought “It started out with a dish, how did it end up like this, it was only a dish, it was only a dish??” before I aggressively texted every food loving HK homie in my phone about how they needed it in their lives ASAP to become a better person.

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I gotta say that while all of the meat based dishes were so good, the sides at Meats weren’t as good.  For example, the carrots were a bit bland and overcooked and the fries were so salty because they added chicken salt and normal salt.  But I think a lot of this is new opening kinks which should be fixed and none of them were fatal because at the end of the day, you’re not at a place called Meats to eat fucking carrots are you??

Per FYN’s tagline, we had to power through dessert now, trying all three on the menu and fuck yeah, a restaurant which doesn’t just dial in dessert which is pretty standard these days.  The Coconut Lime Pie was very good, with the super fucking delicious coconut ice-cream romping it home and the Caffe Mocha was giving me the tiramisu feels, with its coffee cremeux, espresso sponge and Patron XO.  But the real dessert winner is the Pear Tart Tatin in all of its caramelised, skillet glory, topped with bourbon caramel vanilla ice-cream. I’d tell you to leave room for it, but real talk – you’re gonna be fucking stuffed by this point so you’re just gonna need to power through and suffer later.

Now here’s the deal, I eat out so fucking much and it’s almost as if I’ve burned out my pleasure centre by snorting my way through restaurant after restaurant, city after city, as I try and find something to make me really feel anything at all.  But fuck, when it does happen, it’s that rush which pulses through your body almost instantly and I all I can think about the next day is that one moment or a dish which sticks inside my psyche like a piece of gum to your brand new sneakers.  Post my meal at Meats I got that fuck yeah rush.  The rush when I fire off text messages to all my homies that they have got to fucking try this place with a stern instruction that when they do, we need to workshop what they have to eat.  That rare occurrence where price point, food, ambience and heart felt service just works for a place. And that’s when I remember the reason why I sit through so many mediocre and overpriced meals at new restaurants because every now and again, your heart will remember it still knows how to love with the fire of a thousand Chinese factories.  Even if that love is for a few pieces of meat done fucking perfectly and an absolutely mind-blowing fuck yeah plate of rice at a completely reasonable fuck yeah price point.

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhhhh!  HK FYN Homies, if you gotta get onboard a new restaurant train (which I know is your greatest want #causehk), get on board the Meats Train, get an Old Fashioned while you wait out the no reservations palaver and then ride it all the way into Fuck Yeah Town.

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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where:
Little Creatures Hong Kong
Shop 1, G/F, New Fortune House
2-5A New Praya
Kennedy Town, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2833 5611 (you better book that shit too, cause these fucks are popular)

Price:
This was the second meal of our night, so the per person cost isn’t as large as normal, around HKD110 a person (including service charge) without booze.  Large plates seem to range from around HKD100 – 150 each (+10% service charge), with most small plates under HKD100.

The deal:
After rampaging through fuck no disappointment town at The Ribcage, we pushed grimly onto a second bang bang dinner down the road at the microbrewery, Little Creatures Hong Kong. For those people who possess self control and don’t know what a bang bang is, it’s when you complete two meals in one session. Little Creatures is an import from Fremantle in Western Australia, but of course if you’re any true blue Aussie Cunt (technical term) worth your Vegemite, you’d know that you say it correctly as ‘Freo’.  The former sugar and flour mill in Kennedy Town has been decked out to try and capture that carefree port side feeling of the Little Creatures in Freo with its high ceilings, recycled wood, airy interiors and cute purposefully retro posters blending Australia and HK references. My lungs are almost gleefully sucking down that clean Australian air just by thinking about it. It’s also really fucking huge by Hong Kong standards with a fucktonne of tables.  Despite the ample seats, we still had a wait ahead of us because we were bang bang dinner refugees without a booking and by the time we arrive at Little Creatures HK at around 8:30pm on a Friday night, it’s totally rammed with people and a long list of reservations.  The hostess is totally on her shit though, assuring us in a comforting Strayan strine that she’ll try and seat us as soon as possible.  She might even have called me darl, which went some way to calming my harried nerves. We dull our Ribcage related pain by getting involved in some Little Creatures Pale Ale, IPA and cider, as we stand around awkwardly at the limited bar space for a very reasonable twenty minutes before we’re shown to our table.

The Little Creatures HK menu is split into Sharing Plates, Small Plates, Greens Breads and Buns, Pizza, Pasta & Rice and Cheese.  We start with the Crispy Chicken (HKD125 +10% service charge) with pineapple sauce.  I’m sceptical from the start because I just don’t jive with sweet fruit and savoury meat as a general rule but in reality, the sauce isn’t as sickly sweet and offensive as I’d imagined it was going to be.  While the chicken itself is well fried, crispy as fuck on the outside and avoiding the common fate of being a dried out mess inside, it’s unfortunately underseasoned which means it relies on the pineapple sauce to bring the flavour (not that it particularly pops with any strong pineapple flavour). Luckily, I’m able to season my bland though well-fried chicken with the salty tears that I shed when I try the cliched Hand Cut Frites with truffle mayo (HK75 +10% service charge) which are just like my summer body dreams – pale, flabby and definitely full of carbs.

Next up is the Mac and Cheese (HKD75 +10% service charge), which is billed as being topped with truffle and a herb crust.  Little Creatures HK, Y SO MUCH TRUFFLE?  Shit sounds soooo fucking fancy doesn’t it?  The Mac and Cheese isn’t anything more than a creamy, herb sauce with macaroni in it and it’s as unsatisfying as a Typhoon 8 signal which gets lowered before 6am on a Friday. FFS Little Creatures HK, it’s fucking melted cheese with carbs, how fucking hard is it to get a mac and cheese right??  Did you even try?!  RETURN OF THE LITTLE CREATURES MAC, YOU LIED TO ME, YES I CRIED, YES I CRIED.

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The Pizza menu is an exercise in minimalism with titles such as Herbs, Corn, Kale and Sausage.  I wince at the nomenclature awkwardness of having to order a ‘Herbs Pizza’ and I obviously stay well clear of the ‘Kale Pizza’ because that sort of pizza bullshit seems to be targetted at half-hearted clean eating urban warriors who punch out some BikiniFit in the morning because #strongisthenewskinny before barrelling into six strawberry daiquiris at Feather Boa with their best white friends.  The Sausage pizza (HKD125 +10% service charge) is topped with bacon, fennel, sage and provolone which all sounds good in theory but when it is presented at our table I start to wonder what kind of Home Economics high school kitchen is now responsible for the food at Little Creatures HK.  The base is cardboard like in texture and appearance, you can almost imagine it being ripped out of a pre-made base box half a week ago to allow it to truly dry out before the recalcitrant, moody adolescent fingers of high school students smeared tomato paste across it and indolently topped it with pre-prepared chopped pieces of bacon and shredded cheese.  It’s horrific on all levels from the dried out base and the sloppy toppings which almost slide off in one piece to the complete lack of flavour.  I take several bites of this ‘pizza’ abomination just to really make sure this is the most soulless and flavourless pizza I’ve ever come across in Hong Kong and as I choke it back, there is no doubt in my mind that I’m completely right.  I chew slowly and deliberately, as I sort through the vague memories I have of someone telling me the pizzas are good at Little Creatures HK. Unfortunately, I can’t place which tasteless moron or press release gave me this bullshit information which is a shame because I’d be furiously texting them my views on how they are completely devoid of any knowledge as to what actually constitutes a good pizza.

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We debate whether to give Little Creatures the chance to wow us on dessert because LBR, we’re not expecting any show stoppers at this point.  As we’re greedy cunts who love a bit of pud pud, we order the Cider Green Apple Nut Crumble with whipped mascarpone (HKD75 +10% service charge).  It sounds pretty fucking fancy but in reality it’s just a straightforward apple crumble with a scoop of ice cream which might have mascarpone in it, but if you’d never told me about it, I’d never taste it.  I’m now convinced that the Little Creatures HK menu has been designed to be cooked by a small child chef who’s using a cookbook with cartoon illustrations and warnings that you should get an adult when you’re boiling water or taking things out of the oven.  The apple crumble was the only well executed dish of the night and we take the time to reflect upon our entire bang bang evening where we’ve battled through two fuck no meals, the fuck no coleslaw and average to terrible ribs at The Ribcage and now we’ve let Little Creatures HK well and truly lead us down the garden path to a fuck no flower field filled with Mediocrity Marigolds, Gauche Gladiolis and Banal Begonias.

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So the food at Little Creatures HK, excluding that godawful sausage pizza, is absolutely edible.  I can’t imagine that was written in their vision statement of what they wanted their food to be amongst the artist’s sketching of their restaurant decor.  But it really is the sort of meal that if you painted black with white stripes, people would walk all over it because it’s just so fucking pedestrian.  Every dish we ordered had some sort of execution issue (ok, except for the apple crumble – but how fucking hard is it to make a crumble?) which suggests that the kitchen isn’t tasting their food for seasoning, giving a fuck if it’s cooked properly or their management is dictating a super uninspiring, bland as fuck menu which is meant to appeal to the undiscerning masses. Judging by how many people were packed into Little Creatures HK, perhaps there’s something to be said re: economic viability and appealing to the undi$cerning ma$$es.

But real talk, it looks like Little Creatures managed to keep their shit authentic in Hong Kong because Little Creatures in Freo has basic as fuck food as well.  Take my burn Little Creatures because fuck no to the faithful copying of boring, uninspired concepts and shipping it straight across the Indian Ocean so the suffering of uninspired and poorly executed food can be truly global.

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Verdict:
FUCK NO.  However if you’re an absolutely bottom of the barrel basic and enjoy shit like Castelo Concept restaurants, drinking rosé, thinking you’re living wild in real Hong Kong because you live in Sai Ying Pun or Kennedy Town, going to the Happy Valley races on a Wednesday, love ‘your girls’ or nights out with the rugby lads, Little Creatures HK might be your newest, favourite spot in Hong Kong.

Where:
Rhoda (FB page)
Shop 1A, Upton, 345 Des Voeux Road West
Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong

FYN hot tip:  I think HKU MTR station is closest, take Exit B1.

Phone:
+852 2177 5050 / ask@rhoda.hk (fuck yeahhhhhhhhhh, making bookings without having to talk to people)

Price:
We got out at around HKD650 per person, including booze and before tip (service charge not included).  I went with my A-team of Olympian Level Good Eaters though, so take that into account when you’re trying to estimate $$$.

The deal:
Nathan Green, the former head chef of 22 Ships, has set up new digs in Sai Ying Pun in collaboration with Yenn Wong / the JIA Group.  It’s touchingly named after Chef Nathan’s grandma, Rhoda, who per the interviews I’ve read Nathan says was a bomb-ass home cook.  But fuck, I can’t believe I’m writing about yet another new Yenn Wong restaurant (see also: Mak Mak, Kaum at Potato Head).  It’s as if Yenn sat down at the end of 2015 and wrote her 2016 New Year’s resolution to be ‘Open a new restaurant in HK every month, before rolling forward onto inevitable global domination‘. I enjoyed the actual food at 22 Ships when Nathan was there but I just didn’t get that into it as a concept because I’m entirely too jaded to be dealing with no booking teeny tiny restaurants which serve food for ants with a big side serve of bankruptcy.

The first thing that hits you is just how striking Rhoda is from an aesthetic perspective.  It’s got a kick ass layout – a casual bar at the front, the restaurant tables in the middle and the chef’s counter / open kitchen at the back if you want to check out what the team is doing with your food.  Rhoda have enlisted Joyce Wang to get her fuck yeahhhh interior styles on and not just bash out yet another new HK restaurant with more stripped back bare concrete, minimalist stainless steel industrial vibes.  Joyce Wang is known for doing a number of fuck yeah interiors around town, including Vasco (RIP) and Mott 32 (where the interiors are most definitely more memorable than the super blah food). Rhoda is all references to red brown shiny copper and the light green patina that forms when copper oxidises, mixed with earthy and burnt wood materials – which no doubt tie into the fact that Chef Nathan is all about keeping things straightforward, eschewing fussy cooking equipment for cooking over wood charcoal and fire to make “modern comfort food”. It’s fucking beautiful with its mix of different materials, the repurposed washing machine drums made into light fittings, the grey concrete cladding, elegantly draped rope, the metallic copper fittings and just-so distressed wood furniture, all bathed in a warm, amber glow.

We’re a party of four and we’re seated at the end of the large communal tables which could hold up to ten people.  The table itself is a thing of gorgeous beauty, made in Iceland with melted copper poured into the cracks of the wooden table top.  Unfortunately, it’s just a touch too wide which means that it’s not the greatest for actually being able to converse with people across the table unless you give it the full lean and shout a bit.  We move past this issue pretty quickly when we’re distracted by Rhoda’s bread – a beer bread made from Suntory dark ale which arrives hot hot hot from the wood fire oven on a bed of twigs with a side of nori seaweed butter. We’re starving and we tear our bread roll apart, quickly realising that Rhoda smashes the FYN bread test out of the goddamn park (ie. the test that if a restaurant serves good bread, it’s a key leading indicator that they probably give a fuck about the finer details about everything else they do).  The crust is crisp as fuck, slightly smoky from the oven and when you rip it apart and slather that just dense enough inside with the slightly mellow though briney nori butter, it’s truly an insight into what my purest carb based night time fantasies are made of.  I understand that you get one complimentary serve of bread per two people and then it’s HKD29 a serve, but fuck who cares because where else could someone find such unadulterated happiness and beauty for HKD29??  We ended up totalling four serves of bread between four people and I’ll level with you, if we hadn’t been prewarned to make sure we had capacity for dessert, we probably could have smashed a few more.

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Rhoda’s menu is split into a few different parts and changes daily, depending on what shit’s good.  The categories include Snacks, Cold, Grill, Something a Little Bigger, Sides, Desserts and Cheese.  From the Snacks section, we kick off with the crispy lotus root chips with chicken liver cream (HKD38).  The chicken liver cream is a fuck yeahhh but the lotus root chips could really be any sort of fried vegetable carrier.  We also go with the much blogged and written about, slow cooked octopus (HKD138) from the Grill.  It’s absolutely fine and executed really well, topped with thin slices of cucumber, fresh mint and pickled shallot but it just wasn’t that interesting or different to me.  However, the sweet corn with clams (HKD128) is where shit starts to get real, where grilled kernels of sweet corn are served with shelled clams, katsuboshi (dried, fermented, and smoked flakes of skipjack tuna) and a slow cooked egg.  When you break the egg and mix its yolky glory through the dish, it’s a fucking sensational mix of contrasts of textures and flavours – the creamy yolk, briney clams, slightly smoky sweet corn and the subtle umami hint of fish from the katsuboshi.  I just fucking love it when someone combines ingredients that you’re familiar with and serves it in a way that makes it bigger than its individual parts.

Our waiter homie highly recommends the Mangalica pork chop (400g) (HKD548).  The Mangalica pig is a wooly haired pig which lives a pampered life in the grassy fields of Hungary, snacking down on pumpkin, beets and acorns before they’re slaughtered for their fuck yeahhhh high quality fatty though delicate tasting meat.  Our Hungarian porcine friend has been marinated in soy and garlic, before being grilled over charcoal which results in some epic fuck yeah caramelised fat.  Ms Two Serves was so into this that she used the accompanying green spring onions to wrap the pork fat to make some sort of glorious and fucking delicious burrito style carrier that went straight into her mouth.  Although, we watched in horror as the skinny though miserable looking heathens next to us cut all of the caramelised fuck yeah fat off their pork chop and pushed it to one side of their plate before they laughed blandly at what must surely have been tedious conversation.  Y U DO THAT MY SAD SKINNY FRIENDS? Y U NO DO MANGALICA PORK JUSTICE?

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I’m always partial to chicken, even if getting good quality chook in HK means paying a fucking bomb.  Rhoda is offering Brink’s farm free range chicken with spring onion and ginger dressing (HKD498) and it’s so fucking good.  The only issue is that I can’t get excited about breast meat which meant that by the time we’d decimated the far more delicious thighs, drumsticks and wings we were left with so many slices of breast meat.  I know there’s no bones and white people are super into it, but even with the killer ginger dressing, all I could do was dream of darker meat times.  Yes, I know it’s not Rhoda’s fault that chicken have breasts.

We were also loving the side of sugar snap peas with pancetta and quail eggs (HKD68), even if there was MORE spring onions.  Spring onions at Rhoda seem to be like rocket/arugula at other restaurants, every fucking dish we ordered seemed to have them.  Regardless of the spring onion overload, the snap peas are sweet and fresh as fuck and it makes me think of the numerous times I’ve paid HKD78+ for some sad ass side of green beans because some health conscious bastard wants vegetables.

We also ordered a side of the Maitake mushroom risotto with new season Australian truffle (HKD158).  It’s interesting, made from six different grains – pearl barley, buckwheat, spelt, rye, quinoa and millet.  It’s also rich as fuck though and while fucking delicious, I’ll level with you – I’d rather have spent my carb quotient on MOAR BREAD.

In a stunning stroke of good luck, the FYN Gods smiled upon us and where you normally need to order the 12 hour slow cooked Hawke’s Bay lamb shoulder with vegetables, 48 hours in advance, Rhoda had a half-shoulder kicking around.  This NZ lamb is slow cooked and served with carrots and onions, with a massive bouquet of herbs (including thyme, Italian parsley and fresh mint). This is when our table collectively loses their shit.  The lamb is everything a slow cooked lamb should be, fork tender and it has taken on the flavour of the herbs, the sweet carrot, tomatoes and onions, while still showing off its superior fuck yeah provenance.  All that clean air and lush Kiwi grass has most def been kind to the flavour of the lamb.  It’s served with a mint gremolata, a more sophisticated take on mint sauce, and it’s all fuck yeah fresh green zingy tones from the mint, lemon zest, olive oil, salt and garlic.

But fuuuuuck, it’s the gravy that sits in the bottom of the dish which causes all sorts of emotions to burst through to the surface for us.  Ms Siuwaaan, who’s a total slut for gravy, got far more graphic in her wanton desires for MOAR GRAVY.  In between her losing her senses and babbling about how she wants to do all sorts of unspeakable things with said gravy (including executing a body slide with gravy), she decides that gravy fantasies are cheap and instead hits our waiter homie up for more gravy.  We laugh at her doubting whether this is possible, but eventually the clouds of doubt clear, the jus related heavens part and she’s given not one but TWO jugs of gravy.  Without hesitating, she downs one jug like she’s chugging a beer before she stops to take a breath, roll her eyes, place both hands on the table and exclaim “Praise be to Grodin – God of Gravy!“.  It’s at this point, we realise that we’ve gotten our lamb eats totally wrong at Rhoda and form a new plan to do the remainder of our lamb shoulder the sweet justice it deserves.

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So, this is where I will present to you The Definitive FYN Guide on How to Eat Yo Lamb at Rhoda:

  1. As mentioned above, you have to pre-order the lamb 48 hours before you go.  DON’T FORGET THIS.  At present, I think Rhoda is only officially offering the full shoulder which is probably appropriate for eight people but check to see if the half-shoulder is available if you’re a smaller group.
  2. Order more bread.  That shit’s gonna come straight from the oven with a side of nori butter.
  3. Butter up your bread.  Don’t be restrained.
  4. Take your bread and start to form an epic lamb sandwich – start with some lamb, tear some fresh herbs into that shit, maybe get a couple of pieces of the braised onion into there if that’s your jam.
  5. Mint gremolata yasssssssssssssssssss.
  6. Pour gravy all over what’s possibly one the most epic things you’ve ever held in your mortal hands to date.
  7. OPTIONAL:  Put some more crusty as fuck bread on top.  Or just eat it open faced.
  8. Shove this glorious lamb sandwich creation which you made with your own two hands into your wanting face, remembering to breathe while your eyes are wet with tears of joy.
  9. If the gravy escapes your sandwich and runs down your wrists, there’s no shame in licking your wrists to tidy that resplendent fuck yeah gravy up.

PLEASE TO LISTEN UP HOMIES, THIS IS THE PATH TO GREATER LAMB ENLIGHTENMENT.  Girl, you know it’s true:

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After crushing our lamb, our super smiley waiter homie realised that we were truly having a moment and actually seemed to be so excited that we were so into our food.  We had firm plans on dessert because I’d been given a heads up from one of my FYN homies that the vanilla cheesecake (HKD108) was a major fuck yeah and our waiter homie let us know that Chef Nathan’s favourite is the Summer berries (HKD98).  The vanilla cheesecake is fairly simple, with a texture that’s almost like a pudding with a base which is reminiscent of a buttery shortcake biscuit, with some stewed rhubarb and yamamomos (Chinese bayberries / waxberries) on the side.  It’s delicate and rich, and if you’re into cheesecake I recommend you get involved.  I gotta admit, I thought the Summer berries might be a little lame, the sort of dessert you get when you’re trying not to be a massive fat fuck.  But I was completely wrong, it was far more interesting than its description and it was a refreshing fuck yeah mix of a just tart enough cherry granita, creme fraiche with just a whisper of lemon over a super punchy combo of A1 quality fuck yeah berries, including cherries, blueberries, yamamomos  and strawberries.

At the end of the meal, we’re going through our play by play highlights of the meal and marvel at the fact that perhaps it is possible to go to a new restaurant in HK and not be decimated by the crushing disappointment of trendy bullshit and half-assed executed food which has been designed to pander to the masses.  The meal we had at Rhoda, is the sort of meal that comes from food which actually means something personal to the chef and then it touches some sort of nerve inside of you and leaves an impression.  So much so that even after we all go our separate ways, we hit the group chat up before we fall asleep to continue to talk about how much we fucking enjoyed it and in the morning, as the sun ushers in yet another new day in HK, the fuck yeah bread and lamb related chat continues.

So yes, this is what it feels like, when someone executes their dream down to the nth detail and in that process, pours their heart and being completely into what they do, while making sure that the entire team gives as much as a fuck as he does.  And what a fucking privilege that as a customer you get to be a part of that.

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Verdict:
FUCK YEAHHHHHHH!!  Rhoda is only one week old and I think I’d go as far as saying it’s one of the most interesting openings in HK this year.  I cannot fucking wait to see where it goes from here.  GET INTO IT MY FYN HOMIES, but make sure you don’t forget to eat your lamb the FYN way (aka the best way).

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