Fuck Yeah

Where:
Rhoda (FB page)
Shop 1A, Upton, 345 Des Voeux Road West
Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong

FYN hot tip:  I think HKU MTR station is closest, take Exit B1.

Phone:
+852 2177 5050 / ask@rhoda.hk (fuck yeahhhhhhhhhh, making bookings without having to talk to people)

Price:
We got out at around HKD650 per person, including booze and before tip (service charge not included).  I went with my A-team of Olympian Level Good Eaters though, so take that into account when you’re trying to estimate $$$.

The deal:
Nathan Green, the former head chef of 22 Ships, has set up new digs in Sai Ying Pun in collaboration with Yenn Wong / the JIA Group.  It’s touchingly named after Chef Nathan’s grandma, Rhoda, who per the interviews I’ve read Nathan says was a bomb-ass home cook.  But fuck, I can’t believe I’m writing about yet another new Yenn Wong restaurant (see also: Mak Mak, Kaum at Potato Head).  It’s as if Yenn sat down at the end of 2015 and wrote her 2016 New Year’s resolution to be ‘Open a new restaurant in HK every month, before rolling forward onto inevitable global domination‘. I enjoyed the actual food at 22 Ships when Nathan was there but I just didn’t get that into it as a concept because I’m entirely too jaded to be dealing with no booking teeny tiny restaurants which serve food for ants with a big side serve of bankruptcy.

The first thing that hits you is just how striking Rhoda is from an aesthetic perspective.  It’s got a kick ass layout – a casual bar at the front, the restaurant tables in the middle and the chef’s counter / open kitchen at the back if you want to check out what the team is doing with your food.  Rhoda have enlisted Joyce Wang to get her fuck yeahhhh interior styles on and not just bash out yet another new HK restaurant with more stripped back bare concrete, minimalist stainless steel industrial vibes.  Joyce Wang is known for doing a number of fuck yeah interiors around town, including Vasco (RIP) and Mott 32 (where the interiors are most definitely more memorable than the super blah food). Rhoda is all references to red brown shiny copper and the light green patina that forms when copper oxidises, mixed with earthy and burnt wood materials – which no doubt tie into the fact that Chef Nathan is all about keeping things straightforward, eschewing fussy cooking equipment for cooking over wood charcoal and fire to make “modern comfort food”. It’s fucking beautiful with its mix of different materials, the repurposed washing machine drums made into light fittings, the grey concrete cladding, elegantly draped rope, the metallic copper fittings and just-so distressed wood furniture, all bathed in a warm, amber glow.

We’re a party of four and we’re seated at the end of the large communal tables which could hold up to ten people.  The table itself is a thing of gorgeous beauty, made in Iceland with melted copper poured into the cracks of the wooden table top.  Unfortunately, it’s just a touch too wide which means that it’s not the greatest for actually being able to converse with people across the table unless you give it the full lean and shout a bit.  We move past this issue pretty quickly when we’re distracted by Rhoda’s bread – a beer bread made from Suntory dark ale which arrives hot hot hot from the wood fire oven on a bed of twigs with a side of nori seaweed butter. We’re starving and we tear our bread roll apart, quickly realising that Rhoda smashes the FYN bread test out of the goddamn park (ie. the test that if a restaurant serves good bread, it’s a key leading indicator that they probably give a fuck about the finer details about everything else they do).  The crust is crisp as fuck, slightly smoky from the oven and when you rip it apart and slather that just dense enough inside with the slightly mellow though briney nori butter, it’s truly an insight into what my purest carb based night time fantasies are made of.  I understand that you get one complimentary serve of bread per two people and then it’s HKD29 a serve, but fuck who cares because where else could someone find such unadulterated happiness and beauty for HKD29??  We ended up totalling four serves of bread between four people and I’ll level with you, if we hadn’t been prewarned to make sure we had capacity for dessert, we probably could have smashed a few more.

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Rhoda’s menu is split into a few different parts and changes daily, depending on what shit’s good.  The categories include Snacks, Cold, Grill, Something a Little Bigger, Sides, Desserts and Cheese.  From the Snacks section, we kick off with the crispy lotus root chips with chicken liver cream (HKD38).  The chicken liver cream is a fuck yeahhh but the lotus root chips could really be any sort of fried vegetable carrier.  We also go with the much blogged and written about, slow cooked octopus (HKD138) from the Grill.  It’s absolutely fine and executed really well, topped with thin slices of cucumber, fresh mint and pickled shallot but it just wasn’t that interesting or different to me.  However, the sweet corn with clams (HKD128) is where shit starts to get real, where grilled kernels of sweet corn are served with shelled clams, katsuboshi (dried, fermented, and smoked flakes of skipjack tuna) and a slow cooked egg.  When you break the egg and mix its yolky glory through the dish, it’s a fucking sensational mix of contrasts of textures and flavours – the creamy yolk, briney clams, slightly smoky sweet corn and the subtle umami hint of fish from the katsuboshi.  I just fucking love it when someone combines ingredients that you’re familiar with and serves it in a way that makes it bigger than its individual parts.

Our waiter homie highly recommends the Mangalica pork chop (400g) (HKD548).  The Mangalica pig is a wooly haired pig which lives a pampered life in the grassy fields of Hungary, snacking down on pumpkin, beets and acorns before they’re slaughtered for their fuck yeahhhh high quality fatty though delicate tasting meat.  Our Hungarian porcine friend has been marinated in soy and garlic, before being grilled over charcoal which results in some epic fuck yeah caramelised fat.  Ms Two Serves was so into this that she used the accompanying green spring onions to wrap the pork fat to make some sort of glorious and fucking delicious burrito style carrier that went straight into her mouth.  Although, we watched in horror as the skinny though miserable looking heathens next to us cut all of the caramelised fuck yeah fat off their pork chop and pushed it to one side of their plate before they laughed blandly at what must surely have been tedious conversation.  Y U DO THAT MY SAD SKINNY FRIENDS? Y U NO DO MANGALICA PORK JUSTICE?

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I’m always partial to chicken, even if getting good quality chook in HK means paying a fucking bomb.  Rhoda is offering Brink’s farm free range chicken with spring onion and ginger dressing (HKD498) and it’s so fucking good.  The only issue is that I can’t get excited about breast meat which meant that by the time we’d decimated the far more delicious thighs, drumsticks and wings we were left with so many slices of breast meat.  I know there’s no bones and white people are super into it, but even with the killer ginger dressing, all I could do was dream of darker meat times.  Yes, I know it’s not Rhoda’s fault that chicken have breasts.

We were also loving the side of sugar snap peas with pancetta and quail eggs (HKD68), even if there was MORE spring onions.  Spring onions at Rhoda seem to be like rocket/arugula at other restaurants, every fucking dish we ordered seemed to have them.  Regardless of the spring onion overload, the snap peas are sweet and fresh as fuck and it makes me think of the numerous times I’ve paid HKD78+ for some sad ass side of green beans because some health conscious bastard wants vegetables.

We also ordered a side of the Maitake mushroom risotto with new season Australian truffle (HKD158).  It’s interesting, made from six different grains – pearl barley, buckwheat, spelt, rye, quinoa and millet.  It’s also rich as fuck though and while fucking delicious, I’ll level with you – I’d rather have spent my carb quotient on MOAR BREAD.

In a stunning stroke of good luck, the FYN Gods smiled upon us and where you normally need to order the 12 hour slow cooked Hawke’s Bay lamb shoulder with vegetables, 48 hours in advance, Rhoda had a half-shoulder kicking around.  This NZ lamb is slow cooked and served with carrots and onions, with a massive bouquet of herbs (including thyme, Italian parsley and fresh mint). This is when our table collectively loses their shit.  The lamb is everything a slow cooked lamb should be, fork tender and it has taken on the flavour of the herbs, the sweet carrot, tomatoes and onions, while still showing off its superior fuck yeah provenance.  All that clean air and lush Kiwi grass has most def been kind to the flavour of the lamb.  It’s served with a mint gremolata, a more sophisticated take on mint sauce, and it’s all fuck yeah fresh green zingy tones from the mint, lemon zest, olive oil, salt and garlic.

But fuuuuuck, it’s the gravy that sits in the bottom of the dish which causes all sorts of emotions to burst through to the surface for us.  Ms Siuwaaan, who’s a total slut for gravy, got far more graphic in her wanton desires for MOAR GRAVY.  In between her losing her senses and babbling about how she wants to do all sorts of unspeakable things with said gravy (including executing a body slide with gravy), she decides that gravy fantasies are cheap and instead hits our waiter homie up for more gravy.  We laugh at her doubting whether this is possible, but eventually the clouds of doubt clear, the jus related heavens part and she’s given not one but TWO jugs of gravy.  Without hesitating, she downs one jug like she’s chugging a beer before she stops to take a breath, roll her eyes, place both hands on the table and exclaim “Praise be to Grodin – God of Gravy!“.  It’s at this point, we realise that we’ve gotten our lamb eats totally wrong at Rhoda and form a new plan to do the remainder of our lamb shoulder the sweet justice it deserves.

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So, this is where I will present to you The Definitive FYN Guide on How to Eat Yo Lamb at Rhoda:

  1. As mentioned above, you have to pre-order the lamb 48 hours before you go.  DON’T FORGET THIS.  At present, I think Rhoda is only officially offering the full shoulder which is probably appropriate for eight people but check to see if the half-shoulder is available if you’re a smaller group.
  2. Order more bread.  That shit’s gonna come straight from the oven with a side of nori butter.
  3. Butter up your bread.  Don’t be restrained.
  4. Take your bread and start to form an epic lamb sandwich – start with some lamb, tear some fresh herbs into that shit, maybe get a couple of pieces of the braised onion into there if that’s your jam.
  5. Mint gremolata yasssssssssssssssssss.
  6. Pour gravy all over what’s possibly one the most epic things you’ve ever held in your mortal hands to date.
  7. OPTIONAL:  Put some more crusty as fuck bread on top.  Or just eat it open faced.
  8. Shove this glorious lamb sandwich creation which you made with your own two hands into your wanting face, remembering to breathe while your eyes are wet with tears of joy.
  9. If the gravy escapes your sandwich and runs down your wrists, there’s no shame in licking your wrists to tidy that resplendent fuck yeah gravy up.

PLEASE TO LISTEN UP HOMIES, THIS IS THE PATH TO GREATER LAMB ENLIGHTENMENT.  Girl, you know it’s true:

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After crushing our lamb, our super smiley waiter homie realised that we were truly having a moment and actually seemed to be so excited that we were so into our food.  We had firm plans on dessert because I’d been given a heads up from one of my FYN homies that the vanilla cheesecake (HKD108) was a major fuck yeah and our waiter homie let us know that Chef Nathan’s favourite is the Summer berries (HKD98).  The vanilla cheesecake is fairly simple, with a texture that’s almost like a pudding with a base which is reminiscent of a buttery shortcake biscuit, with some stewed rhubarb and yamamomos (Chinese bayberries / waxberries) on the side.  It’s delicate and rich, and if you’re into cheesecake I recommend you get involved.  I gotta admit, I thought the Summer berries might be a little lame, the sort of dessert you get when you’re trying not to be a massive fat fuck.  But I was completely wrong, it was far more interesting than its description and it was a refreshing fuck yeah mix of a just tart enough cherry granita, creme fraiche with just a whisper of lemon over a super punchy combo of A1 quality fuck yeah berries, including cherries, blueberries, yamamomos  and strawberries.

At the end of the meal, we’re going through our play by play highlights of the meal and marvel at the fact that perhaps it is possible to go to a new restaurant in HK and not be decimated by the crushing disappointment of trendy bullshit and half-assed executed food which has been designed to pander to the masses.  The meal we had at Rhoda, is the sort of meal that comes from food which actually means something personal to the chef and then it touches some sort of nerve inside of you and leaves an impression.  So much so that even after we all go our separate ways, we hit the group chat up before we fall asleep to continue to talk about how much we fucking enjoyed it and in the morning, as the sun ushers in yet another new day in HK, the fuck yeah bread and lamb related chat continues.

So yes, this is what it feels like, when someone executes their dream down to the nth detail and in that process, pours their heart and being completely into what they do, while making sure that the entire team gives as much as a fuck as he does.  And what a fucking privilege that as a customer you get to be a part of that.

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Verdict:
FUCK YEAHHHHHHH!!  Rhoda is only one week old and I think I’d go as far as saying it’s one of the most interesting openings in HK this year.  I cannot fucking wait to see where it goes from here.  GET INTO IT MY FYN HOMIES, but make sure you don’t forget to eat your lamb the FYN way (aka the best way).

Where:
Kaum at Potato Head
G/F, 100 Third Street
Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong

Telephone:
+852 2858 6066

Price:
We got out at HKD750 for food with a shit tonne of cocktails.  If we were more sensible patrons who didn’t drink so much, food came to around HKD400 per person.

The deal:
Given my Strayan connection, it’s no fucking surprise that I’ve been to Bali approximately 3,214 times and hung out at Potato Head in Seminyak in all my tattoo sleeved glory, while admiring my hot though trashy Cashed Up Bogan wifey with her rock hard, perky bolt-ons, peroxide blonde hair, Pandora charm bracelet and Coach handbag.  I’ve got plenty of good memories of Potato Head Bali and have spent many a languid afternoon casting my gaze over Kuta beach, toasting the riches bestowed upon me for double clutching my way through the iron ore mines and riding out that sweet ass commodity boom.  But hard times homies, China (or as we say in Straya, CHOINA), is no longer lapping up the iron ore with the same reckless abandon which means that I’m now reduced to foregoing my Bintang singlet Bali Chill Timez in favour of checking out the HK outpost of Potato Head in the painfully hip Sai Ying Pun.  OMG GUISE, THAT SPECIAL MIX OF OLD HK MEETS NEW HK, JUST LOVE SAI YING PUN.

Potato Head HK has been brought to HK by the PTT Family and Yenn Wong / the JIA Group.  It’s a massive space featuring bar, restaurant, cafe and retail shop – right next to Fish School.  They’ve shipped in Sou Fujimoto to get his architecture on and in conjunction with the PTT Family crew, they’ve done an A1 rad job on the interiors.  There’s that perfectly balanced mix of modern cool shit (ie. hanging mirrored plant boxes), mismatched chairs and carefully weathered Indonesian antiques which is gonna be cool shit catnip to all the HK masses.

While we wait for all of our gang to arrive, I get my cocktail on with my sole, reliable, punctual homie.  Potato Head HK has shipped in the Potato Head Favourites from Bali and they range from HKD120 to HKD145 (+ 10% service charge), which isn’t super cheap but I think fair considering how much attention and care goes into each one.  It’s good fucking times, with some highlights being the Potato Head Mojito (Nusa Cana and Myer’s rum, mint, bar-made spiced syrup, lime and cane juices, crowned with mojito foam and a chewy sugar cane stick) which can get it all day, all night and the Pisang Manis (spiced Nusa Cana rum, milk, banana, lemon juice and palm syrup).  They most definitely pass the Fuck Yeah Noms FUCK YEAH cocktail test which is when you know the drinks are strong fuckers but they’re so delicious you can’t help but throw consequence to one side and smash five of the fuckers.  But really, the Potato Head HK WINRAR is without doubt the Kopi Martini, or as I now refer to it – KWEEN KOPI.  Coffee bean Ketel One vodka, Mexican coffee liqueur, double shot house coffee and mint sugar – I had a sip of this one pre-dinner and was dreaming all meal about getting my dessert on with KWEEN KOPI with all of her beautiful roasted coffee tones and her strong as fuck, alcoholic arms around me.  My dining homie didn’t show such restraint and just chain-smashed five of them back-to-back. YASSSSSSSSSS KWEEN!!

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The Indonesian restaurant at Potato Head HK is called Kaum (meaning ‘tribe’ or ‘clan’ in Bahasa Indonesia) and sits at the back, with the open kitchen running down one side and a long table running down the middle.   However, despite everything looking sleek and shiny, Kaum is an acoustic nightmare because every sound is bounced around from surface to surface.  Sure, the hand-painted wooden ceiling panels by the Torajan people of South Sulawesi are beautiful as fuck but with all the wooden furniture, bare floors and stainless steel in the kitchen, Kaum is not killing the acoustic game.  For this reason, I’d recommend that the primo table number at Kaum is four people because if you’re an old cranky fucker like slutguts over here, you probably aren’t going to be able to hear much at all.

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Kaum’s menu is split into a few different sections – Small Plates, Soup, Bamboo, For Sharing, Sambal, Vegetables and Rice Courses.  I like that it’s not overwhelming and because I fucking love Indonoms, I’m excited as fuck by this stage. Our waitress is friendly and fully across the menu, which I always give major props for a new joint.  We order a mix of small plates and larger dishes, with the intention of sharing everything.  One thing that I notice across almost all the dishes is that there’s a good level of spice and flavour in each one.  If you don’t swing spicy, make sure you check with your waiter homie because I know a lot of HK homies are massive soft cocks when it comes to a little bit of chilli.

When it comes to the small plates, a lot of them are tasty but as the name would suggest, small.  It’s a good way to taste things, but if I went back to Potato Head HK, I’d definitely load up more on the larger plates in a group scenario.  The Gohu Ikan Tuna (HKD90 + 10% service charge) is a refreshing as fuck starter, marinated slices of raw tuna with some fresh, Summertime island vibes from the virgin coconut oil, lime and pomelo dressing, with toasted kenari nuts to give some texture.  The Burung Darah Goreng Rica Rica (HKD120 + 10% service charge) is a slow cooked and fried pigeon tossed in a northern Sulawesi sambal of red chilli, herbs, spring onions and fresh lime juice.  It’s righteous as fuck, full of big punchy spice and tart, bright citrus notes.  But as you can imagine, three pieces of a small bird means it’s only really suitable to split between one to two homies (vs a table).

In the kitchen, you can see a rack of bamboo vessels which are used to cook the Timbungan Babi (pork belly marinated with Balinese spice paste, shallots, chilli, garlic, torch ginger and sweet potato leaves) and Pa’Piong Ayam (free range chicken marinated with spices of south Sulawesi, freshly grated coconut and sweet potato leaves)  On our waitress’s recommendation, we went with the Timbungan Babi (HKD290 + 10% service charge). As the pork belly has been wrapped in a banana leaf before cooking the dishes inside the bamboo container over the grill, there’s a certain sweet, green and smoky flavour imparted to the meat inside.  The menu notes that this cooking method is a dying art, with only a handful of specialty restaurants in Indonesia still practicing this technique.  Fuck yeah props to Potato Head for doing their bit to keep this culinary method kickin’ on.

It’s the main event and Indonoms has gotta involve some sweet nasi goreng action, so we pile in for the Nasi Goreng Bumbu Cabe Asap Udang (HKD148 + 10% service charge).  Potato Head HK’s nasi goreng is fucking punchy but I’m a fiend for chilli, so it’s fuck yeah times.  What I was all about though was the fact that the nasi goreng’s flavour profile was more complex than just greasy rice and sad ass prawns, with the smoky chilli paste and fermented prawn paste giving me some deep rice feels with some fuck yeah top notes from the stinky beans and lemon basil.

The Bebek Goreng Sambal Tempoyak (HKD258 + 10% service charge) also brought the duck yeah, fuck yeah times. Half a deep fried crispy duck is topped with a spicy sauce and served with a vegetable salad that’s been tossed in a coconut dressing to bring some cool contrast.  I’ve got many happy memories of being in Bali and devouring different variations of fried duck dishes and Potato Head HK’s is well executed, with a good level of spice and crispy skin, while keeping the meat moist.  Although the menu notes ‘fermented durian chilli sauce’, you don’t have to freak out too hard my durian challenged homies because you can’t really taste or smell the King of Fruits in there.

Another stand out for me was the Ayam Kebiri Berantakan (HKD195 + 10% service charge) and sure, deep fried chicken is always a quick fuck yeah route to my heart but yasssssssssss, bring the flava flav with that juicy, free range chicken meat and the crispy garlic slices, fried curry leaves, red chilli and toasted coconut flakes that it’s been cooked with. OH FRIED CHICKEN, Y U ALWAYS KNOW WHAT TO DO??

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The Rendang Dasing Sapi (HKD200 + 10% service charge) is a predictable Indonoms order because as if you’d eat anywhere Indonesian without getting the beef rendang. Topped with deep fried purple potato crisps, the serving looks quite small and our initial reaction is that we’re gonna need two servings for our table.  However, despite it’s tiny size, it’s fucking delicious.  Yasssssssssss gimme dem coconut, cloves and cinnamon feels even if it’s just a convenient segway for me to ear bash anyone who will listen to me about this one time in Bali I came across this unassuming warung where I had this a-mahhhh-zing beef rendang for like, HKD20.  Eat, pray, love and then suck my authentic #wandercunt dick, amirite?

There’s only one low light when it comes to the food and unfortunately it’s the one that I’d been dreaming of all day – my Bali superstar, the Balinese roast pig, the Babi Guling (HKD258 + 10% service charge). There wasn’t anything particularly Balinese about it and it suffered from too bad, so sad flabby skin and greasy meat.  Where were the spices such as ginger, galangal, lemongrass and lime leaves to lift the pork to some next level shiz? Potato Head HK, Y U no crisp the skin up??

Potato Head HK do two sittings, which means the first sitting has to get out of Kaum by 8:45pm, but fair play, they were kind enough to let us push the 8:45pm deadline and eventually sat us in the bar area for dessert. We split three desserts, the Bubur Kampiun, Klappertart and the Bubur Sumsum Pandan (all HKD68 + 10% service charge each).  The Klappertart is a crowd favourite, a slight Indonesian riff on a bread pudding by adding coconut, caramel and rum soaked raisins with a scoop of coconut sorbet.  I’m not that into bread pudding so I don’t lose my shit, but some of my homies were pretty excited by this one.  My favourite fuck yeah dessert was the Bubur Sumsum Pandan, which is an Indonesian rice pudding, flavoured with coconut milk, palm sugar and pandan, Potato Head HK adding some chocolate brownie-esque pieces on top and a scoop of salted coconut cream ice-cream.

However, the Bubur Kampiun is an Indonesian / SE Asian style dessert which I think is definitely going to upset some people (ie. White People). Bubur Kampiun is a mix of sticky rice, sweet potato dumplings, caramelised banana, mung beans and a coconut custard.  It’s gonna cause some tears as it probably won’t conceptually feel like dessert to a lot of people because of reasons like “Fuuuuuck, why are there motherfucking BEANS in my sweet dessert?”, “What is the point of these grey-purple glutinous rice sweet potato balls?” and “Why is the coconut custard sauce so salty-sweet and a sludgy yellow-grey?”.  As someone who can roll with weird-ass Asian desserts which may include tiny green beans and glutinous rice, I gotta say this was my least favourite dessert just because the flavours in Potato Head HK’s version seemed a bit out of whack, a bit too salty and sweet with the texture of the bubur candil  (the dumplings) being too claggy and starchy.  You’ve been warned my SE Asian dessert adverse homies, don’t go chasing mung bean and weird ass glutinous dumpling waterfalls just stick to the slightly coconutty bread puddings like you’re used to.

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We’re all at a high level of fuck yeah happiness at this point and it’s when we’re settling the bill we noticed something that stuck out amongst the shit tonne of cocktails and it’s a cheeky extra line item under the soda water for a slice of lemon, clocking in at HKD9 (+10% service charge).  This is where we all go ‘WHAT IN THE EVER LOVING FUCK???‘ and reminisce about how our waiter homie had innocently asked if I wanted a slice of lemon in my soda water while mentally calculating what the per lemon cost at Potato Head HK would be (in case you’re interested – HKD9 x 16 half-slices per lemon = HKD144 + 10% service charge = HKD158.40).  All I could think about was whether getting charged HKD9 per lemon slice is when we know we’ve arrived at the peak of HK bar bullshit.  Of course, I did the only sensible thing and took it to @fuckyeahnoms Instagram (fuck yeahhhh, follow that good shit already) and FY Noms FB (fuck yeahhhhhh, add an internet stranger so I can randomly comment on your personal, private moments), to ask my faithful FYN Homies what they thought and predictably my FYN homies got seriously pressed about HKD9 slices of lemon, used phrases like “What a pack of cunts” a lot and #lemongate was born:

But fair play to the Potato Head HK homies, instead of suggesting that I had a tiny penis and that I should come back after I’d seen a urologist or psychologist (like the Morty’s Delicatessen social media team did), they got their apology pants on, offered me a HKD9 refund (GET MONEY BITCH) and more importantly a free round of drinks.

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Fuck yeahhhhhhhhhhh, nice one my spuddy homies but don’t worry I won’t be hitting you up for this because even though I most definitely want to drink all of your cocktails for free, I’ve got this anonymous FY Noms bullshit to uphold.

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhhhhhhhhh! There’s potentially a bit of wank going on but the food is fucking tasty, the price point is surprisingly cheap (fuck yeahhhhh, HKD400ish a person for food in a new hip place in SYP – GIDDY THE FUCK UP) and you’ll most def wanna go balls deep in a shit tonne of delicious cocktails.  KWEEN KOPI MARTINI, I BLAME IT ON YOUR REIGN.

Where:
Cochin Delicatessen (OH GOD HK, Y U NO WEBSITE GOOD?!)
26 Peel Street
Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2561 3336

Price:
I got my fuck yeah nom$ invitation on, but estimate a common person would probably get out at HKD550-700 a head (excluding booze), depending on how you order.  I WANNA LIVE LIKE COMMON PEOPLE, I WANT TO DO WHATEVER COMMON PEOPLE DO.

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The deal:
Cochin Delicatessen is on the lower half of Peel Street, where Chicha used to be – you know, the place that used to fleece you HKD240 for three tiny ass Peruvian “inspired” tacos.  I’m a bit surprised they closed because I really thought that overpriced bullshit tiny-ass tacos and miniscule thimbleful servings of ceviche should have been a concept for the ages (lolz).  Cochin Delicatessen is part restaurant, part delicatessen and part bar and has been opened by Chef and Director Renaud Marin after busting out stints at Upper Modern Bistro and St George.

Cochin is straightforward and unpretentious in its decor – all warm tones and blue accents, with wood panelling and Mediterranean patterned tiles on the tables.  Their waiter homies are most definitely on their game too, which is impressive for a new place.  We kick our night off with a bucket of hot baguette slices.  I judge all restaurants by their bread, because fuck, if you can’t be bothered serving fuck yeah bread it’s highly likely that you can’t be bothered with the finer details of anything else.  One bite in and I’m like fuck yeahhhhh, this is most def carb life = best life times and I discuss with Sir Crunch-a-lot whether this is the work of Gregoire Michaud / Bread Elements again.  We admonish ourselves on not being so fucking presumptuous that every time we have fuck yeah bread in HK that we automatically assume that Gregoire fucker is behind it.  So we wave down the waiter to ask whether Cochin make their own bread and then he launches into this speech about how there’s this French guy in HK who does all their bread who supplies a number of restaurants and I bellow at him “IS IT GREGOIRE?!”.  Turns out it is and to make sure that I’ve truly established that the baguette is a fully righteous fuck yeah, we slammed six more buckets of it and took the leftover pieces home for breakfast the next day.  The meek might inherit the earth, but I’m telling you that the greedy fucks shall inherit all the goddamn baguette.

Living up to the delicatessen part of its name, Cochin offers a number of starters ‘From the tin’, including anchovies, caviar and pate.  We get involved with the “Pate Louis Ospital”, opting for the Espelette (180g) which comes with a serve of pickles and some baby gem lettuce halves (HKD180 + 10% service charge).  Chef Renaud lets us know that the mushroom pickle recipe is his grandmother’s which means that his family has had the honour of slamming fuck yeah pickles for at least two generations.  However, this is all just warm up for the beef tartare.  Cochin’s Beef Tartare is described as “Polemard” 150g smoked sardines, pickled avocado and melba toast (HKD210 + 10% service charge) and it’s breathtakingly beautiful as fuck.  It’s the sort of dish that arrives and there’s an awed silence at the table.  Accompanied by two barely there thin slices of bread, the beef tartare is an absolute fuck yeah triumph with a depth of flavour from the mixture of fresh beef and two-week aged beef from Polmard.  To fit in with Chef Renaud’s obsession with the sea and the land, it’s accompanied by small daubs of creamed pickled avocado, pieces of smoked sardines, baby red shiso leaves and watercress.  Every single component on that dish is adding something, rather than just being a useless decorative accent.  It’s complex and a dish of contrasts – the fresh beef vs the aged beef, the slight fragrance and bite of the shiso vs the creaminess of the avocado vs the egg in the tartare and the salty briney sardines with the whisper of smoke vs the raw beef.   More importantly, it’s me vs the tartare and I know that when I close my eyes at night, I dream of love which is patient, forgiving and always eternal and it looks exactly like Cochin’s beef tartare.

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While you’d largely classify Cochin as French, there’s clearly influences from other cuisines.  I’m always a sucker for the Italian dish, vitello tonnato and Cochin’s is accompanied by confit lemon, capers and anchovie boquerones (marinated white anchovies) (HKD170 + 10% service charge).  It’s a very decent sized serve and similar to the beef tartare, everything in this dish has a purpose and it’s delicious as fuck.  We summoned two more buckets of baguette so we could ensure that we had vitello tonnato on bread and any stray bit of the creamy tuna sauce was also mopped up into my face.  If Chef Renaud’s obsession with surf and turf ends up in fuck yeah times like this, then I hope his obsession never ceases

Under “Bigger plates to share” and also under “For one” is the Rabbit and Foie Gras Pie (HKD195 + 10% service charge).  While my pedantic self can’t fully understand why you would place “For one” dishes under a “Bigger plates to share” title, the Rabbit and Foie Gras Pie is pretty fucking rich so I think that you can easily share this between four people so you can all have a little taste.  The Rabbit and Foie Gras pie arrives innocuously enough, a dome of puff pastry about the size of a fist with two baby gem lettuce halves chilling on the side.  But inside is where the fuck yeah magic happens – stuffed with foie gras, pan fried rabbit (both pieces and mince), confit shallots, garlic, parsley, thyme and spinach. It’s a perfect balance of the rich, fatty foie gras against the stronger flavoured rabbit, with the slight acidity of the confit lemon cutting through all of it and balanced out with the parsley and thyme.  But this is something honest and pure, and as saltwater wells in my eyes, all I can think about is that this is emotional, this is true love and I’m a better, more fulfilled person for knowing this pie.

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Under ‘For two or more’ there’s the Fadi organic chicken 81 days, available in a half or whole serving (HKD475 / HKD990 + 10% service charge), accompanied by two sides of your choice.  Clearly a Fadi organic chicken gets to live a pretty pampered life and has probably flown to HK on a premium economy flight at that sort of price.  We opt for the half and this chicken is fucking incredible, perfectly roasted with flavour packed meat that belies its privileged upbringing and 100% organic feeding consisting of corn crumbles, wheat, soya, barley, oats and sunflower seeds that sounds like a fancy health bar you’d buy for HKD78.  But it’s the sauce it comes with which is a major fuck yeah, made from the chicken juices, ginger, honey, lime and lemon.  No shame that after my first taste of this sauce from the gods, I put my cutlery down to throw up some air punches before plotting how I can most politely guzzle whatever sauce is remaining after my homies are done with it.

The Zaragoza suckling pig shoulder (HKD650 + 10% service charge) also comes with two sides and writing about roast pork always puts me in this quandary because I fucking love eating well executed roast pork but it’s so fucking boring to write roast pork wank.  Crispy skin, blah blah, juicy meat, blah blah.  However, don’t let my porcine related lassitude deter you though because Cochin’s suckling pig is a serious and major FUCK YEAH.  It’s everything you could hope and dream about, and doesn’t suffer from that HK bullshit roast pork serving size where you barely get any pork even though you’re laying down cash.  This could easily be shared between four to six of your best homies.

We were lucky enough that when we went to Cochin that Patrice Marchand of the famous Marchand Brothers was serving up his cheese.  We watched him serve his cheese to other patrons and it was fucking glorious to see someone so totally into his craft that his happiness was palpable.  Given the amount we’d eaten, we went for a selection of five cheeses (HKD295 + 10% service charge) and went up to the counter to discuss and hear more about the cheeses.  Patrice Marchand asks us at this point “Are you sure you only want five cheeses?” as he starts to stack our cheese board up with more glorious fuck yeah cheese choices and at this point our only answer is:

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The cheese at Cochin is clearly a major drawcard and if any of you are seriously into your cheese, you MUST get yo asses down to Cochin ASAP.  We ended up opting to skip dessert and there’s no scant cheese servings here (Imma looking at you Epure with your delicious but tiny ass cheese serves).  In fact, at one point we’re even a little bit daunted by how much cheese we’ve been blessed with.  There’s so many special fuck yeah moments happening but the absolute cheese champion for me is the ‘Bleu de brebis ciré’, the result of allowing ewes roam the Pyrenees Mountains while eating wildflowers and fresh grass at altitude before turning their milk into a soft, moist blue cheese which punches you in the face before whispering goodnight to you and kissing you on the neck.

It’s at this point, I’m grateful for the downhill slope down Peel Street because I’ve smashed through an insane amount of fucking delicious food, Old Fashioneds and wine.  But more than anything, it is so often that a new restaurant in HK is based on the idea of what is trendy and mashes together any number of ingredients to form something that they think the punters want.  How else can I explain those HK moments when I’ve looked down at a bowl of corn chips with a side of guacamole topped with sea urchin and salmon roe and thought ‘What in the ever loving fuck in this trendy ass mess?!’. But for all of that, Cochin comes blinking out of that dark, tortured HK trendy bullshit to be a testament to one chef’s vision to show you the food he loves which takes references and inspiration from not only his own experience but also from his family, the ingredients and the countries he’s been to produce something that’s heartfelt and laid bare for all to see. This shit doesn’t happen all that often in HK, but I just can’t think of anything that makes me fucking happier than to eat food where a chef has considered every single element on every plate and in its totality means something more.

Verdict:
FUCK YEAHHHHHHH! As you can imagine, I work my way through an inordinate amount of restaurants and I fucking loved Cochin so much that I went back twice in one week.  I’m gonna put it out there my FYN homies even though we’re only halfway through 2016, Cochin is going to be one of the best fuck yeah new restaurants in 2016.  JUST GO ALREADY, OK?!

Where:
Little Kitchen HK (FUCK YEAHHHH, a properly designed and informative website!!!)
1/F, Cheung Lok Building
No. 112-114 Saiwanho Street
Sai Wan Ho, Hong Kong

Shit’s a little hard to find, so make sure you follow the instructions on their website – to which I would add that when you exit the Sai Wan Ho MTR, turn right then cross Shau Kei Wan Road at the intersection with Tai On Street/Shing On Street. Follow Shing On Street and take a left when you come to Sai Wan Ho Street. Little Kitchen is located about halfway down, opposite the Park n Shop.  You’ll see a tiny doorbell on the wall to the right with their logo on it.

Phone:
+852 5616 4114

Price:
HKD500 (no service charge).  No corkage.

The deal:
When I first moved to HK, I thought that private kitchens were so interesting and a Grade A1 way to be a boastful, know it all fuck.  Yeah, I fucking know a place – it’s a private kitchen.  But then the accreting creep of HK disappointment took the steam out of that for me as well, realising that private kitchens were often a pain in the ass to book, food which is often inconsistent in quality and even when they claimed ‘no corkage’, you ended up getting stung for it when they didn’t actually have a liquor licence. In my quest to Journey to the East (because fuck, the Journey to the West is so played out), I rounded up some of my East side homies to check out Little Kitchen HK in Sai Wan Ho.  HOLY FUCK, that’s like nine stations after Central.  I’ve been riding the East so fucking hard at the moment, so much so that I’m even obnoxiously giving the suburbs unbearable hipster names like “Nopo” for North Point and “Sai Ho” for Sai Wan Ho.

Little Kitchen is a small, straight forward dining room, sitting 24 guests with no bullshit first / second sitting palava.  The open kitchen sits in one corner, so you can see Chef David Forestell and his crew doing their thing.  He’s observant as all hell too and at one point when I’m just looking around to see what’s going on, he asks if we need anything or had any questions.

Little Kitchen has a strict BYOB policy and truly doesn’t charge corkage.  If you’re an alcohol bitch like me and have similarly lush homies, this is gonna be an exciting economic prospect.

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The deal is simple at Little Kitchen, Chef David runs a weekly menu consisting of a recommended four course set.  On the phone he let me know that if you wanted to change particular dishes or if there were any specific dietary requirements, he could make changes (although a surcharge would apply).  The weekly menu is posted on their website and their FB page and provides for Firsts, Nexts, Mains and Finish with a focus on seasonal ingredients.  Little Kitchen HK’s website claims “no specific dish will ever be repeated”, which means, how much point is there really for me to step you through what we had there?

While we wait for our food, we smash through some fuck yeah multi-grain bread made by Bread Elements.  Everyone already knows that I have a rock hard boner for Bread Elements bread, so I take this as a promising omen of good shit to come.  I didn’t even know it was Bread Elements bread at the time, but when I got home I messaged them to ask if they were on the bread supply to Little Kitchen HK because I almost automatically assume that any time I get decent bread in HK that it’s done by those fuckers.

The Little Kitchen HK menus are described in quite an idiosyncratic manner. For example, the pork rillettes are described as “Rillettes, Meaty Softness, Vegetable Confetti, Tiny Sparks of Colours, Toasted Croutons, Like We would Forget?” where Vegetable Confetti refers to a fine dice of carrots and celery. However, my favourite dish of the night was the Main course, the “Scottish Salmon, Cold-water Farmed, Long Leeks, the Real Deal from France, Lemon Beurre Blanc, Touches of Herbs and Wine”.  The salmon was tender as fuck and each element carefully thought through, I wanted to rub my face into this dish so I could capture every last bit of the Lemon Beurre Blanc because it was so carefully nuanced, balancing the lemon, butter and white wine into major fuck yeah times.

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Our Finish (aka dessert) was the “Panna Cotta Milk meets Cream, Rhubarb Explorations, Stalks of Wonder, Warm Madeleines, a feat of Single Minded Foolishness (but tasty nonetheless)” and it’s fucking delicious.  Little Kitchen HK also gives everyone a small take away bag of chocolate sable cookies with a touch of sea salt to take home which is a real nice fucking touch and gives me something to remember our meal the next day.  As we’re finishing up, they also gave us a complimentary cup of mint tea. So thoughtful! So earnest!!

I think ultimately what I really fucking enjoyed about Little Kitchen HK is that this is clearly the singular vision of Chef David and he’s producing a weekly menu which he’s passionate about and driven by what’s seasonally working.  Service was quiet and efficient, I wouldn’t have minded a bit more explanation on what we were eating but that’s just because I’m a pretentious as fuck asshole who loves to know the wanky details of where my food grew up and who were its best friends.  But for someone that’s looking for a heart felt experience, perhaps a small dinner with four friends or an intimate casual date where you can BYOB, I’d most definitely put Little Kitchen HK on your list.  Depending if you can get your insular, parochial west-side homies to leave the common as fuck embrace of Sai Yung Pun / Sheung Wan and get their gentrified asses to Sai Wan Ho.

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Verdict:
Fuck yeah!! I BELIEVE IN YOU WEST SIDE HOMIES, you can most definitely travel to the East.

Where:
Noma Australia
23 Barangaroo Ave
Barangaroo, Sydney, Australia

Price:
AUD485 (USD372 / HKD2,890) per person (with the matched wines clocking in at AUD215 (USD165 / HKD1,280).

The deal:
The omnipotent reputation and weight of Noma is crushing. So much so that Noma can announce that it’s going to leave its digs in Copenhagen, Denmark and spend 10 weeks in Sydney, Australia and even with the eye watering price tag and not knowing exactly what this will entail, a throng of eager punters crushed the servers and snapped up all of the available tickets in mere minutes and then 27,000 wannabe customers piled onto the waitlist in the faint hope that someone might give their golden ticket away. Through some judicious planning which involved a coordinated syndicate of food obsessed assholes agreeing to target certain dates and table sizes, I was lucky enough to secure a booking for a table of eight and planned an international trip to Sydney around it.

Our booking was for Noma Australia’s third last night in town and I’d tried to stay on a relative media blackout, spotting the occasional picture online but resisting the urge to read the write ups so I could approach it without any preconceptions. Arriving just as the Sydney sun was slipping away over the harbour, we sit outside on the wooden table and benches as Noma’s waitstaff efficiently flit around and sort us out with an aperitif, their take on the Snakebite as we have a clear view of their chefs preparing various components in both their inside and outside kitchen. The choice of the Snakebite sets an indicative humorous tone which pervades some dishes, playing on a drink which traditionally is a blend of cheap beer and cider (sometimes with the addition of red cordial to hide the alcohol related atrocities which lurk below), favoured by young Australians who don’t know better other than they want to get wasted as quickly as possible. In this rendition though, it’s a cider / beer inspired blend made by Ashley Huntington of Two Metre Tall in Tasmania, using a combination of a seven year old ale, a two year old apple cider, a two year old pear cider and young soured ale, which is lightly effervescent and highly drinkable. I guess old Australian drinking habits die hard because I could have easily finished off a bottle of this.

Even at the end of ten weeks just as the Australian summer turns itself into autumn, the staff show not a shred of apathy and in fact seem to be beaming from their time in Australia, forming a guard to greet every table as they pass through the entrance and hold me back, René Redzepi himself is front and centre greeting guests with a beatific smile. I resist all urge to lunge towards him to grab a tuft of his hair to sew into my deranged voodoo chef doll which enjoys foraging and exploring the boundaries of local produce and instead smile politely and try to act like oh hay, no biggie, it’s just René welcoming me into motherfucking NOMA AUSTRALIA.

The Foolscap Studio designed dining room is straight forward and simple, taking cues from the Australian outback as well as Noma’s Danish heritage, with the art work taking inspiration from the ochre hued Australian landscape and the placement of several native blackboy grass trees. The Carl Hansen & Sons wooden tables and chairs have been shipped in from Denmark with the occasional wallaby fur pelt strewn across the back of a chair and a purposefully tousled bouquet of Australian foliage and flowers sitting in the centre of every table. There’s thirteen courses (ten savoury courses and three desserts) and no written menu is presented, with each course and the provenance of all the locally sourced ingredients explained by the enthusiastic staff at the beginning of each course.

The first tasting dish is the unripe macadamia and spanner crab, which uses thin slices of green macadamia nuts in a clear, chilled spanner crab consommé with a touch of rose oil. Served in an earthen stoneware bowl surrounded by ice, our waiter lets us know that it took the Noma team three days and several knives to figure out how to prise an unripe and stubborn macadamia from its shell. The sweet green macadamia is reminiscent of a firm water chestnut, playing well with the cool, sweet spanner crab consommé with only a hint of the floral rose peeking through.

The wild seasonal berries flavoured with gubinge (Kakadu plum), is a plate of native berries (including lillypillies, lemon aspen and muntries) and pickled lemon myrtle buds.  It’s beautiful as fuck, all pale pinks, greens, creams and yellows with the white powder of a Kakadu plum dusted all over. It’s an intense mix of sweet against sour, astringent and salty flavor profiles, the Kakadu plum powder reminding me of how the Taiwanese use plum powder on their pineapple or apples, to get that same fuck yeah salty and sweet flavor contrast.

The porridge of golden and desert oak wattleseed with saltbush looks innocuous enough, consisting of three saltbush leaves which are used to wrap a porridge made from two types of wattleseeds which have been boiled for hours to crack their tough outer seed cases, topped with a green oil made from anise myrtle. A finger lime and its caviar like insides is squeezed over this dish to cut through all the verdant flavours and nutty tones and this is the first dish of the night which knocks me the fuck over. I was the slowest person on my table to eat this dish because I wanted to understand every part of it on its own and all together and by the time I’d done this, I’d already eaten two of the three parcels, so I had to slow the fuck down so I could fully process what the fuck was going on in the final saltbush parcel as I declared multiple times that I was having a serious fuck yeah moment.

The seafood platter and crocodile fat, is five shellfish that are perched across smooth river rocks and topped with shards of chicken stock skin (imagine the film that forms when you roast a chicken and the oil drips to the pan and you allow that to cool slightly) painted with crocodile fat that look like the rock pools that dot our Australian coastline. I have no reference point for what crocodile fat should taste like and while the shards are interesting, it’s really all about the sweet simple flesh of the clams, mussel, pippi and oyster.

The WA deep sea snow crab with cured egg yolk comes with the René Redzepi’s claim that he thinks that this deep sea snow crab from Albany, located on the southern coast of Western Australia is one of the best in the world and it’s impossible not to feel some sort of patriotic pang of pride that this is Australia punching out its best on the global crab stage. This dish is fucking spectacular, the barely warm flesh of the snow crab just picked from its shell is mixed with an egg yolk which has been cured in kangaroo garum (fermented sauce made from kangaroo mince, which Noma started making back in October), rice koji (a fermented culture fed on rice, kept in a warm place)  and smoked butter. To mix this warm, sweet delicate meat with the cured egg yolk feels reminiscent of the salty egg yolks that you’ve had in Hong Kong, but topped with this barely there fish-sauce like note from the fermented kangaroo meat and koji creates something you’ve never had before but with a few familiar reference points.

That’s not to say that it’s all ecstatic rapture and the unbelievable swelling of new flavours. Noma’s take on the Australian tradition of the meat pie is made from dried scallops and topped with nasturtium flowers. The pie itself is a kelp crust, filled with nasturtium stems, topped with a brown, viscous and slightly grainy, sticky frozen topping made from combining dried Tasmanian scallops together with beeswax and elderflower oil.  Unfortunately, it reminds me of the brown grease that drips from my rangehood when it’s overdue for a clean. This is eaten with two accompanying yellow and orange nasturtium flowers (the earlier sittings at Noma ate this with a lantana flower), their peppery sharp flavour cutting through this greasy, rich scallop chilled fudge like paste but I’m unable to fully shake the smell of stale oil from my rangehood.

The next three courses are the BBQ’d milk ‘dumpling’ with marron and magpie goose, the simply named truffle and avocado and the sea urchin and tomato dried with pepper berries. The ‘dumpling’ uses a crispy milk skin crepe to wrap together a barely cooked marron (a small Australian lobster-like crustacean) with the meatier punch of the gamey magpie goose, all wrapped together in a nasturtium leaf. I’ve never eaten magpie goose but understand that it’s a bird from the Northern Territory that’s almost regarded as a pest given its predilection for eating mangoes.  The truffle and avocado is a single slice of creamy avocado, topped with a black truffle ragout which is a simple fuck yeah interlude from all the layered, complex dishes before it. To reset the palate for the final savoury course, it’s a clean and fresh fuck yeah dish of Tasmanian sundried bush tomatoes, dehydrated for eight hours, topped with subtle Southern NSW sea urchins from Ulladulla and a broth made from native pepper berries (with shades of the Sichuan pepper) and elderflower oil.

The final savoury course is one of my absolute fuck yeah favourites of the night, Noma’s take on the Australian pub meal, the abalone schnitzel with bush condiments. Or as it’s more affectionately known in Australia, the schnitty. Served with a knotted bouquet of Australian green herbs (including Warrigal Greens), Kakadu plum, nuts (palm nut, Atherton Oak Nut), an assortment of seaweed (sea fennel, glass beads and Neptune’s Necklace), a stem of mat rush and the tiniest half of a native Australian sandpaper fig. The abalone has been crumbed and fried, after some sort of complicated cooking technique applied to it, to make an otherwise chewy shellfish into something tender.  The schnitty is fucking great on its own but by combining a bite of this schnitty with the Australian accoutrements is when it transcends fucking everything.  It’s the sweet, young slightly starchy stem of the mat rush. The grassy bouquet of green herbs which cut through the fat of the schnitzel and smash you in the face. The finger lime makes another appearance with its acidic, citrus pearls bursting in your mouth to cut through the fried schnitzel and the green notes. I want to eat this dish again just so I can really get my head around all the fuck yeah Australian foliage and seaweed magic that was happening on this plate.

The next three dessert courses have been much discussed by the press and it’s easy to see why given the green ants on fruit and the highly photogenic riffs on the Australian classics, the lamington (a chocolate and desiccated coconut covered sponge) and the Golden Gaytime ice-cream (a toffee and vanilla ice-cream dipped in chocolate and wrapped in honeycomb biscuits, on a wooden popsicle-stick). ice-cream.  The first fruit based dessert, marinated fresh fruit, is simple, a piece of mango wrapped in a palm leaf and topped with small dried green ants, and a cube of pineapple and watermelon all set on ice.  I wryly smile to myself as I think about how instead of getting food for ants, I’m actually getting food with ants.  As you can expect, each piece of fruit is intense and represents a best in class example of that fruit, with the dried green eats tasting exactly as you’d imagine if you’ve ever squashed an ant.

The rum lamington is all white, an airy piece of cake which is pumped full of Black Head Rum made just north of Sydney, with the “coconut” made from grated solidified milk, sitting in a red pool of native tamarind which isn’t as sour as the tamarind I’m used to.  The native tamarind sauce cuts through the sweetness as the lamington dissolves to nothing in your mouth. While tasty it’s not knock your lights out delicious and relies more on its story and reference to what a lamington is.

The final course is the peanut milk and freekah “Baytime”, which looks like a little a mini-rustic Magnum ice-cream, with its riberry stick instead of the traditional wooden paddlepop.  The ice-cream component has been made from a raw peanut milk and there’s a caramel centre, before it’s coated with a freekah glaze, that gives it the appearance of the chocolate coating of a Golden Gaytime.  Freekah is an ancient grain which Noma have roasted until it’s dark and in the glaze, it tastes like a deep, roasted grain with some chocolate overtones (even though there’s no chocolate in it).  It’s fun and interesting, a humorous and earthy nod to an Australian ice-cream icon but not a blockbuster dessert on its own.  With the food all done, we go outside to take our final digestifs and René makes the rounds to the remaining tables outside, stopping in to say hello (although he didn’t make it to our table), before we leave to literally and mentally digest everything that’s gone before.

When I got home that night, I actually couldn’t sleep because I was too busy trying to process exactly why I had this downright, primal and visceral reaction to this meal. The feeling when your heart can’t even fit your chest and you shake your head because you can’t figure out why did this meal resonate in every part of your being?  And then days later, with some furious internal workshopping as to why this moved my internal needle so much, I slowly began to pull together the more nebulous threads to why Noma Australia felt so personally Australian. Because sure, at first glance the Australian connection is so fucking obvious, it’s the madness of René Redzepi and his globally sourced Noma team coming to Australia to seek out these indigenous ingredients which Australia itself doesn’t use with regularity and then making that work within some sort of commercial context.  It’s the subtle nod to Australian food icons such as the lamington or the meat pie. But then it’s the realisation that for all these new ingredients and highly technical preparative techniques what lodges it in my psyche is the association to personal shit that you know from actually growing up in Australia:

It’s the bunch of native Australian herbs with the schnitzel, which hit you in the back of your throat like the smell of freshly mown grass because fuck, we had the luxury and privilege of lawns in Australia.

It’s the quarters of lillypillies in the wild seasonal berries assortment that you remember from the novelty of being able to eat something that looked like a tiny pale pink apple, straight from the tree in your backyard as a kid.

It’s the verdant, fragrant oils distilled from Australian foliage used in the saltbush wattleseed porridge that remind you of the eucalyptus and lemon myrtle leaves you’ve picked when you’ve been in the Australian bush on school camp and crushed them between your fingers, to leave that green smell of fresh gum trees on your fingers that will never as long as you’re alive will remind you of anything other than Australia.

It’s the shellfish nestled in the smooth river rocks which throw you back to that time you were under the almost surreal azure skies and poking around the crystal clear rock pools of some remote part of Australia’s jagged coast line where every rock you moved with a stick saw five things move the fuck away from you.

It’s the use of nasturtium flowers and stems which remind you of how nasturtiums used to grow almost like weeds in your backyard and eating the flowers as a kid before you spat them out in sheer disgust, wondering why anyone would ever want to eat these stinky, peppery pungent flowers (and now look at you, you’re paying hundreds of dollars for the privilege).

It’s the smear of black truffle ragout on a piece of avocado which you already think FUCK YEAH AUSTRALIA because of the dire avocado situation in Hong Kong. But the truffle ragout paste is black and filled with vaguely yeasty and umami tones giving you some poshed up fancy as fuck take to all the avocado toast with a smear of Australia’s real black gold, Vegemite, that you’ve devoured in this lifetime.

It’s the delicate strand of glass bead and Neptune’s Necklace seaweed which burst in your mouth and remind you of the sargassum seaweed balls that you popped between your fingers when you were down at the beach on school holidays.

It’s when you eat the zingy green ants perched on the mango for dessert which while you’ve never eaten ants before, the taste reminds you of sitting on some warm lawn, the tiny stinging bites of these anty fuckers and the smell of the sharp formic acid after you’ve crushed their feeble bodies against your legs.

So you take this body of personal Australia experience and process that against the fact it’s been a Danish chef who’s shown it to you and then you set that against everything that’s conspired to let you be there, to have this in your existence. Getting the tickets to Noma Australia. Having the time and means to get your ass to Sydney to effectively have dinner. With everything lined up, you then get to have a dining experience which speaks so uniquely to what you know as an Australian and then expands upon that by showing you all sorts of shit you didn’t even know. Noma Australia moved me in a seriously major way and it crystallised everything I fucking love about food and eating.

Because what is better than food that moves you? Food where absolutely everything on that plate has been pored over and deliberated on to be a distillation of what a chef is passionate about, what he truly believes in and presenting this fucking incredible innovative take on unconventional ingredients and still make the sum greater than its individual parts. Where in the ensuing days and weeks, you’re still trying to fucking figure it out in your head as to why it was such a fucking potent experience? I eat so much all the time but I’ve never had an experience which has thrown up so many thoughts and questions days later. I desperately want to know every single thing and detail behind this meal so I can better understand how Noma ended up at this final point for their Australian menu and how did they distil so much of this fucking amazing country into thirteen plates of food.

This was a meal which at the time it hits you in the chest with the impact of something totally fucking new but then pulls you in by the shoulders, to kiss you softly on the forehead with familiarity and nostalgia.

And with that, I will never forget you Noma Australia.

Verdict:
ALL THE FUCK YEAHS EVER.

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