Casual

Where:
Pici
GF, No. 16 St. Francis Yard
Wanchai, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2755 5523 (but no reservations so I dunno why you want the number)

Price:
HKD200 per person, including one drink.  No service charge, so don’t be a stingy asshole and leave a tip on top of that, ok?

The deal:
The Pirata Group, owned by Manuel Palacio and Christian Talpo, are behind the pasta bar, Pici.  Pici is their fourth HK restaurant as they continue their march to HK restaurant domination.  At least they’re going about it in a far more dignified manner than their Black Sheep Restaurant compatriots and thinking up their own new shit rather than just jetting around the world and nicking licensing concepts from places that they wanna flog.  OK I’m joking my Black Sheep Restaurant fanboys before you rabidly start shouting “HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN THE ORIGINAL CONCEPTS LIKE BELON!!! LE GARÇON SAIGON!!! BUENOS AIRES POLO CLUB!!!” at me. I’ve always been a Pirata fan, handing out fuck yeahs to both The Optimist and Pirata and I frequently trot them out as recommendations when homies ask me where to eat in Wan Chai, cause what’s not to love about fuck yeah casual restaurants which still bring the good vibes, generally attentive service and fuck yeah food with strong, well executed cocktails on the side.  Pici is situated in the cute but often disappointing Star Street Precinct in Wan Chai.  I mean, I always feel that there should be lots of cool shit happening in Star Street but how often do you actually get your ass down there?  I guess every time I need to buy posh as fuck candles that smell like spruce for rich, stylish friends who already have everything or that rare occasion when I can think of nothing better than throwing my cash at a HKD2,400+ canvas bag which is tucked in next to a succulent and a Japanese analogue alarm clock for HKD1,850.

Pici is named after a thick, hand-rolled pasta, which originates from the province of Siena in Tuscany, Italy. So it’s no fucking surprise that its specialty is pasta and they only serve freshly rolled hand rolled pasta made daily. I’m fucking into this idea – do one thing, do it well and don’t have a menu which is the length of a queue of people lining up for free Tempo tissues in Causeway Bay.  I arrange to meet Ms This is Bullshit (refer to this review of 27 Kebab House to check the vintage source of that nickname) at a very leisurely 2:30pm on a Friday and assume that we’re gonna be fine for a seat, because Pici is running that NO RESERVATIONS game.  BZZZZZZT INCORRECT, even at this late hour on an alleged work day, it’s a full fucking house and we still have to queue and wait.  What the hell HK, don’t any of you smug assholes have to go to fucking work??

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FUCK ME, LET ME KNOW YOUR FUCK YEAH SECRETS SO I CAN MAKE MY ESCAPE FROM THE SALT MINES AND DRINK WINE ALL THE TIME AT 3PM ON A FRIDAY.

Once the Tai Tais with the Good Hair clear off and I squeeze myself into the tables to get stuck in.  My first order of business is to order an Aperol Spritz (HKD80) and in a promising sign for an Italian restaurant, it’s fucking beautiful, resplendently orange, fizzing with the hope of good HK times while an orange peel and a mega fatty green olive chills out on the side, living la dolce vita.  Sìììììììììììì motherfuckers, welcome to the good Italian life.

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To start, we get a serve of the parma ham and get stuck into the complimentary bread with some olive oil.  I’m into this simple shit and appreciate restaurants that still give you free bread.  I gotta say that in Singapore, no one seems to dole out the free bread anymore which makes my carb loving and free stuff loving heart sad.  I rectify this sadness by eating three bags of free bread with olive oil.  The parma ham is A1 fucking delicious but I guess it doesn’t really require a red hot kitchen to produce this, just a chef who knows where to procure the good shit.

This is all just warm up for the main namesake event, the pasta course.  I ordered the Pici Amatriciana (HKD85) – which is the restaurant’s namesake hand rolled pasta and a sauce made from cured pork cheek, tomato sauce, black pepper and cheese.  When I was ordering it though, the waiter did stop to let us know that it is quite a salty sauce, and checked whether we were ok with this.   I swing pretty salty when it comes to not only my opinions on half-assed restaurants, but also when it comes to food, so I didn’t think that this was going to be a problem.  However, give the Pici homies the truth in advertising award because their pasta sauce for this dish is, surprise surprise, really fucking salty.

It’s no doubt due to the salt-cured pork jowl and the generous amount of pecorino cheese, but given I received a warning, what was I really expecting??  Am I now one of those dumb ass customers who order dishes like tomato soup and then sends it back for tasting too much like tomatoes?  Like ummmm, cash me ousside howbow dah, food which was given a salty warning is predictably, really fucking salty.  This makes me start to think about how I should just take to pre-warning everyone and everything in my life about potential shit that could go wrong so I can always pull the Get Out of [insert relevant bad shit] Here card.  I mentally note to tell any future lovers that I’m a bit shit in bed with a tendency to dial it in because I’m a lazy fuck (literally), so I’ll never disappoint anyone ever again.

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Turning my attention away from my future excuses and putting the salt levels aside – what is more galling is the white, greasy chunks of fat which haven’t been rendered down properly, which is strewn all through the sauce.  Pici are not shy about the sauce amount too which means that their very fucking good hand made pasta is completely overwhelmed by this salty, greasy mess and it isn’t given any space to sing its glorious, Ode to Carbs.  It wouldn’t have taken much either to make this dish right either, just dial back the salt levels a bit and take out some of the fatty chunks, give me a little bit more pasta and it would have been fuck yeah pasta times vs this so-so dish which I guess was ok enough for only HKD85.

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I cast some longing looks at the table next to me as they get involved with some fuck yeah looking carbonara pasta and in a rare show of restraint, turn down the offer of ordering dessert because I’ve decided to stop saying yes to dessert when the mains were disappointing as you rarely find the redemption you want in the pudding course.  I step out in search of liquids to parch my raging thirst and feel sad about my choice in dish because a fuck yeah hand made pasta drowning in fat and salt just seems to be so contrary to Pici’s whole concept.  That is, a restaurant with straight forward food that is perfectly simple and only uses the best quality ingredients and I assume, should be executing its shit perfectly as well.

Verdict:
These don’t happen often but I’m handing Pici a JURY’S OUT.  Everything about it was stacking up for a fuck yeah except for that overly fatty, salty pasta sauce. I’m normally super digital as to whether I’d go back to a place or not but in this instance, I feel that I probably just chose a dud dish and the other pasta dishes on the menu are probably in fuck yeah territory. Pici homies, you are fucking lucky that your actual pasta itself was up to scratch otherwise I’d be handing you a big fat, fuck no.

Where:
BlackSalt (FB Page)
14 Fuk Sau Lane,
Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong

Price:
I’d estimate around HKD300ish per person, before booze/drinks.

Phone:
+852 3702 1237

FYN Hot Tip:  It’s not large and they have two seatings for Friday to Sunday service – so make sure you book if you wanna go and avoid fuck no disappointment.

The deal:
One of my FYN homies messaged me yonks ago about BlackSalt and they spoke with such passion that I was almost convinced they were a PRBot or even the owner, because they were running at the BlackSalt compliments as hard as a bunch of lads who’ve flown specifically to HK for Jonno’s Bucks at the HK Rugby Sevens.   However, after sustained grilling and being told they couldn’t comp my shit for a favourable, shit-hot review (jokes, I didn’t really ask), their story checked out and finally, months later, I got myself there.  In fact, SPOILER ALERT, I enjoyed it so much that this review is actually based on two separate visits.  Fuck, it’s like I’m becoming a pro-reviewer, taking my food writing shit seriously and not just sitting around making flippant quips on Facebook and neglecting my actual blog.  YES, THE AIR IS THIN UP HERE, WHEN I SIT ON MY LOFTY THRONE OF LIES:

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The Chef/Owner behind BlackSalt is Taran Chadha, who has done his tour of duty around various HK restaurants and has stepped out from the shadows of cooking for big soulless HK restaurant groups to live his own life – presenting his take on the Asian subcontinent, referencing the food of India, Sri Lanka and Nepal while throwing in some western influences.  The menu is split into three parts – Short Plates, Sides and Puddin’, with the recommendation that you show your homies some love and share food.  While making some critical decisions about what to order because everything looks A1 Delicious, I take down a Rum & Thums Up! (HKD108 +10% service charge), consisting of Kraken Black Spiced Rum and Thums Up cola with an orange twist.   FYN Fun Fact:  Thums Up is an Indian cola brand which was initially launched to fill the void when Coca-Cola evacuated the Indian market in 1977 rather than sell a 60% equity stake to an Indian company and was eventually repurchased by Coca-Cola in 1993, to give it a take-down position of its nemesis Pepsi during the Great Cola wars.  Regardless of the long and arduous Indian cola wars that form the base of my drink, I make light work of this delicious AF drink which gives me shades of nostalgia, tasting vaguely of all the poor decisions and youthful angst of my cheap Coke and Bundy Rum uni days but in a much posher and socially acceptable fuck yeah format.

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To start shit off, Black Salt give you some free tiny papadums, accompanied with stewed lightly spiced yellow lentils and a bit of yoghurt.  I appreciate the delicious crispy fuckers and I just wanna make sure that the HK restaurants out there know that I do notice the little touches like this at the beginning of a meal.  More and more in HK I feel that restaurants don’t wanna give you a little something to start your meal off and I can’t even be mad, because I know bread and all that jazz costs money and every tiny bit helps a HK restaurant survive in this crazy ass, sky high, ferocious rental market.  So yo, my BlackSalt homies please note that I gave thanks to the Gods of Complimentary, Thoughtful and Delicious Shit as I smashed away those thoughtful mini pappas.

My FYN homie that made the initial recommendation, insisted that we had to order the BS House Okra Fries (HKD68 +10% service charge).  Long slices of okra are coated in a tempura batter made from chickpeas, seasoned with black salt (GEDDIT?), mint and a shallot slaw, served with a side of chilli kewpie mayonnaise. Of course deep frying any vegetable in a batter exponentially increases its fuck yeah rating and these okra fries are no exception. I can almost hear the thunder of a thousand cliched HK bloggers punching “fried to perfection” into their Macbooks with perfectly manicured fingertips as they drink soy milk lattes at The Cupping Room after a “great sesh” at H-Kore.  But for real, these fried fuckers are crispy as fuck and the fresh mint is swiping right with the chilli kewpie mayo.  However, it’s also deceptively filling so order one between three to four homies as a little something something to start, cause you don’t wanna burn out too early in the BlackSalt game.

The Lamb Rhapsody (HKD168 +10% service charge) is also stellar.  I’m always starved for lamb in HK because it’s either just not available or I gotta plan to rob a bank or perpetrate a phone scam which preys on the elderly and stupid to finance such Eating Lamb Out in HK Japes.  BlackSalt’s take uses a combination of  roasted Aussie lamb rump korma and pulled lamb shank served with slices of paratha, crispy puffed rice, pomegranate and mint chimichurri. The serving size is not microscopic and once I’ve collected myself from not being bankrupt from eating lamb in HK, I thoroughly get into this dish from its textural combos and the rich, punch-you-in-the-face korma paired with the fresh as fuck mint chimichurri.

But it’s the Kathmandu Meatball Mo’s (HKD98 +10% service charge) which are mega.  Everyone knows that I get hot and heavy for the Nepalese dumpling, known as the momo, because MO MOMOS, NO PROBLEMS.   BlackSalt’s version consists of five large handmade dumplings,  stuffed with Australian grass fed pork,  smoked buffalo bits, garlic chives and spring onion.  The momos themselves are a FUCK YEAH, stuffed full of just fatty enough pork and seasoned with chives and onion.  But it’s the jhol achar which is fucking rad times in pure liquid form made from a puree of tomatoes, onion, chilli, garlic, coriander, turmeric and lemon juice to make it tangy and as bright as my undying love for the #carblife. BlackSalt’s menu states that their Meatball Mo’s are “swimming in a spicy wild sesame “jhol gravy”” and if this is what is in the pool, sign me up for swim school cause I’m ready to get my Michael Phelps on and power myself to multiple Olympic gold.

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In the final stretch it’s the Poulet Tikki Masala, a BlackSalt signature dish and I tried to order a full chook but got cut down by the waitress who insisted that we only needed a half portion, given that we’d already ordered so much (HKD278/Full Chicken, HKD178/Half Chicken +10% service charge). A Danish Antibiotic and Hormone free chicken which is “flash roasted, palm leaf smoked and slow cooked in a rich onion jus”, accompanied by a stack of sides including the truffle garlic flatbread, pilaf, chopped salad, and a raita remoulade.  The chicken is very good, living up to its claim that it “melts off the bone” and I can’t say I’m thrilled about the breast meat but that might just be cause it’s breast meat which in my mind is always dry and boring, but I know that a lot of people (ie. white folk) are into that boneless, dull breast meat shenanigan.  However, the sides are plentiful and it’s nice to get my rice on but there’s some misses.  I can’t get that excited about chopped lettuce and tomato and in more disappointing news, considering my deep and relentless love for all Indian bread, I’m just not into Black Salt’s flatbread/paratha.  The paratha reminds me of a wanker banker trying to get laid after a long night on the piss – JUST WHYYYY with the shameless peacocking of wealth with the completely unnecessary truffle and then after all’s said and done, it doesn’t matter anyway cause it’s too floppy and not up to expectation.

I’d been eyeing off dessert because it sounded fucking amazing with all of the Indian spices and flavours, opting for the Carrot Halwa Cheesecake (HKD68 +10% service charge) and the Coconut & Rum Creme Brûlée (HKD68 +10% service charge).  The flavours of the cheesecake were bang on, cardamom spiced carrots cooked in milk, which is then whipped with cream cheese before being topped with coconut sugar coated cashews, accompanied by a side scoop of Tahiti vanilla bean sherbet.  What let this dish down though was the texture of the cheesecake, being far too gummy.  Maybe they were going for something in between a cheesecake and a kulfi (a traditional, dense Indian ice cream), but whatever it was, I abandoned eating this half way because it doesn’t matter how delicious your flavours are if it feels like you’re fighting against the texture of eating PVC glue, even if it’s punctuated by crunchy, sweet cashews.  The Coconut & Rum Creme Brûlée also suffered from the same fate of delicious as fuck Indian flavours with crappy execution.  This dish incorporates  fresh young coconut, turmeric, medjool dates and pistachio, but the caramelised sugar crust wasn’t caramelised enough resulting in it being a bit grainy, the pieces of the young coconut were still quite large and didn’t make sense in the custard and texturally, I just couldn’t get behind this.  I was bummed out by this in quite a major way cause it was like BlackSalt almost managed to pull off a fuck yeah dessert triumph by showcasing those Indian flavours but then couldn’t hold it together at the final hurdle.

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Despite the execution issues on dessert, BlackSalt is doing something which is different in this increasingly bland and homogenous HK dining landscape.  Chef Taran Chadha is creating dishes which come from an honest place, based on flavours and places which clearly mean something to him and for the most part, is pulling that shit off.  BlackSalt is low on pretentiousness so  I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a fuck yeah low key place for casual, intimate dinners where you can expect food which should feel different to the standard dinner tat, decent fuck yeah attentive service and a chef who clearly gives a fuck about what he does.

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhhhhh, get into this fresh modern sub-continental influenced shizzzz!  But don’t get your paratha dreams up and maybe get dessert elsewhere, unless you’re more forgiving on clumsy pudding textures than I am.

Where:
Little Creatures Hong Kong
Shop 1, G/F, New Fortune House
2-5A New Praya
Kennedy Town, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2833 5611 (you better book that shit too, cause these fucks are popular)

Price:
This was the second meal of our night, so the per person cost isn’t as large as normal, around HKD110 a person (including service charge) without booze.  Large plates seem to range from around HKD100 – 150 each (+10% service charge), with most small plates under HKD100.

The deal:
After rampaging through fuck no disappointment town at The Ribcage, we pushed grimly onto a second bang bang dinner down the road at the microbrewery, Little Creatures Hong Kong. For those people who possess self control and don’t know what a bang bang is, it’s when you complete two meals in one session. Little Creatures is an import from Fremantle in Western Australia, but of course if you’re any true blue Aussie Cunt (technical term) worth your Vegemite, you’d know that you say it correctly as ‘Freo’.  The former sugar and flour mill in Kennedy Town has been decked out to try and capture that carefree port side feeling of the Little Creatures in Freo with its high ceilings, recycled wood, airy interiors and cute purposefully retro posters blending Australia and HK references. My lungs are almost gleefully sucking down that clean Australian air just by thinking about it. It’s also really fucking huge by Hong Kong standards with a fucktonne of tables.  Despite the ample seats, we still had a wait ahead of us because we were bang bang dinner refugees without a booking and by the time we arrive at Little Creatures HK at around 8:30pm on a Friday night, it’s totally rammed with people and a long list of reservations.  The hostess is totally on her shit though, assuring us in a comforting Strayan strine that she’ll try and seat us as soon as possible.  She might even have called me darl, which went some way to calming my harried nerves. We dull our Ribcage related pain by getting involved in some Little Creatures Pale Ale, IPA and cider, as we stand around awkwardly at the limited bar space for a very reasonable twenty minutes before we’re shown to our table.

The Little Creatures HK menu is split into Sharing Plates, Small Plates, Greens Breads and Buns, Pizza, Pasta & Rice and Cheese.  We start with the Crispy Chicken (HKD125 +10% service charge) with pineapple sauce.  I’m sceptical from the start because I just don’t jive with sweet fruit and savoury meat as a general rule but in reality, the sauce isn’t as sickly sweet and offensive as I’d imagined it was going to be.  While the chicken itself is well fried, crispy as fuck on the outside and avoiding the common fate of being a dried out mess inside, it’s unfortunately underseasoned which means it relies on the pineapple sauce to bring the flavour (not that it particularly pops with any strong pineapple flavour). Luckily, I’m able to season my bland though well-fried chicken with the salty tears that I shed when I try the cliched Hand Cut Frites with truffle mayo (HK75 +10% service charge) which are just like my summer body dreams – pale, flabby and definitely full of carbs.

Next up is the Mac and Cheese (HKD75 +10% service charge), which is billed as being topped with truffle and a herb crust.  Little Creatures HK, Y SO MUCH TRUFFLE?  Shit sounds soooo fucking fancy doesn’t it?  The Mac and Cheese isn’t anything more than a creamy, herb sauce with macaroni in it and it’s as unsatisfying as a Typhoon 8 signal which gets lowered before 6am on a Friday. FFS Little Creatures HK, it’s fucking melted cheese with carbs, how fucking hard is it to get a mac and cheese right??  Did you even try?!  RETURN OF THE LITTLE CREATURES MAC, YOU LIED TO ME, YES I CRIED, YES I CRIED.

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The Pizza menu is an exercise in minimalism with titles such as Herbs, Corn, Kale and Sausage.  I wince at the nomenclature awkwardness of having to order a ‘Herbs Pizza’ and I obviously stay well clear of the ‘Kale Pizza’ because that sort of pizza bullshit seems to be targetted at half-hearted clean eating urban warriors who punch out some BikiniFit in the morning because #strongisthenewskinny before barrelling into six strawberry daiquiris at Feather Boa with their best white friends.  The Sausage pizza (HKD125 +10% service charge) is topped with bacon, fennel, sage and provolone which all sounds good in theory but when it is presented at our table I start to wonder what kind of Home Economics high school kitchen is now responsible for the food at Little Creatures HK.  The base is cardboard like in texture and appearance, you can almost imagine it being ripped out of a pre-made base box half a week ago to allow it to truly dry out before the recalcitrant, moody adolescent fingers of high school students smeared tomato paste across it and indolently topped it with pre-prepared chopped pieces of bacon and shredded cheese.  It’s horrific on all levels from the dried out base and the sloppy toppings which almost slide off in one piece to the complete lack of flavour.  I take several bites of this ‘pizza’ abomination just to really make sure this is the most soulless and flavourless pizza I’ve ever come across in Hong Kong and as I choke it back, there is no doubt in my mind that I’m completely right.  I chew slowly and deliberately, as I sort through the vague memories I have of someone telling me the pizzas are good at Little Creatures HK. Unfortunately, I can’t place which tasteless moron or press release gave me this bullshit information which is a shame because I’d be furiously texting them my views on how they are completely devoid of any knowledge as to what actually constitutes a good pizza.

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We debate whether to give Little Creatures the chance to wow us on dessert because LBR, we’re not expecting any show stoppers at this point.  As we’re greedy cunts who love a bit of pud pud, we order the Cider Green Apple Nut Crumble with whipped mascarpone (HKD75 +10% service charge).  It sounds pretty fucking fancy but in reality it’s just a straightforward apple crumble with a scoop of ice cream which might have mascarpone in it, but if you’d never told me about it, I’d never taste it.  I’m now convinced that the Little Creatures HK menu has been designed to be cooked by a small child chef who’s using a cookbook with cartoon illustrations and warnings that you should get an adult when you’re boiling water or taking things out of the oven.  The apple crumble was the only well executed dish of the night and we take the time to reflect upon our entire bang bang evening where we’ve battled through two fuck no meals, the fuck no coleslaw and average to terrible ribs at The Ribcage and now we’ve let Little Creatures HK well and truly lead us down the garden path to a fuck no flower field filled with Mediocrity Marigolds, Gauche Gladiolis and Banal Begonias.

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So the food at Little Creatures HK, excluding that godawful sausage pizza, is absolutely edible.  I can’t imagine that was written in their vision statement of what they wanted their food to be amongst the artist’s sketching of their restaurant decor.  But it really is the sort of meal that if you painted black with white stripes, people would walk all over it because it’s just so fucking pedestrian.  Every dish we ordered had some sort of execution issue (ok, except for the apple crumble – but how fucking hard is it to make a crumble?) which suggests that the kitchen isn’t tasting their food for seasoning, giving a fuck if it’s cooked properly or their management is dictating a super uninspiring, bland as fuck menu which is meant to appeal to the undiscerning masses. Judging by how many people were packed into Little Creatures HK, perhaps there’s something to be said re: economic viability and appealing to the undi$cerning ma$$es.

But real talk, it looks like Little Creatures managed to keep their shit authentic in Hong Kong because Little Creatures in Freo has basic as fuck food as well.  Take my burn Little Creatures because fuck no to the faithful copying of boring, uninspired concepts and shipping it straight across the Indian Ocean so the suffering of uninspired and poorly executed food can be truly global.

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Verdict:
FUCK NO.  However if you’re an absolutely bottom of the barrel basic and enjoy shit like Castelo Concept restaurants, drinking rosé, thinking you’re living wild in real Hong Kong because you live in Sai Ying Pun or Kennedy Town, going to the Happy Valley races on a Wednesday, love ‘your girls’ or nights out with the rugby lads, Little Creatures HK might be your newest, favourite spot in Hong Kong.

Where:
The Ribcage (FB Page)
Shop J, G/F May Sun Building, 1 Smithfield
Kennedy Town. Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 3956 4213

Price:
We got out at around HKD200 a head.

The deal:
The Ribcage has been open since March 2016 and I’d heard the standard PR story about how the owner was disappointed by the ribs in HK and decided that he was gonna show HK how to do shit right.  With such a bold claim and a few people telling me that The Ribcage had good ribs, I decided to check out whether a) most people continue to be tasteless morons and b) whether The Ribcage was truly slaying the HK rib game.  It’s a relatively spartan shop front, with high benches and only one high table in the middle, which makes dining largely awkward if you come in a group any larger than two homies and if you lack any core strength to support your sad sack of shit body on a backless stool.  The super straight forward menu is written on blackboards on the wall, listing only five food items – three types of ribs all slow smoked with hickory and apple wood – USA pork baby back ribs (half/full), Canadian AAA beef (full only) and lamb (full only) ribs and two sides, beef fat skinny fries and coleslaw.  I guess if I wanted to spin that shit, F&B PR style, I’d bill it as a carefully curated selection of items which The Ribcage promise to deliver on, but as I’m just an asshole dickhead blogger, I’m just gonna call it a fucking tiny selection.

Ms Two Serves had warned me that the only liquor The Ribcage serves is beer and they don’t have any ice available for soft drinks.  This was in fact over promising the booze situation because despite the empty beer bottles on top of the counter, we confirm with the staff that they don’t have the right licence at the moment, which means they are dry as a bone.  WHYYYYYY HK RESTAURANTS, Y U never let me have easy access to alcohol with my meals anymore?! GODDAMNIT, MY EVERYDAY LIFE JUST MAKES ME SO THIRSTY.

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Ignoring my shaking hands, I settle for a coke and just as Ms Two Serves stated, there was no ice available either.  Fuck, I rarely drink soft drinks without hard liquor and at the very least, I want that sugary shit frosty cold.  With my iceless coke in hand and given that there’s only five food items on the menu, we decide to comprehensively give The Ribcage a red hot go and order everything that’s available.

Service is super fucking amiable and our beef fat skinny french fries (HKD38) and Canadian AAA beef ribs (HKD298) appear first, served casually on aluminium baking trays.  The pile of shoestring fries are fucking great and The Ribcage haven’t been tight asses with their portions either.  There is nothing worse than ordering fries before realising you’re gonna need at least four serves to fill the potato shaped hole in your fatty boombah heart.  The Ribcage fries are sprinkled with paprika, crispy and hot which makes for fuck yeah spud times which we rapidly shove into our faces.  But like FOR REAL, how fucking hard is it to cook pre-bought frozen french fries?  Well, maybe it’s harder than I give it credit for because I’ve certainly had my share of sad, flaccid fuck no fries in this fat fuck life time.

Getting involved with our first proper food item, the beef rib sure looks like the business – it’s been cut into boneless pieces and re-arranged along a massive rib bone which has been stripped clean.  It’s fuck yeahhhhhh beef feels as it’s all pink and juicy as fuck, a hint of smoke and a good char on the outside.  The allegedly home made BBQ sauce is a little bit lame and despite its claims of being home made, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid if you told me it was squeezed out of a bottle somewhere.  Regardless, we’re slamming down some fuck yeah deep fried carbs and a well executed beef rib, so we start to think that despite its lack of booze and ice, The Ribcage might be able to pull this purveyor of fuck yeah ribs shit off in HK.

But it’s at this point that my rib related dreams take a battering when I try The Ribcage’s coleslaw (HKD28).  In general, I don’t exactly get a raging boner or even a semi-chub for coleslaw, because just how turned on can you get for shredded cabbage, carrot and some creamy dressing?  My reasoning is that if you’re gonna spend calories why would you spend it on mayo drenched cabbage when you could spend it on far superior fuck yeah noms like fried carbs or meat?!  The Ribcage does nothing to dissuade me of this belief because even by bullshit coleslaw standards, The Ribcage’s coleslaw is brimming with EXTRA bullshit.  The shredded cabbage and carrots are barely coated by the dressing, there’s no acidity from vinegar or lemon and just to add some next level coleslaw bullshit, it’s been decoratively topped with a thin slice of pear which is giving an extra “fuck you” by going brown around the edges.  All of this cabbagey mess tastes like dank ass and it’s obviously been carefully matured left to go stale and soggy as fuck by the “kitchen” for at least three days. It’s at this point, I start to ponder just how much raping and genocide I must have committed in a past lifetime to receive this karmic coleslaw related punishment.

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So it might seem insignificant as it’s just one side dish at a place that’s meant to be punching out killer ribs.  But I was so fucking upset by The Ribcage’s coleslaw because The Ribcage only has FIVE things on their menu which means this FUCK NO coleslaw atrocity is TWENTY FUCKING PERCENT OF THEIR MENU.  If you’re going to have such a limited menu there’s absolutely an expectation that you should be nailing the fuck out of every single item. It’s even more insulting because it’s not even fucking hard to make coleslaw – The Ribcage would have been better off to have kept their shredded cabbage fresh, squeeze in some kewpie mayonnaise and add some lemon juice, before using salt and pepper to season the fucker.  Instead it’s absolutely clear that they DO NOT give a fuck about this dish and I can’t imagine that whoever is in charge could have ever tried that coleslaw and gone “WINNER WINNER CABBAGE DINNER, this is absolutely good to go in my restaurant”.  I know that working in a kitchen is hard fucking work and shit happens, shit goes wrong and sometimes a kitchen just has a shocker of a night.  But this isn’t complicated shit, it’s a tub of pre-made coleslaw that has been made before service and all that’s involved is dishing it out as people order it.  The fact that it’s so seriously fucked up is just beyond the fucking pale and all I can do is imagine shit going down in The Ribcage’s kitchen like this:

Ribcage Kitchen Homie #1:  Fuuuuuck, I’m not sure about this massive tub of coleslaw.  I think it’s a soggy ass mess and the dressing is bullshit.

Ribcage Kitchen Homie #2:  Yeah, anything else you wanna comment on you opinionated know-it-all asshole?

Ribcage Kitchen Homie #1: I think we made it a couple of days ago too, like maybe we should make a fresh batch?

Ribcage Kitchen Homie #2: Fuck me Mr Opinion Get that Freshness into my Goddamn Face, just slice up a nashi pear and make it all fancy and shit then.

Ribcage Kitchen Homie #1: I’m really not sure if that’s gonna fix it though…

Ribcage Kitchen Homie #2: *waves arms and sends coleslaw out of the kitchen*

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From the glory of the fuck yeah beef ribs, we eat our half serve of USA pork baby back ribs (HKD148) which are absolutely, right down the middle of the line, fine.  I would describe them as completely inoffensive, not really falling off the bone and very passably edible.  In a moment of existential elegance, I eat them simply because they’re there.  It’s hardly a glowing recommendation when the only thing you can think is “I am so fucking glad that this is only a half serve of ribs because there is nothing about this dish here that is exciting enough to make me want to eat more”.  It’s sad times though because after the beef ribs, I was expecting some fuck yeah feelings from the pork ribs.

We conclude our sweep of The Ribcage’s entire menu with the Australian lamb ribs (HKD178).   The lamb ribs are absolutely the fucking worst of all the ribs, bringing to a close our maddening and rapid descent into solid fuck no territory while raising so many bewildering questions.  Why is the lamb dressed in the same sweet barbecue sauce? Why is there so much fucking rosemary which doesn’t go at all with the barbecue sauce?  Why is shit so gristly and fatty?  Most importantly, DEAR RIBCAGE, Y U CLAIM U SMOKE UR SHIT FOR FOUR HOURS BLAH BLAH SPECIAL FUCKING SMOKER BLAH BLAH APPLE HICKORY BLAH WOOD BLAH BLAH AND THEN GIVE ME SUCH CHEWY NON-TENDER LAMB RIBS??

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We finish our food and our friendly waitstaff, efficiently clear our trays and broken dreams away.  However their fuck yeah service and efforts can’t solve all our problems and it’s with a belly full of disappointment and lies, we glumly slip into the streets of Kennedy Town in search of a second dinner to bang bang the pain away.

Verdict:
Fuck noooooooooo because it’s simple fucking maths – only five items on the menu and sixty percent of it is mediocre to flat out bullshit.  Most importantly, no one deserves that thoughtless, fucked up coleslaw in their life.  NO ONE.

Where:
Electric Ave (FB Page)
Tai Yik House, LG/F, 27-29 First Street
Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong

Phone: 
+852 2858 8883

Price:
Burgers before the extras are HKD120-HKD130.

The deal:
Electric Ave is a small, burger joint which opened up a few months ago in Sai Ying Pun.  I’ve been chatting to the owner Andy for a while on my FY Noms Facebook account (add me yo, like my page – all that good social media shit!!) and we’ve been shooting the breeze about the trials and tribulations of setting up his new shop.  Shiiiiit, I honestly don’t know how any of you restaurant fuckers do it in this brutal HK market.  The one thing I always think about when I’m eating out, particularly when it’s an independent joint without the backing of some mega-dining group, is just how many plates of X does a restaurant need to churn out every day just to make rent in this crazy, expensive city?  Answer – a metric fuck tonne, and that’s even before you figure out all the other tedious shit like staffing, sourcing ingredients, overheads and then just making sure that fickle, asshole HK punters aren’t already moving onto the next, trendy bullshit. Like for real, this is how I imagine life to be as a HK landlord:

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Sauce

I’ve been hearing good things about Electric Ave so I scheduled in a fatboy feed and waddled my fat ass down the stairs to find it tucked down an alley off First Street.  It’s cute as shit, with a white, black, red and yellow London inspired cartoon style mural painted by HK street artist Bao Ho down its green walls.  It probably doesn’t seat any more than 15 people and on a Saturday lunch session, almost every seat is taken.  From the chalkboard above the kitchen, we order the Classic Aussie Beef Burger (HKD120, +HKD15 for cheddar or stilton cheese, +HKD10 for skinny rosemary fries) and as the listed chicken burger is not available, we get the Smokey Carbonara Chicken Burger (HKD110).  For +HKD30, you can upgrade your fries to five hour hand cut chips with bone marrow and there’s no way my greedy guts can say no to that fuck yeah sounding proposition.

Our chunky chips are first out and HOLY FUCKING SHIT, this is the sort of carb related experience that will give you wet dreams in the nights to come.  Perfectly golden and crispy on the outside, fluffy as fuck on the inside and then there’s this depth and slight beefy flavour to them from the bone marrow which Electric Ave have rendered down themselves to finish off their chips.  I chatted to Andy (anonymously, he didn’t know that I was FYN because fuuuuck, what an outright wanker that would make me) about what goes into making a five hour chip and he outlined a number of steps from peeling potatoes and cutting them by hand, soaking the chips in pH 9 water with sugar and salt to get the starch out, drying the moisture off with a fan, putting the chips into the freezer until they’re almost frozen and finally, frying the chips so they can take their final glorious fuck yeah form.  Once they’re fried, they’re topped with rendered bone marrow which he’s cleaned all the blood off, served with a side of homemade ketchup with all sorts of fancy shiz going on like tomatoes, onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, cider vinegar, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, tamari, oyster sauce, fish sauce, anchovies, dark sugar and cloves.  Fuuuuck, five hours to make and then mere minutes to be destroyed but as I always say, carb life is the best life and Electric Ave’s bone marrow chips may be the closest to a carb filled FLAWLESS VICTORY that I’ve experienced all year.

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The only thing that stops me from inhaling every single chip is the arrival of my Classic Aussie Beef Burger.  It’s not one of those over the top gut buster size burgers but it’s also not a piddly little burger the size of a small child’s fist (HAY Burger Circus, you know what I mean). I gotta say, my expectations for burgers in HK start at a very low place but Electric Ave’s beef burger is obviously well thought out with every component bringing something to the fatty boombah table.  The patty is cooked medium rare (they didn’t ask how I wanted my burger, so if you don’t jive with this either learn to eat your burgers properly or make sure you tell them what temperature you want) and is made from prime grade Super Black Angus Australian cattle from New South Wales, a blend of chuck and brisket with a good amount of fat, seasoned with dried mushrooms, salt and pepper.  It’s a very good patty, with the fat giving it a lot of flavour and juiciness but personal preference, I would have liked my patty to have a bit more of a char on it and a touch more salt.  I can concede that I can swing more salty than some people, so once I season it to taste, I’m super into what’s happening patty wise.  

Aside from the fuck yeah patty times, there’s all sorts of fuck yeah things going on such as their custom burger sauce which is a punchy combination of their homemade ketchup blended with kewpie mayonnaise, Sriracha, garlic, cloves and sherry vinegar.  There’s no sad ass wilted iceberg lettuce either, with Electric Ave using halved baby gem lettuces.  Importantly, the pickle game is also strong, Electric Ave keeping shit real with home brined pickles that have overtones of coriander seed, dill weed and fennel.  Electric Ave also has some serious confit onion game going on, with a fuck yeah level of caramelisation going down, with just enough sweetness from the red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar and dark sugar.  Just to keep the burger components coming, it’s all brought together with some tomato jam which they’ve made from stewing tomatoes and peppers with fish sauce, ginger, vinegar, sugar and chill.  Electric Ave claims that there’s over 100 ingredients in every burger combo and fuck, I’m exhausted just thinking about everything I ate in that one burger but fuck yeahhhhh, I know that it definitely passed my burger test of when you take a bite of it and not only do you get a bit of everything that’s going on in there, it’s well balanced with lots of different layers of flavour and construction wise, holds its shit together.

I’m always sceptical about ordering chicken burgers, relegating them to the Poor Ordering Decisions Playbook, which is famous for containing bullshit plays like ordering the fish when you’re in a steak restaurant.  My homie ordered the Smoky Carbonara Burger which uses shredded chicken covered with a fucking delicious carbonara sauce made from chunks of smoked pancetta, cream, taleggio and a shit tonne of pepper.  This burger is gonna be your worst nightmare if you have qualms about eating mother / child, chicken and egg combos, because the chicken sits on a bed of arugula and a fried egg is used to top it all off and when you bite into it, the egg yolk explodes to combine itself with the carbonara sauced chicken.  Fuck the moral quandaries though because this chicken burger shiz is REAL LOVE and all of my doubts regarding chicken burgers always being the poor, ugly cousin to the beef burger are eviscerated, because I think this was even better than the beef burger.  It was downright primal, eating this messy fucker over whatever bone marrow chips remained so the broken yolk and carbonara sauce could drip all over those fuck yeah chips to become somehow, impossibly, even fucking better.

It’s at this point that I try to slow down the speed of my food inhalation because I’m hit by the terrifying realisation that like the dying days of summer, I’m running out of burger and fuck yeah chips and I don’t want my chip related happiness to slip through my fingers so all that I’m left with is a sense of loss deep in the pit of my stomach.  Except shit is just tooooo fucking good and soon I’m bereft and have nothing more to hold onto, except my desperate attempts to recall the memories of these sexy carb filled times, as my hands instead clutch remorsefully at a pile of grease smeared tissues.

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So if you’re after one of the best fuck yeah burgers I’ve had in HK which is stuffed full of thought in every component, get yo ass down to Electric Ave and get involved homies. Chef/owner Andy is also super fucking friendly and works the floor when he’s not bustin’ ass in the tiny kitchen to ask how things are and to go into the infinitesimal details of how he makes his burgers.  I won’t lie to you, it’s not a cheap burger but you’re paying for the quality ingredients and the vast amount of time involved to bring this righteous fuck yeah burger time together.  And really, what’s the point of slaving away in the money mines of HK if you can’t at least spend some of that hard earned slave wages on avoiding the fuck no plight of staring down some sad-ass excuse of a burger (probably with a fucking brioche bun) which makes you want to weep for your mother or anyone who can hold you close? Yassss, spend money bitch on shit that matters.

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhhhhhhh and most importantly, don’t forget to pay the extra cash to upgrade to the five hour hand cut chips because for real, that shit is gonna make you into a better carb-filled person.

 

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