Fuck No

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.

totoafrica

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.

communityexcuseracism

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:

hedgehogdontlikethisadventure

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.

downtonsodone

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.

Where:
Café Gray Deluxe (lolzzz, the website comes with a sound track of clinking cutlery and the happy sounds of punters in their restaurant. So fucking atmospheric!)
The Upper House, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway
Admiralty, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 3968 1106

Price:
Three course lunch set costs HKD395 (+10% service charge).

The deal:
Café Gray Deluxe is one of those places that you rattle off as a place to take someone, inevitably a first time visitor to HK, when you want a restaurant that has a view.  Which should set off the alarm bells because imma gonna get all religious on yo ass for a second and tell you that the Restaurant Gods do not generally give out the good shit with both hands, meaning you tend to either get a fuck yeah view or you get fuck yeah food but it’s rare to get a good serve of both. Some restaurants are even unluckier and don’t get any sort of handout at all, bombing out on all counts.

Café Gray certainly ticks the fancy box and got its hand out of fuck yeah views in spades.  After getting delivered to the restaurant by kilometres of upwards escalators which take you past swirly modern art sculptures, you walk across the bridge into the AFSO designed dining room which is surrounded by fuck yeah views of Victoria Harbour and the Hong Kong skyline streams in from all angles through the large surrounding windows.  A fleet of well groomed women with slick backed hair will coo in polite tones, asking for your name before you’re swiftly taken to your table.  The staff at Café Gray are excellent, killing it from start to finish, all smiles, non-intrusive and always ready to assist in any way you could require.  When all the niceties are said and done, I decide upon what I’m going to have for lunch, opting for the set lunch menu because otherwise shit gets pricey fast with starters ranging from HKD145-HKD310 and mains clocking in at HKD385-HKD595.

Chef Gray Kunz’ blurb on Cafe Gray promises modern European classics with influences from his time in Asia.  You can definitely tell it’s doing modern because there’s no linen tablecloths.  However, Cafe Gray did provide the thinnest, most bullshit linen napkin I’ve encountered to date in Hong Kong.  My napkin was like a sad, old wrinkly ballsack, clearly having spent zero time in contact with an iron and also suffered the indignity of being so threadbare and worn out that it actually had a sizeable hole in it. This seems like fuck no poor form for a restaurant that’s comfortable with charging its patrons mains that start at HKD385.

For entree, I ordered the salmon tartare, which didn’t seem to be anything too revolutionary on the menu and didn’t fail to surprise when it arrived.  I was struck with how perfectly down the middle of average this dish was.  The tartare was raw salmon combined with avocado and served on top of a crispy rice wafer, with all of this surrounded by a sea of pomelo sacs.  I get what this dish was meant to achieve, the raw salmon should have been complemented by the creamy avocado, with the crispy rice wafer providing some textural contrast and the pomelo should have been the acid to cut through the salmon to provide a fresh, bright note to the dish.  However, the salmon was cut too finely, meaning it was almost textureless and the tartare itself wasn’t seasoned enough, to the point of being bland.  This flat salmony mess was further exacerbated by the pomelo lacking the intensity in flavour to provide the fresh, citrus counterpoint against the salmon.  It felt like the kitchen should have nixed this dish or reimagined it after they’d tasted the substandard bland-ass pomelo they’d been provided with.

For main, I had the veal meatloaf “Wallenberg”.  Cafe Gray’s meatloaf is a take on the classical Swedish dish, Wallenbergare – which are fancy ass burger patties named after some ballin’ rich as fuck Swedish family.  Wallenbergare is a breaded patty made with veal and cream, often served with small green peas and lingonberry jam.  Cafe Gray’s fancy ass meatloaf follows this serving suggestion with artistic splashes of red lingonberry sauce and small, bright green peas carefully dotted around the plate.  Despite my scepticism about having fine dining meatloaf, it was fuck yeah veal times and the lingonberry sauce was a sweet though tart affair which cut through the rich veal mince.

Dessert was a caramelised white peach served with chamomile and honey, and a scoop of milk tea ice-cream.  Oh yes, there’s that really fucking obvious reference by a chef who is clearly a well travelled culinary nomad, proving that shit by making a local reference to a classic HK drink.  The ice-cream definitely had that milk tea feel to it, but I don’t know if that’s a real feat of culinary achievement given that it’s just gotta reference some sweet black tea and a bit of evaporated milk to replicate that milk tea feeling.  Despite the ice-cream, this dish was entirely forgettable and didn’t elicit any strong feelings at all, except a dull ache of being a bit bored by it all.  I just really don’t give a fuck if there’s chamomile infused honey, I can’t get that fucking excited about cubes of warm, slightly mushy peach masquerading to be some sort of a fancy dessert just because it’s served in purposeful stacks with an ice-cream quenelle hanging about on the side.

timgunnlacklustre

To round off the meal, you’ll get some rough hewn chunks of milk and dark chocolate, which is a nice fucking closing touch.  The black Americano that I ordered was fucking excellent too, which is always a surprise on the upside because I always expect the worst from hotel associated restaurants when it comes to post-meal coffee.

My biggest issue with Café Gray is that its food doesn’t match the restaurant that it wants to be, or at least what its prices say it should be.  When you are charging those prices, your food should be fucking memorable and if you were to recommend it, you should have a handful of dishes that you thought were fucking unreal and your homies would be fucking stupid if they didn’t take your recommendations on board.  Sure, the service and the ambience of Café Gray is a fuck yeah and when you take your parents here or someone who hasn’t been to HK before, they’re gonna get dazzled by the view and interiors and think it’s a fucking incredible restaurant.  It’s the sort of restaurant that some fresh faced kid who doesn’t know any better would take his girlfriend on a Big Date, because he’s heard it’s got a view and it’s pricey so it must be good. But it’s always the small details that move a restaurant from being serviceably satisfactory to a major fuck yeah which can justify a large price tag.  Café Gray definitely fucks this up, clearly not having that eye for detail to elevate itself to the next level, which shows itself in crinkled, holey napkins and dishes that leave no memorable mark on your psyche.  I just imagine whoever’s running Café Gray taking a look outside their windows at the fuck yeah view, ordering some expensive martini and then just dialling the rest in, because why bother trying that hard with the food if people don’t mind paying for the privilege of the view?

Verdict:
Fuck no, because this is one of those adequate meals which is no big deal if someone else that you don’t care for is paying but if it was your own hard earned bucks, you’d be very underwhelmed at what you’d just paid for.

Where:
Le Bistro de l’Olivier
No. 122, Sec 2 An-He Road
Taipei Taiwan

台北市安和路二段122號
(遠企停車場旁-周一休)

Phone:
(+886) 2-8732-3726

Price:
NTD3200 for two people, no booze.  That’s around HKD810 / USD100.  Yeah, I converted the NTD to USD / HKD for your reading pleasure but it don’t matter what currency it’s in – THIS MEAL WAS TOO FUCKING MUCH.

The deal:
At some point during my Taipei trip I was feeling like my blood was slowly becoming fryer oil as a result of fuck yeah night market adventures and the hotel choices appeared to be too familiar, uninspiring and overpriced for what they were.  Sir Crunchalot was tasked with finding somewhere to eat and in a rare lapse of judgment, I decided not to be a total raging control freak for only about the second time in my entire life and foregoed doing my own due diligence, accepting his alleged claims that he’d found a well reviewed French bistro run by a Taiwanese celebrity chef, Maggie Liu, which was walking distance from our hotel.  

In an ominous sign, there was barely anyone in there – but I ignored this initial warning sign and put it down to the restaurant being in a city which has a normal density of people versus the all encompassing fuck no crush of Hong Kong.  The bistro has well and truly tried to bring that French bistro feeling by cramming a fuck tonne of black and white photos of Parisian street scenes onto its walls. If there had been any length of fence in the restaurant I would have been compelled to attach 27 cheesey fucking padlocks to it, in order to demonstrate my undying and eternal commitment to my one true love.  I glanced through the menu and holy fucking shit, prices were off the goddamn chart with little sticking out as sounding amazing.  Taiwan is well known for its fuck yeah value – I often say that Taiwan’s prices are the same as HK, it’s just that Taiwan prices are in New Taiwan Dollars vs Honkie Bucks which mean everything is about 25% the price of HK.  However this NTD pricing mechanism is definitely NOT TRUE at Le Bistro de l’Olivier which was offering a lack lustre menu with some really pricey shit.  I settle on the duck breast which clocks in at a NTD880 (+10% service charge = HKD243 / USD31) which just so you know, is more expensive than what the Mandarin Oriental Taipei’s Bencotto charges for a duck breast (NTD850 + 10% service charge).  Predictably, my homie Sir Crunchalot who has the complete inability to do any sort of currency conversions to assess affordability, orders the astronomically priced steak and fries at the ball tearing price of NTD1780 (+10% service charge = HKD490 / USD63).

The head waiter was totally on his shit and he oversaw a fleet of two to three waiters who worked through the confusion of removing the cutlery we didn’t need, replacing it again, switching them around, before finally removing the unnecessary cutlery. A basket of bread arrives which is entirely forgettable and in a tell tale fuck no sign, served with rock hard, cold butter which is in those little plastic containers with the foil wrappers. Sir Crunchalot tries to valiantly maintain the enthusiasm that shit’s gonna be ok but my hope starts to slip away as rapidly as an expat’s dignity at their first adventure to the Rugby 7s South Stand.

My duck breast arrives promptly and halfway through eating it, the attentive head waiter comes to ask how everything is.  I pride myself on the fact that I always try to give honest feedback if I’m asked rather than saying shit’s good then bitching about it on the Internet. But considering the multiple food related crimes that were in front of me, I didn’t know where to fucking start without sounding like a massive douchefuck. That’s right, Sgt Noms, King of the Feedback, couldn’t muster the energy to rattle off a five minute soliloquy on how everything on my plate was so totally and completely fucked up.  Feedback would have gone something like this:

“My duck has been cooked to within an inch of its life, leaving its flesh, grey, dry and tasteless.  However, despite cooking the fuck out of this piece of duck, your chef has still somehow managed to fail properly rendering the fat off the meat, leaving it congealed beneath a flaccid and uninspiring layer of duck skin.  The sauce you have served this with is so fucking sweet that I am having an all over body reaction where my teeth are set on edge while my pancreas is straining against my abdomen, threatening to evacuate my body in protest to this criminally sweet hot mess.  Finally, the roasted vegetables are a mushy-ass clusterfuck, complete with a lingering manky aftertaste which I can’t identify except that fuck me, that shit ain’t right. A massive congratulations, your kitchen has managed to fuck up absolutely every component to this dish while setting the price point far too high (ie. More than $0).”

My eyes flash mean, dark and outraged at Sir Crunchalot, shooting death daggers at him which cannot be interpreted as anything other than “You are going to hear about this until the end of time about your abysmal choice of restaurant”.  He tries to placate me with a piece of his outrageously USD60++ expensive steak. But Le Bistro de l’Olivier’s steak dish provide no uptick in quality, considering they’ve managed to fuck up their fries which are too thick, underseasoned, barely crispy and unremarkable in every aspect of their existence.  Which is pretty major, cause how the fuck do you make deep fried potatoes so unexciting?  I chew forlornly on a thin piece of gristly steak with some sort of weird chestnut mustard and reflect that this is must be how a cow feels before she sends her fibrous meal through four stomachs just to get shit digested.  I narrow my eyes to tiny slits, glaring tempestously at Sir Crunchalot and spit out “What the fuck is Maggie Liu a celebrity for?  Is she an actress?  Because there’s no fucking way that she became famous for this sorry ass bullshit food”.  I snap my cutlery to the finished position, wholly unsatisfied with life before remarking:

timcurryeatdie

For all the razzing I give Sir Crunchalot, I didn’t come to this with clean hands because there were some key warning signs or actions I could have taken to have prevented the culinary atrocities we endured at Le Bistro de l’Olivier.  I should have fucking checked the menu outside the restaurant before we went in to see the ludicrous prices.  I should have seen the tacky walls crammed with Parisian street signs and stormed right the fuck out in the name of good taste. Most importantly, I really should have googled Maggie Liu to see that she was definitely too slim to be a decent chef (or paid attention to her cardboard cutout placed outside her “restaurant”) and realised that her claim to fame seems to have been hosting twee as fuck shows on the Discovery-TLC Channel with vom-inducing names like “Maggie’s Magic Menu” or “Maggie Meets The Chefs”.

The only way I can make sense of my experience at Le Bistro de l’Olivier is that perhaps it was fate that led me here to bear the heavy cross of an abominable meal so this FYN review could end up in the Google search results to provide a warning to all about the abhorrent overpriced French bistro horrors that are available in Taipei, despite the 4.5 star bullshit claims of Tripadvisor.  Most importantly, this meal has reinforced a solid life lesson for me that there is ZERO payoff in relinquishing my iron grip on dining decisions and acquiescing to some totally bullshit concept like allowing people to make inevitably poor food related choices on my behalf.  NEVER AGAIN MY HOMIES – NEVER FORGIVE, NEVER FORGET:

aggressivelyhelpful

Verdict:
Dredging up the memories of this meal makes me want to repeatedly shout FUCK NO until my vocal cords rupture and burst in a raw, bloody mess.  Such is my desire to warn the public that there is nothing but overpriced disappointment and abysmal execution should one decide to dine at Le Bistro de l’Ballbag.  DON’T DO IT HOMIES, LIFE’S TOO FUCKING SHORT.

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