Fuck No

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??

Where:
曾記粿品 (Openrice entry)
Shop 8, Sheung Wan Cooked Food Market
1 Queen’s Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

FYN Note:  It’s next to ABC Kitchen, look for the red / white Chinese sign.  It’s only open for lunch too, so don’t try and go for dinner.

Followed by:

KFC
Shop 231A, 2/F Shun Tak Centre (ie. the Macau Ferry Terminal)
168-200 Connaught Rd
Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

Phone:
I don’t think you really need the phone number for either place.

Price:
HKD100 for two people at 曾記粿品 and HKD27 for the KFC Double Down.

The deal:
Mr Judgmental and I had planned to make a return to 曾記粿品, a tiny shop in the Sheung Wan Cooked Food Centre which specialises in Chiu Chow cakes (or as my SE Asian homies would call it, ‘kueh‘) and other dishes such as Chai Tow Kway (菜头粿 – also known as carrot / radish cake) and the Oyster Omelette Pancake (耗煎 – O Luak or O jian / 蠔餅 – hou beng in Cantonese). While the other dishes may be of varying quality, the Oyster Omelette is off the fucking chain.  However, somewhere between the planning for Oyster Omelette and getting some other pan fried Chiu Chow / Teochew kueh, the news came out that the Double Down had come to KFC HK.  Yes, the gut busting burger monstrosity that substitutes two deep fried chicken fillets for the standard burger bun, with cheese and bacon stuffed inside.

I gotta admit that I fucking love to get a HK New Food Scoop (lolz) but even my greedy ass limits were being tested by the idea of the KFC Double Down.  I floated it with Mr Judgmental whether we should postpone our Oyster Omelette date and go and be amongst the first to smash a HK Double Down instead, despite strong reservations that the Double Down was going to be disappointing.  He shot back instantly that we should get our Bang Bang on.  That’s where you have two full meals at two different restaurants. Sensing my calorie loaded hesitation, I got a stern talking to that this was an opportunity similar to 2010 when people went from ‘Katniss who??’ to ‘Katniss yesssssssssssss!’ and with that hard hitting pep talk I was all FUCK, I get the poetic logic of a Bang Bang double meal which involves a Double Down and I pinned my Mockingjay badge on, pulled on my hard cunt pants and declared “I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE!!“:

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曾記粿品 is as basic as you’d expect for a cooked food centre.  From previous experience, we’d already established that the png kueh (a tear drop shaped kueh filled with rice, peanuts and pork mince) is a fuck no, too much dough and not enough filling.  Mr Judgmental hadn’t been a huge fan of their carrot cake (claiming it was too sweet), so instead we loaded up on some kuehs, an oyster congee and my first, my last, my everything – DAT OYSTER OMELETTE.  For the kuehs, we ordered the garlic chive, taro and white radish ones (you need to order at least three if you want them to fry them for you).  These are quick and easy snacks, the garlic chive one being my fuck yeah favourite of the three.  Yeah, we doubled up on the Chive Kueh.  The oyster congee was fairly unexciting but DAT OYSTER OMELETTE was still the fucking magnificent beauty that I remembered.  A generous amount of large oysters fried into a crisp, tapioca starch and egg omelette which deserves all the FUCK YEAHS ever.  Oyster Omelettes can be so sad for so many reasons including tiny ass oysters of poor quality, crappy gloopy consistency due to too much tapioca starch or poor frying which means it’s just a fuck no, greasy mess.  Fuck eating poorly fried food with all of the calorific impact but none of the fuck yeah delicious, crispy times.  No such concerns at 曾記粿品 though, because this was a fuck yeah crispy oyster pancake masterpiece which I ate seasoned with a little bit of fish sauce, white pepper and my own salty tears of pure and unadulterated happiness.  How can HKD42 at 曾記粿品 purchase such jubilation? I cannot fully explain it but for anyone jonesing for a fuck yeah oyster omelette, I can’t imagine there’s a better fix available in Hong Kong.

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With our stomachs well sated by a fuck yeah budget priced lunch of HKD100ish for all of our food, we set off under the heat of a thousand suns to trek to the Shun Tak Macau Ferry Terminal, the only KFC in the Central area.  Under the bright fluorescent lights of Shun Tak, I had the sudden realisation that I’ve never actually physically been to a KFC in HK.  Praise be to the availability of online ordering or the fried chicken gathering skills of Sir Crunch-a-lot.  Not that my lack of patronage to KFC Shun Tak Macau Ferry Terminal has been hurting business because these guys were rammed, a long line of customers snaking out and around the KFC.

Sgt Noms:  Do you think they’re all here for the Double Down?
Mr Judgmental:  No, I’ve scoped the tables – I’ve only seen one person eating it.
Sgt Noms:  What about that awkward white dude who’s avoiding eye contact with everyone?
Mr Judgmental:  Yeah, he’s probably here for the Double Down.  Just as we are.

Thanks to KFC’s fuck yeah efficiency, we were soon placing our order for the Double Down (HKD27).  Mr Judgmental added a Hot & Spicy thigh piece as well as some waffle fries.  We stepped past our awkward white dude homie who was unwrapping his own Double Down and soon, we were staring down our meal which was putting the bang into BANG BANG.  Look at that glorious piece of Hot & Spicy thigh, lying all seductive as fuck in its plastic wicker basket, flanked by the innocuous looking Double Down:

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FYN Fun Fact:  Did you know that at HK KFC that cleanliness is next to godliness?  Have you been eating KFC all your life with your bare hands like some sort of wild, heathen animal?  HONG KONG, I AM TRULY LIVING IN THE GENTRIFIED FUTURE NOW.

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Do you ever read those food blogs where someone has carefully staged a photo of an avocado artfully smashed across a thick cut piece of five grain toast while a gently grilled charcoal kissed tomato sits to one side? Just to the corner, a blue and white porcelain milk jug with a sprig of wild rosemary peeks out precociously, while in the front of the photo there’s the gentle curve of a vintage mother-of-pearl handled knife which sits almost out of frame, while all of this is casually strewn across a rough hewn wooden table made from the deck of an ancient Greek fishing boat?  Yeah, well FYN food photography gets you the greasy wrapping paper of a Double Down which repeatedly declares SOGOOD SOGOOD, a greasy ass lump of fried chicken, bacon and cheese, with a plastic glove peeking out from the top left corner.  Fuck yeahhhh, behold the culinary wonders of Shun Tak Macau Ferry Terminal!

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All I could think about at this stage is why was our built to order Double Down so fucking soggy.  It’s not like we’d sat around for 10 minutes gazing at our Double Down before we unwrapped it?  I care so deeply for my FYN homies that I even took a cross-section of the Double Down so you are all now fully equipped with the deep fried chicken truth.

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Scientific dissection complete, it was time to glove up and get Doctor Chicken Takedown in the house.  I am not entirely sure what I was expecting from the KFC Double Down but from a base level I fucking love fried chicken, bacon and cheese.  How could combining these three things be a bad thing? Ohhhh but there’s always surprises in life and first of all, WHY WAS THE CHICKEN SO FUCKING SOGGY?  The flaccid bacon lay lifeless between the two soggy ass Original spiced chicken fillets with the highly processed melted cheese binding the whole mushy affair together.  But the greatest horror was the “mayonnaise” – which was so fucking sweet, with a fruity overtone.  I chewed my Double Down, pondering my life choices which have led me to this deep fried juncture, while I thought over and over “WHY DOES THE MAYONNAISE TASTE LIKE PINEAPPLES!?”.  It was like they were trying to put the Hawaiian feeling into the Double Down and trust me, the sweet mayonnaise fought valiantly for attention in the Double Down Salt Bomb Arena, taking me back to the Saltiest Ever Paella that I ate at La Paloma.

A close up of my KFC all glove no love shame:

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Despite whatever shortcomings it may have had, I still finished my Double Down in its entirety.  I stripped off my glove and in the cleanest I’ve ever been post-eating KFC, I jealously watched Mr Judgmental destroy his piece of KFC Hot & Spicy thigh while I reflected on how the Double Down could have more fully lived up to its fried chicken potential.  Why did the Double Down use Original chicken fillets, rather than what I feel would have been a superior fuck yeah choice of the Hot & Spicy Zinger burger fillet?  From my research, I understand this is an option in some other markets. It shouldn’t have been that hard to execute a Double Down – all the Colonel needed to ensure was that his homies were using crispy chicken patties, a decent slice of crispy bacon, about one-third of the cheese that we received and normal non-pineapple flavoured mayonnaise.  But then again, what expectations do you really have of a novelty chicken item that has taken five years to get its greasy ass to Hong Kong??

As sure as people will never let you exit the MTR before they get the fuck on, I felt fucking awful all afternoon.  The Double Down truly did take me down.  Maybe it was the obscene amounts of sodium.  Maybe it was the alleged cheese.  Maybe it was because I ate three times my daily recommended calorie intake in a Bang Bang lunch affair where everything was fried.  Maybe it was the inevitable guilt and shame that overcomes someone after indulging in some KFC dirty bird because that truly is the darkness that clings to your psyche, long after you’ve removed the greasy glove and moist toweletted yourself down with the faint scent of medicinal lemon. But sweet greasy KFC darkness, oh yes, I will come for you again. Just in your traditional form and not in a fuck no sandwich which uses soggy chicken fillets to substitute the bread.

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Verdict:
Fuck yeahhhh to the best fucking Oyster Omelette that I’ve had in Hong Kong.  Fuck no to novelty chicken items at KFC – but I’m not gonna lie, I could get my glove on again for a piece of that delicious fuck yeah KFC deep fried chicken thigh.  Original, Hot & Spicy – I know I’ve got room in my heart for both.

Where:
?????
Chungking Mansions, 36-44 Nathan Road
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

FYN note:  I have decided not to disclose the exact location of this restaurant because I don’t think that they actually want any publicity or for people to know where they are.  If any of you are desperate to know the exact location, get in touch.

Price:
HKD180 for two people.  NO, not as cheap as you would hope for.

The deal:
Mr Judgmental, with a head full of delicious suya (Nigerian BBQ) memories, was desperate to go on an HK African food adventure. After some research and reading the following SCMP article, we decided that dum dumdum da dumdum daaaaaaaaah, we heard the Toto Africa drums echoing tonight and it was time for us to make a lunch time Afrinoms adventure to Kwality in Chungking Mansions.

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Sauce

Chungking Mansions is a special place in Hong Kong with its dodgy shops, guest houses of dubious quality and restaurants being run out of varying quality.  I should probably mention that Wong Kar Wai film Chungking Express so you know I’m on my cinema shit as well.  As I’m a foodie who is on a constant quest for authenticity (lolz), I’m down with some ghetto Chungking Mansions food, my favourites being Khyberpass for Indian and Bismillah Kebab House so I can scull the squeezy bottles of fuck yeah sauce with various roasted kebab meats.  Mr Judgmental and I put on our stony faces to push past the touts for various Indian restaurants at the entrance of Chungking Mansion who are assailing us with shouts, asking us where we’re trying to go.  We head to the first floor, per the SCMP article and find the hairdresser that’s mentioned as being next to Kwality.  The location where Kwality is alleged to be has a fridge, plastic chairs, one or two customers, a distinctly Indian menu pasted to the wall and an Indian cook wandering about.  As we can only see a row of Indian restaurants in the immediate vicinity, we end up asking one of the restaurant owners if he knows of an African restaurant called Kwality on this floor.  Our restaurant homie was actually surprisingly helpful and we end up talking to two guys who are where we thought Kwality should be.  One of them is African and he gives us riddle like instructions that Kwality is now the Indian restaurant over there and if we want African food, we should go to the fourth floor of another block.

With these cryptic instructions we head over to another block, sweating balls and waving off more touts as we wait for the creaky Chungking lifts to finally take us to the floor.  On this mostly deserted floor there are signs for a guesthouse and another Indian restaurant.  In a foretelling omen, a Chinese lady appears with a coiffed head of permed hair and a bright pink, tailored jacket.  She asks us what we are looking for and we say ‘African food’.  Instead, she grabs my arm and looks straight through my soul, declaring ‘No! Do not eat here.  The food in here is no good.  You should go eat outside!’.  We blithely reply ‘No! We want to eat African food!’.  She shakes her head at me, still holding my arm and rounds up her warning with an unacceptably racist epithet about Indian people being dirty before walking off, disgusted with our choices. No biggie lady, cause I’m disgusted with your FUCK NO racism.

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We’re soon peering into a small window in a door, knocking it to see if anyone’s there as the sign outside says ‘CLOSED’.  I’m not entirely sure the people at this restaurant want to be found.  A lady opens the door slightly and almost seems shocked that we want to eat food there (warning sign #1).  She closes the door to go and check with someone before returning to let us into the restaurant, letting us know that the had just opened so the aircon wasn’t even on yet (warning sign #2).

We sit down in a grimey, greasy converted apartment as the aircon wheezes into life (warning sign #3). Meanwhile, I’m giddy with the excitement about how I’m totally going to be able to blog-brag about being such a foodie-asshole gangster and how there are great rewards for those of us who can tear ourselves away from the Island, to lose themselves in getting truly fucking down and dirty in this vibrant, gritty Kowloon food culture.  I imagine myself bashing out a FYN entry before snapping my Macbook shut and then smugly patting myself on the back for being so fucking genuine in my pursuit for authenticity, right before I return to my normal FYN programming of reviews of the Peruvian Korean fried chicken skewers at the newest place in Sai Ying Pun.  Mr Judgmental and I make an assessment and suck down a Travelan each before we eat.  I think this says everything you need to know about our food adventure choices when before you eat you’re taking pharmaceuticals that are scientifically proven to reduce your chances of contracting diarrhoea by 90% through coating your gastrointestinal tract with antibodies (warning sign #4).

We are presented with a menu for Indian food.  A bit puzzled, we flag our waitress down and we tell her that we want African food.  She gives us another hesitant look (warning sign #5) and comes back with another menu, with the warning that African food will take 30 minutes (warning sign #6).  Mr Judgmental and I settle on ordering some samosas while we wait and we ask the friendly and helpful waitress for her recommendations on what we should order for African food.  The menu is not straight forward and we eventually understand that you seem to order some sort of meat, it comes with a sauce/soup and some sort of starch (semolina (fufu) / rice).  We decide on the dried fish with okra, served with semolina and on our waitresses’ recommendation, the shaki served with a bitter leaf which we’re told is meant to be ‘cleansing for the body’.

Our samosas arrive and they’re surprisingly good.  We ask our waitress why is both Indian and African food available here?  We get the explanation that this was always an Indian restaurant but the African restaurant needed to move from its first floor location as people wanted to bring their friends and they needed more seats.  However, lots of customers who used to frequent the original Indian restaurant still wanted to have Indian food, so the restaurant is now running with both an African and an Indian chef (warning sign #7).  At some point, a fuse blows throwing sparks from the air conditioner (warning sign #8) and the entire restaurant falls into portentous darkness.

The first of our African dishes arrive – our waitress brings us two plastic tubs of water so we can wash our hands, as it’s customary to eat with your hands.  A white blob of steamed semolina (fufu) arrives, which is meant to be used as the starch to accompany the dried fish and okra.  The dried fish has been stewed with a gloopy mess of gelatinous okra.  I didn’t mind the taste of the spicy okra sauce, but the dried fish seemed to be a salty, funky mess of fish bones.  Whatever meat I could pry off from the bones was not worth the fucking effort.  I piled in for the full experience, trying the gloopy okra with the manky fish on the gluey fufu and oh nooooo, the fufu was like what I imagine eating wallpaper paste to be like. But with a side of fuck no musty fish.  The air is getting heavier with fuck no regret and fear as I ponder the atrocity of fufu fish okra mess I’ve just eaten:

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Our side of Jollof rice (West African fried rice) arrives which is meant to be flavoured with tomatoes, onions and chilli powder but just tastes like rice fried with tomato ketchup.  Our waitress reappears with the shaki with bitter leaf, an indistinguishable pale brown sauce with flecks of dark green leaves mixed through it and large chunks of some sort of meat.  Mr Judgmental and I hadn’t actually paused to ask what shaki is, given we are such fearless food warriors (lolz).  Mr Judgmental takes a bite and says, maybe it’s salted beef?  After some googling, we realise that it’s salted tripe. Mr Judgmental’s face goes from curious to pure abject horror as he chews on this salted tripe.  Being the sharing and caring friend that he is, he insists that now it is my turn.

I take a tiny piece of the shaki and I chew this salty piece of tripe except it’s not far off from being green tripe (ie. unprocessed tripe), tasting so strong of fuck no animal barn times with what I imagine overtones of bile, urea and other digestive fluids to taste like.  The bitter leaf sauce is awful beyond belief and over this fuck no of insurmountable proportions  I lock panicked eyes with Mr Judgmental, our friendship strengthened by the horrors we have just endured together and we decide we have to GTFO.  IMMEDIATELY.

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We settle our bill with our waitress and she asks a bit crestfallen whether everything was ok, because it seemed like we didn’t enjoy our food.  I didn’t have the heart to explain to her that I felt like I now had first hand insights into what it would be like to eat the unclean insides of a cow’s digestive system.  Both Mr Judgmental and I fucking love to give feedback but we had no higher life objective at this point in time but to get the fuck out of Chungking Mansions, so we lied and said it was great but it was just so filling that we couldn’t eat anymore.  We escaped the clutches of Chungking Mansions and TST, with Mr Judgmental pausing to buy three packets of crisps from Marks & Spencers on the way back.  I received numerous messages from him that afternoon where he relived the unspeakable horror of our lunch and an update that he’d eaten all three packets of crisps in an attempt to deal with his PTSSD (Post Traumatic Shaki Stress Disorder) as the unclean fuck no tripe taste was indelibly printed across his psyche.

FYN Artist Impression of Mr Judgmental at his desk:

penguinchips

Sauce

So sometimes I adventure out for ghetto eats and I’m rewarded with fuck yeah panipuris and chilli momos  But in this high risk game, other times you venture out for ghetto eats and you end up with salted tripe which tastes like the bowels of hell with flavour profiles of fuck no digestive juices.  Win some, lose some – but after trying shaki for the first time, imma ready to fall back into the gentle, non-challenging arms of Sai Ying Pun / Sheung Wan faux-industrial restaurants with their yuzu-dressed salads and pretending that I’m really fucking adventurous by eating nose-to-tail by snacking down some miso-glazed short-ribs and some bone marrow on some little sourdough toasties.  I will then mop my fevered brow with a clean Egyptian cotton rag, dipped in a cooling mixture of artisanal gin and a touch of air-freighted Kagoshima satsuma juice and try desperately to forget about the African food horrors that lie within Chungking Mansions. Fuck the adventure times, I just need someone to fucking hold me.

Verdict:
FUCK NOOOOOO, cause as sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti, this was quite possibly one of the most horrific eating experiences I’ve ever endured in my entire life. Although in retrospect, it is quite hilarious how much fucking effort went into actually having this execrable experience.

Where:
URA Japanese Delicacy
2F, The Wellington
198 Wellington St
Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2111 9381

Price:
My lunch set was HKD148 (+10% service charge).  +HKD15 for dessert.  Other lunch sets ranged in price from HKD98 to HKD368 (+10% service charge) depending on the ingredients.

The deal:
URA Japanese Delicacy has only just opened in Sheung Wan in the last month or so.  The pictures on their FB looked pretty fucking tasty so I rounded up Ms Two Serves to try URA for lunch.  URA’s done a good job with its cool as fuck decor – all shades of grey, black and gold, neon signs and black and white photo prints of near naked tattooed Japanese yakuza gangsters.  The main reason why Ms Two Serves and I were here was that we’d seen the A4 Miyazaki wagyu steak and sea urchin rice bowl (HKD438 + 10% service charge) on Facebook and both of us wanted to smash it into our fatty boombah faces.  Check this rad looking shit out, yasssssssss:

Unfortunately, the waitress returned to let us know that they sold out of uni last night.  WTF URA HOMIES – how can you be out of uni just in time for Friday / weekend prime time?! I pushed my fuck no disappointment to one side and opted for the reasonably priced HKD148 (+10% service charge) Buta Set – the Kagoshima Kurobuta pork rice set with Ms Two Serves going for the exxy HKD368 (+10% service charge) Sukiyaki Set – A4 Miyazaki wagyu beef set.

Each set comes with a chawanmushi (steamed egg), salad, rice and a cup of hot japanese tea.  The starter organic salad comes out in a small bowl and while I can appreciate the effort gone into sourcing organic greens, I don’t appreciate that there isn’t enough dressing and it’s 90% rocket.  I don’t mind a little bit of rocket but I never want to chow through a bowl of it.  The chawanmushi is excellent, fuck yeah hunks of prawn and a silky egg custard but while it’s got some cute presentation going on, the main problem is that it’s so goddamn tiny.

The main buta pork set arrives and it’s all laid out on a wooden tray with more cute containers (ie. fucking tiny) but I’m a greedy cunt and all I can think is ‘Ohhh, is that all there is?’.  There’s a thimbleful of soft tofu which is delicious, but tiny.  The set comes with two small sushi rolls filled with deep fried ebi (prawn) and two small tamagoyaki (egg cakes) which are fine but nothing remarkable.  URA Japanese Delicacy proudly states that they fly their ingredients in daily from Osaka (fuck no, dem food miles) and the grilled Kagoshima Kurobata pork is a fuck yeah, grilled to perfection (lolzzz j/k, you fuckers officially have permission to shut my Internet access down if I ever spout such fuck no platitudes).  The pork was a little on the thin side but it had some fuck yeah charcoal times going on.  Served with a dipping sauce, this was a fuck yeah except like everything so far, the six to seven pieces of air-freighted pork were definitely not enough for me to find the satiety I so desperately fucking desired.  I even hoovered down the entire bowl of rice in a desperate attempt to try and fill the void that in no way had been filled by the tiny ass portion of Kurobata pork.

Even sadder was Ms Two Serve’s Gyu set, the A4 Miyazak wagyu beef rice set at an eye watering HKD368 (+10% service charge). The extra bucks might get you some fancy-ass beef but it’s all fucking teeny tiny.  Ms Two Serves looks at me with panicked eyes as she realises that she’s spent too much money for not a lot of food, desperately scraping at her miniature tofu pot in the quest for a few more molecules of food.

lotrgollumstarve

Ms Two Serves opted to pay the extra HKD15 for the mini almond tofu dessert.  When her order was forgotten she chased it up with the waitress who after a few minutes came back to ask “Which dessert did you order?” which was a bit puzzling, given that there’s only one fucking dessert choice on the menu.  When it finally arrived, Ms Two Serves said it was fucking delicious but guess what, the trend is your friend because it was also SO FUCKING SMALL.

There is no issue with URA’s food and ingredients. Nothing we ate was a fuck no or improperly prepared.  It sucks balls that we couldn’t get the signature uni/wagyu dish (although at HKD438 for a serve that doesn’t look that fucking big, perhaps this was a blessing in disguise) but there just wasn’t anything that stood out at URA.  Most importantly, both of us needed more fucking food afterwards.  It ain’t no lie, Ms Two Serves and I stopped in at Passion by Gerard Du Bois in Central to get something to fill us up and when Passion failed to deliver, Ms Two Serves got herself some fishballs and wontons later to try and sate the beast.   Not that Ms Two Serves could really afford a second lunch after her A4 Wagyu Beef Set + dessert  combo coming in at HKD421 after service charge = fuck no, USD54!!!!!  Like srs URA, should anyone be hunting down fishballs after forking over HKD400+ for a lunch at a relatively casual restaurant??

Verdict:
Fuck nooo, cause hold me closer, tiny unremarkable lunch set.  I’d only give URA a fuck yeah if someone else was paying and they were down with you ordering two lunch sets per person.

Where:
La Paloma
1F/183 Queen’s Road West
Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2291 6161

Price:
We got out at HKD500 per person for food and sharing a jug of sangria. No service charge.

The deal:
La Paloma is the relatively new tapas bar in Sai Ying Pun, opened by the El Willy Group, with Chef Willy Trullas Morena and Chef Alex Fargas behind it.  The El Willy Group are behind the inoffensive Fofo by el Willy in LKF (I haven’t been since the renovation) and when you read the promo for La Paloma they mention phrases like ‘casual and laid-back modern Spanish cuisine’ and lots of references to ‘sexy tapas’.  Their logo specifically references that it’s a ‘sexy chiringuito tapas bar’ and even their Google listing makes it clear that it’s La Paloma – Sexy Tapas.  Y SO MUCH SEXY, EL WILLY? Y U SO SEXY IT HURTS?!

lapalomasexy

I’d heard some less than favourable reports from my homies (one of them went as far as saying it was the worst meal he’s had in 2015) but there’s also been a shit tin of favourable reviews in the press and other food blogs.  FOR WHATEVER THAT’S FUCKING WORTH IN THESE DISINGENUOUS DAYS.  I’d been lobbying for a different venue for dinner but one of my homies wanted to check it out which is why we ended up at La Paloma.  The first thing you’ll notice when you walk in is that La Paloma have gone for that quirky, fun and mismatched vibe which equates to multi-coloured everything.  Rough wooden tables are surrounded by multi-coloured lampshades, chairs and bird decals.  There’s fucking birds everywhere (yes, even in the toilets), which would be explained by the fact that ‘La Paloma’ translates to ‘Little Pigeon’ in Spanish.  I just imagine La Paloma’s interior designers, Flappy Flap Flap Aviary Productions*, pitching for the project like this:

portlandiabirds

* FYN disclaimer:  May or may not be the real name of the interior design firm used by La Paloma

We ordered a variety of things and we start with the Tiradito de pescado blanco, a Kingfish “Tiradito” (crudo/ceviche) with avocado and green chilli sauce.  Served on some pureed avocado, this is fresh and bright enough, a good mix of chilli and citrus fuck yeah flavours.  I’d already come to this restaurant with my greedy heart in my cavernous mouth because Spanish food in HK usually ends in me going home SO HUNGRY and this food for ants starter didn’t dissuade me from this belief with three of us sharing this HKD78 dish to get a scant, though tasty, half a bite each.

Patatas bravas (HKD45) is never a revolutionary dish but always a good yardstick to judge a Spanish restaurant by, cause what hope is there if you fuck up deep fried potatoes?  I guess the potatoes were warmed through and came with a good amount of tasty paprika aioli style sauce.  But I expect patatas bravas to be crispier on the outside which leaves La Paloma’s deep fried potatoes patatas bravas decidedly underwhelming.

The Callos (braised tripe, HKD55 +10% service charge) is served in a stew containing, chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage) and chickpeas and it’s fucking delicious.  We asked for more sourdough bread so we could scrape out every last bit of the fuck yeah stew.  However, it’s also really fucking tiny – you only get three small-ass pieces of chorizo and morcilla, and I’m not being facetious in the slightest when I tell you that you can count the number of chickpeas in your stew with no major effort or numeracy skills. HK Spanish Food, Y U always so food for ant$??

We also ordered the salted cod and egg tortilla (HKD60) which was boring as all hell.  It didn’t really taste like anything at all and we left a quarter of it unfinished.  Our waitress picked this up and did ask if everything was ok and we let her know that it just wasn’t that interesting.  She then conducted some sort of an autopsy at the table, using a knife to gingerly peek into the eggy tortilla mess to see if some sign of life was hiding out in there which we had failed to detect.  Unable to find any indications of life, she took it to the open kitchen and we watched the bow-tied Executive Chef Vito Chiavacci ask the waitress what was wrong while he continued the tortilla autopsy. Nothing more was said to us regarding this sad ass dish. La Paloma Tortilla Autopsy Results:  INCONCLUSIVE BUT DEFINITELY BORING AS FUCK.

The Churrasco De Buey beef short rib with roasted potatoes and shallots was fine but not fucking amazing.  Some people might even find it a bit gristly in texture, cause the top part of the rib served is quite chewy.  We certainly ate all of it but I wouldn’t tell anyone going that they had to definitely order it, which is the true hallmark of a fuck yeah dish and it ain’t cheap at HKD398.

Our Paella de bogavante (lobster and saffron dry paella) arrives and it looks like it’s gonna be fucking incredible – a large metal paella pan arrives at the table with the lobster claws / shells arranged in the middle.  Our waiter serves us the lobster pieces and then stirs through the aioli, revealing what looks to be a well cooked paella with a fuck yeah looking soccarat crust of caramelised, saffron infused rice.  After scavenging through the largely empty lobster claw shells (La Paloma, where my lobster meat at?!) we turn our attention to the rice itself and that’s when shit moves immediately into fuck no territory.  There’s no distinguishable pieces of lobster in the paella, with only a few tiny pieces of overcooked squid kicking about.  However more heinously, this was unequivocally the fucking saltiest paella I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.  It may even be the saltiest dish I’ve ever fucking eaten, because I certainly can’t remember being so physically aggrieved by the salt levels in any other dish I’ve consumed.  I don’t know what happened, maybe someone salted the rice itself and forgot how salty the lobster shell stock they used to make it was but all I know is that I imagined the chefs at La Paloma preparing my paella and salting the absolute living fuck out of it like this:

alwayssunnygetouttaheresnail

Due to the Dead Sea like salt levels in our expensive as fuck HKD498g paella, we abandoned this pricey salty fucker half-eaten, but no La Paloma staff asked if everything was ok or if we’d enjoyed the dish.  Instead, we were offered dessert menus.  In the end we didn’t order dessert because the waitress took fucking forever to come back to see if we wanted anything after giving us the menus and by that stage, my kidneys were in hyperdrive and the pursuit for hydration seemed far more important than dessert.  Overall, La Paloma’s service was attentive when they remembered and they’d do that good shit like fill your glass up or ask how things were, but over the whole night it was only just average most of the time, the staff seemingly caught in a slightly confused fugue.

When I got home from La Paloma I took to my phone to fervently send out distressed messages to four different homies, an anguished repeated cry of “SO SALTY”.  I only paused mashing my phone screen with shaky fingers to chug a litre of water, desperate to ensure that my cellular walls didn’t collapse upon themselves from the severe electrolyte imbalance that my body was enduring.  In between typing out “SO SALTY” over and over for 15 minutes, I received the following text back from my fellow dining homie:

lapalomabody

I paused for just a second to compose my two word reply – “SO SALTY”.

Verdict:
FUCK NOOOOO. La Paloma is trying so fucking hard to be that sexy, modern tapas bar but I guess an inconsistent, modern tapas bar with patchy, mediocre service doesn’t have quite the same goddamn ring to it.  La Paloma’s dishes range from being tasty but food for ant$, to being boring as fuck and then how will I ever forget, the searing fuck no of the saltiest abomination of a paella I’ve eaten in my entire existence.  SO SALTY. LIKE MY FEELINGS TOWARDS SPANISH RESTAURANTS THAT CAN’T FUCKING EXECUTE A PAELLA.

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