Fuck No

Where:
Morty’s Delicatessen
Shop 2-14 Lower Ground Floor, Jardine House 1
Jardine House, 1 Connaught Place
Central, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 3665 0900.  You can also order your sandwich shizz online – fuck yeahhhh, welcome to the future HK. BUT  WHO WILL WE FAX NOW?!

Price:
HKD148 for the large Reuben sandwich meal.  +10% service charge if you eat it in the restaurant.

The deal:
Hong Kong is the business for so many fucking things, but there is some shit that it is just NO GOOD at.  Such as how to use an umbrella in a crowd, websites, walking in a straight line and bearable humidity levels during the months of July and August.  In this category of HK fails, I’d also add sandwiches.  I don’t know why it’s so fucking hard to get a decent sandwich in HK but I’d heard some good shit about Morty’s, a New York style delicatessen, which has just opened in the lower ground floor of Jardine House.  Sandwich related hope in HK is indeed a bold proposition and seizing upon this tiny sliver of carb related hope, I rounded up two of my best American homies, Ms Two Serves and Ms Siuwaan, so we could get our fill of carbs and stacks of pastrami.

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Morty’s is doing some brisk trade and we pulled a time-tested HK move and got there right at 12pm to secure a table.  The menu offers a number of different sandwiches, smoked meat and specialty sandwiches, including all the big bangin’ classics you’d expect such as the Reuben, Classic Pastrami, Club Sandwich and the Grilled Cheese.  I went for the Reuben because if I was gonna judge whether Morty’s had its NY sandwich game on, I didn’t want it to be on some bullshit new age smoked truffle chicken sandwich with grilled shiitake mushrooms, arugula and truffle mayo.

The Morty’s claim is that its pastrami is “cured between 5 & 21 days, rubbed with a top secret spice blend & then slowly smoked with techniques passed on by Morty’s great-grandfather”. The menu also declares proudly in caps that “ALL SANDWICHES INCLUDE HALF PICKLE & FRIES OR HOUSE SALAD”.  I predictably went for fries because fuck me, I ain’t interested in that house salad bullshit.  I did watch half a dozen or so paunchy office workers sigh and choose the limp, uninspiring salad to earn the privilege of being able to report to their over priced personal trainer that they did indeed forego potential spud related happiness for the “right choices”, in a forlorn attempt to stave off their fat fuck destiny that’s written in their desk bound existence in the money mills.

shut up about your diet

When our sandwiches arrive, they look fucking great.  Three layers of bread and a fuck yeah looking slab of pastrami in there, with a pile of fries on the side.  However, once we catch sight of the pickle on the side, our entire table has a flashback to the ALL CAPS menu claim of “HALF PICKLE” and we stare down what looks more like a quarter of a tiny ass pickle.  Ms Siuwaaan is even less impressed, declaring it to be a mere eighth of a pickle.  To add insult to injury, Morty’s not-really-a-half pickle is also entirely lack lustre, a soggy-ass mess with not enough piquancy or brine to make it fucking pop.  For me, I imagined that this is what it feels like when a pickle gives up on life.  One of my lunch comrades went past the existential pickle problems I was imagining and went straight to much saltier territory, declaring that it felt like a flaccid dick in her mouth. Either way you take it, fuck no to limp, impotent pickles.

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I pile into my sandwich and the menu had described it as “Slow Smoked Pastrami, Swiss Cheese, Thousand Island Dressing & Sauerkraut on House Rye”.  First off, Morty’s pastrami is fucking great.  I got the medium fatty brisket and the spicing and cure on the pastrami is fucking delicious.  Look, I’m sure there’s better pastrami available in the USA but as far as HK goes, Morty’s pastrami is legit.  However, Ms Siuwaaan and Ms Two Serves were less impressed, as they had ordered fatty brisket which looked remarkably like medium to lean brisket.  But this is the thing, a sandwich has to be the sum of all its parts and as I plowed through my gut-buster of a large Reuben Sandwich more and more flaws became apparent.  I started off pretty fucking excited about my sandwich but with each bite, I became less enamoured with what was going down.  Why was the Swiss cheese not melted enough?  Why was the only indication that there was even Thousand Island Dressing on my sandwich was the fact that I could see some pink sauce in there but couldn’t taste a fucking thing?  How come the sauerkraut was much the same, physically there but from a taste perspective it was bland as fuck, with none of the sour, fermented kick you would expect from sauerkraut?  The house rye bread was adequately fine but if you’d switched it out for country white bread, I’m not sure I could have tasted the difference as it didn’t have any of that dense, chewy and deeper flavour that I’d hope to get from a rye bread.  The fries that came with my sandwich were also completely unremarkable, so much so that I even left fries behind.  And trust me, deep fried potatoes with salt should be an easy fuck yeah slam dunk which generally sees me shovelling them into my face until they’re all gone.  All I can think about is that this is a sandwich that has been created to look the part, but no one has thought about it critically as a whole.

So the three of us sit there, our souls weary and Ms Siuwaan looks at us with heavy eyes and heart, stating simply “I don’t even know why I get excited about anything new in HK anymore, because it always ends in disappointment”.  So we sit there in silence with our cold fries and untouched sad-ass looking salads and allow yet another HK sandwich related tidal wave of ennui soak us to our jaded, worn out bones, as the shards of any sort of HK carb related glory lay shattered around our feet.

Verdict:
Fuck no.  Cause as I texted someone later that day – “Sad pickle.  Sad sandwich.  Sad carbs = sad fucking times”.

Where:
Le Bistro Winebeast (fuck yeahhhh, functional website)
G/F & 1/F Tai Yip Building, 141 Thomson Road
Wanchai, Hong Kong

FYN hot tip:  Exit A3 from Wanchai MTR, kinda close to The Hennessey if you’re catching the tram.  But fuck my advice if you’re one of those assholes who just cabs everywhere.

Phone:
+852 2782 6689

Price:
HKD458 for the four course tasting menu, +HKD100 if you want to add the wine pairing.  No service charge, so don’t be an asshole and don’t forget to tip according to the service you receive.

The deal:
Le Bistro Winebeast ran this concept on McGregor Street where there was a small 25-seat bistro attached to its retail wine store, with the fuck yeah catch that you could order wine at the bistro at the same price as the wine shop.  I’d heard many good things about it and even my fussy as fuck French homies told me that they were into it.  However, the only problem was that every fucking single time I tried to call up Le Bistro Winebeast for a booking they were either totally booked out or would offer me the totally unfeasible times of 6pm or 9pm.  I’m fairly sure that if I booked dinner at 9pm I would probably eat my own hands off in desperate hunger, prior to getting to the restaurant.  It was after about three attempts, I gave up ever trying to eat at Le Bistro Winebeast.  However, all of that booking bullshit has changed because Le Bistro Winebeast has recently moved to new, larger premises sprawling over two stories on Thomson Road.  PRAISE BE, when I called up to make a booking there were no issues and on the night, the massive restaurant space was more empty than occupied.

We’re on the receiving end of a super friendly welcome from sommelier and maître d’, Christina Carranco Ducroquet (whose husband, Chef Johan Ducroquet, is in the kitchen slaving away).  We get involved in Le Bistro Winebeast’s fuck yeah homemade bread selection while we check out the extensive and beyond reasonably priced wine list.  As someone who is always so thirsty, I can most def get behind fuck yeah retail wine prices.  We settle on going for the tasting menu because it’s reasonably priced at HKD458 and adding the matched wine is a bargain HKD100.

While not listed on the menu, we’re given two complimentary amuse bouches.  One of them is the awfully named “Frapas” – geddit?  It’s a French Tapas.  After extricating my eyes from the back of my head, I get involved with an oyster which is topped with confit shallots and red wine vinegar granita.  I fucking love oysters and I get what the fancy-ass accoutrements were meant to be doing, the subtle onion flavour of the shallot and the cold sharp red wine vinegar granita against the creamy oyster, but this is down to my own personal preference – if the oyster’s good enough, I’ll always prefer my oysters straight up with some lemon.

The first course is a Foie Gras Terrine which is served in three cubes, topped with a thin layer of green apple jelly and wine coulis, with a side of finely cubed green apple on the side.  It’s a common reaction to be all fuck yeahhhhh foie gras and the sharp acidity of the apple, cuts through the fat to provide some fuck yeah times.  Except when I realise that the bread it’s been served with is my nemesis, TOASTED BRIOCHE.  UGH, TOASTED BRIOCHE Y U A THING?  Who in their right mind ever toasts a piece of brioche and thinks “Mmmm, this dried out loofah-like sweet bread will most definitely impress my customers as they attempt to choke it back with this delicious dish I have prepared”.  I don’t fucking know except that I work through my brioche related meltdown by asking for another serve of Le Bistro Winebeast’s normal fuck yeah bread, smearing my fuck yeah foie gras terrine all over it and enjoying a sweet half-glass of Audrey et Christian Binner, Hinterberg, Pinot Gris 2008.

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The second course is a ravioli of sea bream, which looked more like a wonton dumpling.  It’s served with a confit lemon, coriander, anise flavoured bouillabaisse jus and topped with shredded strips of nori seaweed.  The wine pairing was the Savennieres, Dom Nicolas Joly “Les Vieux Clos” 2012 and it’s masterful, with its fresh pear and golden raisin notes elevating what I thought was an ok, slightly fishy dish which was trying hard to be interesting but wasn’t necessarily that successful in its flavours.  The rest of our table was even less impressed and 50% of our table grimaced halfway through, as they choked back some fuck no bones in their seabream raviolis.

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Our final savoury course is the Confit Beef Paleron (chuck steak) and it’s the best dish of the night.   Through slowly cooking the beef in fat, the beef is super fucking tender but charred evenly on the outside to caramelise the shit out of it.  Served with a reduction of Malbec wine jus and some vegetables, it’s well executed and most definitely bringing the Autumnal feels.  In a move that would make it hard to upset any decent human being, the beef paleron is served with a poshed up mac n cheese, made from ham, Comte cheese and freshly shaved black truffle. It’s predictably delicious as fuck but it’d be worrying if someone managed to get a fuck no out of jamming some carbs with fuck yeah ingredients like that.

I’m pretty pumped for dessert at this stage because it sounds fucking incredible, billed as a chocolate dome served with a cardamon emulsion, orange crumble and vanilla flavoured milk.  Shit gets taken up another theatrical notch when we are all presented with a chocolate globe and the the chef appears to pour warm vanilla milk over it, causing the chocolate shell to disintegrate.  I’m taken in by the show and I’m enjoying my dessert until it starts to cool down slightly and Mrs Ain’t No Mountain High Enough makes the off-hand remark that it feels a bit like eating lukewarm mushy cereal and once she says this, I can’t shake this feeling as I take a bite of some tepid mealy milk with some soggy orange crumble bits in it.

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To finish our meal, Le Bistro Winebeast generously provide us with a complimentary dessert, a Grand Marnier souffle which is dramatically set on fire at our table.  With the flambe action going on, it’s hard to deny that it’s cool as fuck, as blue flames snake their way upwards from the souffle.  In the dimly lit dining room, I have a traumatic flashback to my last souffle experience at Beefbar.  While Beefbar’s souffle might have been full of sheer unadulterated horror which continues to haunt the dark corridors of my nightmares, Le Bistro Winebeast’s is a fuck yeahhh, going someway in ameliorating my apprehension regarding souffles.  Delicately flavoured with orange, perfect in texture and not too eggy, it’s a well executed note to end this meal on.

So overall, shit was fine at Le Bistro Winebeast with a few moments which were fucking delicious but overall, there’s a consistency issue when only half of your tasting menu lands its punches.  I’m probably holding them to a higher standard too because I always apply stricter judgment on a restaurant if I order their tasting menu because this should be a restaurant’s fuck yeah slam dunk signature dishes.  Perhaps I’d have loved Le Bistro Winebeast more if I’d ordered differently (or someone who had been before had told me exactly what to order) but based on our meal, I wouldn’t have it on top of my list for a return visit.  Which is a bit of a shame because fuck yeahhhhh delicious well priced wine times and heart felt service ain’t all that common in Hong Kong.

Verdict:
A restrained and polite fuck no because you know shit can’t be that on point for a restaurant when you remember the wine pairings being stronger than the food.

Where:
Papparich Hong Kong
4/F, The L. Square
459-461 Lockhart Road
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2414 7188.  

FYN Fun Fact:  You can also fax Papparich HK on +852 2696 4224.  FUCK ME DEAD HK, Y U SO OBSESSED WITH FAXES STILL? WHAT FUCKING YEAR IS IT??

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Price:
We got out at HKD210 a person and ate a very decent amount of food.

The deal:
I always maintain that Malaysian food is some of the most fuck yeahhhhh flavourful and downright fucking delicious food in the whole goddamn world.  There’s just no way that it could be anything other than off the charts epic if you consider that it’s the result of taking indigenous Malay cuisine and then smashing it together with the fuck yeah influences of Chinese, Indonesian and Indian cuisine with a few tiny shout outs to British, Dutch and Thai cuisine.  However, finding super authentic Malaysian food in Hong Kong has always been a bit of a struggle and while there’s a few places I think are fine, it’s always in the coddled context of ‘Malaysian food IN Hong Kong‘, because let’s be real, these mother fuckers would get eaten alive if they were serving the same shit in Malaysia Truly Asia.  So when I hear that Papparich, a Malaysian chain, has hit Hong Kong, I’m super pumped to try it because fuck yeahhh Malaysian food but I’ve played this game before and had my expectations burnt to a crisp, so I keep a lid on any expectations that my Malaysia Truly Asia roti and laksa dreams are about to be fulfilled in Hong Kong.

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Papparich Hong Kong is not meant to be anything fancy and it’s a simple, small dining room which probably seats around 30 people.  When we arrive on a weeknight, it’s almost at capacity and the distinct patois of Malaysia Truly Asia homies rings out around us (la), no doubt because Malaysia Truly Asia homies are always desperate for a good Malaysian makkan. We sit down and decide on what we’re going to order and the Papparich waiters are totally on their shit and efficiently sort us out, which is impressive for a fairly new restaurant which is at capacity.  Mr Vegetables makes a case for the Ipoh Kway Teow soup sounding interesting but he’s instantly slammed down by a group movement to stick to the Big Guns of Malaysian Cuisine cause fuck, if I’m gonna assess a Malaysian restaurant you need to be checking out the Malaysian Food Superstars such as satay, nasi lemak, laksa, char kuey teow and roti and not some soggy ass rice noodles in a clear soup.

We get started with the roti canai with curry chicken drumstick (HKD38 + 10% service charge).  Papprich HK are most def into their semantics because it is literally a singular roti sitting there on the plate.  Unfortunately, our roti is not that flakey and doesn’t have an iota of puff about it and while it’s crispy, it’s also high on fuck no disappointment. The chicken curry is tasty but not earth shatteringly good, which means that the sad roti has my full attention as a crucial warning indicator as to what this meal might entail because would any decent Malaysian kitchen let such a fuck no roti out of the kitchen?  While I contemplate this, our chicken and beef satay arrive (HKD68 + 10% service charge for 6 sticks of chicken satay and HKD78 + 10% service charge for 6 sticks of beef satay) and it’s accompanied by some unremarkable cubes of cucumber, chunks of onion and two small pieces of bread. Out of duty to carbs, I try the naan-like bread and it’s dried out and pointless.   The satay themselves are fine, the beef being the stronger of the two except for it being quite fatty in parts.  But most importantly, the satay sauce is a fuck no because it doesn’t really taste of peanuts or much of anything at all, which seems unusual given that it at least appears to be full of peanut chunks and it’s not fucking hard to make bangin’ satay sauce.

Next up is the Char Kway Teow (HKD78 + 10% service charge) which is the first solid fuck yeah of the night, sparking a small amount of optimism within me for the rest of the meal that is yet to come.  A good amount of char on the flat rice noodles means that it captures that necessary taste of the wok, with a decent mix of fish cake, bean sprouts and prawns to balance out the noodles. A serve of the kangkung (HKD68 + 10% service charge, also known as water spinach or morning glory – yeah titter away you immature assholes) is also excellent, stir fried with garlic and belacan (shrimp paste).

The Nasi Lemak with Curry Chicken and Sambal Prawns (HKD78 + 10% service charge) was absolutely down the line fine.  I was a bit bored by it because the curry chicken that it’s served with was exactly the same curry chicken that we’d already had with the roti canai.  This means I was given two opportunities to eat the same curry chicken which was neither terrible nor fucking amazing. Shit Papparich HK, Y U no show me some curry related thrills?

However, it’s my firm opinion that the best benchmark to measure any Malaysian restaurant boils down to whether their laksa is a fuck yeah or fuck no.  So the star of the masterpiece arrives and at first glance, Papparich HK’s Seafood Curry Laksa (HKD98 + 10% service charge) looks fucking great – stuffed with promise, large prawns, deep fried beancurd skin, mussels and squid.  It’s also scoring points for using my preferred mix of thick yellow egg noodles and white rice vermicelli.  But there’s disappointment all around once we get started on the soup because Papparich HK’s laksa soup lacks any sort of depth or complexity, tasting like Papparich HK merely mixed some sort of curry powder with plain water. It’s just too fucking sad when a laksa lacks a good stock base underneath it and Papparich HK definitely need to get back to the kitchen and start boiling some prawn shells or chicken carcasses down to make some kick ass stock to lift their laksa game.  To provide some additional insult to laksa-related injury, I take one of the impressive looking large prawns and suck at its head to get a mouthful of funky fuck no bad times and after de-shelling it to eat some of the prawn, it’s a slimy and mushy mess.  You know shit ain’t good when you think “I better not eat this because I could be throwing this fucker up in the next 24 hours”.  Which really, seals the deal on Papparich HK because  this is my feeling about Malaysian restaurants that punch out sub-standard laksas with mushy-ass prawns:

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At this point we’re all pretty well fed on a range of largely average dishes but I can’t resist the icy cool lure of Cendol (HKD48 + 10% service charge) for dessert.  Cendol is a Malaysian / Singaporean dessert which is made by combining shaved ice and red bean, before adding a number of different liquids to flavour the ice such as evaporated milk, gula melaka (brown coconut sugar syrup) and other ingredients for textural purposes (such as palm seeds or peanuts).  The signature ingredient of any cendol is the green noodles which should be flavoured with pandan and made from tapioca and green mung bean flour.  Papparich’s cendol is probably the best thing I ate on the night and fuck yeahhhh, I thoroughly enjoyed this well-balanced cendol shaved ice dessert.  Sure, I could nitpick and say that the cendol noodles needed more pandan or were a little floury, but overall, it was fuck yeah dessert times and after a meal with a lot of average moments, this was a fuck yeah way to finish off the meal.

Verdict:
Fuck no – I mean, It wasn’t terrible but it ain’t authentic enough for me to recommend it. Malaysia Truly Asia, the hunt remains on for deep love, honest and true in Hong Kong.

Where:
Beefbar Hong Kong
2F Club Lusitano/16 Ice House Street
Central, Hong Kong

Phone:
 +852 2110 8853

Price:
HKD880 (+10% service charge) for the signature tasting menu.  We were out at HKD1,300ish including cocktails and wine.  HELP ME I’M POOR.

The deal:
Beefbar have recently set themselves up on Ice House Street, adding Hong Kong to its other random assorted global locations such as Moscow, Mexico, Mykonos and Luxembourg. Just by its awful name, you can guess that Beefbar is pretentious as fuck and if you were in any doubt, the restaurant is tackily emblazoned with “BEEFBAR, BORN IN MONACO”.  On an early weekday, Beefbar HK is almost at full capacity and to make sure you’re having an experience befitting of a restaurant BORN IN MONACO, as soon as you step out of the lifts, no less than three attractive smiling hostesses will gently wave you into the restaurant as you pass by what seems seems to be an excessive amount of floor staff at every turn.

Beefbar HK has clearly dropped a bunch of coin on its fit out, befitting of the luxury concept they are going for.  Beefbar HK is a cool monochromatic slick interior with a fucktonne of white marble, black leather and a tasteful scattering of brass, lit appropriately by pools of just dim enough amber lights.  I’m always bitching about restaurant acoustics but I gotta say that despite Beefbar’s excessive amount of shiny, sleek, hard surfaces, Beefbar’s acoustically sound ridged ceiling means at least you’ll be spared from enjoying your BORN IN MONACO experience in a fuck no echo chamber.  Enjoying the rare privilege of being able to enjoy conversation despite the almost full restaurant, I ponder the most ludicrously sized menu which annoyed the fuck out of me because what’s the fucking point of importing all those black leather chairs if you can’t even comfortably sit at one without your menu careening into your olive oil dish, your neighbour’s bread or some fancy ass wine glass. HAY BEEFBAR, WHERE EXACTLY IS MY FUCKING MENU MEANT TO GO??

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Despite the hundreds of wait staff that are milling around, it took a ridiculous amount of effort to get the smaller tasting menus for the entire table, the waiters taking two separate requests and three individual trips before our table was blessed with the fucking novel concept of one menu for one person.  Menu logistics aside, after chewing down some fuck yeah bread and a negroni aged in a claypot (how necessary is claypot aging? I’m not entirely sure, but at least my negroni was fucking A1 great), our gang decides to pile in for Beefbar’s ‘Signature tasting menu’, which consists of four sections, “Raw Bar”, “Burger Bar”, “Our Great Meat” and “Dessert”.

The “Raw Bar” component is split into two courses, a ceviche and a tartare course.  The first ceviche duo is the ”Octopus ceviche, cucumber & panzanella salsa” and the “Sea bass ceviche, saffron, fennel & mandarin”.  The octopus ceviche is fairly unremarkable and while the menu may try to fancy shiz up by calling it a ‘panzanella salsa’ (an Italian tomato sauce with breadcrumbs), it’s really just a one-dimensional tomato sauce with some croutons bobbing about in it.  The sea bass ceviche also suffers from the indignity of sounding far more impressive on the menu than it really is, delivering fresh sea bass with some pieces of fennel and mandarin which don’t really pop with any of the faint liquorice or citrus acidity that you would hope for, with the lack of seasoning not helping the whole boring ass affair.

But as we’re at Beefbar and not Seafoodbar, I’m prepared to put my ceviche related disappointment to one side and set my expectations higher with the tartare course.  This course consists of two types of tartare – a traditional beef tartare and a milk-fed veal filet tartare.  The traditional beef tartare is solid but not exceptionally memorable, and it’s the veal tartare that provides the first solid fuck yeah moment of the night.  The veal is more delicate in flavour when compared to the beef and Beefbar play to this, bringing out the veal’s more subtle flavours by pairing it with the strong tarragon with its shade of aniseed and providing a textural contrast with a slightly sweet hazelnut praline.  I would have happily ditched the beef tartare and double downed on the fuck yeah veal tartare.

Beefbar isn’t a warm space and by the second course, one of my homies had already asked them twice to turn the blasting air conditioning down which was threatening to send us straight into the icy grip of hypothermia. Beefbar kept this Arctic theme up with the temperature of their red wine and despite our wine being served before our first course, by the end of our second course we were all desperately clutching our wine glasses to try and transfer some of our rapidly diminishing body heat into our icy as fuck red wine, as clammy condensation still formed outside the glass.  I’m fine with a red wine coming out a bit cool from the wine fridge as it will normally be an appropriate temperature after a few minutes but I don’t want to be served red wine so fucking cold that I’ve got concerns that it’s still gonna be frigid as fuck by the fourth steak course.  We pointed out our near glacial red wine cooler situation to one of the waiters who fetched a more senior dude who just shrugged us off and said “We didn’t want you to drink too quickly!”.  Yeah sorry senior waiter homeslice, don’t quit the restaurant biz to take up stand up because I ain’t fucking laughing at your quips.

When ordering a tasting menu at a restaurant, I always believe that a restaurant should be showing you their best shit.  Particularly if they have the audacity to slap ‘Signature’ on it.  This is why the Burger Bar component of Beefbar’s signature menu beggars absolute belief because what is the mental process behind putting out a tiny ass dried out sweet brioche bunned burger that holds a small grainy and dry as fuck beef patty which is swamped with super spicy jalapeno mayonnaise and then thinking “FUCK YEAH, this red hot mess of a slider is definitely my SIGNATURE”.  Unless Beefbar feel that their signature is providing constant, fuck no disappointment to everyone in their lives.  My feelings on using brioche for a burger bun is well documented and this dried out mess does nothing to allay my firm belief that sweet brioche ain’t fucking cut out structurally for burger life.  UGHHH, BRIOCHE, MY NEMESIS.  Y U STILL A THING?  But the sad times don’t end with the slider, as Beefbar aren’t content to just call their entire menu a signature, billing their uninspired kale salad as a ‘signature kale salad’.  This signature signature double throwdown is nothing more but big chat because fuck, let’s be real, who the fuck wants to eat kale when they’re smashing a night out at a restaurant focussed on how shit hot their beef is anyway?  Don’t we save that trying to be healthy kale bullshit for weekday al desko lunches and green smoothies after the gym?

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Hopes for my steak course were not riding particularly high at this point with my spirit sapped by the brioche slider nightmare that had just transpired.  For the meat course, it’s a choice between the “Milk-fed Dutch veal filet 200g”, “American prime “Black Angus” beef filet 200g” or the “T-bone Colorado lamb rack”. I order the beef and while there is much written about how Beefbar cook their steaks, for all the fancy as fuck bluster and technique, I was considerably underwhelmed.  I always have my steak rare and my Black Angus beef fillet is not so overcooked to warrant it being sent back but it was definitely closer to medium-rare territory than rare.  All I could think of was how I wanted my steak to be juicier and more tender, with not a single fuck yeah steak synapse firing within my increasingly weary body. If any waiter had bothered to ask me how my steak was I probably would have replied “FINE”, through gritted teeth as I wished for slightly bloodier times.  It’s served with some fresh horseradish tartar which I can get behind, more so than the blueberry honey sauce which despite its feeble attempts at being an inventive steak sauce results in a slightly fruity, sweet sauce which resembles cheap BBQ sauce, doing everything it can to detract from the lack lustre beef.  I can’t remember ever eating blueberry anything with a steak and I can’t say I’ll be making it a life goal to make it part of my future steak endeavours.

Beefbar don’t stop the big talk and their menu declares that “All mains are served with our unrivalled mashed potatoes”.  I gotta say, Beefbar’s mash is a big fuck yeah and I decimated my serving, enjoying it far more than anything else I’d been served so far.  But truth, how fucking hard is it to make off-the-charts mash provided you add enough of the calorific good shit like cream and butter?  End conclusion, Beefbar’s steak failed to elicit any strong fuck yeah feelings at all and while the potato mash was a fuck yeah, I was devoid of any fuck yeah feelings for a steak that could at best be described as serviceable and at worst, bordering on being too overcooked. But WTF mate, am I at Mashbar or Beefbar?

We ask for the third time to turn down the arctic level air conditioner which continues to battle valiantly in the struggle against global warming, with each request to do so resulting in mass confusion amongst the increasingly flustered waiters. Our entire table is completely underwhelmed with the beef course and hope to find some salvation in the Dessert “Maison” section of the evening.  At some point, one of the waiters informs just one of our guests about how the soufflés take 20 minutes so we should order it now if we want it.  She replies “OK”, thinking that meant “OK, I heard you” versus “OK, giddy up the whole table wants soufflé, ship that good shit in”.  We were sitting at our table a bit confused as to why we’d been abandoned by the numerous waiters flitting about, until we see about five waiters busily setting up a side-table next to us where two large soufflés are presented with much aplomb.  One is a pistachio and cherry soufflé and the other is allegedly a chocolate, sesame & caramel soufflé with yuzu ice cream, with each soufflé designed to be shared between two people.  They look fucking perfect, rising like a puffy pale green or delicately brown cloud, an inch over a shiny, copper pot.  However the problem is that none of us really wanted soufflé as we’d had our hearts set on the carrot cake.  To our waiters’ credit, when we flagged the ordering mishap to them they very graciously took the whole mix up in their stride, not making a single bit of fuss and politely offering us a couple of additional serves of carrot cake as well. Fuck yeahhhhh, waiters who make the best of a shitty situation without throwing the blame in my face.  However, given the amount of puffy soufflé that was being served to our entire table, we said we’d settle for just one serve of carrot cake.

There’s no attractive way to serve blobs of pistachio or chocolate soufflé and we’re all presented with smeary plates of pale green and brown soufflé.  Even putting aside “the first bite is with the eye” bullshit, my first bite into Beefbar’s soufflé was one filled with unmitigated horror which is burned indelibly into my psyche more than a week later.  The pistachio soufflé tasted strongly of artificial pistachio essence, filling my mouth with what I’d imagine an eggy sponge soaked in saliva, liquid soap and perfume to taste and feel like.  It’s served with a side dish of allegedly sour cherries which are a sickly sweet mess which does nothing to hide the soapy pistachio soufflé we’ve been served.  For all its claims of being a fancy fucking chocolate, sesame and caramel soufflé it is at best a vaguely chocolatey, wet and eggy mess with not a hint of sesame or caramel.  The yuzu ice cream it’s served with is fresh and gorgeous, but who fucking knows how biased this view might be because anything would seem like ice-cream fit for kings and angels compared to the soufflé related crimes against dessert that were occurring right in front of me.  The borderline cruel Arctic air conditioning blast is returned to full force, just to make sure that our soufflés cooled down rapidly so the above atrocities could be even furthered by eating it stone cold.  I’m fucking horrified but I’m also like a mosquito drawn to a electric bug zapper and I return to choke down several more bites of both soufflés just to make sure that this is truly one of the worst things I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.  As I force down another spoonful, I quietly think to myself that this soufflé could be used as a blunt torture tool to break the spirit of hard men.  To make them confess to crimes they did not commit before they weep on their knees, begging for forgiveness or crying out for non-soufflé related mercy or some sort of sharp implement so they can fucking end it all.

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At this point, I look over at Ms Two Serves and I hold onto her for love and comfort, looking for safe shelter from this soufflé related abomination that we’ve just endured.  “Don’t worry”, she coos, smoothing my hair down and holding me close to her breast, “We’ve got delicious carrot cake coming to take this pain away”.  Together we stare at this apocalyptic souffle ridden wasteland, surveying the seven dishes of almost untouched congealed pale green and brown monstrosities strewn across our table.  A cheery waiter appears to present a plate containing three round orange discs the thickness of a HKD5 coin and this is when we realise that our “Carrot Cake” has arrived.

Now imagine everything that you love and hold dear about carrot cake, before you systematically strip it out and this is exactly how Beefbar must have conceptualised their abominable “Carrot Cake”.  I’m not even sure it’s legal for Beefbar to call this fuck no mess a carrot cake because fuck, that’s some misleading and deceptive conduct right there.  This “Carrot Cake” nightmare takes what should be rich, luscious carrot cake stuffed with walnuts, olive oil and brown sugar and turns it into three thin discs of dried out, grainy flavourless “cake”, topped with some sort of orange puree which tastes like processed apple sauce.  What should be tangy, thick and sweet cream cheese frosting that you want to rub all over your body to become the best version of yourself has been reduced to a tiny, watery creamy blob which serves no other meaningful purpose except to perhaps be some sort of symbolic representation of the watery tears that you want to let forth from your traumatised body, beaten into submission by this alleged “Carrot Cake” experience.  Then in what must surely be Beefbar’s “Carrot Cake” bon mot, a slice of plain roasted carrot is placed on top of it all.  I cut a piece of carrot off for Sir Crunchalot, feigning my best enthusiasm and jauntily telling him “You have got to try this!” before he realises that IT’S A TRAP, and with the betrayed eyes of someone who has been wronged he cries “Why did you do that to me??”

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Our waiters come to silently clear this dessert crime scene, heads bowed so they don’t have to make awkward eye contact with any of us, in case they might be forced to ask if everything was ok when clearly some bad shit had gone down because all the plates of dessert have been barely eaten.  We settle our substantial as fuck bill and leave with our wallets much lighter but our physical being laden with enough disappointment to see us through 2016 and beyond. That’s where I look at Sir Crunchalot at the end of the meal, press my hand into his and as my eyes well with tears and I tell him in a timid, broken whisper “That meal made me want to be alive a little less”.

Verdict:
FUUUUUUUUUCK NO.  If these are Beefbar’s signature moves, I’d hate to see their non-signature everyday meals.  Fuuuuck it might not even be mid-January 2016 but I’m gonna make the call, Beefbar’s soul destroying soufflé and “Carrot Cake” with a serve of broken dreams will be definitely making an appearance in FYN’s 2016 ‘This is Bullshit’ awards.

 

Where:
Le Garçon Saigon (the website is total bullshit, I wish I could get the two seconds back that I spent looking at this sorry excuse for a website)
GF/12 – 18 Wing Fung Street
Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2455 2499

Price:
We got out at a very reasonable HKD380 a person for food and drinks.

The deal:
Le Garçon Saigon has only recently opened in November 2015 and despite it being open for about five seconds, every time I’ve walked past it (even on random weeknights), it’s been totally rammed.  It’s a concept which I can totally see the masses getting behind – a French-Saigonese style bistro serving Southern Vietnamese food in the “trendy” Star Street precinct, run by the popular Black Sheep Restaurant Group (Carbone HK, Chom Chom, Burger Circus, Ho Lee Fook, Stazione Novella, Boqueria, etc. etc.) who continue their march towards HK restaurant domination.  I always feel that the Star Street precinct is deceptively trendy, as in, it feels like there should be cool, hip shops and lots of trendy restaurants but when you’re actually there you realise it’s a massive commercial yawnfest of a Pizza Express, a Classified, an Oolaa, a stack of mediocre restaurants hiding behind cool facades and a couple of interior shops which have made solid typography choices and a carefully curated inventory of only five items for sale.

Le Garçon Saigon is perfect interior bait to lure the unsuspecting trendy restaurant punter in, nailing that new-old Saigon French brasserie feeling with shiny mirrors, teal walls, geometric mosaic tiling and purposefully weathered concrete murals painted with cute as fuck French motifs.  Nothing more perfectly captures the time when the French lorded over Vietnam than a mural with French cartoon people doing colonial shit like drinking wine and a dog reading a newspaper. Fuck yeahhhh, colonialism! Another wall faithfully replicates a deliberately shabby stencilled list of Vietnamese dishes with prices listed in Vietnamese Dong, which is ironic given that I’ve got no doubt that I’m about to get stung some serious HKD for the meal we’re about to order.

Despite everything looking slick as fuck, my main fuck no issue with Le Garçon Saigon is that the softest thing in the whole place is one banquette that runs down one side and every other surface in LCG is harder than the abs of an ardent crossfitter who has eschewed carbs and non-crossfit related conversation for years #strongisthenewdouchebaggery.  This results in Le Garçon Saigon’s dining room being rendered into a cacophonous as fuck echo den with every possible noise bouncing off the bare ceilings, the concrete walls, the tiled floor, the drapeless windows, the naked marble tables or the mirrored walls. I know that tablecloths are unequivocally the devil’s work these days in most restaurants but fuck, I’m not convinced the occasional potted palm was doing their bit for acoustic baffling. I’m an old fuck so I could barely hear the waiter nor the person sitting next to me and you can completely throw all hope to the goddamn wind that I’d ever hear anything being said by the people at the other end of the table.

One thing that is more striking than Le Garçon Saigon’s interiors though is the batallion of attractive as fuck and thoroughly charming French waiters that Le Garçon Saigon have recruited.  Our table discusses whether the Black Sheep homies parked themselves at HK International Airport, staking out every Air France flight that touched down to recruit every other SO HANDSOME French homie that wasn’t destined to crush some quantitative shit at a bank to be part of their Le Garçon Saigon SO HANDSOME waiter crew. I don’t think I can emphasise this enough, the Le Garçon Saigon waiters are really SO HANDSOME.

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While gazing upon his SO HANDSOME face, our SO HANDSOME waiter talks us knowledgeably through the menu, which predictably have cutesy French sections like “Les Woks” for the stir fries and “Les Grillades” for the skewers and an ambiguously named “Larger” sub-section.  Based on our waiter’s SO HANDSOME recommendations, we order a number of different things – a few starters, some salads, a couple of skewers, “Larger” dishes and some of the stir fries.

We were given the wrong salad to start but didn’t realise this until we’d started eating it.  The green papaya salad (HKD68 + 10% service charge) was mixed with beef jerky, small dried crispy shrimp, cashew nuts and a spicy tamarind vinaigrette. We also had a serve of the Morning Glory salad (HKD68 + 10% service charge) but due to one of my homies serving shit super unequally, all I got was a couple of chrysanthemum leaves and some jellyfish pieces, in a pickled ginger and chilli vinaigrette.  My other homies who got first dibs claim there wasn’t any morning glory in there but I can’t fairly pass judgment here.  Regardless of whatever titillating named vegetables may or may not have been present, both salads had enough texturally going on and some good fresh flavours but both vinaigrettes were really fucking sweet, even as the tart tamarind and vinegars unsuccessfully tried to cut through it all.

The canh ga fried chicken wings (HKD78 + 10% service charge for five wings) are covered in a salty spicy mix combining Chinese five spice and chilli and predictably served with a side of sriracha mayonnaise.  While the actual wings are cooked well with crispy fuck yeah skin, my more enduring memory is how even though I’m into salty, fried food these chicken wings were pushing the sodium chloride friendship to a new level because it was definitely too fucking salty.

From the “Les Woks” section we definitely order up on some Les Disappointing dishes.  The glutinous rice promises clams, lemongrass, peanuts, salted cucumbers, rice paddy herbs and pork floss (HKD108 + 10% service charge) and it’s unremarkable in the sense that I can barely remember anything about it at all except the rice being sticky.  The Banh Xeo is a Vietnamese style crispy rice based pancake which is folded over a filling of chorizo, prawns, fresh bean sprouts and large red chillis.  You’re meant to break up the banh xeo and fold it into lettuce leaves with fresh herbs, dipping it lightly in some num nuoc sauce (lime, sugar, chilli and fish sauce).  It looks fucking incredible but in execution, the filling is entirely underwhelming, a mess of largely beansprouts dotted with the occasional prawn or chunk of chorizo. Whoaaaaaaaaaa check out the chorizo repping for the modern East meets West influences bullshit massive. But in reality, the chorizo just feels like it’s out of place and trying too hard to be proving some sort of culinary culture crossing point.  This fusion chorizo concept continues to bomb out even harder when it’s eaten in combination with the num nuoc sauce, which just leaves me thinking once again “Why is everything here so fucking salty??”

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The press on Le Garçon Saigon has been banging on about its grill and we try almost all of the skewers on the menu.  Per order you get three skewers and you can get selections such as the Wagyu beef Tri-tip / Bo Liu (Vietnamese beef teriyaki) (HKD138 + 10% service charge), the Pork Meatballs / Nem Nuong (HKD128 + 10% service charge), the Kurobuta pork / Thit Nuong (HKD128 + 10% service charge) and the proteinless / funless Zucchini & Leeks (HK68 + 10% service charge).  Each skewer is presented with a tray of fresh Vietnamese herbs, lettuce leaves, pickled carrots, cucumber, peanuts, rice paper, rice vermicelli pancakes and dipping sauces, so you can make your own wraps with the meat.  The grilled meats are a fuck yeah, with a good charcoal taste but the problem is that all the sauces that everything is served with are either too sweet, too salty or an awful fuck no combination of being too fucking sweet AND too fucking salty.  There’s a balance in trying to combine the Vietnamese flavours of sour, sweet, salty and spicy but Le Garçon Saigon manage to bludgeon my enthusiasm for their skewers into a bloody lifeless pulp by showing not a shred of nuance and instead hitting me with SWEET SALTY SWEET SWEET SALTY A BIT TANGY OK BACK TO FUCKING SALTY the whole fucking time.

From the “Larger’ grill section we ordered the Whole Red Snapper (HKD208 +10% service charge) which looks beautiful as fuck, grilled in a bamboo leaf package.  Be careful my white homies because this fishy homie is served in one whole piece, bones and all and requires some skillful dissection.  I’m quite into it, enjoying the fuck yeah sweet snapper fish which is very fresh and the fragrant bamboo leaf flavour imparted from the grill until I hit a patch of scales and end up trying to detach the large snapper scales that have attached themselves unceremoniously to the roof of my mouth. Fuck no to that bullshit, I’m already socially awkward enough without being further sabotaged by my choices in seafood.

The grilled half yellow chicken (HKD168 + 10% service charge) looks fucking sensational, all crispy skin and some fuck yeah looking juicy meat.  I rue the fact that I’ve chosen to come with so many homies because I want to eat at least half of it on my own.  Like all of the proteins that have come before it, it’s had a sweet ass time in the grill and the meat is juicy as all hell and fucking great.  The crispy skin is covered in lemon, a chilli-salt spice mix and a thin chiffonade of kaffir lime leaves, which initially gives you a good sour, delicately fragrant and salty mix but just like everything else, crashes down in a crescendo of salt.  At this point, I would cry from all of the salt if I wasn’t trying to preserve whatever precious fluids were still within my body as it teetered precariously on the edge of dehydration thanks to the half a kilo of salt that’s been in my food.

We finish all of our dishes and in a telling sign, my hands are so sticky from making all of those rice rolls with the skewer meats  With no moist towelette or finger bowl on offer I take this sticky moment to reflect upon my feelings towards every single thing at Le Garçon Saigon either being so salty, so sweet or so salty and sweet OR seasoned appropriately but then littered with fish scales.

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Piling into the “Les Desserts” section we try every single one on offer (all HKD68 each + 10% service charge) and this is a FUCK YEAH highlight of the meal, as Le Garçon Saigon present their modern take on Vietnamese dessert flavours.  The flan is a riff on the Vietnamese coffee, using condensed milk in the flan and topped with a drip coffee syrup, served with a salty chocolate sable biscuit to cut through the rich, sweet flan.  It’s fucking delicious and goes some way to calming my rattled so sweet, so salty bad juju from dinner.  The pandan waffle is delicate as fuck but still crunchy on the outside and it’s served with strawberries, mascarpone ice-cream and almond crunch.  I was really into Le Garçon Saigon’s version of the traditional Vietnamese “Che” dessert – a combination of smashed meringue, roasted pineapple, taro and sago, served in a palm sugar and coconut milk sauce.  There’s a scoop of “smoked” coconut ice-cream (which isn’t that smoky) and some smoked, caramelised peanuts (which I think were too smoky), but this is a small gripe in an otherwise fucking delicious dessert.

With all of that done, it’s a fun evening in a cool, new spot and I can guarantee that it’s only a matter of time before someone bails me up and goes “OMG, have you tried Le Garcon Saigon yet? It’s just soooo cool!”.  But the fact that it’s totally packed out after a matter of weeks means there’s definitely a place for Le Garcon Saigon in HK and it’s for that person we all have met a million times in HK, the type of person who doesn’t really eat or care that much about food and just wants to feel like they’re on point with what’s trendy.  Bonsoir motherfuckers, I’m afraid that I’m all about the food and even LCG’s SO HANDSOME waiters can’t replace appropriately seasoned food for me.

Verdict:
Fuck no.  But if you’re someone who just wants somewhere cool to hang out, drink fuck yeah booze and you don’t really care all that much about the food, this is totally gonna be your new fuck yeah hang spot.  Go on, wear your Sunday best and take your yappy little dog and sit on one of those outside tables and suck down some drinks while waiting for someone to throw down some air kisses at. MWAH MWAH DARLING, HOW FUCKING CUTE IS THIS PLACE??

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