Bread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where:
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:
Cochin Delicatessen (OH GOD HK, Y U NO WEBSITE GOOD?!)
26 Peel Street
Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2561 3336

Price:
I got my fuck yeah nom$ invitation on, but estimate a common person would probably get out at HKD550-700 a head (excluding booze), depending on how you order.  I WANNA LIVE LIKE COMMON PEOPLE, I WANT TO DO WHATEVER COMMON PEOPLE DO.

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The deal:
Cochin Delicatessen is on the lower half of Peel Street, where Chicha used to be – you know, the place that used to fleece you HKD240 for three tiny ass Peruvian “inspired” tacos.  I’m a bit surprised they closed because I really thought that overpriced bullshit tiny-ass tacos and miniscule thimbleful servings of ceviche should have been a concept for the ages (lolz).  Cochin Delicatessen is part restaurant, part delicatessen and part bar and has been opened by Chef and Director Renaud Marin after busting out stints at Upper Modern Bistro and St George.

Cochin is straightforward and unpretentious in its decor – all warm tones and blue accents, with wood panelling and Mediterranean patterned tiles on the tables.  Their waiter homies are most definitely on their game too, which is impressive for a new place.  We kick our night off with a bucket of hot baguette slices.  I judge all restaurants by their bread, because fuck, if you can’t be bothered serving fuck yeah bread it’s highly likely that you can’t be bothered with the finer details of anything else.  One bite in and I’m like fuck yeahhhhh, this is most def carb life = best life times and I discuss with Sir Crunch-a-lot whether this is the work of Gregoire Michaud / Bread Elements again.  We admonish ourselves on not being so fucking presumptuous that every time we have fuck yeah bread in HK that we automatically assume that Gregoire fucker is behind it.  So we wave down the waiter to ask whether Cochin make their own bread and then he launches into this speech about how there’s this French guy in HK who does all their bread who supplies a number of restaurants and I bellow at him “IS IT GREGOIRE?!”.  Turns out it is and to make sure that I’ve truly established that the baguette is a fully righteous fuck yeah, we slammed six more buckets of it and took the leftover pieces home for breakfast the next day.  The meek might inherit the earth, but I’m telling you that the greedy fucks shall inherit all the goddamn baguette.

Living up to the delicatessen part of its name, Cochin offers a number of starters ‘From the tin’, including anchovies, caviar and pate.  We get involved with the “Pate Louis Ospital”, opting for the Espelette (180g) which comes with a serve of pickles and some baby gem lettuce halves (HKD180 + 10% service charge).  Chef Renaud lets us know that the mushroom pickle recipe is his grandmother’s which means that his family has had the honour of slamming fuck yeah pickles for at least two generations.  However, this is all just warm up for the beef tartare.  Cochin’s Beef Tartare is described as “Polemard” 150g smoked sardines, pickled avocado and melba toast (HKD210 + 10% service charge) and it’s breathtakingly beautiful as fuck.  It’s the sort of dish that arrives and there’s an awed silence at the table.  Accompanied by two barely there thin slices of bread, the beef tartare is an absolute fuck yeah triumph with a depth of flavour from the mixture of fresh beef and two-week aged beef from Polmard.  To fit in with Chef Renaud’s obsession with the sea and the land, it’s accompanied by small daubs of creamed pickled avocado, pieces of smoked sardines, baby red shiso leaves and watercress.  Every single component on that dish is adding something, rather than just being a useless decorative accent.  It’s complex and a dish of contrasts – the fresh beef vs the aged beef, the slight fragrance and bite of the shiso vs the creaminess of the avocado vs the egg in the tartare and the salty briney sardines with the whisper of smoke vs the raw beef.   More importantly, it’s me vs the tartare and I know that when I close my eyes at night, I dream of love which is patient, forgiving and always eternal and it looks exactly like Cochin’s beef tartare.

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While you’d largely classify Cochin as French, there’s clearly influences from other cuisines.  I’m always a sucker for the Italian dish, vitello tonnato and Cochin’s is accompanied by confit lemon, capers and anchovie boquerones (marinated white anchovies) (HKD170 + 10% service charge).  It’s a very decent sized serve and similar to the beef tartare, everything in this dish has a purpose and it’s delicious as fuck.  We summoned two more buckets of baguette so we could ensure that we had vitello tonnato on bread and any stray bit of the creamy tuna sauce was also mopped up into my face.  If Chef Renaud’s obsession with surf and turf ends up in fuck yeah times like this, then I hope his obsession never ceases

Under “Bigger plates to share” and also under “For one” is the Rabbit and Foie Gras Pie (HKD195 + 10% service charge).  While my pedantic self can’t fully understand why you would place “For one” dishes under a “Bigger plates to share” title, the Rabbit and Foie Gras Pie is pretty fucking rich so I think that you can easily share this between four people so you can all have a little taste.  The Rabbit and Foie Gras pie arrives innocuously enough, a dome of puff pastry about the size of a fist with two baby gem lettuce halves chilling on the side.  But inside is where the fuck yeah magic happens – stuffed with foie gras, pan fried rabbit (both pieces and mince), confit shallots, garlic, parsley, thyme and spinach. It’s a perfect balance of the rich, fatty foie gras against the stronger flavoured rabbit, with the slight acidity of the confit lemon cutting through all of it and balanced out with the parsley and thyme.  But this is something honest and pure, and as saltwater wells in my eyes, all I can think about is that this is emotional, this is true love and I’m a better, more fulfilled person for knowing this pie.

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Under ‘For two or more’ there’s the Fadi organic chicken 81 days, available in a half or whole serving (HKD475 / HKD990 + 10% service charge), accompanied by two sides of your choice.  Clearly a Fadi organic chicken gets to live a pretty pampered life and has probably flown to HK on a premium economy flight at that sort of price.  We opt for the half and this chicken is fucking incredible, perfectly roasted with flavour packed meat that belies its privileged upbringing and 100% organic feeding consisting of corn crumbles, wheat, soya, barley, oats and sunflower seeds that sounds like a fancy health bar you’d buy for HKD78.  But it’s the sauce it comes with which is a major fuck yeah, made from the chicken juices, ginger, honey, lime and lemon.  No shame that after my first taste of this sauce from the gods, I put my cutlery down to throw up some air punches before plotting how I can most politely guzzle whatever sauce is remaining after my homies are done with it.

The Zaragoza suckling pig shoulder (HKD650 + 10% service charge) also comes with two sides and writing about roast pork always puts me in this quandary because I fucking love eating well executed roast pork but it’s so fucking boring to write roast pork wank.  Crispy skin, blah blah, juicy meat, blah blah.  However, don’t let my porcine related lassitude deter you though because Cochin’s suckling pig is a serious and major FUCK YEAH.  It’s everything you could hope and dream about, and doesn’t suffer from that HK bullshit roast pork serving size where you barely get any pork even though you’re laying down cash.  This could easily be shared between four to six of your best homies.

We were lucky enough that when we went to Cochin that Patrice Marchand of the famous Marchand Brothers was serving up his cheese.  We watched him serve his cheese to other patrons and it was fucking glorious to see someone so totally into his craft that his happiness was palpable.  Given the amount we’d eaten, we went for a selection of five cheeses (HKD295 + 10% service charge) and went up to the counter to discuss and hear more about the cheeses.  Patrice Marchand asks us at this point “Are you sure you only want five cheeses?” as he starts to stack our cheese board up with more glorious fuck yeah cheese choices and at this point our only answer is:

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The cheese at Cochin is clearly a major drawcard and if any of you are seriously into your cheese, you MUST get yo asses down to Cochin ASAP.  We ended up opting to skip dessert and there’s no scant cheese servings here (Imma looking at you Epure with your delicious but tiny ass cheese serves).  In fact, at one point we’re even a little bit daunted by how much cheese we’ve been blessed with.  There’s so many special fuck yeah moments happening but the absolute cheese champion for me is the ‘Bleu de brebis ciré’, the result of allowing ewes roam the Pyrenees Mountains while eating wildflowers and fresh grass at altitude before turning their milk into a soft, moist blue cheese which punches you in the face before whispering goodnight to you and kissing you on the neck.

It’s at this point, I’m grateful for the downhill slope down Peel Street because I’ve smashed through an insane amount of fucking delicious food, Old Fashioneds and wine.  But more than anything, it is so often that a new restaurant in HK is based on the idea of what is trendy and mashes together any number of ingredients to form something that they think the punters want.  How else can I explain those HK moments when I’ve looked down at a bowl of corn chips with a side of guacamole topped with sea urchin and salmon roe and thought ‘What in the ever loving fuck in this trendy ass mess?!’. But for all of that, Cochin comes blinking out of that dark, tortured HK trendy bullshit to be a testament to one chef’s vision to show you the food he loves which takes references and inspiration from not only his own experience but also from his family, the ingredients and the countries he’s been to produce something that’s heartfelt and laid bare for all to see. This shit doesn’t happen all that often in HK, but I just can’t think of anything that makes me fucking happier than to eat food where a chef has considered every single element on every plate and in its totality means something more.

Verdict:
FUCK YEAHHHHHHH! As you can imagine, I work my way through an inordinate amount of restaurants and I fucking loved Cochin so much that I went back twice in one week.  I’m gonna put it out there my FYN homies even though we’re only halfway through 2016, Cochin is going to be one of the best fuck yeah new restaurants in 2016.  JUST GO ALREADY, OK?!

Where:
MyHouse (HOLY FUCK, it’s a perfectly functional HK restaurant website)
202 Queen’s Road East
26/F QRE Plaza
Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2323 1715

Price:
A very reasonable HKD380 per person for food only (before tip, no service charge is included).  Cocktails come in around the HKD100 – HKD120 mark and there’s a fuck yeahhhh reasonably priced wine list too.

The deal:
When I read about MyHouse, I wasn’t sure if it was gonna be something new and innovative or would it just be one of those venues that tries too fucking hard.  My spider senses were tingling once I read all the prose about it being a creative space where people should feel that they’re at home.  The idea of the venue moving from a coffee / casual lunch spot which then morphs to an after work drinks spot, then dinner and then into a club / music venue.  The emphasis on it being a music place where each table has its own turntable, allowing customers to pick up some old school vinyl before playing their own individual soundtrack at their dinner table. That’s if you’re not enjoying the VINYL ONLY house DJ.  Then there’s the whole shebang about it being about natural wines and sustainable seafood.  I’m just so fucking jaded with wank-off pretentious concepts which don’t deliver that I imagined that it might be a bit like going to dinner theatre.  As in, there’s a whole shit tonne of things going on but in the end, the substandard food is distracting you from the amateur dancing, as you suck back some awful house wine in a futile attempt to put some enjoyment into the clusterfuck of an experience by getting wasted.  Just as the cheap wine headache squeezes your brain into oblivion, you tumble out of some grimey venue, dazed and confused as fuck with an overall feeling of “FUCK ME, WHAT JUST HAPPENED THERE?” as an overwhelming tsunami of mediocrity washes over you.

However, one of my random FYN homies has been non-stop singing MyHouse’s praises which is why I decided to put my healthy scepticism to one side and get myself down to QRE Plaza in Wan Chai.  I feel like I’m spending all my time in Wan Chai at the moment.  WAIT, that came out fucking wrong.  I feel like I’m spending all my time going to restaurants in Wan Chai at either 239 Hennessy Road or QRE Plaza at the moment given all the new digs that have opened there (The Optimist, Zahrabel, Momojein, El Mercado (UGH but just don’t go) and Pirata).  As soon as you exit the lifts, MyHouse is killing it with its fuck yeah Mohamad Ghamlouch designed interiors. It’s got that spacious converted loft apartment feel of your fuck yeah non-HK dreams cause let’s face facts, you’re really stuck paying HKD27,000 a month for 350 square feet of Sheung Wan apartment feelings.   MyHouse is all natural wood and massive industrial globular light bulbs, bathing everything in fucking beautiful warm light. They’ve tucked plants just under the ceiling and large windows open up onto the salubrious view of….Hopewell Centre. The space is split between a massive cocktail bar, individual dinner tables, a private dining area, a DJ podium and a bar area.  It’s clear that it’s all carefully thought out with purposefully mismatched block coloured plates, curated art work, vinyl record sleeves stacked in bookshelves and wrought iron fixtures.

I had anticipated that MyHouse would be more like bar snacks to go with trendy cocktails but MyHouse’s Executive Chef Peter Birks has got some serious cooking game going on.  He’s managed to escape the grips of Dining Concepts and prior to cheffing it up at MyHouse he was the Chef de Cuisine for Carbone HK.  After some judicious Internet stalking it appears that he’s an Aussie Caboolture boy done good.  Go well my Strayan sonny!  However, upon reading the MyHouse menu I guess it’s best described as European with some strong Italian influences given the pasta and pizzetta section.  More importantly, I realise there are many things I want in my life.  This is where I flag down our waiter and he’s 100% across the menu and gives meaningful and well thought out suggestions.  Fuck yeahhhh, floor staff who know their shit.  Our waiter homie recommends that we order five to six dishes as well as being super helpful on helping us pick out some fuck yeah natural wine. I gotta mention that throughout the whole night the MyHouse service is super tight from start to finish and even though they’ve only been open for a few weeks there’s no relying on any soft opening bullshit. Fuck yeahhhhhh MyHouse, show those new HK restaurants that just cause your shit is new it doesn’t mean that your service has to be a red hot mess.

While we make decisions on the menu our bread arrives and it’s this large, open crumbed thing of fuck yeah glory.  Our table smears each piece with French salted butter and smashes through it relentlessly.  I’m having a bit of a bread related moment, because it’s just so fucking good.  Our waiter asks if we want more bread and my greedy-ass mouth has no other option but to declare “YASSSSSSSSS”.  We later pressed the MyHouse homies for the details behind their bread and they say that as their kitchen is too small they are getting the goods from Bread Elements.  Even writing this paragraph about the Bread Elements foccacia loaf is hitting me right in the feels because FML, why am I not eating this crumby bastard right the fuck now??

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In a nod to pretending to be into healthfulness we start with the “Truffle buttered asparagus with Iberico jamon, poached egg and parmigiano reggiano” (HKD148).  It’s exactly as promised and every element is fucking great.  However, I just don’t think I’d order it again because let’s be real, just how fucking exciting can asparagus with egg and cheese really be??  Fuck off vegetables, I don’t need to pretend to be healthy cause let’s face facts, I’m a fat fuck at heart and I’d rather spend my bucks on meat and fuck yeah carbs.

This is where the “Ox-tail, orange and sage ragu over crusty bread” (HKD118) arrives and OH MY FUCKING GOD.  While it’s simple in concept, it’s fucking unbelievable.  The ox-tail has been slow cooked until it’s falling apart with gentle orange peel overtones and sage for herbaceous fuck yeah feelings.  It’s served on a piece of that fuck yeah Bread Elements foccacia loaf which has been toasted in butter to make it even more fucking delicious, providing dem crunchy feels against the ox-tail ragu.  You better believe that we demanded even more bread so we could scrape every last bit of that ragu into my life from the cast iron pan.  Why would you order HKD148 asparagus when HKD118 fuck yeah ox-tail ragu is on offer?? Don’t fall into the healthful vegetable trap homies, you’re not impressing anyone!

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Our waiter had recommended a pizzetta which is fancy Italian nomenclature for ‘tiny pizzas’.  We ordered the “spicy salami, nduja, provolone pizzetta” for a very fair HKD98.  It’s about as wide as two fists and it’s deep crust style, its bottom crispy fried in olive oil and topped with fuck yeah salami and nduja.  Like seriously, what’s not to love about nduja – ie. a spreadable pork sausage mixed with roasted peppers and spices?  Predictably, there’s some arugula scattered about as well which I guess is an acceptable salad accompaniment when it’s on top of a salami pizza.

My generally insatiable lust for carbs almost met its match by the time I got to the pasta course. The “veal cannelloni with porcini béchamel” (HKD228) was small in size but rich as fuck.  The flavours were a fuck yeah symphony of balance.  Sure, the veal cannelloni was a good fucking thing but the true magic was the porcini béchamel sauce.  The dish is grilled to give the béchamel a browned maillard crust and just when I thought I couldn’t handle any more of these overwhelming feelings for béchamel sauce the subtle nutmeg spicing kicks in on the back end.  The only thing that can contain my unbridled emotions is to tearily wave the waiter homie over, begging him to bring me MOAR BREAD so I can get every last bit of béchamel into my being.

However, despite the fuck yeah pasta times this is all warm up for the star of the masterpiece, the “Porcini rubbed short-rib with aged balsamic” (HKD458).  This slow cooked Canadian beef short rib presents itself sliced into pieces, with a now-clean bone presented right down the middle.Unfortunately, there’s  more fucking arugula on it, and given the amount of arugula on the other dishes I was definitely at peak arugula levels by this stage. Yo MyHouse, diversify your garnishing portfolio and get some cress or something.  However, the most important thing to remember is the fuck yeah glory of MyHouse’s short rib which is sprinkled with large chunks of French sea salt which catch your tastebuds periodically to ricochet more fuck yeah feelings through your body.  The beef is pink and soft like butter, but charred on the outside.  This juicy fucker tastes so distinctly of beef and happiness that I’m not even sure if the salt I’m tasting is from the French sea salt flakes or whether it’s because I’m weeping tears of joy into my food.  My fellow dining homie that was with me at this point takes a moment to stop shovelling beef into her face, just to exclaim “Fuck, I think I’m at the Vatican because I just saw GOD”.

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At five dishes we were truly full as fuck and as a massive fat cunt, perhaps our waiter’s recommendation of six dishes was a bit punchy.  Or perhaps most normal patrons don’t take it upon themselves to eat a loaf of foccacia each on top of their ordered dishes.  Just to round off our MyHouse experience we took a bottle of red wine to the couched bar area and split a dessert, the salted caramel panna cotta (HKD88).  Layered in a stemless wine glass, I was most definitely into this.  Each layer had a different texture and flavour, going from chocolate to the salted caramel panna cotta to a foamy cream, all topped with some salted caramel popcorn to give it some crunch and dem salty burnt sugar feelings while we enjoyed some cool house tunes from MyHouse’s DJ.

So I’m totally willing to take this one on the chin and be proven wrong that restauranteurs actually can fully formulate a concept which has every potential to be a massive pretentious wank-off but instead throw down a massive fuck you to half-assed execution and pulls together something which is unique and killing it in an unprecedented SEVEN WAY FUCK YEAH slam of interiors, concept, food, music, drinks, service and price point.  Yassss MyHouse, you better believe my short ribbed filled body is READY.

Verdict:
FUCK YEAHHHHHHHH!  In a fairly flat year of only just ok new restaurants in HK, MyHouse has gotta be a strong FYN contender for one of the best new restaurants of 2015.  GET INTO IT ASAP FYN HOMIES, CAUSE THIS MYHOUSE SHIT IS JUST SO FUCKING RIGHT.

Where:
Grissini
2F/Grand Hyatt
1 Harbour Road
Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2584 7722

Price:
HKD500ish for a 3 course set lunch.  HKD880 for free flow prosecco Sunday brunch.

The deal:
It sounds like I’m being entirely dramatic when I say that it’s worth going to Grissini alone for the breadsticks.  No one understands me until they go themselves.  I’ve had a few good meals here at Grissini, but all I truly remember are those breadsticks.  I’m sure there were some white plates, white fish, a smear of pesto and a delicately placed sliver of carrot.  But, let’s get back to the main event which is forever etched into my psyche – dat bread.  So at Grissini, they bring out three long breadsticks to the table, wrapped in a white napkin.  You then have to dip them into olive oil / balsamic vinegar and eat them until your belly is entirely distended and you cannot possible eat more.  It’s good to know that when the breadsticks cool down or there’s a little stub left, they bring out more, straight from the pizza oven. Everything else you will eat at Grissini will pale in significance.  I honestly believe this is one of the best fucking bread products I’ve eaten in my life.

From a Sunday brunch perspective, I really enjoyed the Grissini one.  I know in HK, everyone’s all about Zuma (Zuma, Y U no change your brunch menu, ever?!) but while their pasta station was a bit disappointing (under normal circumstances, this would be an automatic fuck no for an ITALIAN place) their antipasti selection, salads and main stations were more interesting than a lot of brunches that I’ve been to.  But, I cannot emphasise this enough – I can’t begin to explain the pure transcendence of dem breadsticks.  GET IN MY LIFE, YOU DOUGHY WONDERS, MY HEART IS YOURS FOREVER.

Addendum – June 2014:  I’ve watched the service at Grissini continue a steady decline over the last year and my recent adventure to gluten town resulted in seeing a total shit show of a service going down.  It’s all well intentioned but when you’re paying that fucking much, it’s not about intention but the fucking result.  Why are the staff unable to clear all the menus once they’ve taken orders?  Why did your meals arrive and out of 8 people, 6 people got the wrong fucking meal?!  FFS HK, I don’t even work in a fucking restaurant and I know how to write a fucking ticket which shows who is having what?! How come when you managed to correct seven of the dishes, the eighth dish remained absent for an uncomfortable amount of time while the other seven diners just looked at our guest waiting for his meal?? I still fucking love those breadsticks with all my heart but you can’t just use white linen tablecloths and expect that to make you a fine dining establishment – DON’T REST ON YOUR DOUGHY BREADSTICK LAURELS YOU LAZY GRAND HYATT FUCKERS.

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The verdict:
Fuck yeah!!

(Addendum:  But based on the shit show I witnessed today – GRISSINI, SORT YO FUCKING SERVICE OUT)

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