Fuck Yeah

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.

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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:

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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.

Where:
Pho Bar
24 Li Yuen Street West (the alley next to where Topshop is)
Central, Hong Kong

Phone:
Unknown – but it’s not like you can book anyway.

Price:
Pho ranges from HKD68 – 88.  No service charge.

The deal:
Pho Bar is tucked away on Li Yuen West in between the cha chaan tengs and market stalls and if you’ve walked past it during lunch time it’s always absolutely rammed with an out of control line down the tiny alleyway.  I am not built for that queueing bullshit, so I decided to make this a weekend lunch attack going exactly at 11am when Pho Bar opens and dining nofriendo styleez.  Sometimes you just gotta cut your homies loose because sure, friendship and conversation is great but when you’re running a No Queuing for Pho Mission you can’t risk the chance of receiving some bullshit message of “OMG so sorry!!! Crazy night last night, I’m running half an hour late – is that ok? xo”.  NO MY TARDY HOMIE, R U PHO REAL? IT AIN’T OK YO.

Despite setting up position at 11am, Pho Bar were still sorting their shit out and only let my over-eager ass into the restaurant at around 11:15am.  Pho Bar only seats about 20 people (12 people down the counter and eight on two tables of four at the back) and its set up is simple.  You select your order by ticking off what you want on a piece of paper and I predictably went for the Supreme Combo (HKD88), which has all of the available toppings.  When placing your order, you also select what condiments you want on your pho, including mint, thai basil, bean sprouts, scallions, coriander, onion and fried garlic.  In case you want to, you can pay to add extra toppings including medium rare fillet mignon, beef shank, etc.  Unfortunately, there’s no option on tendon because I would have shipped that fuck yeah gelatinous connective tissue into my life ASAP.  Pho Bar also have a number of snacks on offer, including the presumptively named ‘bomb-ass karaage’ and house special fries and chicken wings (ranging from HKD24 – 38 each).

Pho Bar also caters for the NCCs (No Carb Cunts), offering the +HKD18 option to sub out your rice noodles for zucchini noodles.  It’s novel and I consider trying the zucchini noodles for at least 0.000001 seconds before I get a goddamn grip on my carb loving self.

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My Supreme Pho arrives and it looks really fucking good, topped with vibrant green coriander and thai basil, pristine white beansprouts and fried diced garlic.  There’s no sad-ass wilty, stringy herbs which is often a trademark of HK pho.  A pho has gotta earn its soup chops so it’s straight in and I found Pho Bar’s soup a touch underseasoned but that’s not fatal because once I added some fish sauce to taste and a little bit of lime, their soup stock hits its fuck yeah stride.  I’d prefer an underseasoned soup which I can fix rather than choking back a SO SALTY affair.  Word on the street is that Pho Bar boils their soup stock overnight and it shows with a good rich beef bone flavour and complexity from a combination of fragrant spices.

The Supreme Pho contains seven different types of meat – medium rare filet mignon, brisket, beef meatballs, tripe, oxtail, beef shank and Vietnamese sausage. It’s all pretty good but the stand out meat items for me were the brisket, tripe and beef shank.  But one stands above all and it’s Pho Bar’s fuck yeah oxtail.  While all the other meat in the pho are largely relying on the quality of their ingredients, what steps the oxtail up is it’s been boiled in stock and spices, so it’s delicately imparted with the flavour of star anise, cloves and cinnamon.  Yassssss, I could have most def eaten a pound of their beautiful fuck yeah oxtail but there’s only one precious piece.

All in all, everything really fucking worked together and you better believe that I drank all that fuck yeah soup and devoured every bit of pho that was in the bowl.  Best pho in HK? It’s a big claim but I think Pho Bar’s is definitely up there.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah! Get involved homies but travel in a small, nimble pack and get there early, cause a 12:30pm lunch appointment is not gonna fly at Pho Bar.

 

Where:
Mak Mak (FB Page)
Shop 217A, 2/F, Atrium, The Landmark
15 Queen’s Road Central
Central, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2983 1003

Price:
HKD430 per person including wine.

The deal:
Mak Mak is another Yenn Wong JIA Group restaurant which seem to be opening a restaurant in HK at least every two months, adding Mak Mak to its substantial stable of HK restaurants including 208 Duecento Otto, Chahchawan, 22 Ships and Fish School.  Mak Mak is on the second floor of the Landmark shopping mall, occupying the space where the Pringles of Scotland store was, which never had anyone ever fucking in it.  To keep shit interesting and I guess give it a talking point, Mak Mak have installed a SECRET DOOR which looks like a shelf containing condiments.   Omg guys, just fucking love when I’m going to a secret retaurant.  So much so that I’m thinking of opening my own new restaurant concept called “THE OPEN DOOR” which is going to have THREE secret doors disguised as a graffiti mural, an ATM and a dried seafood shop (the door lever will be a shark’s fin) and I’m going to serve all my curated food on secret doors and my curated cocktails in hollowed out secret door knobs. You better fucking believe it that when it’s time to leave you will need to navigate at least FIVE secret doors before you’re back outside. Fuck yeahhhhhh, clandestine door noms.

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Tired door related gimmicks aside, Mak Mak’s interior is predictably cool from the retro Thai posters, the cabinets of Thai sauces and ingredients, the hot pink neon OK sign and the stripped back concrete, lush green pot plants and sea-green glass.  We visited Mak Mak shortly after they opened and despite this, their staff were totally on their shit.  Fuck yeahhhh, restaurants which hit the ground running when they open.  Our smiling waiter efficiently took our order and when I pressed him for recommendations, he cheerfully reeled off what the most popular dishes were (ie. the beef curry) before I told him to cut the bullshit and give me what his favourite dishes were (ie. the Massaman Lamb Curry), which he knowledgeably spoke about.

As Mak Mak’s sister restaurant, Chachawan, is pumping out Issan Thai food this means that Mak Mak’s menu is green lit all the way to pick up the Thai food related slack by containing all the bog-standard Thai hits that we have come to expect such as green curries, red curries, green papaya salads, pad thai and stir fries.  I can’t begin to imagine how many fucking times punters must have asked the Chachawan waiter homies whether they can get a pad thai or a green curry.  There are a few plays on the classics in Mak Mak’s menu but I can’t deal with any of that originality and kick shit off with a dependable serve of the Pandan Chicken (HKD98 +10%) which is a solid appetiser and doesn’t make me suffer through the indignity of fuck no deep fried, stringy breast meat.

I have a soft spot for pad thai and whenever I order Thai food, I always get the pad thai.  I take this as a life lesson from all the times when I’ve ordered Thai food and I think ‘Fuck, I always get the pad thai, perhaps I should order the suea rong hai or the mu phat phrik khing for something different” and then BOOM you’re staring down a plate of crying tiger beef which is fine but you know deep down that all you really fucking want is that sweet noodly goodness and that’s where you go “FUCK! SHOULDA GOT THE PAD THAI!“. In fact, I’ve named this specific feeling in my life “Shoulda got the pad thai” for when you always order the same fucking dish and then, in the interest of changing shit up, you decide to order something new, only so you can be wistfully pining for your ye old faithful favourite dish.

Mak Mak’s pad thai is not fucking cheap, weighing in at HKD128 (+ 10% service charge). It’s served attractively with decent sized prawns, scattered with peanuts, bean sprouts, lime and coriander and an obligatory square of banana leaf.  The pad thai is serviceable enough, lacking a bit in the fuck yeah stir fried ‘wok hei’ taste of the wok feelings, but perhaps it’s because Mak Mak is so brand new and their woks haven’t had enough time in service yet or maybe the heat wasn’t strong enough.  But that’s only a small issue because fuck, my biggest criticism about Mak Mak’s pad thai was the total lack of actual pad thai because it’s fucking tiny.  Maybe I’m just a size queen, because at HKD128 I expect more than an appetiser sized serve of noodles which would work for maybe one to two people.

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Taking our waiter homie’s advice on board, we ordered the Massaman Lamb Curry (HKD208 +10% service charge) and it’s one of the best dishes we had on the night. Mak Mak use a slow cooked lamb shank which is accompanied by roasted baby potatoes, crushed peanuts and fried shallots.  The coconut cream based sauce is a fuck yeah, spiced with cardamon and cinnamon and the fish sauce and sweet tamarind sauce providing dem salty and sweet contrasting feels.  Mak Mak have some sort of bullshit plain rice arrangement where you can either have HKD30 unlimited rice per person or HKD30 per bowl.  I don’t quite understand how Mak Mak enforce this rice pricing system – like, if you order the HKD30 unlimited rice option per person, do you get slugged with another HKD30 if they catch a non-designated primary rice consumer taking a spoonful out of the bowl?  Either way, we avoid this awkward rice situation by ordering the khao op nam liab (stir fried jasmine rice with chicken, garlic and salty black olive – HKD108 + 10% service charge) which is tasty enough but really finds its purpose when it’s paired with the lamb Massaman curry sauce.

We also order  the kheaw wan poo nim (green curry soft shell crab, HKD228 + 10%).  I wasn’t onboard with ordering this dish because soft shell crab is normally just an exercise in being charged more for an underwhelming mushy, fried, flavourless crustacean.  But in an effort to let my fellow dining homies enjoy some democratic feelings every now and again, I acquiesced and let Mr Vegetables fulfil his desire to try the green curry soft shell crab.  Once it arrived, it was a stark reminder of why the Democratic People’s Republic of FYN is the best autocratic eating regime where everything is sunny and there is less disappointment for all.  The fried soft shell crab is greasy and relatively neutral in taste, which isn’t the end of this dish as the green curry sauce is flavourful enough to carry it.  But fuck, why bother with greasy-a$$ soft-shell crab when it could have been interchanged with fried chunks of plain batter for much the same effect? UGH ORDERING DEMOCRACY, YOU TASTE LIKE FREEDOM, SADNESS AND DISAPPOINTMENT.

Mak Mak very valiantly have an extensive vegetarian menu.  My token effort to trying this is a serve of the larb tofu salad (HKD88 +10% service charge), where the chicken or pork mince is substituted with tofu cubes.  Despite the lack of meat this dish still keeps its shit together by punching out some well balanced fuck yeah Thai fresh flavours with the mint, chilli, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and lemon grass.

As Mak Mak’s dishes are very modestly sized, if you have a group of four to six people you can try a decent selection of the menu.  We order a number of other dishes including the pla salmon (flash grilled salmon with a Thai dressing salad – HKD128 +10% service charge), red curry duck (HKD168 +10% service charge) and the whole steamed seabass (HKD268 +10% service charge) and each dish is absolutely down the line of fine but nothing that I’d say you definitely had to order.

For dessert there’s a few options and while it doesn’t push the envelope that much, we pile in for the mango and sticky rice and the Khanom Mak Mak trio (HKD98 and HKD118 respectively, +10% service charge).  The Khanom Mak Mak is glutinous rice cooked with sugar and coconut milk and then paired with three different toppings, wrapped up in banana leaves.  It’s all quite striking with the yellow mango set off against the green bamboo cones and the blue glutinous rice, which Mak Mak achieves through using dyeing their rice with pea flower.

FYN FUN FACT:  The butterfly pea / blue pea flower is used to dye food, in particular glutinous rice in Malay and Thai desserts.  The scientific name for the genus of the butterfly pea is Clitoria ternatea takes its name from “clitoris” because the flowers resemble the shape of human female genitals.  It’s a good thing I’m not a botanist because I totally would have suggested Cuntus ternatea but all of that aside, I see what they’re getting at:

Clitoria_ternatea_butterfly_pea_flower_at_Bhadrachalam_02

Sauce

Back on the Khanom Mak Mak, the mango topping is a reliable favourite and it’s the first to get smashed through at our table.  The other two toppings are one of fried shallots and a mixture of sun-dried fish and tiny prawns, giving it that savoury / salty mix with the fried shallots being slightly sweet, given the caramelisation of the sugar in the shallots during the frying process.  I’m into it, but if you’re not into that sweet, salty, fishy dessert combination than this dessert could be disastrous for you.

We flag down the bill and given the small dishes and how many we’d had to order, I was expecting a bill around HKD500-600 per person and was given a fuck yeah surprise of finishing up at HKD430 per person, including wine.  Our meal at Mak Mak would be best described as “very pleasant”, but there’s nothing here which grips me by my greedy as fuck heart and sees me imploring anyone I know who gives a fuck about food to put this on their list and get their ass down to Mak Mak pronto.  The very fact it’s taken me almost a month to write up this review is indicative of the lack of strong feelings this place elicits from me.  Mak Mak also suffers from the inevitable comparison to Chachawan and if you lined the two up and asked me to choose one, it’d be Chachawan every time which is just hitting it harder in the originality and flavour stakes.  Was it on Mak Mak’s vision board to be described as reliable, uncontroversial and achieving mass appeal?  Perhaps not, but I’m guessing there’s a spot for Mak Mak in HK as a convenient restaurant where everyone’s going to be happy enough at a fair price point.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah for mid-week casual dinners, dinner with the parents and early Tinder dates where you need an uncontroversial trendy enough venue that is producing solid food with fuck yeah service.  You’re probably not going to experience any life changing moments at Mak Mak but I don’t think that’s what they’re playing at either.

Where:
Osteria Felice
Shop 16-21 G/F Hutchinson House
10 Harcourt Road, Admiralty

FYN Hot Tip:  It’s accessible from outside Hutchinson House (not from within the building).  You’ll need to go to the corner, next to the Pacific Coffee on the Lambeth Walk side.

Phone:
+852 2516 6166

Price:
HKD1,100ish for two people excluding booze.  Note that we ordered enough for three to four people. I reckon you could probably get out for HKD300-400ish per person before booze with more sensible ordering.

The deal:
The Epicurean Group (the group behind any number of restaurants that none of you ever eat at – ie. Tim’s Kitchen, Xia Fei, Agave, Club 97 and Jimmy’s Kitchen) have recently opened up the Italian restaurant, Osteria Felice with minimal fanfare in the awkward Admiralty location, Hutchinson House. Osteria Felice has the veteran Executive Chef Brian Moore at its helm and is touting a  traditional Italian menu based solidly on no-fuss classics. Antipasto, pasta, pizza yassss are all things I can get behind.

Osteria Felice has taken up residence at the former site of Il Milione, the really OTT  bombastic gold filled Italian restaurant which outside of the press and the meaningless Michelin star, I never heard anyone IRL talk about ever.  Needless to say, I never ate at Il Milione because I could never find enough motivation to drop a big stack of cash to actually eat in an unnecessarily gilded though ultimately tacky Italian restaurant in Admiralty.  I sometimes wonder who even puts together these restaurant concepts? Like seriously, who thinks “You know what people in HK want?  They just wanna ball so hard over a bowl of pasta in Admiralty while basking in gold EVERYTHING. Fuck, let’s call it ‘THE MILLION’ in Italian and ship in a totally insane amount of gold fittings to make it feel more DECADENT!”.

Since these ill-conceived golden days, the Il Milione decor has been stripped down to something more accessible, keeping a clean well fit-out look with wooden oak parquetry floors and a large open kitchen at the back.  Osteria Felice is set up as half bar / half restaurant, with the bar portion relatively full of suits, presumably sucking back some after-work drinks to dull the arduous endeavour of working for The Man.  Given there’s barely anywhere to get a post-work drink around the immediate Central / Admiralty side of town, Osteria Felice should probably see some good trade here with a decent 2-for-1 happy hour from 5 to 8pm on certain drinks.

I firmly believe that any Italian restaurant worth its salt should be able to punch out a FUCK YEAH Negroni, so as I hustled my parched ass across Statue Square towards Hutchinson House, I put in an S O S emergency message to Sir Crunchalot, to ensure that I could hit my pre-dinner Negroni aperitif as soon as I got to the restaurant.  Sir Crunchalot reported back that Osteria Felice had a good looking selection of Negronis and his continual pursuit for luxury meant that he naturally ordered the most expensive one for me, the Barrel Aged Negroni which costs HKD150 (+10% service charge, versus the bog-standard HKD80 Negroni) which has been aged in an American charred new oak barrel for minimum 2 months.

When I get to the restaurant, we are the only customers eating in the dining room, but it’s an early weeknight just post-Christmas at a newly opened restaurant, so I don’t think this is necessarily indicative of their normal trade.  However, in far more upsetting news, despite the pre-ordering to ensure a running start on aperitif time, when I get to the table, my Negroni is nowhere to be seen.  I sit down while I feign some enthusiasm for trying out a new place, desperately trying not to let my Negroni-less disappointment ruin the entire meal.

kanyesmilefrown

Our waitress is efficient but not particularly chatty and as we lay down our order, there’s not much chat or background on the dishes.  It’s not long before our first antipasti is laid down on the table, the burrata and smoked sardine crostini (HKD265 +10% service charge).  I’m pretty excited as I’m a total hussy for burrata and Osteria Felice’s menu notes that they regularly ship the best mozzarella and burrata from around Italy to ensure optimum freshness for their customers.  When our burrata and sardine crostini arrive, I’m pleasantly shocked because my general experiences of crostini in restaurants, had led me to believe that crostini was Italian for miniscule pieces of crusty bread that allows restaurants to provide a scant amount of bullshit topping for an unfair amount of coin.  Osteria Felice’s crostini game is super tight, providing us with two decent slices of toasted bread, topped with a generous amount of creamy fresh burrata and a large smoked sardine fillet. The burrata is off the motherfucking chain and when paired with the just salty enough, smoked sardine fillet, I’m filled with deep love and an unfettered desire to be completely engulfed in this cream filled embrace forever.  Unnnnnnnnnnnnf, Osteria Felice’s burrata, you better believe that I want to bathe with you in some cheese:

savagegardenbathesea

Our second, generously portioned, starter arrives, the roasted bone marrow with grilled bread (HKD158 +10% service charge) which consists of three large half bones and it’s everything that you’d expect from the description.  The only thing that has me scowling at this point is that my pre-ordered Negroni still hasn’t arrived 25 minutes since the pre-order was put in and I bitterly cast my mind to Osteria Felice’s menu which had claimed “having an antipasto with an aperitivo is essential to having a good life” and my thirsty ass self is so desperate for my Negroni and this said promised good life. I chase this up and 10 minutes later, my aperitif arrives just in time for mains with not a single apology or facetious nicety attached to it which is some fuck no form. The barrel aged Negroni is solid but my judgment is too clouded by waiting so fucking long for my HKD150+ drink that I don’t feel I can pass an unbiased opinion.  Especially as a barrel aged Negroni really just needs to be poured into a glass.

There’s an extensive traditional Neapolitan pizza section, with most of them ranging from the mid to high HKD100s and we went with the Calabrese (spiced salami, eggplant, basil and smoked buffalo mozzarella, HKD198 +10% service charge).  Osteria Felice have some fancy as fuck electric oven which lets them bake their pizzas at a super high temperature in less than 90 seconds, in keeping with Neapolitan pizzas not being baked for extended periods of time.  The true measure of a Neapolitan pizza is always gonna be about the crust and it’s fucking great and exactly what I would expect from a Neapolitan pizza.  Fuck yeahhhh, I can get behind a thin sourdough base, slightly soggy in the middle and a dense, just charred chewy crust with the right amount of fuck yeah bite.  The toppings are well distributed and the combination of the tomato sauce, spicy salami, fresh basil and mozzarella cheese keep a good fuck yeah balance overall.  In a testament to the decent serving sizes at Osteria Felice, we had to box up half of this pizza to go which meant I got to test out what I feel is the true measure of a fuck yeah pizza – that is, how it reheats the next day.  Osteria Felice’s smashed this test with flying colours, as I made this the centrepiece of my nutritious and balanced fuck yeah breakfast the next day.

Our final dish was the roasted half duckling with grappa preserved cherry sauce (HKD388 +10% service charge). I’m normally fundamentally opposed to fruit and meat, in particular, feral as fuck apricot.  Like really, who wants that grainy ass sub-par ugly sister to a peach in a meat dish ever?  But I can deal with cherry with meat and the duckling was fucking rad.  The grappa preserved cherry sauce was bang on in its sweet-sour balance and resulted in fuck yeah times with the rich, tender duck.

One thing to note is that we ended up with a disgraceful amount of food for two people, which I can attribute to my low expectations on HK serving sizes given my experiences at every other new restaurant.  However, Osteria Felice are doling out super fucking generous serving sizes and what I described above could have easily fed four people.  Maybe it’s cause we look like a couple of greedy fuckers but I feel our waitress should have sounded some sort of warning.  For two people, one antipasto, half a pizza and a secondi / main would have been plenty.

FYN Artist impression of how I left Osteria Felice:

catfat

Italian food is so easy to hit the mediocre-to-boring mark as it relies so heavily on simple execution with red-hot ingredients.  But when it’s done well, it’s so fucking awesome and every dish we had at Osteria Felice was really well executed and it’s clear that there’s some high quality produce and ingredients underpinning their dishes.  It’s been awhile since I’ve been impressed by a pure Italian restaurant in Hong Kong and I’ve reflected quite a few times in the week post this meal about how much I fucking enjoyed it.  I definitely need to round up a decent number of solid nommin’ homies so I can properly smash through their menu and try their pasta as well.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah! My massively expensive, pre-ordered MIA barrel aged negroni escapades aside, I’m into Osteria Felice just punching out solid fuck yeah Italian food and giving me all dem burrata and pizza based feelings.  Will Osteria Felice survive its awkward Admiralty location though? I don’t know, but it’s well worth a look and I gotta get back for more fuck yeah burrata ASAP.

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