Central

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

Phone:
+852 3968 1106

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where:
Bun Cha Vietnamese Cafe & Restaurant (FB page)
Shop 1, GF King Ho Building
41-49 Aberdeen Street (just up from PMQ/Butchers Club Steak Frites)
Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

Phone: 
+852 2858 1900

Price:
HKD200ish a person including tip (no service charge) but we most def overordered.  Normal homies would probably get out at less than HKD200 a person. Hashtag, #thisiswhyimfat yo.

The deal:
One of the thing that has been a constant source of fuck no disappointment in HK has been Vietnamese food.  Yes, I know everyone fucking loves to line up outside Nha Trang / BEP and talk about how Vietnamese food is just ‘so fresh’ but fuck what people say, that HK Vietnamese shit is only just ok.  I just find HK Pho generally so fucking disappointing – the rice noodle selection is always fucking wrong (NO, HOR FUN/skinny rice noodles are the wrong fucking noodle) or overcooked and the soup always feels like inferior stock generally boosted by MSG and stock powder.  Call me fussy but I don’t think you can just throw in some raw slices of beef and some brownish tinged ‘fresh’ Vietnamese mint to turn a normal beef noodle into a ‘pho’.  Cut to me staring with anguish into a bowl of poorly executed pho as my heart yearns for the days of when I lived in Sydney and used to cruise on down to Cabramatta (where all the Aussie-Vietnamese homies are) where I’d get some serious fuck yeah pho by picking my restaurant solely based on who had the most Vietnamese homies in there.

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Bun Cha Vietnamese Cafe & Restaurant only opened about two weeks ago and my homie who lives close by tipped me off.  I rounded up Sir Crunchalot, Ms Two Serves and Ms Siuwaaan as we dared to dream that perhaps that this was gonna be the answer to all our HK Pho related problems.  There were some positive key leading authenticity indicators – I stalked their FB page which had awesome looking pictures of Vietnamese food, statuses where a Vietnamese wife was mentioned and messages where people were writing in VIETNAMESE.  When we arrived at Bun Cha we’d already seen the waiters look blankly at people who were talking Cantonese to them and after checking out their open kitchen, the kitchen staff are all jabbering away in Vietnamese.  Excitement levels were getting so hot it hurts and I couldn’t stand in the way of the Ms Two Serves and Ms Siuwaan Ordering Train who decided swiftly that we needed to try almost everything on the menu despite the large as fuck bowls we’d seen on the tables next to us.

Sadly, one of my Vietnamese food faves, the Banh Xeo (a crispy flour crepe filled with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts) was unavailable which meant that we had to start with the Ga xe phay (HKD68) as a token effort towards eating some vegetables. This salad is a mix of steamed chicken, finely shredded red cabbage and Vietnamese herbs and captures those classic fuck yeah Vietnamese fresh flavours by dressing this with a mixture of mint, coriander, lime juice, chilli, sugar and fish sauce.  The Tom Cuon fresh prawn spring roll (HKD68) was solid too but I found the Cha La Lot Luon (HKD68) more interesting.  Maybe because it was fried and we all know that fried food generally conquers unfried food but the Cha La Lot Luon was a grilled pork patty which was wrapped in a pepper leaf and all fried up together.  We also ordered a Banh Mi (HKD60), which holds a special place in my heart as being one of the best sandwiches of all time and it was one of the better ones I’ve had in HK – served warm, it was a good mix of grilled pork belly, liver pate, coriander and pickled vegetables, held together by a crusty roll and an ample amount of mayonnaise and butter.  I just can’t ever move past the best fucking sandwich I’ve ever eaten in my entire life which happened to be a Banh Mi in Hoi An, Vietnam at Tiem Banh Mi Phuong.  You should definitely fuck off that Sunday’s Grocer hipster gentrified Banh Mi bull$hit and get involved at Bun Cha instead.

However this was all just warm up for the Bun Cha and the Pho we had ordered.  A Bun Cha is a dish which originates from Hanoi and is traditionally some sort of grilled fatty pork (cha) mixed with thin white rice vermicelli noodles (bun), this is then mixed through with herbs and a thin, slightly sweet and sour sauce which combines chilli, fish sauce and vinegar which you pour over your noodles.  Due to a kitchen mistake, one of our grilled lemongrass pork roll orders arrived as a Bun Cha which meant our table of four was confronted with THREE massive bowls of bun cha (HKD68 each).  The grilled beef and pork each one was served it was a fuck yeah but once the meat was gone we were left with a shit tonne of noodle mixture with no more fucking delicious grilled meat to eat with it.

The Pho Bo (HKD68, Beef Pho) arrived and this is where shit truly got real at Bun Cha Vietnamese Cafe & Restaurant.  We devoured that bowl of pho as if we hadn’t eaten for days, only pausing to remark on how dreams really can come true.  FUCK YEAH, it’s possible to have pho in HK which has the RIGHT fucking noodles that aren’t a mushy disaster and the soup was full bodied and clearly the result of a proper stock base made from beef bones, charred vegetables and no lazy-ass powders or shortcuts.  Imma gonna declare it that this is the best fuck yeah pho I’ve had in the Kong and I think we told the staff at Bun Cha about 12 times before we left how fucking happy we were after eating their pho, eyes glistening with tears induced by superior fuck yeah beef stock.

Next to our table was a group of girls who were similarly so fucking happy with their pho and we chatted to them about how fucking awesome everything was.  One of them was ordering their food in Vietnamese so I can only assume that she knew more about Vietnamese food than myself.  We spotted that they had some sort of awesome fried spring roll thing so we got involved and ordered the Chu Nem (HKD88).  OH MY YASSS, you take this prawn and pork fried spring roll and wrap it with fresh herbs and lettuce leaves before dipping it into a sweet, slightly spicy sauce.   Major fuck yeah times homies, if you come here promise me that you must order this dish so you can be a better person.

As Ms Two Serves ain’t called Two Serves just as a cute nickname, the four bowls of noodles and other dishes that we’d already ordered wasn’t enough to satisfy her wanton desire for moar food so she was left with no other choice but to revisit our FUCK YEAH PHO times experienced a mere 10 minutes ago by ordering ANOTHER bowl of pho. We wanted to try the Pho Ha Noi (HKD78), a fresh beef and ginger pho, but it was unavailable.  NO BIGGIE though cause we just double downed on the Pho Bo again which we’d already had.  Same same but still fucking awesome so no tears, just fuck yeah shit eating grins cause fuckkkkk it’s all about the noodles and the soup as our entire table bathed in the blissful glow of fuck yeah pho feelings.

I quizzed one of the ladies who was serving us and I suspect she’s one of the owners.  She told me that she’s from Hanoi and she’s been in HK for over 14 years but now that her children are older that she had more time to be able to cook her food and open this restaurant in HK.  It’s not that I have a PhD in Vietnamese Food (but fuck, LBR, I don’t have a PhD in fucking anything) but I did spend a week in Vietnam once, so I should know what’s up.  But in all seriousness, there was something really heart felt about the food served at Bun Cha and you can’t turn out bowls of fuck yeah pho without giving a fuck about what you’re doing.

I almost don’t want to tell you assholes about this place because Bun Cha doesn’t have that many tables and I want to keep my unfettered access to securing fuck yeah pho in HK.  However, take it as an indication of my selfless fuck yeah nature cause I know my best FYN homies are gonna be all over this well priced, superior fuck yeah Vietnamese food.

Verdict:
FUCK YEAH, PHO LIFE, ALL DAY ERR DAY.  Don’t forget the Chu Nem times either.

Where:
NEO (their website is about 5% useful – only because it lists the address)
10 Shin Hing Street (it’s opposite Cocotte)
Sheung Wan Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2812 2280

Price:
Cocktails range from HKD90-130.  Bar snacks from HKD60-85.

The deal:
I’ve read some of the preliminary press on NEO, the new bar opened by the Cocotte homies, and I can already see into the future and know that everyone’s gonna be making references to how the gentle glow of the neon lights are a homage to both the retro 80s past and HK’s history with neon signage, Noho (ermagerd HK, stahhhhpp trying to make Noho/Poho a thing) and how it’s Cocotte’s cheeky or sexy little sister. Whatevs, I dragged my sweaty ass down to NEO on Friday night after schlepping my way up from Sheung Wan MTR station, pushing my way past the heavy as fuck curtains into the industrial, stripped out NEO den. The Candace Campos design is cool as fuck, stripped back concrete walls, purposefully mismatched chairs and tiny Persian rugs. NEO have totally nailed that bare concrete shiz without making it look like they’ve just cheaped out on the decor. There’s some real cute touches too – the retro foosball table, the Neo Geo arcade machine and the Playboy pinball machine. People are gonna be all over that shit when they are writing their tedious as fuck blogs and media puff pieces about NEO.

We grab a low table and as I’m a grumpy old fucker with failing eyesight I can barely fucking read the cocktail menu in the dimly lit cool vibes of NEO. However despite the lack of lighting, my value sensor can at least detect that shit’s reasonably priced. Fuck yeahhhh HKD90 – HKD130 cocktails can get SOME because fuck that bullshit of the new HK norm of HKD180+ a cocktail. Attentive bar staff homies instantly swoop and ask what I want – through my shitty eyesight I decide on the Old Cuban Float (HKD120) which lists homemade sorbet with rum, lime, mint and prosecco as its ingredients. When my barstaff homie comes back with a spoon, I soon realize that perhaps this wasn’t a tangential reference to sorbet but a full on goddamn alcoholic float. Fuck yeahhhh, shit was delicious as fuck though – even if it was too much of a dessert like cocktail to kick my night off. Texturally, the sorbet was a bit icy which at least backs up the claim that shit is homemade but hey NEO homies, you gotta speed your freezing process up or add some cream factor to avoid dem coarse fuck no crystals.

With the alcoholic powers combined of Mr and Mrs Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and Sir Crunchalot, we smashed through almost the entirety of the fuck yeah NEO cocktail list. Some FYN cocktail highlights:

  • As a total slut for Campari, the Boulevardier Compliments (HKD90) was giving me some fuck yeah feels. The salty skewered olive was totally jiving against the sweet vermouth and the bitter, herbaceous Campari. I might be seriously biased though because fuck, I love dem bitter Campari feels.
  • The Cognac Retrold (HKD130) is one of the most expensive cocktails on the menu at HKD130 (which LBR, is still pretty fucking decent for HK) but 72 hour corn infused cognac can’t come fucking cheap. A touch of pear with the acidic cider vinegar bitters cuts through shit to make sure that it ain’t a sugary mess.
  • A fucking standout has to be the Rumboy & Cardamon Mule (HKD120). I fucking love a Moscow Mule and then you take this concept and fancy shit up with spicy apple honey syrup and, while not specified, I can only assume posh as fuck ginger beer. Dem Cardamon spice feels were strong and this is the sort of innocuously dangerous cocktail that doesn’t feel alcoholic at all and then you’ve somehow smashed back four of these quite comfortably and then when you stand up to go to the bathroom, BANG, you realise that not only are you refreshed as fuck, you can’t feel your face anymore.
  • The Express Polaroid (HKD110) references another one of my fuck yeah favourite cocktails, the Espresso Martini (when they’re not being tipped all over me). Except NEO’s is some next level shit with its fancy ass ingredients like ghee buttered dark rum and tonic reduction syrup.  There’s also a high level gimmick of it coming with a polaroid photo. FYN is always down to slam a gimmick but this one was just too fucking cute for words – our Express Polaroid arriving with precious memories of our gang pegged to the side of a gimlet glass. What a fuck yeah – this is the sort of drink that when you told someone to go to NEO you’d definitely tell them to order this successfully gimmicky bad boy without spoiling the polaroid punch line.  Except I already ruined that shit for you.  OH SORRY ABOUT THAT HOMIES.
  • The Smoked Yoghurt Sour (HKD100) was probably one of the most interesting cocktails on the list and gets a fuck yeah mention for being unlike any other cocktail I’ve had before. The smoked yoghurt gives it a new depth of flavor that I haven’t had in a cocktail before and while having too many dairy based cocktails seems like how you write the first chapter in your book of ‘The Execution of Bad Ideas’, I’d be down to have this cocktail towards the end of a night when all the bad ideas have been executed already, so why not double it the fuck down?

The only low lights might be down to my own personal preference of not getting super down with sweet drinks. This meant that the NEO Hive (HKD120) with all its neon, glow stick and illuminated ice-cubes still caused my diabeetus to flare up and The Oribtal Gimlet (HKD100) with its gummy bear was enjoyed by everyone else but it was just too fucking sweet for my tastes.  I also had a violent fuck no reaction to the Mezcal’s Crack (HKD90) but I blame that one more on my deep-seated and historical emotional issues with tequila than the actual cocktail itself.

I just wish that NEO’s cocktail menu had been ordered / categorised more logically – perhaps it was a by-product of my geriatric level eyesight and impatience to get on the sauce ASAP, but if I went to NEO again, I’d definitely order my cocktails in a different fucking order and definitely not lead with a cocktail that had a scoop of sorbet chilling the fuck out in it.  Maybe I’m just a fussy fucker who has a very precise order in which I like to drink my fucking cocktails. But it’s shit like if I had my time again at NEO, I’d want to follow my normal cocktail progression of bitter aperitifs to start (yassss Campari 4 Lyfe), get my refreshing drinks on by having approximately twelve Rumboy & Cardamon Mules, then I’d take shit darker with a Corgnac Retrold before closing off shit with a Smoked Yoghurt Sour and an Express Polaroid.  Then cut to this FYN artist impression of me wobbling my drunk ass home down the Shin Hing Street slope:

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NEO’s also peddling bar food which is broken into three sections – Tartines, Brochettes and Dessert. Tartines is fancy French nomenclature for open sandwiches and its just bits of bread with some sort of spread and meat /cheese on it. NEO’s tartines ranged from being fine (ie. the Parma Ham and Ricotta – but LBR it’s gotta be hard to fuck up shoving a combination of fuck yeah ingredients like parma ham, fig, ricotta and bread together) to being a bit half-assed (ie. the Caprese – bread with mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, basil and a soggy ass bottom, due to the olive oil and balsamic vinegar). There’s a few presentation issues, for example the Mr Croque (ham, cheese and bechamel sauce sandwich) is served with a side of salad but given there’s no cutlery and it’s meant to be finger food I wasn’t sure what we were meant to fucking do with it. Was NEO’s intention for me to use my fingers to pick up salad to eat in a cocktail bar??

The brochettes (that’s skewers for everyday folk) are not cheap and at HKD70-80 for two fairly small sticks are verging on food for ants territory. The Beef Provencal had some tiny ass beef cubes, skewered with some onions and capsicum. I don’t get down with capsicum at the best of times but the beef just felt so insubstantial all I remember is the onions. The Chicken Satay was the favourite amongst our table but I can’t get excited about HKD70 for two small, dried out chicken breast skewers. The Atlantic Salmon skewers were fine but served with a dipping sauce which was completely inaccessible due to the design of the sauce bowl. HAI NEO, Y U NO TRY TO USE YOUR SAUCE CONTAINERS BEFORE YOU SERVE THEM?! LIKE SRS – WTF WAS I MEANT TO DO WITH THIS?

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We rounded off our night with the desserts which presented us with the options of a pineapple skewer, a creme brulee and yes, more fucking bread with stuff on it – the Chocobana Tartine.  As the pineapple skewers sounded lame as fuck we opted for the crème brulee (HKD45) and the Chocobana Tartine (HKD55). The Chocobana Tartine was a fuck yeah but in reality it’s just chopped fresh bananas and chocolate sauce on some bread.  It just felt like the sort of thing I’d make with the scant provisions in my fridge on a Sunday morning when I was being held hostage in my own house by a killer hangover.  The crème brulee had a thin caramel crust which had the appropriate crack when hit with a spoon, but unfortunately the actual crème was a sloppy fuck no mess.  I guess the life lesson here is you should really drink your dessert at NEO in the form of some fuck yeah cocktail rather than dicking about with actual dessert.

I gotta mention the fuck yeah NEO barstaff – perceptive and attentive as fuck, we never had the opportunity to do thirsty face (that’s where I look fucking parched at a waiter in the desperate hope that someone will bring me some goddamn booze) and they diligently filled up our fresh popcorn bowls approximately 1,256 times per hour as we fisted that shit into our greedy, gaping mouths. What a revelation to be able to go to a bar in HK and be able to consistently spend my money all night instead of having some barstaff asshole ignore me.

We slipped out of NEO at midnight when the increasing crowds, hard surfaces and fuck yeah tunes meant that we couldn’t hear what the fuck any of us were saying through a wall of noise. Best to leave that shit to the youths that still have their hearing intact. FYN’s prediction is that this NEO shebang is definitely gonna take off, so you should probably go now because before too long, you’re gonna be unable to get a fucking seat while you elbow your way past at least half of HK’s French community with their curly locks, cigarettes, no socks and short bright pants.  SACRÉ BLEU, MOTHERFUCKERS.

Verdict:
FUCK YEAH to the NEO cocktails – thoughtful, high quality ingredients/alcohol and fucktonnes of craftsmanship at a super reasonable price point.  In respect of the food, I don’t give a fuck if you call your tiny ass skewers French names like ‘Brochette’, I’d only get involved for survival reasons (ie. you need something to soak up the alcohol).  Just drink your fucking calories ok??

Where:
Up 9
Unit H, 9/F, Winner Building
27 – 37 D’Aguilar Street
Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong

Phone:
???? – it’s on the bottom of the menu, but I didn’t take it down. Sorry homies, but I doubt you can book this place.

Price:
Dishes range from HKD30-60, we got out at HKD80 a person.

The deal:
Up 9 is also known as the ‘secret’ Nepalese restaurant in LKF.  Allegedly, it’s where the formidable as fuck Nepalese bar and hospitality staff get their late night, post shift eats on.  It’s also where every hipster foodie asshole who actually knows where this place is gets all fucking weird and defensive about actually disclosing its location.  Lucky for my lazy ass one of my homies did the hard yards on finding its exact location by haranguing his regular Nepalese bar homie.  Like WTF foodie hipster assholes, just cool your fucking jets on how special you think your discovery is because guess what, I found Up 9 referenced on Mario Batali’s blog, so it’s not like you’re blazing the shit out of the HK’s ‘secret’ underground food scene.

I was given a thorough briefing before I went, being warned that Up 9’s interior is pretty ghetto, with the bulk of their business done via take out / deliveries.  I asked whether it was more or less ghetto than your average Chungking Mansions restaurant, and my homie likened it to eating in a room from Saw.  As in Saw the horror movie where people get dismembered and fatally fucked up in grimey rooms with flickering fluorescent lights. OHHHH SHIT SON, with a pre-amble like that, I made a careful selection in who to go with, rounding up Ms Little Yak (if you don’t read her fuck yeah travel photography blog, you really fucking should) and one of my Antipodean homies who was visiting the Kong who actually gets a bit hot and heavy for authentic, ghetto cheap eats.

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So you’re gonna need very specific details on how to get to Up 9 as it’s totally unmarked.  Up 9 is on the ninth floor of the Winner Building (near Al’s Diner) and it’s the first door on the left when you exit the lift. There’s fuck all signage, just a “9H” on the doorframe, a door bell towards the top left corner of the door and a few bags of styrofoam containers outside.  We stood a bit dazed and confused outside what we thought was the restaurant when a kind Nepalese homie passing by assured us we were in the right place.  When we were let inside, it felt like we’d crashed someone’s apartment for dinner.  At this stage, my hot-for-ghetto-eats Antipodean homie was noticeably giddy as we sat our asses down at one of the foldable tables covered with printed plastic sheets, amongst the styrofoam takeaway containers piled up to the ceiling.  Despite being warned about the Saw inspired interior design, shit wasn’t quite that grim in there – there’s even air-con but fair warning, don’t take your prissy as fuck besties here cause it ain’t going to go well for you. Or them.

We are given a one page laminated menu and a super sweet Nepalese waitress takes our order.  I’ll be fresh with you, my knowledge of Nepalese cuisine is coming from a very low base, essentially limited to “It’s kinda like Indian food but not exactly” and momos (a type of steamed or fried Nepalese dumpling).  Yeah, I’m making space on my mantle right the fuck now for that James Beard Foundation award that I’m totally gonna win this year with such a solid expertise in global cuisine.  Regardless, we hit our waitress homie up for some recommendations and the following hilarious conversation ensues:

Team Ghetto Eats (TGE):  We’ll have the chilli momos.  What else do you recommend?

Super Sweet Nepalese Waitress (SSNW):  Chilli momos.

TGE: What else do you like to eat?

SSNW:  Steamed momos.

TGE:  Ok, we’ll get the steamed vegetable momos.  Anything else you like to eat?  What do you eat from here?

SSNW:  *awkward pause* I don’t really eat here.

OHHHH, that’s not the best sign.  However, this turns out to be a bald faced lie cause we saw our SSNW eating her dinner there later. Regardless of the miscommunication issues we may have had, our lassis arrived.  Which were actually lassis from a carton which proudly declared to have “Natural, Natural Identical and Artificial Flavouring Substances”.  I toasted to #cleaneating and #eatrealfood2015 and unfortunately, I gotta fuck no this artificial mess but LBR, WTF do you expect from lassi in a carton??

No biggie cause the real stars starts to arrive.  The chilli momos are fried thick skinned dumplings covered in a thick, red piquant fuck yeah sauce.  I think the sauce is a combination of hot and sweet chilli sauce with tomato ketchup, but for all my knowledge deficiencies re: Nepalese chilli momo sauce, I can definitely tell you that they made me really fucking happy.  The steamed vegetable momos were slightly less exciting except for when you added the achar sauce.  ERMAGERD that bottle of achar sauce left on every table was a fuck yeah of epic proportions, a mysterious mix of ginger, tomato, coriander and chilli which I wanted to guzzle straight from the bottle.  This achar sauce sent straight from the gods of oh-so-oh-so-oh-so-fucking deliciousness was also a motherfucking treat with Up 9’s fuck yeah vegetable pakodas (Nepalese for pakora).  Crispy and light, these delicious as fuck vegetable fritters were fried to fucking perfection, ensuring that any vague nutritional benefits from being a vegetable were battered away to oblivion.

However, the fuck yeah highlight of the night (if not my whole goddamn month) was the panipuri (heads up yo, these aren’t actually listed on the menu).  Panipuri comes from two words – pani meaning water and puri meaning bread.  This dish consists of crispy fried hollowed out spheres made from wheat, which are filled with a lightly spiced mix of potatoes and onion and a sizeable chunk of fresh red chilli (with seeds).  Our SSNW had warned us that it was very spicy and she wasn’t wrong.  A bowl of tamarind infused water is served, which should be poured into each hollowed out sphere.  Due to my Nepalese Noobness, I used a spoon to get that sour, salty soup into my puri but I noticed some Nepalese homies just using their puris to scoop directly from the soup bowl. More importantly, these delicate fried puffs were a monumental fuck yeah of contrasts.  Sour versus spicy, the crispy shell versus the soft potato and then the tamarind soup brought it all together.  Given the fact I had homies with me, we shared a plate but fuck me, I’d totally be down to smash a plate of these fuck yeah panipuris all on my lonesome.  These were so fucking good that I even provided unsolicited advice to a table of lost looking Asian dudes that they should add a serve of panipuris to their order of “chilli mamas”.

So Up 9’s shit is not fancy but if I ever need quick, cheap late night eats in LKF with homies who don’t give a fuck about aesthetically pleasing dining rooms, I’m definitely gonna get my panipuri, chilli momo fuck yeah eats on again.  But next time, chatpate (Nepalese chaat – a mix of spices, crunchy shiz , puffed rice and tomatoes), imma coming for you.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah to Nepalese cheap eats!  Just steer clear of the boxed lassi and start the fuck yeah panipuri and achar sauce dreaming.

Where:
Ore-no Kappou (Hong Kong) (website has no fucking information on HK though)
6/F, California Tower
32 D’Aguilar Street
Lan Kwai Fong, Central, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2328 3302

Price:
Food and sake, we were out at HKD600 each.

The deal:
The ORENO corporation have a whole slew of restaurants in Japan which all riff on ‘Ore’(俺), Ore-no Kappou, Ore-no French, Ore-no Italian, Ore-no Yakitori, etc, meaning ‘My _____ Cuisine’. The ORENO restaurant concept is that they allow their diners access to a Michelin-starred class chef and shit hot ingredients at an affordable price point.  Ore-no Kappou is focussed on Japanese food and it has just opened their first overseas branch in Lan Kwai Fong in the new California Tower, right in the heart of this filthy LKF shithole.  I’m reminded of this as I’m walking slowly through the increasingly heavy Hong Kong heat to get to dinner, pushing past slack jawed douchebags high on machismo and David Guetta as they eye off rubber ankled girls who emit high pitched giggles from, one can only assume, being choked out by heinous polyester bandage dresses. I take a look around this supposed entertainment district, waving off the beatific smile of a Buddhist monk of dubious provenance and his bogus-ass begging bowl while I mutter under my breath:

leogodleft

Ore-no Kappou in Japan maintains their profits while keeping their premium shit cheap by having stand-up bar style restaurants, meaning they can churn through three times the number of customers as a sit-down restaurant.  Don’t worry my lazy ass HK homies, ORENO Corporation realised that this shit wasn’t going to fly in the Kong so there’s only a few standing tables for show up the front of the restaurant with the rest of the seats being your traditional sit down tables.  To maintain the profitable churn while allowing HK to sit down, a dinner seating is restricted to two hours.  It’s a large space, bright, modern and at dinner time, it is jam packed with customers.  Sake is also sold at retail prices with only a HKD99 mark up, which is some fuck yeahhhh drinking value that I can get behind.

My homies and I sit down and we are confronted with a needlessly complicated menu which comes in three separate parts/folders.  Ore-no Kappou, Y U have so many fucking menus when it’s just printed paper in a plastic sleeve??  Just put that shit into one menu with sections like Starters, Mains and Drinks vs the Special Month Menu, the Special Special Drinks Month Menu and the Normal Dinner Menu.  When we place our orders, it quickly becomes apparent that our servers have been given clear instructions to upsell the shit out of their multi-part menu. We try to order sake from the special special drinks menu and while the +HKD99 mark up is a nice nod to value, the proposition falls over quickly when your waiter tells you that they’ve sold out of all the mid-range sake so you can only choose from the exxy as fuck range.  To add to the menu confusion, our server shows up with another Special Special Dishes for Tonight menu and politely points us to a HKD800+ shabu shabu hot pot option.  Sorry homes, I don’t give a fuck about whatever snow crab you’ve got on offer, I ain’t got HKD800+ spare to snack down on some hot pot extortion.

Once we negotiate past the potential for upselling foxing, our food appears really fucking quickly. The saba sushi was a vinegary, pressed oily fish fuck yeahh.  The thick slice of pickled mackerel is rad as fuck, served on a big ass portion of rice wrapped in nori, giving me some onigiri rice ball feels due to its size.  At HKD60 for two huge-ass pieces, I’m super down down with this fuck yeah value proposition.

Our other dishes arrive and Ore-no Kappou are definitely keeping up their end of the quality ingredients bargain.  The Mushi Sushi (HKD370) serves a mix of hot and cold sushi ingredients including abalone, ikura (large salmon roe), prawns and uni (sea urchin) and fuck yeahhh, shit’s super fresh and plentiful as fuck.  There’s nothing worse when you order one of these chirashi style rice dishes and when you actually go to eat the fucker you soon realise that the appearance of volume is a result of creative plating and everything’s been sliced super fucking thinly to stretch shit further.

The bukkake udon (HKD50) was also a fuck yeah and I know all of you dirty fuckers are tittering at BUKKAKE cause like WTF LOLZ did you seriously order a bowl of noodles where they put jizz all over it?!!?!?!?!  But have some decency yo, cause FYN Fun Fact: the definition of bukkake actually means pouring on or splashing at something NOT NECESSARILY WITH SEMEN. So in this instance it’s just udon with egg, sesame and nori (seaweed) strips where you pour some very cumless, though fuck yeah, broth over it.

A fuck yeah stand out on the night was the A5 Kuroge Wagyu tenderloin with foie gras (HKD480), which might sound like it’s just doing luxury by numbers but Ore-no Kappou do right by the beef and cook it fucking perfectly.  There’s a very decent serve of foie gras which has been pan-seared to give it the right level of caramelisation so you’re not just choking back an expensive, grainy cold slab of corn-fed fatty sadness. While one of the more expensive dishes that we ordered, we easily shared this fuck yeah dish between four people and considering how fucking rich it was with the beef and foie gras, I don’t think I’d recommend tackling this dish solo. But fuck, no judgment if you’ve got an insatiable lust for luxury and you want to smash this expensive fucker all on your own.

Service at Ore-no Kappou was not fucking amazing and I’m guessing that part of keeping the profit margins up with shit hot ingredients also means not hiring too many staff. There were also some weird quirks like our waiter being able to speak English when we first arrived and then when he realised we had a Cantonese speaker at our table, he later claimed that he couldn’t speak English and switched to Cantonese only.  Fine, I can live with a waiter getting shy about his ability to speak English, even if it means that the majority of our table didn’t know what he was saying.  But service went from below average to really fucking dismal when our shabu-shabu arrived.  We asked whether we will be getting any dipping sauce for our beef because our shabu-shabu broth only consisted of hot water and a piece of konbu (dried giant kelp) which surely wasn’t going to give Ore-no Kappou’s shit-hot marbled beef enough flavour.  Our waiter resolutely declared that this was correct and that Konbu-san on his own was going to magically flavour every fucking thing in the shabu-shabu.  Our table is kicking up a fuss at this stage that surely this isn’t right and another waiter is called over, who confirms that yeah, deal with it, Konbu-san is singularly gonna save the flavour day.

downtonreassuring

After half our table had eaten the konbu-water-boiled beef to confirm that shit was just super plain, we questioned a third waiter (who looked more senior) who said that he’d see what he could do about sauce and after about 10+ minutes after Konbu-gate began, Ore-no Kappou finally bestowed upon us a ponzu (citrus) sauce and a goma-dare (sesame) sauce to dip our high grade beef in.

So overall the food at Ore-no Kappou was a solid fuck yeah (except for the sauceless shabu-shabu) and there’s no fucking doubt that you are getting quality fuck yeah ingredients at a very reasonable fuck yeah price.  However, as a consequence this means you have to endure fuck no shambolic service and a bit of pushy fuck no upsell from the waiters.  So would FYN go back?  Definitely not for an important occasion and only if I was with peeps where shit-house service wouldn’t fucking kill the night.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah for lunch or on unimportant, purely food-based casual occasions.  Despite the shit house service, I gotta face facts, I definitely want dat saba sushi in my life again.

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