Fuck No

Where:
Gaucho
5th Floor, LHT Tower
31 Queen’s Road
Central, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2386 8090

Price:
Three course business lunch set was HKD270 (excluding 10% service charge).

The deal:
Gaucho is a London based Argentinian steakhouse which has just set up shop in HK in the old Carnevino space.  All of the food bloggers who went to the soft opening last week have been talking Gaucho HK up, complete with close up photos of the free-range Angus grass-fed beef sent straight to Instagram.  Hey restaurant assholes – when you want someone to come and potentially not blog your shit, not take photos, ungratefully drink all your fucking malbec and not copy and paste your PR release, you know where to fucking find me.  Gaucho HK has been modelled straight off its London interiors with the black + white cowhide walls, black + white leather furniture, silver chrome finishings and audacious crystal chandeliers.  I’ve been reading reviews which say it’s “tastefully done” but it’s not really my jam, I felt like I was eating in a fucking nightclub.  It gave me flashbacks to when I was apartment hunting in HK and you’d open the door to some tacky as fuck chrome everywhere, purple gauze and chandelier filled nightmare where the owner has clearly spent a shit tonne of coin to fulfil his lifelong desire to live in Privé nightclub. Shots shots shots shots shots EVERYBODY.

With some new restaurant jitters, there was some bumps in the service.  A lot of waiters spinning around but not looking to make eye contact with patrons meaning there was a lot of brow wiggling to get orders taken or well, cutlery.  The bread came out to start and dem cheese buns were pretty fucking rad.  I fucking love bread and fuck yeah melted cheese – so shove those two together and shit’s off to a good start.  There’s also fresh chimichurri and yeahhhh son, fuck yeah times on that front.  When deciding between two courses or three courses, the waiter helpfully and honestly let me know that the starters are “really tiny“.  So giddy up, fatty pants over here went for three courses.  The menu reads with enough interesting dishes and I went with the Ecuadorian Ceviche (cooked prawns marinated in a roasted tomato and pepper sauce, with thinly sliced red spanish onions and coriander) and the Mini Empanadas (one beef, one cheese).  Shit was ok – perfectly enjoyable enough at the time but you’ll forget this meal in a few weeks and if you never ate these dishes again, you wouldn’t care.  The empanadas had a fairly thick dough but again, pastry and melted cheese, how do you really fuck that shit up?

As Gaucho bills itself as a steak restaurant and certainly fucking talks enough about its wet-aged Argentinian grass fed beef, I went in for the Churrasco de Chorizo as a main, billed as a “Sirloin, spiral cut and marinated, served with a tomato salad”. The tomato salad was essentially just diced green and red raw tomatoes with a light olive oil dressing which arrive piled unceremoniously on the steak which really isn’t that fucking exciting.  The steak itself was entirely unremarkable that I can barely be fucked writing about it.  I ordered my steak “rare” and it was cooked inconsistently and slightly overdone.  Some parts were medium, most of it medium-rare and there might have been a rare patch in the middle.  Overall, it was pretty fucking pedestrian. Sure, if I’d waved my hands around and told someone my steak was overdone, I don’t have any doubt that Gaucho would have got me a new one because they seemed like they wanted you to have a good time.  But tough shit, when you’re a fucking steak restaurant your deal is that you just have to get your steak shit done fucking RIGHT.  Especially when you’re a business lunch venue because people haven’t got time to let their clients / dining companions race ahead to their meal conclusion while you wait another 15 minutes for your redone, accurately cooked steak to appear while everyone else sits there awkwardly, watching you eat on your own.  However, moot point because not a single waiter stopped in at any point during or after the meal to ask how things were fucking going.  You better believe it, I don’t just blog about dis shit, I’m just as fucking opinionated IRL too.

But seriously Gaucho homies, here’s some FYN hot tips.  If you want to become a go-to business lunch location (which I’m guessing is your plan given your Central location) you have got to get all over your snappy service shit.  A fuck no example on shit that’s not gonna fly with the business set – after our plates were cleared, we sat there for a bit and I waited patiently for someone to appear to ask if we wanted coffee or dessert.  No one appeared.  Time marched on and with impending meetings, I abandoned all hope of having enough time for an after lunch coffee (wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, fuck no).  Continue to wait for someone to notice that we needed the fucking bill.  Still no one noticed.  After making eyes at almost every single waiter in the whole fucking place, finally someone gave us the bill.  Wait some more for someone to collect the card. Wait.  Hum “Don’t you forget about me – don’t don’t don’t don’t” while you watch more Gaucho waiter homies blithely sail past.  Finally have card collected.  Wait some more.  A ray of fucking sunshine emerges from behind a cloud, a chorus of angels sing and finally your card is returned to your possession.  You then exit Gaucho while the waves of mediocrity and indifference from a pretty fucking average lunch wash over you as you despondently stomp your way back to work.

Verdict:
FUCK NO – cause you’re doin’ it wrong if you’re a steak restaurant but your goddamn cheese bread is more memorable than your fucking steak!

Where:
Dim Sum Square
No. 27 Hillier Street (Walk there via Jervois Street though)
Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
(蘇杭街舊店對面 opposite to the old shop at 88 Jervois Street)

Phone:
+852 2851 8088 (lol, it’s not a booking place though)

Price:
It’s fucking cheap – I ordered shit tins and it was HKD100 a person.

The deal:
Everyone can be such a know-it-all asshole in Hong Kong when it comes to recommending a yum cha place. You can either go for that balls to the wall high end dim sum experience or it’s going to some local place where the service is brusque but the food should be on track for fuck yeah awesome times.  Locals will hesitate to recommend somewhere to expats outside of Maxim’s City Hall, thinking that the places they go to are “too local” and an expat will spontaneously burst into flames if they were somewhere that didn’t have a tablecloth and it’s full of grumpy fuckers who don’t give a fuck if you’re asking for chilli sauce or an extra pair of chopsticks.  Can’t blame them, some expats probably would.

Dim Sum Square is pretty consistently reviewed by any expat who lives in Sheung Wan (“Oh my god guys, Sheung Wan – it’s like the best of old meets new in Hong Kong.  And there’s just cool little coffee shops but still old Chinese guys selling dried seafood.  Best ever!”) , bloggers, newspapers and Guides to HK.  Shit’s going all right for the homies at Dim Sum Square, they’ve moved across the road from their original tiny storefront to a much bigger place across the road.  Business is good yo – the place is jammed and there’s a line pretty much every time I walk by with a mix of largely local and some expat patrons.

Eating at Dim Sum Square is dirt cheap – most items range from HKD16 – 24 per plate.  But I just didn’t think the quality was that good.  Everyone goes how fresh it is because it’s all steamed to order (by an old lady out the back! How authentic!) but I just wasn’t that fucking impressed.  The prawn in the har gao / prawn dumpling felt undersized and not connected.  The HK favourite of the pineapple bun style char siu bao had its balance off between the sweet topping – the crust was just tooo fucking sweet.  The lotus leaf wrapped sticky rice didn’t have enough pork or filling in it (yeah, it was only HKD24 but fuck, just charge me a bit more and stuff it properly, buy some goddamn chestnuts and some Chinese sausage ok?).  The skin on the xiao long bao soup dumplings was too fucking thick.  Oh, and they don’t sell beer either which I have to take some FYN points off for – fuck no to not having the option of a beer with your siu mai.

A consistent problem I find with dim sum recommendations in Hong Kong is that a lot of people get really fucking overexcited by cheap dim sum that they seem to lose all grip on whether the food is actually good or not.  Something about not paying a lot lets people feel like they’re really getting down and local, and therefore, shit must be good. I mean, it’s fucking good enough for the Michelin Star peeps who roll into Tim Ho Wan, pay almost nothing for some char siu bao and they slap themselves on the back for really fucking getting amongst it and then slap a star on it.  I think Dim Sum Square falls under this category because some of it was ok and none of it was terrible, but just because an old lady makes it and shit’s cheap, doesn’t mean that it’s that good or authentic.

Verdict:
Fuck no, because this is Hong Kong, so why settle for just average dim sum, FFS just charge me a bit more and get your fillings goddamn right.  But hey ho, if you’re completely price driven, this will be a fuck yeah for you.

Where:
Black Ant
60 2nd Ave (between 3rd & 4th St.)
East Village, NYC 10003
USA

Phone:
+1 (212) 598-0300 or online reservations are available here (fuck yeah, OpenTable)

Price:
USD70+ for two people, after 20% tip/tax, excluding drinks.

The deal:
It’s so fucking hard to get decent Mexican in Hong Kong, I temper that statement with the hard fucking facts that I’ve never been to Mexico, I’m not Mexican and I have no Mexican friends who are showering me with Mexican food.  But I can only assume that good Mexican food shouldn’t taste like bland mushy textures, sadness and the optional extra of bankruptcy (given the price of Mexican noms in the Kong).  We went to Black Ant because I wanted something spicy to push out the jet lag and the niggling suspicion of coming down with a cold after 15 hours of fuck no germ bag times on the plane.  Black Ant was packed and people were eating some pretty impressive looking noms.

The first thing I knew I had to get in my life was their guacamole.  Everyone knows that while I’m all aboard the Fuck Yeah, HK train that the one thing I fucking miss in the Kong is being able to buy decent fucking avocados (check my interview over at The Branded if you want to see what’s up) – this is pretty much my reaction every time I buy an avocado and I’m fucking excited that imma gonna have guacamole and then when I finally cut that fucker open, it’s inevitably a black, rotten motherfucker inside and I’m all:

nooooo

The Black Ant Guacamole (USD13) was the fuck yeah answer to my parched avocado existence, smashed up creamy beautiful avocados with orange segments, passila (a type of chilli), crispy shallots, fresh radishes and lime juice.  I wept joyous tears as I delicately shoved crispy tortilla chips into my greedy, wanting maw, only pausing to shout self-serving abuse at Mr Noms that he was messing up his guacamole to tortilla chip ratio and if he kept that up, we were going to be out of dip before tortillas.

We ordered a serve of the Tacos de Cocochas / cod cheek tacos (USD13) which looked really fucking good with its colourful slaw and microherbs but I just wasn’t feeling it.  The cod cheeks (a slice of meat taken from a cod fish jaw) just had too much fucking batter going on and the cod cheeks were too rubbery, taking on a calamari like texture.  The taco had this fuck no earthy undertone – I wasn’t sure if it was the fish or the beet sprout elements in the slaw but there was just too many fucking flavours going on that weren’t working together.  The Enchiladas de Conejo (USD24) was a spicy braised rabbit and chilacayote ragout which was ok, but again, it just seemed like a whole bunch of flavours were thrown together which should work together but shit just didn’t seem to gel together.

For dessert, we saw everyone ordering the Churros Fondue (USD10) and what’s not to love about fuck yeah deep fried cinnamon style doughnuts which you dunk in three different types of sauces (cajeta/caramalised sweet milk, orange blossom flavoured cream and salty chocolate sauce)?  It was FUCK YEAH dessert times.

However, the best fuck yeah moment of the whole meal (apart from dat guacamole) was listening to the Class A1 wanker at the table next to us (and the Black Ant is noisy as fuck and you are crammed together, so we got front row seats to the show) who was telling his lady friend how he pretty much knew everything, ever, from how to seat people at a wedding, why people ate grasshoppers (high protein content which made them perfect carriers for flavours…not because cows are in short supply in any of those grasshopper countries) and then even punctuated an opinion with repeating “I AM AN ENTREPRENEUR” four times in one minute (not even fucking exaggerating).

Anyway, I’m on fucking holidays and I’m already feeling the arduous as fuck toil of writing about NYC NOMAGEDDON so fuck writing some meaningful and well constructed conclusion and check this graph I made of my meal at Black Ant in lieu of a proper summary:

blackantchart

Verdict:
Shit wasn’t terrible – but no dice for a recommendation/return unless you’re going for the guacamole only.  Fuck no.

oprahbees

In the first four sentences of this review, each sentence used a variation of “buzz” to bring out the buzzy buzzing buzz buzz of that new hot as fuck destination, the Police Married Quarter (PMQ).  To ensure that I was in total fuck no conniptions by the end, the “review” then went on to have total disregard for proper use of “it’s” vs “its”.  I can’t even with this motherfucking buzz related apiary realness.  SEND HALP, I DON’T WANT TO GO ON ANYMORE.

Where:
MAMA SAN by Will Meyrick
1/F, 46 Wyndham Street
Central, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2881 8901

Price:
HKD550 a person, including drinks and an ok amount of food.  Fuck yeah, better than expected price point.

The deal:
Although the name is “Mama San by Will Meyrick”, as far as I’ve been able to tell he just designs the menu, oversees the set up and then he fucks off back to Bali.  Chef Meyrick’s Bali credentials are pretty fucking serious with Sarong and Mama San behind him in Bali.  I haven’t eaten at either but have heard good things.  FYN truth tea time, I fucking love Balinese food – fuck yeah to SE Asian influences, fresh island ingredients and dat fuck yeah spicing.  But I know that Mama San isn’t meant to be Balinese food per se, but souped up modern South East Asian taking a predictable reference to Asian street food.  Mama San HK is name dropping influences like a rapper displaying just how culturally diverse their love for beautiful women can be – yo check it Australia, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Mama San HK’s decor is what you’d expect from a new Dining Concepts restaurant – suitably on trend with its moody fucker interiors – dark wood tables, strategic red accents, and black and white photos of Asia taken by Will himself while he was predictably learning authentic street food techniques.  A large retro style portrait of what presumably is Mama San herself, keeps a submissive, demure downcast glance across the room.  Whatever they paid Will Meyrick to design the menu has paid off, because it all sounds tasty as fuck.  If I rattle off what we ordered, it’s all going to sound like fuck yeah noms – such as “tuna betel leaves with lemongrass green tomato sambal matah and bumbu pasih”, “crispy salt bush lamb with ginger, coriander, lemon segments and pomegranate sauce”, “crispy whole snapper with three-flavor sauce – wild ginger, turmeric, pineapple, chilli and tamarind” (yeah I know, I counted five fucking flavours there but let’s not dwell on semantics – their menu, very offensively, doesn’t even use commas), “slow cooked crispy pork belly with green papaya, dried shrimp, apple, eggplant, peanuts and black vinegar caramel” and the “Cambodian duck with sweet potatoes, shallots and peanuts”.  Serving sizes weren’t particularly large and the food certainly didn’t look as fucking impressive as the photos I’ve seen on the HK food blogs around the traps or the glossy press photos.  But really, shit was ok too, with enough coriander, lemongrass and chilli to adequately tick off the Asian influences card. It’s almost trendy Asian food by numbers – #1) raw fish with coriander and lime in some sort of a wrap #2) protein with ginger, coriander and lemon grass sauce #3) some sort of whole fish – baked in salt or glazed in a sweet + sour sauce #4) some sort of a beef rib with more lemongrass and #5) some sort of slightly watery curry with duck or chicken in it.  Someone asked me a few days later what was the best thing I ate at Mama San HK and I struggle to remember a dish which elicited a solid fuck yeah or a vivid memory of any description.

So, my ongoing weariness and malaise with Mama San and all the other new restaurants which follow that typical big dining group in HK model – everything is just so fucking adequate, aided by smoke and mirrors in the form of sleek, modern interiors with industrial decor.  Before you get there, you read the press releases about Mama San with some big name chef that really has minimal responsibilities past designing the menu but props, the menu sounds new and innovative with its references to riffing on Asian street food from around the region with references to nahm jim jauw dressing, pounded chilli kaffir lime leaves and pomegranate sauces. There’s the social conscience angle as Mama San HK gives local Balinese staff from its Balinese restaurant the very noble opportunity to work in HK for better wages, without being trapped on a floating hell of a cruise ship.  Then you add the economic element – the price point is either just slightly above what is comfortable or the serving sizes or just that touch smaller than what they should be.  But this is the business and this is their game – you make everything slightly different enough to get punters in the door and then you add in a couple of drinks with a few ‘modern Asian’ cocktails that have slices of chilli, kaffir lime leaves or smashed up lemongrass in it.  Add some non-confronting food which delivers what it promises (but only just) and with the trendy decors and enough punters in there to give it a bit of a buzz, everything is comfortable enough that with a big group of friends who you actually fucking like, no one is going to have a miserable night. But when the Saturday night buzz of cocktails and fuck yeah homies has dissipated, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m being fucking gamed – because while everything is perfectly fucking acceptable, it’s not anything more.

Chef Menu Designer Meyrick’s bio proudly lists working in Australia at Longrain and Jimmy Liks, and the influence is pretty fucking evident (refer the very exotic sounding tuna betel leaves with lemongrass green tomato sambal matah and bumbu pasih – which totally rips off Longrain’s signature smoked trout betel leaf).  But shit’s not a good fucking sign because while I have fuck yeah memories of Longrain, Jimmy Liks was always Longrain’s less attractive, though well intentioned sister.  So by the time we get to Mama San HK, we’re already onto the third most attractive pan-Asian influenced sister and imma gonna have to Tinder style, swipe left on what is starting to feel like a photocopy of a photocopy.

The verdict:
So. Shit wasn’t terrible and if a friend organised a dinner there, I wouldn’t cause a fucking fuss and demand a change in venue, but I’m not enthused enough to go back on my own volition. Especially if you’ve been to the superior Longrain or the less-superior-but-still-more-impressive Jimmy Liks in Sydney.  Fuck no – I don’t wanna play this just adequate though economically sensible HK dining game anymore.

omarallinthegame

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