Fuck Yeah

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.

Where:
Soo Viet
247 Des Voeux West
Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2858 1855 (I don’t think it’s a booking kind of place though)

Price:
Mr Judgmental and I got out at HKD110 each, but he’s also a remorseless eating machine who forces me to be a better person.  Other people will probably spend less than HKD100 per head.  No service charge.

homerdonuts

The deal:
One of my loyal FYN homies chimed in on the Fuck Yeah Noms FB post (fuck yeahhh, like that good shit already) regarding my FYN review of Pho Bar and gave up the secret regarding the existence of Soo Viet.  She expertly claimed that while the pho was good at Soo Viet, the real star was the bun bo hue, which required you to pre-order it as this gave the restaurant enough time to prepare the stock and get their asses down to the wet market for the right ingredients.  This of course sent me into a frenzy and I messaged Soo Viet to find out how I could secure bun bo hue for lunch time and was given the fuck yeah news that they now have enough supplies to have bun bo hue on offer all the time.

Mr Judgmental and I sit down in the tiny restaurant and experience some confusion as to why they’ve chosen to feature prominently a massive blow up poster of an article for when the Soo Viet owner used to be the bar manager of Xperience, a bar in Wan Chai.  The menu is extensive and things are quite ambiguously named, so we narrow our choices based on what was deemed worthy of a photo and some chats with the owner.  This is how we end up with a fuck yeah serve of the SOO Viet Egg Roll (HKD43) (cha gio), fried pork spring rolls which you wrap in lettuce leaves, Vietnamese mint and mint, before dipping it in a sharp vinegar and fish sauce based dipping sauce.  I’m always partial to a bit of deep fried action and I can’t help but think that Le Garcon Saigon probably serve something similar but charge you HKD168 for it.  These fuck yeah spring rolls do go someway in easing our disappointment that the SOO Viet Ban Xeo Crepe (HKD55) is only available at night.

Mr Judgmental insists that our incoming two bowls of noodles is insufficient for our daily carb requirements and orders a Soo Viet Banh Mi (HKD42).  It’s tasty enough with the standard mix of pate, Vietnamese pork sausage, pickled daikon and carrots and coriander.  It’s all served on a baguette which hits a good balance between a soft inside and a crusty exterior, but not so fucking crusty that you end up with some sort of eating related injury by cutting your mouth up to shit. I won’t make bold claims that it’s the best banh mi in HK but I wouldn’t tell you that you need to definitely get involved either.

We predictably get a serve of Soo Viet’s pho, which is titled as the Soo Viet Noodle Soup (HKD65) and is your mega-serve of rare beef pho with all the trimmings (beef balls, tripe and Vietnamese sausage).  It’s tasty and I enjoyed it a lot but it falls more in the category of quick and easy beef pho vs the delicious as fuck, rich stock of Pho Bar which has been created with the deep, slow cooked pho stock concept in mind.  In fuck yeah times though, there is a generous serve of beef, tripe and other ingredients which has gotta rate for some points because there’s nothing sadder when you eat two measly slices of beef and half a beef ball and realise that you’ve come to the end of your “deluxe” pho experience and it’s just mint stalks, rice noodles and stock from here on in.

But it’s when we get to the off-menu, Hue specialty, the bun bo hue (HKD50) that shit really gets real.  We tried to quiz our waitress to find out if there were other off-menu items that we needed to get involved with but she assured us that this was it.  A bun bo hue is a spicy soup made by boiling down beef bones with lemongrass, baby bird eye chillies and fermented shrimp paste (mam ruoc).  When compared to a pho it’s got more of a sour, spicy jive to it and then uses a firmer round rice noodle vs the standard flat rice noodle.  Soo Viet don’t skimp on the ingredients and top this noodle bowl with beef shank, basil, coriander, fresh onions, shallots, Vietnamese sausage and lemongrass.  There’s also thinly shredded purple banana blossoms which Soo Viet fly in from Vietnam, rather than taking the easier option of just substituting in the cheaper and more readily available red cabbage.  The stock and the beef shank is really where it’s at though and the mix of flavours from the spice from the chillies, the deep beef stock and the fermented shrimp paste creates some real fuck yeah feelings for the bargain price of only HKD50.

opramindblown

So as it turns out, the best fuck yeah dish we had at Soo Viet is the one that isn’t on the menu.  This is where I am always and forever grateful for my benevolent and kind FYN homies who share the love and wanna keep me in FUCK YEAH NOMS.  And now all of us can share in Soo Viet’s bun bo hue fuck yeah secrets.  So to my best FYN homies, let it be known that always and forever, my love will run deep for you – cause my FYN homies clearly are the BEST FUCK YEAH HOMIES.

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhhhhh! Cheap and tasty as fuck Vietnoms – most importantly, I’m still dreaming about the bun bo hue.  Yeah, you Sai Ying Pun assholes are most def gonna be into this good shit.

Where:
Okra (fuck yeahhhh, absolutely useless HK restaurant websites)
110 Queen’s Road West
Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2806 1038 (but they don’t take bookings, but more on the reservation bullshit later).

Price:
HKD500ish for the food per person.  HKD660 per person including sake.  The bill very clearly states that the 10% service charge goes directly to OKRA’s staff.

The deal:
Chef Max Levy has recently opened up OKRA in Hong Kong, after establishing OKRA in Beijing.  If you read the press, it’s often mentioned that Chef Levy was the only non-Japanese sushi chef at Sushi Yasuda in New York.  OKRA Hong Kong is currently in soft opening and after hearing some good shit around the traps and seeing all the Instagram #foodie #foodporn shiz, I decided to get my ass down to its small, 12 seat restaurant with a few standing tables that can accommodate two to three people each in Sai Ying Pun.

When I emailed OKRA Hong Kong to ask about bookings, I received a polite and swift response that they don’t take bookings, but given their location they were fairly confident that I should get a seat.  However, another homie gave me the low down that when he’d emailed OKRA Hong Kong about bookings he’d received a detailed email about how they only take bookings for 6pm and you have to do the tasting menu.  Like thanks a lot you OKRA assholes, that’s just fucking dandy for anyone that may have a J-O-B and can’t get their weary ass down to Sai Ying Pun for super early stupid o’clock dinner times.  Seeing as I’m suffering from a crushing case of Jobitis, I resigned myself to the no booking scenario, arriving at OKRA Hong Kong around 8pm.  We were politely told that our hopes of getting a counter seat were pretty much a big fat zero given that they were five parties ahead of us (even though no one was sitting at the counter yet) but we were welcome to eat at one of the standing tables.  Fuuuuuuuck, I get it, reservations are a pain in the goddamn ass for restaurants because customers are flakey, tardy dickwads who often don’t even have the decency to call up to cancel but FUCK, as a responsible customer who never ditches a booking, it still gnaws at my inner being that I am the one who is reaping the failed crop of no-seat-uncertainty sown by rude as fuck doucheknuckles who can’t keep bookings. Taking a more positive view, at least we didn’t have to wait to get a standing table but real talk, this sad sack of bones, blood and fat barely held together by some skin is not built for endurance sports like eating an entire meal standing up.

mjfrustrated

I calm my rattled no-booking nerves by ordering a bottle of the Kaze No Mori Nama Akitsuho Muroka Nama Genshu Junmai sake (HKD418 + 10% service charge), after some considered discussion with our fuck yeahhhh, friendly as fuck waitress.  She promises a light effervescent fizz to it and the aroma of dried yuzu peel, green banana and fresh bamboo while giving us some nice chat about the Akitsuho rice that’s used to make it from Nara.  It all makes sense and with the green banana note resonating the loudest, I try not to glare too enviously at all the seated, comfortable OKRA homies, enjoying the privilege of a chair while eating dinner.

OKRA’s menu is split into an A-side (smaller eats) and a B-side (slightly larger), with the a recommendation printed at the top to essentially order one A and one B per person.  I interrogate my waiter and he brims with unbridled delight when he talks about the food while he makes some thoughtful recommendations, which makes me pretty fucking excited for my meal. Fuck yeahhhh, waiter homies who give a fuck.

Our first dish is the Carabinero Prawn Soup (HKD78 +10% service charge) which our waiter recommended not only for the sweet, delicate flavour of the red Spanish prawn but also the fact that OKRA smoke their own Buddha’s hand (a citrus fruit that looks like a yellow claw) and then incorporate it into a dashi stock, which is poured over the prawn.  He does point out that a reason he likes it is because it “makes a cool photo”.  Ohhh, cause that’s why I order dishes:

kanyecoolphoto

However, when our dish arrives we realise that while the menu claims is “Red Spanish prawns with smoked buddha’s hand dashi” it was clearly not drafted by some particular as fuck pedantic asshole because it’s a singular prawn chilling out elegantly in a no doubt, carefully selected ceramic bowl.  Which surprised us a bit, given that the menu claims that ALL dishes are built for sharing and at no point did our waiter point out that perhaps we should order three prawns, given that there’s three of us eating.  While I’m not that into photos, I was definitely into this sweet, sweet prawn which we dissected into three pieces, its sweet, raw body gently cooked by the hot dashi broth that is poured over it.

Our serve of Sashimi Ume (HKD178 +10% service charge) is the closest to a traditional Japanese dish that we ate all night and consists of “three types of fish” from Fukuoka and is everything you can hope for from sashimi.  I bristle at the menu drafting because I am a pedantic asshole, as one of the sashimi items is a cherry prawn.  OKRA, Y U say fish when it’s a crustacean?! But inaccurate copy aside, it’s still fucking delicious and off the charts sweet, which I guess is more important than imprecise menu descriptions.

The Bafuni and Smoked Anchovies (HKD160 +10% service charge) was fucking magical, combining flavours that I’d never had before, even if it was firmly in food for ants territory.  OKRA Hong Kong use some shit hot bafun uni imported from Hokkaido and pair these creamy fuckers with paper thin slivers of salted buddha’s hand, anchovies, shredded pieces of tofu skin and shiso.  The anchovies are purposefully not particularly salty or strongly flavoured which allows each component to sit quiet and confidently in fuck yeah territory.  If only I’d had this entire bowl to myself instead of having to politely share it with my dining homies.

We move into the B-Sides and despite the claims of it being larger, I’m already contemplating the high chance that I’m gonna have to make a bang-bang stop after OKRA Hong Kong to ensure I’m not going to bed hungry.  The Unakyu Foie Gras (HKD238 +10% service charge) is a predictable fuck yeah because how can combining house made BBQ unagi (eel), honey miso duck liver and sanbaizu sauce (dashi, rice vinegar, soy sauce and mirin) not be major fuck yeah love?  The Roasted Beef Love Handle (HKD188 +10% service charge) also resonates with me and not just because I affectionately grab my own love handles while contemplating how this Black Angus Prime Chuck Tail Flap served with burnt olive oil and soy sauce is fucking delicious but how I deeply wish that my love-handled cow had really committed harder to being a fat fuck, so there’d be more fuck yeahhh roasted beef love handle for me to smash into my desperately wanting face.

The Unagi Fun (HKD168 +10% service charge) is a new menu item and it’s roasted eel over crispy sushi rice and pickles, which sounds simple as fuck but it’s executed perfectly.  I am still dreaming about the crispy sushi rice and the rich, just fatty enough, caramelised eel.  It’s at this point, I start to throw some serious shade at the menu’s claim that dishes are meant for sharing.  Maybe sharing between ants who fucking love precisely prepared and thoughtful Modern Japanese influenced cuisine?  Or perhaps for sharing between homies that don’t really eat and sustain themselves on a mixture of cocaine, cigarettes and black coffee?

As our waiter’s suggestion on the number of dishes to order was clearly off (perhaps because he isn’t a unrelenting eating machine like I am), we added some more dishes as I was still far closer to hungry than full.  We ordered a serve of the Hentai Quail Tatsuta (HKD108 +10% service charge) which sounded so fucking tiny on the menu, described as a “half baby quail marinated in a secret sauce of 2 herbs and spices and fried with preserved ginger and spring onion” but was tasty as fuck.  But let’s be real, after sharing this with three people, one-sixth of a quail is not really gonna make me the Mayor of Satiety Town.

However, my insatiable desire for MOAR FOOD paid off because if I hadn’t piled in for additional dishes, I would have missed out on the Chicken Fried Buri (HKD258 + 10% service charge).  I’m at imprecise menu drafting fever pitch now because there’s no actual chicken in this dish and it would be more accurately described as yellowtail fish/buri prepared in the style of fried chicken.  FYN Fun Fact:  Yellowtail is known as hamachi if it’s under three kilograms but it’s only when a yellowtail really commits to being a big fucker of at least five kilograms does it earn its big boy stripes as a buri.  

Japanese nomenclature aside, this dish was fucking unbelievable and it may be one of the best things I’ve eaten so far this year.  The buri is coated in a super thin, subtly spiced batter and deep-fried til it’s all crunchy and shit.  However, the buri is all white and still slightly cool and raw in the middle, served on top of a tangy, “crystal sauce”, grated fresh white daikon radish and some peppery micro-daikon sprouts.  I’m awash in fuck yeah feelings because this dish is just throwing multiple contrasting texture, temperatures and flavours at me and I’m feeling it so hard.  It’s the contrast of the temperature of the hot deep fried batter vs the cool middle of the buri.  It’s the contrast of the textures – fresh green micro-sprouts vs the buttery flesh of the buri vs the crispy batter.  It’s how all the flavours combine, the buri, piquant sauce, the batter, the peppery micr0-sprouts and the cool daikon radish.  All I know is that I’m caught in a tsunami of fuck yeah emotion and the tidal waves of buri love crash down upon me until I know that my life is now better for knowing this fuck yeah dish.

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After the epic chicken fried buri, I would have fucking loved a dessert to round off this meal and declare it THE END.  Unfortunately, OKRA Hong Kong didn’t have any sweeties going which meant that we flagged down the bill and went to find somewhere else for fuck yeah cocktails and chairs.

So when thinking about the whole deal, if not for the whole NO BOOKING palaver, I’d be so into recommending OKRA Hong Kong because these cats are doing something which they clearly believe in and are executing the fuck out of it.  The staff were passionate as fuck, knowledgeable and completed invested in making sure you were having a fuck yeah time  The food was so fresh and while clearly Japanese in origin was modern but utilised subtle flavours or techniques which were additive to the experience vs some sort of gauche frankenfusion bullshit mish mash which tries to drag well established cuisines into something imaginative.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah for the inventive but tiny food but fuck no with the no bookings unless it’s at 6pm reservations policy.  I’m just too old and lazy to be messing around with that hipster, no booking bullshit.  But trust me, when the omakaze-style private dining room opens upstairs and I can make a glorious and certain booking, I’ll be most def rounding up some like-minded homies to check OKRA’s shit out and see what else they can do.  I just wanna do it from a seat and without the chance that I’m on my feet for the whole meal or even worse, desperately combing the backstreets of Sai Ying Pun with a furious hunger in my belly,  searching for a Plan B because I got jammed at OKRA.

Where:
Warung Malang
2/F, Dragon Rise, 9-11 Pennington Street
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

FYN Hot Tip:  You have to walk up the stairs to the second floor.  If you’re catching the MTR and if you really want to up your Causeway Bay game and reduce time in the hell hole that is Causeway Bay Station, make sure to catch Car 2, Door 2 if you’re coming in from the Central direction and take Exit F (Hysan Plaza).  FYN HOMIES, RULES FOR LIFE – DO NOT TAKE EXIT A (TIMES SQUARE).  NEVER TAKE EXIT A.

Phone:
+852 2915 7859 (I don’t think it’s a booking kind of place though).

Price:
We got out at around HKD175 a person but this was for a DISGRACEFUL amount of food.  A random old lady actually stopped us halfway through our meal, mouth agog to comment on how much food we’d ordered.  I was so fucking full that I thought I might actually explode into a million pieces and my natural breathing was impeded for hours after this meal.  I estimate that most normal people (or even a very greedy cunt) in a group of 4+ could probably spend around HKD100 and still be really fucking satisfied.

The deal:
So after seven months from the horror that was Afrinoms at Chungking Mansions, Mr Judgmental convinced me that it was time to climb back aboard the Ghetto Eats train and to track down some fuck yeah Indonoms. With some apprehension pounding in my cholesterol ridden heart, we walked up some grim stairs past some non-descript doors and found Warung Malang.  With one wall lined with Muslim literature and the other with a small assortment of Indonesian snacks, we suss out the eating deal to the blare of an Indonesian drama playing on a TV.  There’s a number of Indonesian helpers in the restaurant which we only take as a fuck yeah indicator that there should be some good Indonoms on offer.  However, I gotta sound the warning if you’re the type of sensitive homie who can’t deal with greasy floors and very basic, gritty old restaurants this is not gonna be your thing at all.

At Warung Malang, you place your order at the counter and they’ll call the dishes out as they’re ready for collection.  Mr Judgmental and I absolutely went for it and after surveying the menu, we declared almost every dish a must have and as we placed our order for a shit tonne of food we resolutely assured ourselves that “WE CAN HAVE IT ALL”.

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To make sure we were truly ready for Indo-nomageddon, we got our pre-game on with some room temperature pre-fried snacks which are chilling out in the open, on the counter.  I know a lot of my Western homies get all skeeved out by room temperature food but the Indos have got the lock on this pre-cooked food game so calm your farm, cause I promise that this room temperature shiz is gonna be ok.  Warung Malang provides a number of different chilli sambals on the table and that spicy shit is just so fucking righteous, rendering our fried tofu and corn fritter snacks to being mere carriers for a fucktonne of glorious sambal oelek (garlic, ginger, lemongrass, sugar and chilli) and sambal kecap (kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), chillies and shallots).

Our first dish arrives and it’s the Nasi Tempeh Penyet (HKD40).  Tempeh is generally favoured by vegan hippies, consisting of a steamed block of fermented partially cooked soybeans, with hardcore tempeh created through incubating that soybean shiz under a white fungus known as mycelia.  This process gives it a slightly sour, fermented flavour profile and for Nasi Tempeh Penyet purposes it’s then fried to crisp it up, served with more glorious fuck yeah chilli sauce and a serve of rice.  I dunno how to spin this fermented soybean mycelia shebangabang to you but trust me, it’s rad as fuck and you should most def get involved.

The dish I was the most excited about was the Nasi Soto Ayam (HKD45).  Soto Ayam is a slightly spicy, just sour enough soup with shredded chicken breast and clear mung bean vermicelli, the soup coloured yellow by turmeric.  Warung Malang’s Soto Ayam is one of the best I’ve had outside of Indonesia with a kick ass balance of sour and spice from a fuck yeahhh balanced mix of garlic, lime juice, Chinese celery, fried shallots, tamarind and lemongrass.  It was so fucking incredible that I even dared to go back to the fuck no maelstrom that is Causeway Bay on the weekend so I could get another bowl of this fucking glorious soto ayam.

It’s at this point we realise that we’ve made a schoolboy error by ordering everything with rice / nasi.  No shit, because you’ve probably realised that everything we ordered was prefaced by nasi.  The Beef Nasi Campur (HKD50) and the Nasi Goreng Spesial (HKD50) certainly didn’t let our carb laden hearts down and were both really fucking kick ass.  I fucking love a good fried rice and after all the posh HKD128+ fried rices I’ve been eating at trendy Thai restaurants with fake retro vintage ads for Thai soap, the Nasi Goreng Spesial was most def bringing me some spesial fuck yeah feelings with its well fried, shrimp filled rice  The only bummer was the overcooked fried egg sitting by the side which meant I couldn’t bring the really fucking spesial off the hook times by getting yolky with my fuck yeah nasi goreng.

On the satay front we went for the Sate Ayam (HKD110) and Sate Lamb (HKD140).  There’s a good char on both with the Sate Ayam kicking more goals than the Sate Lamb, given that the lamb satay is a little dry.  The satay sauce is also a solid fuck yeah, with a touch of kecap manis to give it a little bit of sweetness. I enjoyed the satay but I don’t think I’d order these again.

The only nasi misstep is the Nasi Ayam Goreng (HKD45).  It’s always gotta be one of the saddest times in my gourmand greedy guts fat fuck life when fried chicken lets me down.  Unfortunately, Warung Malang’s fried chicken is dried out, over fried and largely flavourless, with not even the chilli sauce of the gods being able to save this from fuck no territory.  We also ordered the Empek Empek Palambang (HKD50), which is not my jam at all because it’s giving me rojak feels.  I just have never gotten behind that rojak combination of cucumber, pineapple, belacan/shrimp paste, palm sugar and peanuts in that salty, sweet red hot mess.  The Empek Empek Palambang feels essentially like rojak poured onto instant noodles and it’s sweet, it’s pineappley and more importantly, just not my thing at all.

As six rice dishes wasn’t quite enough carbohydrates in my life, I rounded off my meal with some Indonesian dessert, a Kue Lupis (HKD7).  Kue Lupis is made with sticky glutinous rice coated with shredded coconut and with palm sugar syrup, with a touch of salt to bring some contrast.  It’s plain and straightforward but a fucking delicious way to end off one hell of a fuck yeah, successful Indonoms ghetto adventure.

As the glutinous rice from my kue lupis started to swell in my stomach, I took a moment to reflect upon just how fucking happy I was post this meal.  Taking in that fuck yeahhh feeling when you’ve just smashed something into your face which has been cooked with a fuck tonne of feeling.  It’s here that I reminisce on all the shitty, overhyped meals that I’ve eaten in some overdesigned faux-industrial space, just so I can be HKD1,000+ poorer and be part of a “Have you tried….” new bullshit restaurant conversation the next day. But fuck the pricetags, the hype and all that trendy bullshit, sometimes you just want to eat something that hits you in your soul and when the next day rolls around, you still smile and fucking feel it deep in your goddamn heart.

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Verdict:
FUCK YEAHHHHH! Wonderful Indonesia – I am most def into your delicious and well priced eats in CWB. TERIMA KASIH MY INDONOM HOMIES, I got dem soto ayam dreams running through my head.

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