JIA Group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Telephone:
+852 2858 6066

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phone:
+852 2983 1003

Price:
HKD430 per person including wine.

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

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

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

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

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

richardpryorsmall

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clitoria_ternatea_butterfly_pea_flower_at_Bhadrachalam_02

Sauce

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

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

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

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