TST

Where:
Zurriola (you can check my original review out here)
18/F, The One, 100 Nathan Road
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2253 7111

Price:
Yo, I got my invite on.  I’ve included the prices below for the Zurriola menu items.

getmoneysquirrel

The deal:
It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of Zurriola since Executive Chef Daniel Birkner moved across.  If you catch me on my FY Noms FB (for real though, why wouldn’t you want a random internet homie to show up on your page to give you a ‘Fuck yeahhhh’ when you deserve one), I’ve encouraged any number of random internet FYN homies to check out Zurriola’s beautiful and inventive Modern European food when they’ve asked me for a recommendation.  Of course, it’s also imperative that you definitely finish up that rad as fuck meal with Zurriola’s seriously major cheese platter.  I can’t emphasise this enough, you are definitely living your life wrong if you don’t get all Kanye up in that French raw milk cheese deal and be all “Where are you Yeezy Cheesey??”.

Zurriola are running a game menu in November and December, in line with the European seasons.  As it’s allegedly Autumn in HK, this means we should be getting all romantic and shiz, wearing ridiculous Arctic suitable puffa jackets and cuddling up with big round goblets of bold reds and then celebrating the changing leaves by eating strong, robust game meats of delicious wild animals like deer and boar.  Let’s just push to one side the fact that it’s almost mid-November and most of HK is still puffa jacket free, but honestly I’m led to believe that HK will get cold at some point in time.  NO REALLY, I SWEAR WINTER IS COMING.

GoTwinteriscoming

To console myself with the fact that it feels like I’m always going to be a sweaty-ass mess in HK, I tried to hide my weather related disappointment by eating a fuck tonne of delicious wild animals paired with all sorts of earthy, warm ingredients like pumpkin, mushroom and celeriac.  I got my invite on here, so I managed to get a taste of everything even though Zurriola’s game menu isn’t meant to be eaten as a ‘tasting’ menu.  Rather, you should pick a starter and a main of your choice.  Before flinging yourself head first into all the French raw milk cheese with fruit bread that you can get your dirty mitts on.  So with my Deer Hunter pants firmly on, let me tell you about all the Zurriola game offerings that I obliterated my way through.

bambirabbitscream

  • Venison tartar (HKD178 +10% service charge):  I have always been partial to the meat of the majestic deer.  Maybe it’s because they’re so damn adorable or maybe it’s just because I fucking love bold, gamey flavours and rare as fuck meat.  So you can only imagine my unbridled enthusiasm towards small cubes of raw venison meat which have been dressed with dehydrated mushroom powder to deliver that fuck yeah umami earthy punch.  There’s also some thinly sliced cauliflower, cauliflower puree and micro-red shiso leaves to gently hint at some sort of cruciferous, anise style flavour. My fucking beautiful, beyond rare tartar – I’m swooning at the very thought of you.
  • Pheasant consommé (HKD108 + 10% service charge):  The pheasant consommé wouldn’t necessarily be for everyone but I reckon for people who can appreciate a super labour intensive consommé which has fucktonnes of flavour layers, you will be all up in this broth based shiz.  Just cooked pieces of pheasant with poached cubes of celeriac and celeriac puree are served in a clear brown consomme made from the roasted carcasses of pleasant pheasants and madeira.  The madeira gave it that warm, fruity roundness and reminded me of the overtones of red dates and herbs that you get in Chinese herbal chicken soups.  If only medicine was this fucking delicious and involved delicately prepared tender slices of pheasants.
  • Paté of wild boar (HKD208 +10% service charge):  This can be served either hot or cold and Zurriola served up the hot version.  It’s a mixture of strong wild boar meat and pistachios, served with mushrooms and pickled onions to cut through the rich boar meat. I could have eaten three of these.  I could have eaten it cold.  I could eat it right the fuck now and be fucking happy with my life.
  • Wild Boar Bourguignon (HKD348 +10% service charge):  This dish doesn’t look that big but it packs a heavy punch thanks to its rich fuck yeah flavours from the wild boar meat, braised vegetables and some water chestnuts for contrast.  It’s not Zurriola’s fault that HK is still so fucking hot that it seemed like this dish was two months too early.  I’d probably say this is your most ‘traditional’ style dish so maybe order this one if you’re into predictable through comfortably hearty fuck yeah dishes?
  • Venison loin (HKD540 + 10% service charge):  This is NOT cheap shit and I guess those wild running European Bambis aren’t cheap by the time you hunt them down and air-freight their chilled adorable carcasses to Hong Kong.  I assure you that this was a special fuck yeah moment though, beautiful pieces of venison loin served with a puree of creamy, sweet Hokkaido pumpkin, a flourish of a Hokkaido pumpkin ribbon twisted into a flower and just candied ‘black’ walnuts.  Of course it was all art and beautiful as fuck.  But not as beautiful as it was eating this gloriously tender fuck yeah venison loin.  I was so taken by the ‘black’ walnuts that I asked for more details.
    FYN Fun Fact – a Lesson in Nutz:  Black walnuts are actually green walnuts which are picked unripe before the nutshell is built. These labour intensive fuckers than require pricking with needles and are watered for 10-14 days, requiring more needle pricking every damn day because it allows tannic acid to be discharged at the prick holes.  When all that laborious shit is done, the nuts are boiled in a syrup or broth to taste. These needy nutty bastards are then usually packed and sealed either in mason jars or vacuum bags and left alone for roughly a year.  You’ll be pleased to know that regardless of how long these inky beauties took to take this form, I managed to snack these up in mere seconds.
  • Ballotine of Deer Loin (HKD580 +10% service charge):  Fuckkkkk, I can’t lie to you and pretend that any dish that starts with a five handle is anything but really fucking expensive  But if it’s pay day, I’d say this ballotine is a boneless fuck yeah wonder.  Zurriola take the deer loin and roll it into a round, egg like shape.  It’s then served with a celeriac puree, Black Trumpet Mushrooms and a jus sauce that’s so fucking incredible you’ll want to bathe in it. If it was socially acceptable I totally would have licked the fucking plate.
  • Deer Shoulder 48/48 (HKD378 + 10% service charge):  While it may have a title that sounds a bit like a Justin Timberlake album, it is to signify that the deer shoulder has been cooked at 48 degrees Celsius for 48 hours.  Our waiter brings out the cooked deer shoulder to show it to us before it’s returned to the kitchen for slicing.  The menu might simply declare it as having ‘Brussel Sprouts’ and ‘Salsify’ (the root of the oyster plant) but of course it’s all fancy fucker times with individual brussel sprout leaves and swooshy black liquid trails painted across our plate.  The 48/48 deer shoulder has been seared before serving so it’s does get some char to it and it’s not an insipid mess that was cooked in a warm water bath.  SO FUCKING DELICIOUS.

One thing that I just cannot jive with at Zurriola is their fuck no plastic placemats which look like carpet underlay material.  While I’m all up in the food and there’s a fuck yeah harbour view, I just don’t think the dining room is modern enough to be trying to pull of plastic underlay placemats while charging HKD500+ for mains.

Despite dreaming about the cheese plate all day, I didn’t demand satisfaction at this point.  If only because I’d eaten my way through a small mob of delicious, tender deer at this point in time and was full as fuck.  One thing to note is the warning that you might find the odd piece of shot in their dish in a nod to authenticity and a sign of quality.  Unfortunately, no bad ass lead filled treats for me and I can report that my game meal was just full of fuck yeah delicious sauces and wild game.  If you’re jonesing for dem venison and wild boar feelings, it’s time to get involved before the end of 2015.

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhhh, cause oops I did it again, got lost in the game oh baby baby.  But fair warning, if you’re gonna pile in for the expensive venison related items make sure it’s on pay day.

 

 

Where:
ÉPURE (lolzzzz, string intro sound effects, feel dat Versailles Vibe)
Shop 403, Level 4, Ocean Centre
Harbour City,
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

FYN hot tip:  To minimise the amount of time spent in the hell that is Harbour City, enter on Gateway Boulevard near the Chanel store and take the escalators straight up.

Phone:
+852 3185 8338

Price:
HKD1,388 for the eight course tasting menu (+10%). After drinks and extras we were out just under HKD6,000 for two people. Yes, I’m eating a combination of instant noodles, bread and water this week month.

theofficebankruptcy

The deal:
As an obnoxious as hell HK food blogger, my raison d’être is to constantly name drop new restaurants and have completely unfounded opinions about whether I even want to check them out.  So I was surprised to learn that Épure, a high end French restaurant, had opened in June 2014, because I had no idea of its existence until May 2015 when I saw a gushing review by finefooddude.  I can only conclude from this that Épure’s promotion must have been so subtle and understated completely fucking non-existent considering the above average effort I put into reading any number of dreadfully woeful food publications and anaemic press releases so I can be an insufferable new restaurant know it all.

On the strength of finefooddude’s review, Sir Crunchalot and I decided to push the boat out and drop some serious cash for a celebratory dinner.  Executive Chef Nicolas Boutin is the driving force behind Épure with some heavy hitting credentials including stints at a number of three and two Michelin star restaurants in France and worked alongside Richard Ekkebus to open Amber at the Landmark Oriental HK. Unfortunately, the pedigree of the Executive Chef can’t prevent Épure suffering from the indignity of being a fine dining restaurant smashed into the shopping mall hell that is known as Harbour City.   As far as I could tell, there is no easy direct way to get there without pushing past the bombastic luxury brand name shops and the escalators packed with harried shoppers and their wheeled suitcases. Épure have done what they can to try and insulate their diners from the harsh Harbour City mall feel, their slick as fuck front desk ushering you quickly through the heavy front doors adorned with a golden stylised map of Paris and into the grand as fuck Yabu Pushelberg designed dining room.  Hues of gold, grey and bronze, broken up by private circular padded booths, architectural floral sculptures and painted green blue forest scenes complete with deer, all offset by careful warm low lighting.  However, fuck no, NO TABLECLOTHS.  You all know my feelings on linen and I snippily bitched to Sir Crunchalot that it seems crass to be dropping HKD1,000+ on a tasting menu and being forced to eat it off a synthetic plastic woven mat.  Despite the lack of natural fibres, there is no doubt that Épure’s shit is fancy as fuck and everything about its interiors has you set up well and truly for the expectation that you will be leaving behind a large chunk of change in Épure’s custody.

However, there’s something more striking than the interiors and it’s the really super fucking slick Épure service  As soon as you arrive, the front desk breezily checks off your reservation.  The general manager Olivier Le Guyader warmly escorts us into the dining room and attentively provides us with the perfect amount of choices to ensure you’re going to have the best night possible.  This nothing is too much trouble attitude has been drilled effectively into Olivier’s fleet footed waitstaff who swoop in to smile and offer the same genuine welcome.  Compared to other restaurants where the service starts off strong before petering away to a bored indifference, the Épure waiter homies powered on strong through the entire meal without dropping a single beat. They noticed everything that was happening at your table and communicated with each other with a subtle look, before executing whatever was necessary.  Each course was presented with precise synchronisation and each finished plate was whisked away with equal choreographed precision.  It’s been awhile since I’ve encountered such fuck yeah flawless service, whether it be in HK or anywhere else in the world. Bravo Epure waiter homies, cause I couldn’t fault anything and there’s nothing more I wanted from you, and I don’t often say shit like that.

Settled in, we were presented with the menu which offered two choices – either the six course tasting menu (HKD1,088 + 10% service charge) or the eight course tasting menu (HKD1,388 +10% service charge).  This is a hefty chunk of change but I note that when I was cruising around older reviews, it seems that Épure has moved its prices down over the last year or so (I’ve seen previous reviews quoting the six and eight course menus at HKD1,288 and HKD1,588 + 10% respectively). Sir Crunchalot and I predictably went for the eight course menu, because if you’re having a balls to the wall special occasion feed why would you want to miss out on another two courses, when one of those is the cheese course?  More importantly, is it even fucking possible to celebrate any special occasion without cheese??

This is the sort of meal that is food blogging mana from heaven, if I wasn’t such a stubborn asshole who prefers to cram food into my face versus taking a shit tonne of photos.  It’d be so fucking easy, you’d take some shots of some amuse bouches with some artistic lighting and some blurred out micro-sprouts chilling in the background. Bump the contrast to all hell, copy and paste the PR release while changing a few adjectives around and then call it a night.  Everything we ate at Épure was so fucking beautiful – the sort of meal that if you did photograph every single course and shoved it up on Instagram / Facebook, heaps of your homies are going to throw likes in your face and then jump all over your shit to ask where it was or just to say trite things like ‘Wowwwwwwwww’ or ‘OMG looks so delish!’.

Instead I’m trying to describe this shit to you without just going through each course one by one, because I hate the idea that someone would go to Épure and there would be no surprises.

First of all, Épure’s bread game is a major fuck yeah.  I always judge a restaurant by its bread game and Épure’s bread is punching hard. Six different types of bread and two types of butter (unsalted and a mild chilli) were giving me the fuck yeah carb feelings, in particular the baguette and the cheesy puffs (technical nomenclature, yo).  Our smiling waiter homie happily refilled our basket while giving us a gentle reminder not to stuff ourselves too full of bread, which meant we only powered through two servings even though I desperately wanted to eat at least two more baguettes and a generous handful of cheesy puffs.

After getting some solid bread times in, everything we ate at Épure was fucking exceptional, well thought out and not just being inventive for the sake of it.  Just to take you through a few highlights, the second course, le foie gras de canard and encornet was a generous seared slice of duck foie gras served on a thin slice of Atlantic squid, resulting in a phenomenal fuck yeah contrast of textures between the caramelised though tender foie gras and the firmer bite of the squid.  A sauce made from black figs and piquillos (a variety of chilli with a minimal amount of heat) had just the right amount of acidity to cut through the fatty foie gras but with enough sweetness to highlight its subtle flavour.

Another example of seemingly simple dish done right was the soup course.  Sir Crunchalot went for the le champignon de Paris  (Paris white button mushroom soup) versus my choice of the moules de bouchot & mais bio (organic corn, bouchot mussels soup) and while my soup was most definitely a fuck yeah, he definitely had the superior soup choice. It’s no surprise this is one of their signature dishes with this being a fuck yeah example of something so simple being immaculately executed. A creamy, silky smooth mushroom soup poured over tiny perfect spinach leaves, wafer thin slices of button mushrooms and miniature spinach ravioli. This tasted like the fuck yeah mushrooms of my dreams would and you can imagine how hard it generally is to get that fucking excited about mushrooms.

However, between these immaculate courses and fuck yeah faultless service, it becomes apparent that Épure’s marketing team’s lacklustre efforts weren’t just restricted to its opening because at 8pm on a Saturday night we are still the sole patrons of the entire, grandiose restaurant.  At one point, Sir Crunchalot goes to the washroom and I cut a lonely well-fed silhouette, sitting deserted in this looming quiet space.

idontwanttobealone

A bit later another couple show up for dinner, but this is the only other table that is occupied ALL night.  I’m all for private and intimate dining affairs but I can’t shake the uncomfortable feeling that we’re in a restaurant which isn’t going to survive long.

Pushing whatever lingering doubts I have about Épure’s financial viability and how boring it must be for the waitstaff, I fucking loved that in every dish the focal point is provided by one key ingredient and isn’t overpowered with a red hot mess of complex techniques and luxury items such as piling truffles, caviar and fancy liqueurs just to prove that they can.  With the le rouget barbet de petit bateau (seared red mullet), I was prepared for it to be the obligatory fish dish but each piece of seared fish tasted so specifically of sweet red mullet and the green olive puree blobs or tiny onions all added something to the dish, rather than being there for decorative optic purposes.

For my main, I austerely went with the standard option of the le canard de la maison Burgaud (roast Challans duck).  While it seemed ridiculous at the time for the menu to specify that the dish would be accompanied by Provence blackberries, each air freighted druplet of those blackberry bad boys tasted so intensely of blackberries that I tried not to think of the carbon footprint my meal at Épure had inflicted on this fragile planet, just so I could get my fuck yeah noms on.  Predictably, standard main courses never fit Sir Crunchalot’s insatiable lust for luxury and the good life, so of course that a$$hole took the +HKD300 upgrade for the le boeuf Japonais and got that seared wagyu beef A5 from the Gifu Prefecture into this life. Despite the financial damage that his choices were wreaking upon us, I gotta say that our pampered Japanese bovine homie died for a delicious fuck yeah cause.

We were presented with five cheeses billed as a ‘selection of mature cheese by Xavier from Toulouse, France’ with a homemade plum preserve and thin slices of fig and hazelnut bread. FUCK YEAHHHHHHHHH it was fucking amazing, except that I could have done with a slightly larger serving.  That is probably more a reflection on my extreme greed for fuck yeah cheese vs stingy portions from Épure.  Perhaps I’ve just been spoilt at other restaurants when it comes to hefty cheese servings (Zurriola and Amber, imma lookin at you) because I always want MOAR CHEESE.

I can’t remember what the second cheese was but I do remember that it was my favourite but unfortunately, we were given just the tiniest amount.  I lovingly smeared a scant amount of this ungodly fuck yeah cheese onto my fuck yeah fruit toast, hoping that this moment could last forever.  I did ask the waiter for the name of the cheese and hoped that he’d offer to give me MOAR CHEESE.  However while he helpfully provided me the details (which I promptly forgot AGAIN), all I got was the assurance that we could buy some to take home later.  This turned out to be a goddamn cocktease though because by the time we resigned ourselves to the fact that we were going to have to buy some take away cheese, this wasn’t even possible because when we stopped by the cheese room on our way out, our fuck yeah favourite was all sold out. Perhaps those two small ass pieces that we got was all that was left in the entire restaurant.  Either way, TOO SAD.

alwayssunnycheese

Behind the desserts at Épure is Head Pastry Chef Matthieu Godard (ex-Head Pastry Chef from Amber) whose desserts have universally gotten a massive fuck yeah from all who’ve been.  I can’t say I was super excited about the la pomme de nos vergers, which was a fancy ass baked apple done in tatin style with a Granny Smith sorbet, but took it as a bit of a palette cleanser before we stormed home with the final desserts.  The signature le soufflee au Grand Marnier (Grand Marnier souffle with mandarin sorbet) was everything one could hope for from a faultless souffle but in retrospect I probably should have swung with the chocolate option, but that’s more down to personal preference than a reflection on the souffle.

To round it all off, a tower of petit fours is presented and they’re all tiny, beautiful as fuck dessert based art pieces.  The pistachio financier was a stand out with its jasmine cream making it a fresh as fuck, stand out but most importantly these single fuck yeah single bites were just enough to finish an all-in-all spectacular as fuck meal.

After settling the very large and in charge bill, our congenial waiter homies sent us on our way with a macaron to go and we pushed our way from the plush sanctuary of Épure and into the harsh indignity of Harbour City’s fluorescent lighting. Descending an escalator, we cruised straight past a bank of LCD TVs on sale at Fortress and I can’t help but think that this is never how anyone wants to end a high end fuck yeah dining experience.

So while the meal we had at Epure was one of the best I’ve had this year and definitely a notable standout from a HK perspective, I fear that things are not going end well with Épure because of its location.  Despite its inventive and precise fuck yeah food and absolutely flawless service experience, who is Epure’s target audience?  With its sky high price point, this isn’t a casual experience that most people will try just to see if they like it (although, it does offer far more affordable lunch and brunch options starting at around HKD400+).  Unfortunately, most assholes who have the cash and inclination to splurge on fancy ass dinners aren’t going to want to leave the Island to traipse through Harbour City in TST to get to Épure. I can already imagine all the people who ask me for food recommendations for a special occasion and once I mention ‘TST’ and ‘Harbour City’ they’re going to immediately glaze over and end up going to Amber, Caprice or L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon instead because omfg guys, dark side lolz.  Add into that mix the non-existent marketing and profile that this restaurant has (I’ve talked about my meal with a few of my Foodie Asshole Homies and all of them asked ‘What’s Épure?’) and the very fact that there were only TWO tables there on a Saturday night, how can a restaurant survive?  Sure, we broke bank on our meal but even my HKD6k isn’t going to be enough to fund an alleged 25 strong kitchen staff, the front of house staff and the TST Harbour City rents.  There’s talk that Epure will get its Michelin star this year which will inevitably increase its profile.  However, Épure better figure out its marketing strategy ASAP because it would be a crying shame that a restaurant which is punching it out on all levels would slip away just because no one even knew it existed or couldn’t be bothered crossing the harbour.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah but most definitely on pay day or when you’ve robbed a bank day. An accomplished, nuanced meal on all fronts which warrants the price tag.

Where:
?????
Chungking Mansions, 36-44 Nathan Road
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

FYN note:  I have decided not to disclose the exact location of this restaurant because I don’t think that they actually want any publicity or for people to know where they are.  If any of you are desperate to know the exact location, get in touch.

Price:
HKD180 for two people.  NO, not as cheap as you would hope for.

The deal:
Mr Judgmental, with a head full of delicious suya (Nigerian BBQ) memories, was desperate to go on an HK African food adventure. After some research and reading the following SCMP article, we decided that dum dumdum da dumdum daaaaaaaaah, we heard the Toto Africa drums echoing tonight and it was time for us to make a lunch time Afrinoms adventure to Kwality in Chungking Mansions.

totoafrica

Sauce

Chungking Mansions is a special place in Hong Kong with its dodgy shops, guest houses of dubious quality and restaurants being run out of varying quality.  I should probably mention that Wong Kar Wai film Chungking Express so you know I’m on my cinema shit as well.  As I’m a foodie who is on a constant quest for authenticity (lolz), I’m down with some ghetto Chungking Mansions food, my favourites being Khyberpass for Indian and Bismillah Kebab House so I can scull the squeezy bottles of fuck yeah sauce with various roasted kebab meats.  Mr Judgmental and I put on our stony faces to push past the touts for various Indian restaurants at the entrance of Chungking Mansion who are assailing us with shouts, asking us where we’re trying to go.  We head to the first floor, per the SCMP article and find the hairdresser that’s mentioned as being next to Kwality.  The location where Kwality is alleged to be has a fridge, plastic chairs, one or two customers, a distinctly Indian menu pasted to the wall and an Indian cook wandering about.  As we can only see a row of Indian restaurants in the immediate vicinity, we end up asking one of the restaurant owners if he knows of an African restaurant called Kwality on this floor.  Our restaurant homie was actually surprisingly helpful and we end up talking to two guys who are where we thought Kwality should be.  One of them is African and he gives us riddle like instructions that Kwality is now the Indian restaurant over there and if we want African food, we should go to the fourth floor of another block.

With these cryptic instructions we head over to another block, sweating balls and waving off more touts as we wait for the creaky Chungking lifts to finally take us to the floor.  On this mostly deserted floor there are signs for a guesthouse and another Indian restaurant.  In a foretelling omen, a Chinese lady appears with a coiffed head of permed hair and a bright pink, tailored jacket.  She asks us what we are looking for and we say ‘African food’.  Instead, she grabs my arm and looks straight through my soul, declaring ‘No! Do not eat here.  The food in here is no good.  You should go eat outside!’.  We blithely reply ‘No! We want to eat African food!’.  She shakes her head at me, still holding my arm and rounds up her warning with an unacceptably racist epithet about Indian people being dirty before walking off, disgusted with our choices. No biggie lady, cause I’m disgusted with your FUCK NO racism.

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We’re soon peering into a small window in a door, knocking it to see if anyone’s there as the sign outside says ‘CLOSED’.  I’m not entirely sure the people at this restaurant want to be found.  A lady opens the door slightly and almost seems shocked that we want to eat food there (warning sign #1).  She closes the door to go and check with someone before returning to let us into the restaurant, letting us know that the had just opened so the aircon wasn’t even on yet (warning sign #2).

We sit down in a grimey, greasy converted apartment as the aircon wheezes into life (warning sign #3). Meanwhile, I’m giddy with the excitement about how I’m totally going to be able to blog-brag about being such a foodie-asshole gangster and how there are great rewards for those of us who can tear ourselves away from the Island, to lose themselves in getting truly fucking down and dirty in this vibrant, gritty Kowloon food culture.  I imagine myself bashing out a FYN entry before snapping my Macbook shut and then smugly patting myself on the back for being so fucking genuine in my pursuit for authenticity, right before I return to my normal FYN programming of reviews of the Peruvian Korean fried chicken skewers at the newest place in Sai Ying Pun.  Mr Judgmental and I make an assessment and suck down a Travelan each before we eat.  I think this says everything you need to know about our food adventure choices when before you eat you’re taking pharmaceuticals that are scientifically proven to reduce your chances of contracting diarrhoea by 90% through coating your gastrointestinal tract with antibodies (warning sign #4).

We are presented with a menu for Indian food.  A bit puzzled, we flag our waitress down and we tell her that we want African food.  She gives us another hesitant look (warning sign #5) and comes back with another menu, with the warning that African food will take 30 minutes (warning sign #6).  Mr Judgmental and I settle on ordering some samosas while we wait and we ask the friendly and helpful waitress for her recommendations on what we should order for African food.  The menu is not straight forward and we eventually understand that you seem to order some sort of meat, it comes with a sauce/soup and some sort of starch (semolina (fufu) / rice).  We decide on the dried fish with okra, served with semolina and on our waitresses’ recommendation, the shaki served with a bitter leaf which we’re told is meant to be ‘cleansing for the body’.

Our samosas arrive and they’re surprisingly good.  We ask our waitress why is both Indian and African food available here?  We get the explanation that this was always an Indian restaurant but the African restaurant needed to move from its first floor location as people wanted to bring their friends and they needed more seats.  However, lots of customers who used to frequent the original Indian restaurant still wanted to have Indian food, so the restaurant is now running with both an African and an Indian chef (warning sign #7).  At some point, a fuse blows throwing sparks from the air conditioner (warning sign #8) and the entire restaurant falls into portentous darkness.

The first of our African dishes arrive – our waitress brings us two plastic tubs of water so we can wash our hands, as it’s customary to eat with your hands.  A white blob of steamed semolina (fufu) arrives, which is meant to be used as the starch to accompany the dried fish and okra.  The dried fish has been stewed with a gloopy mess of gelatinous okra.  I didn’t mind the taste of the spicy okra sauce, but the dried fish seemed to be a salty, funky mess of fish bones.  Whatever meat I could pry off from the bones was not worth the fucking effort.  I piled in for the full experience, trying the gloopy okra with the manky fish on the gluey fufu and oh nooooo, the fufu was like what I imagine eating wallpaper paste to be like. But with a side of fuck no musty fish.  The air is getting heavier with fuck no regret and fear as I ponder the atrocity of fufu fish okra mess I’ve just eaten:

hedgehogdontlikethisadventure

Our side of Jollof rice (West African fried rice) arrives which is meant to be flavoured with tomatoes, onions and chilli powder but just tastes like rice fried with tomato ketchup.  Our waitress reappears with the shaki with bitter leaf, an indistinguishable pale brown sauce with flecks of dark green leaves mixed through it and large chunks of some sort of meat.  Mr Judgmental and I hadn’t actually paused to ask what shaki is, given we are such fearless food warriors (lolz).  Mr Judgmental takes a bite and says, maybe it’s salted beef?  After some googling, we realise that it’s salted tripe. Mr Judgmental’s face goes from curious to pure abject horror as he chews on this salted tripe.  Being the sharing and caring friend that he is, he insists that now it is my turn.

I take a tiny piece of the shaki and I chew this salty piece of tripe except it’s not far off from being green tripe (ie. unprocessed tripe), tasting so strong of fuck no animal barn times with what I imagine overtones of bile, urea and other digestive fluids to taste like.  The bitter leaf sauce is awful beyond belief and over this fuck no of insurmountable proportions  I lock panicked eyes with Mr Judgmental, our friendship strengthened by the horrors we have just endured together and we decide we have to GTFO.  IMMEDIATELY.

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We settle our bill with our waitress and she asks a bit crestfallen whether everything was ok, because it seemed like we didn’t enjoy our food.  I didn’t have the heart to explain to her that I felt like I now had first hand insights into what it would be like to eat the unclean insides of a cow’s digestive system.  Both Mr Judgmental and I fucking love to give feedback but we had no higher life objective at this point in time but to get the fuck out of Chungking Mansions, so we lied and said it was great but it was just so filling that we couldn’t eat anymore.  We escaped the clutches of Chungking Mansions and TST, with Mr Judgmental pausing to buy three packets of crisps from Marks & Spencers on the way back.  I received numerous messages from him that afternoon where he relived the unspeakable horror of our lunch and an update that he’d eaten all three packets of crisps in an attempt to deal with his PTSSD (Post Traumatic Shaki Stress Disorder) as the unclean fuck no tripe taste was indelibly printed across his psyche.

FYN Artist Impression of Mr Judgmental at his desk:

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Sauce

So sometimes I adventure out for ghetto eats and I’m rewarded with fuck yeah panipuris and chilli momos  But in this high risk game, other times you venture out for ghetto eats and you end up with salted tripe which tastes like the bowels of hell with flavour profiles of fuck no digestive juices.  Win some, lose some – but after trying shaki for the first time, imma ready to fall back into the gentle, non-challenging arms of Sai Ying Pun / Sheung Wan faux-industrial restaurants with their yuzu-dressed salads and pretending that I’m really fucking adventurous by eating nose-to-tail by snacking down some miso-glazed short-ribs and some bone marrow on some little sourdough toasties.  I will then mop my fevered brow with a clean Egyptian cotton rag, dipped in a cooling mixture of artisanal gin and a touch of air-freighted Kagoshima satsuma juice and try desperately to forget about the African food horrors that lie within Chungking Mansions. Fuck the adventure times, I just need someone to fucking hold me.

Verdict:
FUCK NOOOOOO, cause as sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti, this was quite possibly one of the most horrific eating experiences I’ve ever endured in my entire life. Although in retrospect, it is quite hilarious how much fucking effort went into actually having this execrable experience.

Where:
Zurriola
18/F, The One, 100 Nathan Road
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2253 7111

Price:
HKD850 (+10% service charge) for the Chef’s tasting menu.  We got out at HKD1500+ per person including wine and fancy water. No, you can’t have tap water.

The deal:
Zurriola has relaunched itself under the executive hand of Chef Daniel Birkner about two months ago. I never ate at Zurriola before but if I make some entirely judgmental assessments (that’s right motherfuckers, why stop now?), the pics online look like that unnecessarily fussy cuisine which declares itself to be ‘modern contemporary’ under the guise of some foamy sauces with a ridiculous porcine Stonehenge fashioned out of tiny fucking cubes of pork belly and a crispy pork rind arch. Executive Chef Birkner was previously the Head Chef at The Butchers Club and I’ve had his fuck yeah food before at The Butchers Club T-Bone Tuesday and Wellington Wednesday so I was pumped to see what his fine dining game involved.

After getting my Mid-Levels and Sheung Wan homies to aggressively workshop their fears of leaving The Island for, sigh, The Dark Side (srs guise, is this really still a thing??), we managed to get our rarefied Island asses to Zurriola which is in The One shopping mall.  The Zurriola dining room itself hasn’t completed its formal divorce proceedings from its sister restaurant, Tapagria, the Spanish joint next door. A portrait of a matador’s butt keeps a careful perky watch over a wrought steel chandelier as a blaring flamenco soundtrack stamps across the room. Ole motherfuckers, but this led to some confusion as my Island homies who hadn’t been given the full pre-dinner brief assumed we were having Modern Spanish for dinner vs the broader remit of Modern European. Misplaced Mediterranean interior overtures aside the most impressive sight is predictably the Hong Kong harbour. Fuck me, however many years I’ve been living in the Kong and shit hot damn, that skyline still gives me the fuck yeah feels.

I wanted to see Chef Birkner’s highlight reel which is why I bullied the table into going for the  eight-course Chef’s tasting menu. Just so you know FYN homies, most of the dishes we had as part of the tasting menu were on the a la carte menu which I took as a good sign.  I’ve outlined this before, but I hate writing up a tasting menu dish by dish cause where’s the goddamn fun if you homies actually decide to go?  However, I will say that Zurriola’s food was everything that I fucking love in a Chef’s menu and I was so pumped that we’d put our trust in the chef.  ALL of the food we were served at Zurriola was so fucking precise, beautiful as fuck and there was no fucking lowlight dishes which struck out, which can curse some tasting menus.  I fucking loved that Zurriola were using non-standard ingredient combinations but not in that fuck no failbags way when a chef tries to be edgy and you just end up crying into a super fucking awkward dish of an avocado slice sprinkled with matcha powder and cayenne pepper on a dark grey slate, with a stupid ass petal on the side.  Over the courses, there was a real ebb and flow to the sequencing of each dish and I really fucking loved how much detail and thought went into the finer points of the meal.  Overall, I just thought the whole tasting menu affair showed the centre of what a chef loves and is inspired by and fuck yeah, there was clear thought behind every ingredient on the plate without relying on stupid-ass gimmicks or trying to elevate shit by simply shredding a truffle over everything.

Which was a big relief because do you know what really fucking grinds my gears at the moment? It’s lazy-ass luxury fine dining. That’s where chefs take it upon themselves to unnecessarily update or complicate shit, just to show off technique, presentation or ingredients which ends up in a off the charts wank-off factor and mega buck$ flying out of the customer’s pocket with sweet fuck all being done to improve a dish’s flavour or composition.  Fuck no to chefs just relying on the equation of fine dining = expensive ingredients, with the meal becoming an exercise in luxury by numbers. Like srs, sometimes dining just feels like add +HKD99 for black truffles to cover up the fact that you’re being served mindlessly uninventive food. Add +HKD200 for A5 wagyu because fuckkk, surely pampered grain fed Japanese cows should taste better. Add +HKD99 for foie gras cause nothing says delicious, gourmet nom noms than adding fatty geese liver as the table cries “OMG guys, I just totally adore foie gras!! How truly decadent!”. Add +HKD250 for caviar cause fuck yeahhh, surely fish eggs can drag a classic dish kicking and screaming into 2015.  Now add in some pea tendrils, splooge some bisque foam on the side, scatter a few viola petals about and some sort of molecular gastronomy caviar pearl (olive oil? balsamic vinegar?) and you’ve got the rights to bleat on about how fucking inventive and modern your shit is.

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Thank fuck Zurriola aren’t playing that game because I’m done with that bull$hit.  Expensive and fatty as fuck doesn’t always result in a your shit being an automatic modern, innovative, high end or most importantly, a fucking ferocious culinary slam dunk.

So as I’m not doing a blow-by-blow account, here are some of my fuck yeahhh highlights.  To start, I had strong feelings that shit was gonna be rad after the bread course.  I always judge a restaurant on its bread because while it’s free and automatically expected by the customer, fuck yeah bread shows that the chef can still deeply care about the free shit, it’s a fuck yeah leading indicator of good shit to come.  Zurriola passed the bread test, as its bread is a serious fuck yeah, flecked with fennel, paprika, cayenne and black pepper which was only enhanced by my greedy ass covering it with French Beurre d’Echire butter which melted to give me dem nutty, buttermilk fuck yeah feels.  Other examples of the off the hook precision in Zurriola’s food was the first course, plainly billed as a ‘garden salad’.  However, this was one of the most fucking beautiful and thoughtful garden salads I’ve ever eaten, with its precision cut batons of carrots, baby corn and other vegetable items forming this artistic as fuck vegetable garden style formation.  Contrast these crisp vegetables with the texture and temperature of the chewy octopus, cold avocado ice-cream and small crispy crouton-like cubes of veal and shit’s getting beyond real.  How many feels is a salad meant to give me?!

There’s also unconventional ingredient pairings which still make sense, as demonstrated by the third course of the scallops which were topped with black pudding, against a crisp green apple sliver and a celeriac mash. Or the prawn which has been battered with crushed pork rinds which fuck yeahhh, is the sort of next level cardiac arrest batter I can full heartedly get behind.  This fuck yeah crunchy-ass prawn is served with a vibrant green garlic risotto where every grain is firm yet tender. I’m veering into food wank territory here but fuck yeah, presentation!

I also fucking loved the small details in both the presentation and ingredient choices.  The final savoury main is a line caught sea bass with its skin fried in such a manner that it looks like a series of scales, all stuck up, served with the finest wisp of Italian wild fennel with a liquorice side.  It’s the tiny details like the sprig of fennel which were so fucking impressive to me, because it was barely fucking there but it just added so much.  Every dish in the tasting menu demonstrated a fuck tonne of technique but more importantly, each dish was a major fuck yeah and showed you something new and fresh. Which is rare but impressive as fuck cause it clearly demonstrates a chef’s vision to show you ingredients that you know in a new light.

After seven savoury courses (excluding bread, an amuse bouche and a palette cleanser) I had to pony up hard to get through the cheese course.  Zurriola’s cheese course was not fucking about, with Chef Birkner serving us a selection of French raw milk cheeses (Chaource, Langres, Reblochon de Savoie, Saint Nectaire au cendre and Crottin de Chavignol) on thinly sliced homemade toasted apricot fruit bread.  I’m normally not down with apricot at all but I can make an exception for Zurriola’s fuck yeah fruit toast. Fuck me, I’d be pretty pleased with myself if I just came for champagne and the cheese course so I’d have more capacity to follow my usual FYN cheese game plan – that is, eating cheese until my entire being is a combination of coagulated milk protein caseins, deep physical pain from my distended stomach and self-loathing.

The final dessert course was a riff on 杨枝甘露 (yueng zi gam lou), a traditional Cantonese cold dessert soup made predominantly from mango, pomelo, coconut and evaporated milk.  I always maintain that Chinese desserts are never the strongest point in Chinese cooking, cause I’ve never been convinced that some ground up nuts, sugar and almond essence in a hot grainy soup is ever going to rival its Western dessert homies.  However, 杨枝甘露 is one of my fuck yeah favourites even if Chef Birkner’s take on this dessert isn’t too literal or overwrought – serving a small cube of mango cake with a coconut puff with pomelo, passion fruit and coconut in a few forms and textures. It wasn’t big but at this stage, an appropriately sized, light and tangy dessert was the perfect fuck yeah ending I needed after smashing my way through a very large in charge tasting menu.

The only thing that doesn’t make Zurriola a perfect dining experience was the restaurant itself, which doesn’t feel like it’s quite figured out what it wants to be.  It’s serving Modern European food in a restaurant decked out in old school Spanish decor.  I’ve well documented my love for having proper linen tablecloths and Zurriola has gone with no tablecloths and tacky plastic woven placemats which just didn’t sit with the food we were served.  I know that every restaurant thinks they can keep their restaurant modern by eschewing tablecloths (yo SAAM, imma looking at you with your pebble filled dishes and declarations of no tablecloths), but Zurriola’s decor just isn’t modern enough to attempt this modern dining without the stiff service bullshit.  Yo Zurriola, let’s be real – if you’re going to refuse to serve me tap water (fuck no!), have an expensive as fuck wine list (starting prices at around HKD700 a bottle and skyrocketing upwards exponentially) and punch out fuck yeah fine dining food and service, why won’t you just embrace that your shit isn’t casual and get rid of that tacky as fuck plastic placemat and give me a proper white tablecloth?

I always know when I’ve had a serious fuck yeah meal when I’m dreaming of that motherfucker the next day.  Or week.  Mission accomplished Zurriola, cause I’ve got dem fuck yeah feels for your precise, modern though no wanky bullshit eats.  Imma gonna come back for you, just as soon as my fat fucker pants fit again.

Verdict:
I know that most of you Sheung Wan / Sai Yin Pun assholes aren’t ever gonna cross the harbour for this shit but fuck yeahhhhhh on pay day, cause shit wasn’t cheap but this was one of the most thoughtful, innovative and impressively consistent tasting menus I’ve had this year. Get your Zurriola jam on for special occasions or when you’ve got out of towners when you need a restaurant with dat HK harbour view.  Imma gonna make a big FYN call, I expect to see this one in my 2015 fuck yeah HK highlights.

Where:
Hotel Saravana Bhavan
4F, Ashley Centre,
23-25 Ashley Road,
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2736 1127 / +852 2736 1128 (no bookings though homies).  We went on a Monday and shit was pretty busy.  The crowd also looked pretty authentic if you get what I mean.

Price:
We got out at HKD250 a person and we ordered a SHIT TONNE of food.  If you’re not so fucking greedy, you might get out at HKD200 a person.

The deal:
Saravana Bhavan is a motherfucking huge vegetarian chain of restaurants with over 80 restaurants globally (with about half of those bad boys in India).  It’s like the McDonald’s of India – keep the food consistent and target overseas locations where there’s a high concentration of Indian homies.  You should read this New York Times article, “Masala Dosa to Die For” which outlines how their owner built his vegetarian empire, killed someone and is still commanding a fiercely loyal workforce.  Saravana Bhavan has recently just opened in HK and this news made its way to me via my Indian homies who had been closely monitoring the visa approval status of the chef.  Yo Indian homies, I’ve got the visa feels for you as I understand that every country in this world are pretty much massive assholes to you guys.

I gotta be real with you though, vegetarian food isn’t normally my jam, given my natural instinct to want to eat all the animals.  Shit normally goes down like this:

Some piously healthy homie who looks fucking radiant and calm as fuck:  Heyyyyy how about we go get a meal together sometime?  Oh I know this great vegetarian place.

Me:

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HOWEVER, I will make an exception for Indian food which I think is the one cuisine which nails the shit out of this vegetarian thing because it’s not just steamed veg and boring ass salads.  Maybe it’s the spices.  Maybe it’s the fact that everything is cooked in glorious ghee.  Or maybe it’s because they serve almost everything with fuck yeah raita, chutneys and sambars.  Regardless, despite the no meat times, I was fucking pumped to get my lacto-vegetarian dosa times on at Saravana Bhavan HK. My excitement levels rose further when my Indian homie who unsuccessfully tried to make the booking for us reported back that she could hear the waiters talking Tamil on the other side, in a fuck yeahhhh indication of South Indian authenticity.

Saravana Bhavan prides itself on its fucking extensive vegetarian menu and its HK branch has no less than TWELVE different sections and over ONE HUNDRED dishes on their menu. I was soon in a sensory overload and all I could commit to was that I wanted to eat all the South Indian things, vaguely muttering about idlis and dosas.  Luckily, I was surrounded by greedy fuckers so all my South Indian dreams soon came true.  Imma gonna dot point this shit because we tried so many fucking things:

  • Mini Ghee Sambar Idli:  Idlis are a white savoury cake like item made from fermented lentils and rice.  I FUCKING love idlis and I actually used to have an idli mould so I could make my own idlis at home.  Sad times though, cause in the move to HK (where most kitchens are the size of a small bathtub) this was one of the casualties in my kitchen cull.  Saravana Bhavan’s mini ones were perfectly slightly sour and were soaked in a lentil stew with ghee.  I ate these as a single tear rolled down my cheek as I was lost in a sentimental reverie, dreaming of the spacious kitchens of yesteryear which allowed for such kitchenware luxuries as a single purpose idli mould.
    FYN Verdict: FUCK YEAH!
  • Kaima idli:  I’ve never heard of or tried a ‘kaima’ idli before.  The dish consisted of deep fried mini idlis were served in a red, spicy sauce – simply billed as “regional spices” with raitha (cucumber and yoghurt) on the side.  The idlis almost took on a meat like texture and  whatever regional spices may be, this was a serious fuck yeah South Indian slam dunk.  Where have you been all my life Kaima Idli??
    FYN Verdict:  ERMAGERD, SO FUCKING GOOD WE ORDERED A SECOND SERVE.  FUCK YEAHHHHHHHH.
  • Devil potato: Tucked away on the last page under “Tongue Ticklers” is this potato dish which I think was essentially cubed potatoes deep fried in ghee and a mixture of red chillies and Indian spices.  How can deep frying your carbs in clarified butter ever be wrong??  This was my second favourite dish after the kaima idlies.
    FYN Verdict:  FUCK YEAHHHH, you need these spicy taters in your life.
  • Sambar vada:  Vadas are a South Indian breakfast food made from lentil flour and then deep fried.  Gotta love a country who classifies a deep fried doughnut item as a breakfast food.  Saravana Bhavana’s are righteous, heavy fuckers which are served with a lentil gravy with some fresh as fuck coriander mixed through it. YASSS.
    FYN Verdict: Fuck yeah, deep fried lentil doughnuts!
  • Chilli bajji:  The most disappointing dish of the night and the only one we didn’t totally demolish.  Green chillies were wrapped in a greasy, cloying batter. With a side of sadness.  So much fucking sadness.
    FYN Verdict:  Fuck no
  • Dosas: ERMAGERD DOSA TIMES. I can’t remember ever having a decent dosa in HK.  I was told that Woodlands does great ones but when I tried to go once, they said that I was too fucking late for dosas.  SAD TIMES.  For those that don’t know, a dosa is a thin crepe made from rice and lentil flour which is stuffed with a variety of ingredients.  We ordered the paper roast masala dosa (the mega dosa stuffed with potato bhaji) and the mysore dosa (red chilli chutney spread on the dosa).  I will criticise the potato bhaji filling – it could have been better spiced and less like mashed potatoes.  Not the most amazing dosa of my life but fuck me, I’ve missed dosas so much.  I’m all about that crispy crepe with the coconut chutney.
    FYN Verdict:  Fuck yeah, you bet your ass I’ll be back for more dosas.  NGL, I want to bathe myself in that fuck yeah coconut chutney.
  • Appam:  I don’t think I’ve ever had an appam in Hong Kong and this was one of the driving factors behind my desire to visit Saravana Bhavan.  An appam is a pancake made from fermented rice flour and coconut milk and this slightly sour, holey pancake is then dipped in various sambars and coconut chutneys.  GET INVOLVED HOMIES, SARAVANA BHAVAN’S APPAM GAME IS TIGHT.
    FYN Verdict:  My love! Appams! I’ve missed you.  Fuck yeah!
  • Idiaappam:  This is essentially a mass of rice noodles, also known as a string hopper.  You dip this into a variety of sambars and chutneys.  But why mess with this basic dipping bitch when you can be playing with King Dosa and Queen Appam?
    FYN Verdict:  Fuck no.
  • Palak paneer:  We ordered this because this spinach + cheese dish is always a predictable crowd pleaser.  This was despite my Indian homie disapproving of this move because we were in a South Indian restaurant.  Lessons in life – always listen to your Indian homies and if you order Northern specialties in a Southern restaurant you’re probably setting yourself up for disappointment.
    FYN Verdict:  Fuck no.  Not terrible but not fucking amazing either.
  • Butter naan:  No garlic naan was available and while this wasn’t the best naan I’ve ever had it was passably ok.
    FYN Verdict:  Fuck nah(n).  OH SHIT SON, I WENT THERE.
  • Indian desserts:  We ordered the gulab juman (a deep fried milk powder dumpling soaked in sugar syrup) and rava kesari (semolina mixed with raisins, nuts, sugar syrup and ghee).  I’ve always had a theory that most Indian desserts originated as a series of practical jokes where some hilarious asshole mixed various ingredients such as carrots, raisins, milk powder, ghee and sugar syrup together and tested his friends to see if people would actually eat them without going into diabetic shock.  Saravana Bhavan’s desserts were slightly less sweet than a normal Indian dessert which simultaneously make your teeth fall out and your pancreas evacuate your body but I dunno, I just don’t think Indian sweets will ever be my jam.
    FYN Verdict:  Fuck yeah, if you’re into having the diabeetus, but honestly I’d just get a chai or coffee next time.
  • Madras Coffee: I rounded off my meal with this sweet, milky frothy coffee and it was a super fuck yeahhhhhh.
    FYN Verdict: Best Madras coffee that I’ve had in the Kong, so fuck yeah homies, get on that shit and risk the chance of not being able to go to goddamn sleep.

So while there were a few fuck no misses they were outnumbered by the solid fuck yeah moments at Saravana Bhavan (Kaima idli! Devil potatoes! Dosas! Appams!). It’s not gonna be the most motherfucking mind blowing Indian feed of your life but that’s not what the Saravana Bhavan homies are gunning for either.  Sometimes when you go out to eat, shit doesn’t always have to be the best ever, sometimes you just want it to be predictable and affordable.

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhh to a no fuss, South Indian vegetarian option in the Kong. FUCK YEAH TO DOSAS, APPAMS, IDLIS AND VADAS.

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