Beer

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.

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