Seafood

Where:
Le Bernardin
155 West 51st, New York
USA

Phone:
+1 (212)-554-1515 but fuck yeah, Murica, you can also make reservations online via OpenTable.  Reservations through OpenTable open 30 days to the day – if you really want to go, take this shit seriously cause shit books up quick.

Price:
The Chef’s Eight Course Tasting Menu is a very large and in charge USD198 per person.  We didn’t go for the wine matching (USD336 per person for wine and food) but went with champagne instead.  After cocktails, champagne, coffees and one glass of armagnac to finish and tip/taxes, we were out at a very hefty, USD500 a person.

The deal:
Le Bernardin is what you’d classify as ‘kind of a big deal’ with its list of accolades running long and it will give anyone plenty of name-dropping material to brag to their friends/blog readers/sychophants and establish your fucking “serious foodie” credentials.  Four stars from the New York Times since 1986, more James Beard awards than any other restaurant in NYC, three Michelin stars and the list that seems to get the biggest panty twisting reaction from food blogs, ranks #21 on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.  Not that you should get sucked into believing the hype because stars and San Pellegrino ranking lists don’t necessarily translate into fuck yeah dining experiences (refer: The #5 ranked, two Michelin starred Dinner by Heston Blumenthal).  Our homie who had been before had noted that it was super formal and to almost dress like you were going to a wedding – that might have a been a bit far but it has a strict dress code for the men (jackets required, ties optional) and a full suit/tie is definitely not out of place.

We padded (awwww yissssss, plush as fuck carpet) into Le Bernardin for lunch and it’s no surprise that every single aspect of service from when we arrived til when we left was a superior fuck yeah.  Understated, warm and confident hostesses welcoming you to Le Bernardin.  Fleets of black suited, silent footed waiters who anticipated every need you had (some replete with almost comically over the top French accents).  Sommeliers stalk the floor with a silver tasting saucer hung from a chain around their neck (reminiscent of Flavour Flav with his clock and chain bling). For all my complaining about these new modern restaurants which just want to be stark, industrial spaces and don’t want to spring for the expense of linen under the pretence of how it’s too ‘stuffy’ (see also: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal), it was fucking awesome that Le Bernardin just goes with it and nails a sleek, formal dining room.  A massive 24-foot triptych “Deep Water No. 1” by the Brooklyn artist Ran Ortner depicts a stormy Pacific Ocean (read more detail about the oil painting here) presides over the Bentel & Bentel designed dining room of wood ceilings, plush grey carpet, towering white and green floral arrangements, dark brown leather and shiny steel chairs, soft velvet lounges and white linen.  Fuck yeah, soft furnishings – I’m having my throwback reaction to those noisy, polished concrete moments and you should all get involved so we can be ahead of the goddam trend.

As we were one of the first tables for the day, I spotted Eric Ripert in the dining room talking to the waitstaff.  I managed to keep my shit together (just) before reflecting on how all of these big celebrity chefs can lend their name to restaurants but what does it actually mean if they never actually fucking show up and see what is actually happening in their own fucking kitchen.  It’s interesting to note that while in Asia we love to add the “by” tagline, to denote who is the big name behind the restaurant that the big name restaurants in New York stand alone with no tacky “by Eric Ripert” to get you in the goddamn door.

We went with the signature eight-course Chef’s Tasting Menu because if I’m doing ‘balls to the walls’ dining, I want to have the menu which should showcase the Chef’s vision of his restaurant, his philosophy surrounding the food/ingredients and should optimally present what he thinks is a phenomenal meal.

Out of the eight tasting courses, six are seafood.  It obviously changes depending on what’s seasonal but there are some signature dishes (for our meal we worked through a Tairagai clam, kingfish with Osetra caviar, langoustine, lobster, monkfish and white tuna escolar).  This isn’t a tasting menu which is showing off endless modern technique and scientific methods or a million different references.  Almost every course follows the format of precisely cut pieces of seafood with a purposefully placed accompaniment whether that is a few eggs of caviar, a solitary microchive or a paper thin shaving of a baby fennel or a truffle before being sauced at the table.   I can imagine this simple format would cause some consternation to some people because it feels ‘samey’, but the more I’ve reflected upon this meal I think what I’ve loved was that each course let the seafood be the focal point.

Side note: I’m a slut for tableware too and it was so on point here with the dimpled white and silver Bernardaud “Ecume” tableware and the appropriately stark German Robbe & Berking Riva silver cutlery.

A highlight which wasn’t something I’d had before was the first course – three sashimi style pieces of charred raw Tairagai clam which came dramatically served on its massive black shell, topped with a piece of shaved baby fennel and a Japanese influenced apple and ginger broth. The signature lobster and celeriac lasagne was fucking incredible too, with its truffle butter sauce, shaved truffle and sylph of a microchive.  But the fuck yeah triumph was the fanciest surf ‘n turf of my life, the white tuna escolar with the Kobe beef.  The grilled escolar’s dense waxy texture is set against slivers of sweet Asian pear and topped with a soy-lemon emulsion with the turf compent provided by the only non-seafood protein of the meal, a piece of seared Kobe beef, with its melted fat and a tiny kimchi roll.  This shit was fucking off the hook and this is the dish that I will remember forever, when all the other ingredients and dishes fade into the dark recesses of my memory.

The two dessert courses were small and refined.  One was a Candied Peach Compote, Pistachio Gelato and Raspberry Sorbet “Swirl” Tahitian Vanilla Custard which provided the sharp, tart palate cleanser after disposing of so many rich, creamy seafood courses and the other being the expected chocolate closer, Le Bernardin’s take on a s’more, with a Smoked Madagascan Chocolate Crémeux, Graham Cracker Sablé Tahitian Vanilla Ice Cream. I’m not one of those people who loses their shit over chocolate, but this dessert was a fuck yeah to chocolate – avoiding being too sweet or one note by using different chocolate textures, in particular an inbuilt chocolate puddle which pooled out across the plate when you breached the cremeux walls which surrounded it.

I have purposefully not given you a detailed laborious rundown of each course and its ingredients because I think that when you go to a tasting menu, you should go in with expectations but not a whole, goddamn playbook that takes away any potential for the unexpected.  This is why I’m so vehemently against those food reviews which labour through a tasting menu with a blow-by-blow of each course and a million photos from the bread basket to the petit fours.  I also think it’s such a fucking insult to the chef when he’s planned the pacing of his tasting menu and you want to slow down proceedings by taking photos while also fucking up the whole table’s meal.  It’s not that fucking hard to show some fucking respect and just focus on the actual experience at hand versus the one on your fucking camera and/or phone, so you can show people later.  So just in case some of you homies want to one day also drop some serious bank at Le Bernardin, I’ll leave some of the mystery for you to discover for yourself.

Verdict:
This is not the restaurant for someone who doesn’t enjoy seafood or wants a high end dining experience to be filled with tricks and shiz. This was a refined seafood experience which showed each ingredient for what it was in a perfect dining environment. This was the best high end “fuck yeah” seafood experience of my life.  Fuck yeah.  But most definitely on pay day.

Where:
Catalunya HK (Holy fucking shit, functional HK website – fuck yeah!)
G/F Guardian House Morrison Hill
32 Oi Kwan Road
Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2866 7900

Price:
HKD680 for unlimited buffet/mains/desserts/free flow juice.  HKD230 for sangria / cava freeflow.  +10% for service charge and no, coffee/tea is NOT included.  If you want oysters, they’re HKD40 a piece.

The deal:
After receiving a last minute request from some visitors in town, I was calling around at 11am trying to get a champagne brunch booking for the same day.  I was frantically googling for reviews but they were largely meaningless because people just take a few fucking photos of the desserts (which don’t normally taste half as good as they fucking look), drink a lot of champagne and get blinded by booze and the view as to whether the brunch buffet was any fucking good.  I caught a lucky break though as someone ditched their booking at Catalunya and was able to roll my slightly dusty self into cold cuts and cava, to bring me back to life.

My biggest complaint with champagne brunches in HK are either too much fucking choice and quality starts to get spread pretty fucking thin or the mains are just disappointing as fuck.  Catalunya don’t make you choose mains – you hit up the buffet and they’ll bring around a selection of mains.  You can also order eggs in a number of different ways, but there was so much fucking food that I didn’t get involved.  The buffet covers a good range of bread, charcuterie, fish, cheese and salad.  Remember my buffet tips though, don’t fucking fill up on bread though because you have to smash your way through the higher value proposition items.  Make an exception for the toasted sandwiches they bring around – dat Bikini sandwich with its Iberian ham, cheese and truffle knocked away the hangover blues pretty fucking quick smart.

It’s then SHOW TIME and the staff are going to come out with the mains, dancing and displaying the mains to you, all to the strains of a live trumpet player.  They appeared to be genuinely enjoying themselves (versus the soulless dead eyes of an Abercrombie & Fitch flunky, dancing her life away in one lonely spot on the stairs, in a pungent heritage building while shouting over and over ‘HEYYYYYY! HOW’S IT GOING’).  Full fucking marks for the mains which are served right at your table though – the portions are pretty bang on and were a FUCK YEAH to the baby suckling roast pig ‘Segovian’ style (complete with dramatic chopping of the pig using a plate and the subsequent smashing of said plate), squid ink risotto and the salt crusted whole fish.

Sunday brunch is always a marathon and not a goddamn sprint, so we rounded the corner into SWEET TREATS and watched another impressive as fuck, cavalcade of desserts dance around us with the token inclusion of some fruit salad.  Welcome to HK punching stations though, because sweet treats are not served at your table.  Life pro tips – don’t ever get between Asians and a freshly filled buffet, cause we will fuck your shit up.  We weren’t quick enough to get to the churros (serious super pro Asian buffet athletes were in attendance who deftly elbowed their way up to the table in lightning speed) but our waiter homie was kind enough to get the kitchen to make some more for those less gifted athletes in attendance.  Coffee/tea is NOT included which I give a FUCK NO, given the booze + food price tag of HKD1000, I don’t think it would have killed Catalunya’s profit margins to press some beans through some hot water for me.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah on pay day – at HKD1000 all-in for booze + food (and NO fucking coffee) this is not a cheap day out.  Pre-warn your friends if you book so they don’t suffer bill $hock afterwards.

Where:
Happy Fisherman HK (Chinese only)
Ground Floor, 35 Wui Street
Tai Kok Tsui, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 3486 4642

Price:
HKD400 for three people.  FUCK YEAH TO KOWLOON PRICES!!

The deal:
We were stomping around Tai Kok Tsui (right next to Mong Kok) and was using the tried old, HK method of finding somewhere to nom – a scientific combination of using Openrice to almost no noticeable benefit (‘This one has 87 smiles but 16 crying face.  This one doesn’t have any reviews at all.  This one has 102 smiles and 24 crying face. OH NO WHAT SHOULD WE DO?  WHICH ONE SHOULD WE GO TO?  OH NOW IT’S CRASHED’) and then looking for places with a queue, but not too much of a queue and just peering through windows at people’s food to get the vibe of it.

We decided on Happy Fishermen because we could see hot pots with WHOLE FISH in there.  Restaurant also ticked off local requirements – long queue and good smells.  Loved watching the ‘booking’ system with locals claiming ‘But I booked at 8pm’ while desperately waving their paper tickets at the waiter at 9:30pm.  As far as I can tell, making a booking just gets you the privilege to waive your paper ticket a bit more furiously and perhaps jump someone in the queue if you waive it fervently enough.

We waited too long.  Partly because this gwai lo on a date didn’t seem to get the joke and was sitting there for over half an hour with an empty wine glass and no food.  Like SRS, by the time the food and the wine is over, time to tell the girl that you want to go somewhere ‘more quiet’ and GIVE ME YOUR FUCKING TABLE.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t get involved in Sichuan soup base (the king of hot pot soup base) due to someone in our party not having big balls and went with the Yunan soup base.  Sour pickles, fish and onions.  Then we loaded that bad boy up with beancurd skin, beef, dumplings, vegetables, pig skin, tofu and mushrooms.  The only fuck no was the blood cubes – yeah, maybe a fuck no for most people at the best of times but even by my fuck yeah blood pud pud standards, it was a fuck no due to some weird taste that…wasn’t blood?

Obviously it’s a pretty non-English friendly venue but how good is it not getting totally bankrupted in Soho or Wan Chai for some substandard nom?  I swear I’ve paid HKD400 a person for hot pot on the Island but we got out at HKD400 for all three of us.

Verdict:
FUCK YEAH to tasty, cheap, local noms!!!

Where:
CVCHE [NOW CLOSED]
2F Parekh House
63 Wyndham Street
Central, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2810 9881

Price:
Lunch set was HKD140 for three courses.

The deal:
For all the messing around with trying to find somewhere to eat at lunch in Central where it isn’t necessary to make a booking – it appears that after almost living here for 3 years, the secret to a stress free lunch is dragging yourself up to Wyndham Street.   CVCHE surprised on the upside – not many people seem to know about it and it was only walking past their sign a few times as I schlep my way to yoga which tipped me off about its existence.

The salad entree wasn’t any old fucking boring lunch set salad (ie. iceberg lettuce with a few olives – but hey Hong Kong, you definitely need to take 6 pictures of that boring ass salad ASAP and upload it as a picture collage with a smiling bear on it going YUMMM!! to Instagram NOW), it had all that fancy sauce and plating shit going on.  Main of the tuna was cooked well and presented with more sauce smears, but nothing that looked like a skid mark.  We started getting all tight ass about having dessert because, brace yourselves FYN homies, I actually wasn’t starving after my meal.  But then they pointed out that the parfait was included in our bargain HKD140 meal price.  How can I say no to free?  LBR, I can’t.  Someone at work was saying that this place breaks bank at night – but I enjoyed lunch so much I might even give that a go one night.  I think I’m going to catapult CVCHE up to a ‘go to’ Central located lunch spot.  Hope all 5 of your sneaky bastards who read FYN don’t go and book all the tables at once.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah to lunch sets which are around HKD140, involve three courses!!

Addendum April 2015:  CVCHE has now closed and has been replaced by Chaky’s Public House.

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