Casual

Where:
Viet Kitchen (fuck yeahhhh functional website.  WITH MENUS. VIET KITCHEN, I’M CRYING HERE)
Lobby, Nexxus Building
41 Connaught Road, Central
Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2806 2068 (but they will only take lunch bookings for more than six people)

Price:
HKD98 for the starter and main lunch set. +HKD22 for the drink. After service charge, out at HKD120 a person.

The deal:
Chef Peter Cuong Franklin, previously of Chom Chom fame, has set up Viet Kitchen at the Nexxus Building (near the Hang Seng Building / walkway through Central Market).  I gotta make a FYN confession, I never went to the new Chom Chom even though everyone was losing their shit over it. This is because my kindred soul mate in nom, Ms Two Serves, went a few times and I was on the receiving end of several emotional whatsapp outbursts about her fuck no experiences which really just consisted of about 20 messages saying “Whyyyyyy?”, interspersed intermittently with “So salty” and “Pho Cheung Fan Rice Rolls??”.  Add in the hordes of people and the inability to book and I wrote Chom Chom off entirely. Chef Franklin is no longer at Chom Chom and he has since opened the substantially sized Viet Kitchen.  I decided to try it because I was looking for somewhere new for lunch with minimal drama in Central because I just find eating lunch in Central to be such hard fucking work.  As you can’t book Viet Kitchen, I aggressively implored my fellow lunch homie to leg it down Des Voeux Road with me as close to 12pm as possible because Viet Kitchen won’t take bookings for tables of less than six people.  Yasss bish ruuuun:

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Luckily the most cardiovascular exercise I’ve had in weeks gave me more tangible results than the gym ever did because we walked straight into getting a table.  I’ll note though that I found myself back at Viet Kitchen within the week and without the Des Voeux Noonday Dash ahead of the lunch hordes, we arrived at around 12:30pm and we only had to endure a relatively short 10-15 minute wait for a table.

One thing that I’m giving a major FUCK YEAH for Viet Kitchen’s proposition is that they are gunning to be an efficient as fuck lunch joint and it’s clear that their speedy wait times are no accident.  You are able to select your lunch from a clipboard while you wait and as soon as you sit down, your entrees are practically upon you.  The restaurant itself isn’t the size of a postage stamp and seats over 80 people meaning they can pack the masses in.  The lunch menu is straightforward with minimal options and no one has to verbally take your order – meaning that your lunch inputs are fed straight into the Viet Kitchen Lunch Machine and it’s barely minutes before your entrees are being served up to your table.  The staff are efficient and on their shit which means fuck yeahhhhhhhhhhh, supreme lunch efficiency!

For starters there’s a four choices – deep fried lemongrass silken tofu, caramel chicken wings, the Vietnamese soft spring roll stuffed with sole or a green papaya and mango salad.  But lolz, as if I was ever gonna get some sad ass papaya salad when there was deep fried, caramel chicken wings on offer.  The chicken wings are fucking awesome and Viet Kitchen will give you three pieces.  Slightly spicy but with a warm, caramel and garlic flavour. Obviously I could have eaten nine but I’m not known as the Angel of Chicken Death for nothing.  On another return visit I ordered the deep fried lemongrass silken tofu which were a small, though fuck yeah starter.  One of my lunching homies decided to respect himself and made the sensible choice and got the salad, which came with an extra serve of sadness on the side.  He barely touched his healthy as fuck salad, while he longingly stared at my golden cubes of deep fried tofu.  Face facts homies, good decisions never ever start with forsaking fried chicken for salad.

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I’ve tried two mains at Viet Kitchen now. The first time, I went for the traditional Saigon Beef Pho, billed as beef broth, medium rare beef, slow roasted brisket and rice noodles.  Viet Kitchen’s Pho has been quite the source of consternation on OpenRice (lolz) with crying faces all over the shop.  I’m not gonna declare it to be the best pho in HK nor am I gonna be an asshole and compare it to some hole in the wall pho joint that you’ve most definitely never heard of in Vietnam, but it was a solid fuck yeah and I enjoyed it.  Sure, I could have done with more beef and I’m always into getting beef balls and tripe as well in my pho.  I also would have preferred a firmer noodle with more bite vs the softer “hor fun” style noodle that Viet Kitchen used, but that’s HK Pho Life for you. You can add another HKD28+ to upgrade to the large bowl but I’m a greedy fucker and the normal size bowl was perfectly fine by me. Overall, the pho was solid lunch time fare but I wasn’t overwhelmed by unbridled fuck yeah emotions.

On my return visit, I got involved with probably one of my favourite sandwiches of all time, the majestic Banh Mi (Tiệm Bánh Mi Phương, I still burn for you, my love, my fire, my carb based desire).  Viet Kitchen aren’t fucking about and will send you straight to my favourite destination, CARB TOWN, loading up their banh mi with a side of lightly spiced french fries and sweet chilli ketchup.  Rules to live by:  Carb life = best life. Viet Kitchen lets you choose from three types of banh mi – The Pork Experience, Wok Fried Lemongrass Beef, and Turmeric and Dill Sole Fillet.  I ain’t got time for that new age banh mi bullshit so of course I went in for The Pork Experience.  As I’ve had so many sub-standard banh mis in HK I wasn’t exactly holding my breath, steeling myself for fuck no sandwich related disappointment.

But whoa, surprise on the upside cause fuck yeahhhhhh this was probably the best banh mi I’ve had in HK.  First of all, the French baguette they use is a fuck yeah because it’s crisp as fuck but not so crunchy that your mouth ends up being carved up into a mess by razor sharp shards of crust.  There’s a good amount of bread in proportion to the ingredients and they haven’t just packed it with low cost carrots to make up for actually giving you meat.  The pork banh mi is stuffed with thin caramelised pieces of pork belly, slices of Vietnamese pork sausage, pickled carrots, daikon and cucumber and fresh coriander.  To bring it all together, there’s a good smear of pork liver pate and sriracha mayo.  Yassssssssssss, sriracha, pork and bread based feelings followed by a french fry chaser is the sort of fuck yeah lunch time experience that I can wholeheartedly get my greedy carb loving ass behind.

It’s HKD22 to add a drink to your lunch and while there’s the bog standard options of canned soft drinks there’s also some of my favourite fuck yeah Vietnamese options – fresh lime soda, salted lime soda, Vietnamese iced coffee and Vietnamese iced tea.  I’m all about the Vietnamese iced coffee and Viet Kitchen’s  is a fuck yeah – strong, punchy black coffee being sweetened just enough from the condensed milk.  Fuck yeahhhh, just add a shot of Kahlúa and vodka and I’d happily drink these til I lost all sensation in my face.

If you wanted to, I think you could easily be seated and out of Viet Kitchen within half an hour.  However, despite the demand for tables though, our waiters were polite and never hassled us to leave before we were ready.  The good news is that even if you can’t be fucked braving the lunch time crowds and dealing with the table palaver, you can always just get a FUCK YEAH banh mi from their Viet Baguette take-away counter.  I’m not sure how big the non-lunch or weekend crowds are for Viet Kitchen considering its location is in the middle of Central not near the restaurants of Soho etc, but I know that Viet Kitchen is giving it a red hot go to be a bar/drinks venue as well.  Not sure how that’s going to go for them but fuck, systematic and organised lunch service gets a FUCK YEAH from me.

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhhh to efficient as fuck, affordable and tasty lunch sets. Make dat lunch money Viet Kitchen, you efficient restaurant homies most def deserve it.

Where:
Momojein (no proper website so check their FB page)
23/F QRE Plaza
202 Queen’s Road East
Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2789 1949

Price:
We got out at HKD440 a person. But I was with Ms Two Serves which means most people would probably get out for less.

The deal:
Momojein only opened in September and its claim to fame is its imported Korean celebrity chef, Lim Hee-won.  I give zero fucks about celebrity when it comes to chefs because fame don’t make shit taste good but I understand that Chef Lim used to front some reality Korean TV show.   Ms Two Serves and I wanted to try somewhere new but when we were deciding to try Momojein in Wan Chai, we were so fearful that their claim to ‘Korean Inspired Cuisine’ could end up in mediocre and run-of-the-mill sadness.  As the ‘Korean inspired’ cuisine alarm bells went off, we did some due diligence and were vaguely reassured by their menu which contained no bullshit Mexican influences.  I don’t know why every single fucking Korean place is all viva Mexico because I have zero interest in sitting through some godawful Korean-Mexican kimchi stuffed burrito with some heinous fuck no name like the Miss Kimmy Kurrito.

The final deciding factor in trying Momojein was when Ms Two Serves pointed out that Momojein is walking distance from Stone Nullah Tavern and if it all went pear shaped, we could try and erase the fuck no disappointment with a second Redemption Dinner involving fuck yeahhh SNT buffalo wings. As the saying goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fall in a big bag of fuck no, sub-par food-related failure, and Ms Two Serves and I ain’t got time for that.

Momojein is a really fucking cute and modern space, their interior and branding nailing the clean, trendy feeling they were going for.  There’s warm wooden tables, brushed concrete floors and enough potted plants and greenery to make sure shit still feels comfortable and doesn’t veer too becoming a stark, austere echo chamber.  A clean and simple menu outlines Momojein’s modern take on Korean food in a modern sans serif font and Ms Two Serves and I revert to our default mode of wanting to order everything.  Well, except for the entire salad section which listed some unexciting healthy shit like “Watermelon and Beef Salad” and “Crispy Beef Brisket Salad”.  These salads weighed in at HKD132 each and seemed like an expensive way to get some artistic pieces of arugula, a tiny amount of protein and the faintest shred of pretence that you are making some healthy life choices.

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Ms Two Serves and I also examine what could potentially be the world’s most boring cocktail menu that anyone has ever bothered to write down.  Ms Two Serves asked whether she could have a vodka and soda with a splash of yuzu, which caused a mini meltdown because Momojein’s cocktail list didn’t push the boat out and include “vodka and soda”.  Fuck yeahhhh, let’s take shit truly back to basics zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz:

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We order the Kalbi Hotteok  (HKD82), which is described as a “juicy hand-crafted beef wrapped inside a chewy crepe bun that is then pan seared for the ultimate crispiness”, with ranch dressing on the side.  Ms Two Serves resolutely declares that “ultimate crispiness” is a concept that she can wholly get behind.  Hotteok (a Korean pancake) is normally stuffed with a sweet filling and Momojein are fancying up shit by stuffing it with beef, but fuck tradition because this Kalbi Hotteok is fucking delicious with its chewy though crispy fried rice flour bun and fuck yeah juicy beef filling.  While our waitress claimed we could share this, it wasn’t the most easily shareable food given that when you cut it open with the provided scissors, the hotteok leaks its fuck yeah beef juices all over the place.  Given its modest size, this fuck yeah beefy treat is not cheap at HKD82 (+10% service charge) but fuck, I’d probably still order it again.  However, the Flowered Chives Pancake (HKD108 +10% service charge) is really where the fuck yeah party gets going, this dish being the fuck yeah highlight of the starters that we ordered.  The flowered chive flowers are so fucking pretty and delicately flavour the pancake with onion and there’s a good amount of seafood mixed into the pancake. All of this works with the soy and chilli dipping sauce.  But what I remember the most is how this pancake truly captured dem fuck yeah “Ultimate Crispiness” feels.  No sad ass soggy bottomed bland Korean pancakes here.

For our main we ordered the Whole Kalbi and Coriander Salad which weighs in at a hefty HKD340 (+10% service charge).  Of course I was fearful that it was going to be tiny but Momojein’s prime beef rib turns out to be decent in size and could be shared between two to three people quite comfortably.  Even two greedy fuckers like Ms Two Serves and myself.  It’s fucking great – the beef is charred and served sliced with a fuck yeah Korean influenced BBQ sauce (read: BBQ sauce which is a bit sweet and spicy) and more ranch style white sauce.  You better believe that I went hands on with the bone to make sure no fuck yeah beef was left behind.  The accompanying coriander salad was refreshing but a bit half assed on the vegetable ontat as it didn’t really consist of anything more than coriander, a few shredded carrots and a light sesame dressing.  Yo Momojein, if you ain’t going to pad your salad out with any other sort of salad greens suggest that you only use younger coriander so your customers aren’t left chewing the woody coriander stems like cud chewing cows.

It’s at this point in time that we see this super cute Asian couple next to us throw down an order which belied their tiny, lithe frames.  As part of this order we saw the majestic as fuck fried Country Chicken sitting gloriously on their table, with a pile of golden renkon / lotus root chips stacked upon it.  Ms Two Serves and I rue the fact that of all nights, this was the night we decided to exercise a rare show of self-restraint in choosing the perfectly fine Korean chicken wings as starter instead of the far more impressive looking, whole fried chicken.  Cue to us being really fucking subtle and throwing some wistful stares at our neighbours’ table and their basket of rad as fuck looking chicken and their elaborate flat pieces of Grilled Bulgogi Pork which we wanted desperately in our lives:

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Ms Two Serves and I were after desserts but for whatever reason, our normally attentive Momojein waiters totally disappeared after our mains and seemed to be tasked with polishing all the cutlery instead and avoiding eye contact with us.  HK Restaurants, Y U never actively push dessert onto me??  After finally managing to catch the eye of a waiter and begging for a dessert menu we decided to the order the Black Sesame Tteokbokki.  Tteokbokki is a soft rice cake which is normally covered with a savoury sauce (usually a sweet red chili gochujang based sauce) but Momojein are continuing to mix shit up, adding some red bean jelly cubes and then covering it with a slightly sweet and salty black sesame sauce.  I was really into this dessert because I loved the dense, chewy tteokbokki rice cakes and the slightly salty-sweet black sesame flavour which was fucking delicious but a bit unusual compared to other desserts.  But I can totally concede that a lot of people aren’t going to be down with this black goopy sweet, salty black sesame rice cake and red bean mess for a dessert.  In which case, don’t order less conventional weird-ass textural Asian desserts to try and be a badass, just order the yuzu cheesecake or the banana hotteok pancake with ice-cream, ok?

So Momojein isn’t traditional Korean (ie. spicy red hot, bean sprouts in small dishes, spicy red hot, stewed beef, spicy red hot kimchi, pickles, spicy red hot) but I think at least their shit was coherent and the changes they made weren’t some douchebag bullshit that’s trying to demonstrate innovation just for the sake of creating something new or declaring obnoxiously how they’re some sort of global cuisine gypsy.  Combine the fuck yeah interiors with some innovative modern Korean food which is still fucking delicious and I’m so fucking down to get my casual Modern Korean on again at Momojein.  Particularly if it involves more grilled pork and fried chicken based fuck yeah moments.

Verdict:
FUCK YEAH to casual Korean inspired eats which aren’t a half-assed fusion mess in cute as fuck surroundings.  Momojein, imma coming back for your country fried chicken.

Where:
33 Cafe y Mucho Mas (FB page)
33 Haven Street
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 9636 3371

Price:
We were out at HKD350 a person (before tip, no service charge included) for a shit tonne of food and booze.

The deal:
I have fond fuck yeah memories of arepas, tied largely to being at Caracas Arepas in the East Village of NYC and smashing these gritty grilled and baked corn buns stuffed with fuck yeah fillings such as avocado, chicken, pork, cheese and black beans into my alcohol soaked body before waking up to a sea of self-loathing, plantain chips and aluminium foil.  Once returning to the Kong, dreams of arepas and satisfactory, green creamy avocados were just that – BIG FUCKING DREAMS.  Until, I heard that 33 Cafe y Mucho Mas, run by a Colombian and his Malaysian wife heading up the kitchen, was open in Causeway Bay on Haven Street (near Via Tokyo, the Japanese dessert place on Leighton Road which always has a line full of youths, no matter what the time) serving up Latin/South American food including my love, my fire, my one desire, arepaaaaaas.

With that I rounded up some homies and into the mix was a real bonafide Colombian. Our ColOmbian Supercoach made it clear that a) don’t fuck up spelling Colombian as Columbian and b) 33 Cafe y Mucho Mas is billed as Latin/South American food because it’s not technically pure Colombian food.  33 Cafe y Mucho Mas is tiny, only seating around 20ish people and despite its size, will take phone bookings.  The menu is also similarly compact but no big deal because our ColOmbian Supercoach took the reins and just ordered everything for us.  Fuck yeahhhhh, autonomous expert decisions.  We plowed straight into some Chicharrones (fried pork belly, HKD80) and Patacones (fried plantains / green banana fritters, HKD72) with Suero (a yoghurt based sauce) to warm up and instantly my anticipation levels for the main event were rapidly moving upwards. I know that food blogs are always banging on about “to die for” pork belly but 33 Cafe y Muchos Mas’ Chicharrones were fucking unbelievable, all the good shit that you expect from a fried piece of pork without any of the bad shit that you sometimes get, ie. tiny ass portions, flaccid greasy skin, bankruptcy and disappointment.

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We shared two serves of the Bandejas 33 between our table of six.  The Bandeja 33 is a Latin inspired rice plate which was giving me the nasi lemak feels in the way that its rice served with a fried egg on top except instead of small tiny ikan bilis fried fish, peanuts and chicken it was surrounded by a variety of fuck yeah treats such as home made beans, more chicharones, fried spanish chorizo slices, sliced avocado, grilled corn and arepitas.  In combination this dish took a lot of simple components but did each one well, putting them together into one fuck yeah plate of flavour sensations, with the creamy beans and char grilled corn being a highlight.  This dish worked just fine for dinner but I reckon that the Bandeja 33 would be a fucking star at breakfast / brunch.

With the rice plate done it was time to move into the star attraction, AREPAS RELLENAS YASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.  Our table shared several serves of two types of arepas – the slow cooked pulled beef (which has been cooked in coffee with avocado and cheese, HKD85) and the pulled chicken arepa (served with a fuck yeah tamarind sauce, served with cucumber and carrot slaw, HKD75).  If you’re in a sharing scenario, 33 Cafe y Mucho Mas will serve this with four small round arepitas (+HKD20) rather than the single large arepa which is a fuck yeah way of sharing the arepa love. I preferred the beef one to the chicken and while sharing is fun, I actually think the full size arepa creates a better fuck yeah experience than the mini arepitas.  So perhaps it’s time to write off having friends and just fly solo to snack down on 33 Cafe y Mucho Mas’ full sized arepas.

Meanwhile, our ColOmbian Supercoach regales us with stories of how to call something small or chubby is a way of showing affection and that it’d be totally cool to call your boyfriend or girlfriend Chubby as a nickname and I’m thinking ‘Fuck yeahhh, this is a culture I can get behind’ while reflecting on how fucking happy everything is making me right now.  The dense gritty corn bun against the meat, cheese and spicy nuanced sauce is giving me some major fuck yeah feels and as the emotions bubble up inside of me imma all “MR AREPASSSSS, I CAN’T FEEL MY FACE, WHEN I’M WITH YOU.”

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I gotta mention though that one thing I am not so down with is 33 Cafe y Mucho Mas’ fuck no use of small disposable plastic containers to serve all of their sauces and cheese.  33 Cafe y Mucho Mas, Y U no mucho care about the environment??

At this point, we’re all full as fuck.  One of my homies passes on the pro tip that if you lean back in your chair, the backwards lean will put less pressure on your expanding stomach and you won’t feel quite so bad.  Our ColOmbian Supercoach wasn’t letting us off this easy though and ordered us one pastelito de bocadilo each for dessert, telling us with expert bluntness that she definitely wasn’t going to share.  It arrives innocuously enough – a triangle of puff pastry on a swirl of caramelised condensed milk sauce (arequipe).  The pastelito is stuffed with a sweet though tart pink guava paste and in combination with the caramelised and cinnamon arequipe this dessert was off the motherfucking charts.  I understand from our ColOmbian Supercoach that it’s not traditional to put cinnamon into the arequipe sauce but fuck, it was so fragrant and fucking sensational with it.  Our table fell quiet while we reflected on how awesome this pastelito shiz was and contemplated how we’d be able to sneak in licking the plate clean without looking like a bunch of crazy ass savages.

For all the Hong Kong restaurant wank off about chasing something authentic and bringing something new to Hong Kong, it’s often just half-assed fusion food with gimmicky cutesy graffiti laden walls and menus that read better than they actually fucking taste.  So how fucking beautiful is it that the husband and wife team at Cafe 33 y Mucho Mas are just fucking doing it with heartfelt food with a lot of fuck yeah love, rather than having a massive wank off about authenticity or fucking about with their menu just for the sake of being edgy or trendy.  Cafe 33 y Muchas Mas is honest, the flavours are simple and bold, but most importantly this is fuck yeah, unpretentious food that will make you fucking happy.  And after witnessing the 2015 Trainwreck of New Fusion Restaurants in HK, I’m so fucking down with that.

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhhhh, arepas in HK!! I’m imploring all of you to get yo asses down to Cafe 33 y Mucho Mas to feel the South American love too.

Where:
Pirata
29/F & 30/F, 239 Hennessy Rd
Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2887 0270 (fuck yeahhhh hand me my shades cause we’re in the midst of a blindingly bright technology revolution cause holy shitballs, you can book on whatsapp +852 6479 6736 and online)

Price:
We were out at HKD750 a person (before tip, as there’s no service charge), for dinner and cocktails/wine. This was for an obscene amount of food and a big ticket steak item so reckon you could easily get out for less (maybe HKD500 for food only?) and still be full as fuck.

The deal:
Last week, I went to Pirata for a fuck yeah negroni aperitif right before I got slaughtered HKD308 for garlicky, stir fried rice and another HKD308 for a salty as fuck broccoli and beef stir fry at El Mercado.  Pirata’s classic Negroni was so fucking good that in an effort to erase the painful memories of half-assed Peruvian-Japanese food, we also ended up back at Pirata afterwards to sample some of their extensive fuck yeah vermouth selections.  Pirata seemed like it had a good thing going on with its exposed industrial lighting, stripped back concrete and friendly staff which is why only one week later, I was back at 239 Hennessey Road to try Pirata for dinner.

Before I truck on with the review, I gotta make it clear that I fucking love negronis and I’m taking a stand against all the variations and twists on this, that and fucking whatever on this fuck yeah glass of Campari based perfection.  Why does everyone want to fuck the good classic shit up with adding totally unnecessary liquor to a Negroni like mescal, sake or in the most ultimate fuck no sacrilegious times, taking out the Campari?? White “Negronis”, Y U even a thing?!

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I’d ended up getting a late booking for Pirata because these fuckers are as popular as taking a nap nap in HK Ikea on the weekend.  I wasn’t too upset because that meant FUCK YEAH NEGRONI TIME at the bar while waiting for our table.  Our table was ready earlier than expected and we went down one level to the restaurant with the promise that our cocktails would come down later.  We checked out the menu which isn’t anything revolutionary, but nor is it meant to be, with their website mentioning grandmothers and grandfathers one billion times and Chef Stefano Rossi’s deal declared to be “wholesome and homely fare that pays homage to his roots”.  We put in our order and our starters arrived super promptly. Unfortunately, the same speed wasn’t applied to my homie’s pre-dinner cocktail which required multiple follow ups and only arrived long after our starters, although it was finally accompanied by many heartfelt apologies from our waitress. Fuck no, so thirsty…

Despite the tardy cocktail, the starters were solid performers. The grilled octopus skewers (HKD180) were fucking delicious, fuck yeah charred tender pieces of Mediterranean octopus and herbed whole small potatoes all on a skewer.  Despite the utterly cornball name of MMM (My Mamma’s Meatballs, HKD95), the pork and beef meatballs in a red sauce were absolutely fine but nothing exceptional.  But this is probably because my heart belongs to Posto Pubblico’s FUCK YEAH meatballs, now and forever until the end of time.  The burrata and 24 months parma ham (HKD180) was without surprises but a fuck yeah nonetheless.  I’d definitely order the creamy as fuck burrata and parma ham if I was chilling by the bar and needed aperitivo snacks as I drank a fuck tonne of Negronis.

For our pasta course, we shared the Pappardelle with Duck Ragu for the fuck yeah price of HKD150.  Pirata’s house-made pasta being the fuck yeah stand out, with a perfect thickness to give it a fuck yeah bite-through texture.  I gotta confess, I’d be more enthused about this dish if Pirata hadn’t used duck breast (which I thought was a bit dry) but all in all, the duck, onions, carrots, celery and marsala wine made the whole dish pretty fucking satisfying.  We’d ordered Pirata’s Lobster Linguini (HKD280) and I was slightly hesitant because I’ve been burned so many times by ordering lobster pastas in restaurants because you get some half-assed dish that relies on a wing and a prayer, with the prayer taking the form of a bland as fuck, overcooked crustacean ontop of some average-ass pasta and an overinflated price tag.  However, Pirata surprised on the upside, nailing a fuck yeah balance between a tasty well-cooked lobster and a tomato and basil based pasta sauce which used a lobster shell stock to keep shit interesting.  I gotta give the fuck yeah props to Pirata for ensuring that its lobster was of a decent size and while it was served with the shell on, it was broken down in such a way that it was easy to access the lobster meat without having to conduct major surgery at the table.

All of this was a solid, pleasant warm up though because the boss bitch of our meal at Pirata entered the arena, the Bistecca Alla Fiorentina which wasn’t fucking about either with its HKD750 price-tag.  But it is a massive 1kg t-bone steak, served with a side of herbed potatoes. Our waitress wheels out this fucking incredible looking T-bone masterpiece and it’s sliced tableside, before being stacked back together and presented on the table.  Fuck yeahhh, don’t be taking my bone away because I guarantee I’ll be able to get more meat off that. Aside from the sheer fuck yeah spectacle of this massive t-bone which had our table collectively sporting one massive beef related stiff, it was fucking delicious and immaculately cooked to medium rare.  There was a good layer of fat to keep the beef proceedings tasty and it had been salted and charred to give it a fuck yeah browned outside while being a glorious, juicy motherfucker inside.  I contemplated pretending that I had a dog so I could have an excuse to ask to take home the leftover t-bone, when in reality it was just gonna be yours truly sitting on my sofa, messily decimating whatever was left on the bone without the need to maintain any shred of table manners.

While Pirata also offer a butcher’s cut 500g flank steak (HKD330), I gotta put a strong FYN statement out there of whyyy would you want to waste your time with what I can only imagine to be a more restrained beef experience?  FUCK YEAH, if you do go to Pirata DO NOT pussy out and not back yourself, because you most def need to get dat Bistecca Alla Fiorentina with all of its fuck yeah grandiose, bovine beauty into your soon to be embettered existence.

I pride myself on powering the fuck through pudding but after the majestic 1kg T-bone, even my greedy-ass ways was grudgingly yielding to the idea that perhaps it’s not necessary to hate-eat my way through dessert at the end of every meal.  We asked for the bill and that’s when our waiter came back to set us up for dessert.  We politely let him know that we weren’t having dessert and he pretended that he didn’t hear us and awkwardly continued to set up small plates, and that’s when it hit me…FUCK YEAH, COMPLIMENTARY DESSERT IS INCOMING:

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It was never expressly stated whether it was because my homie’s negroni had taken half an hour to arrive at the beginning of our meal but our charming hostess let us know that we just had to have dessert.  Fuck yeahhh, I won’t say no to free dessert and we smashed our way through a panna cotta and a tiramisu. Both desserts were a fuck yeah – the panna cotta was creamy and all that good shit, set off with a just tart enough berry coulis but my increasingly cholesterol laden heart would have to award that coffee flavoured sponge filled tiramisu bastard the bigger fuck yeah.

For all the complaining about how fucking hungry I am all the time and how HK restaurants are constantly serving me small bite sized eat$ which are meant for ants, I was so stretched to my physical limits post-Pirata that I could almost see through time.  As soon as I managed to torpidly stagger through my apartment door, I had to get naked ASAP.  No, not because I was so turned on by homely, rustic fuck yeah Italian food but because I couldn’t suffer through the tyranny of a waistband anymore, as my food stuffed chassis threatened to send my buttons ricocheting across my apartment. Am I proud of the person I have become?  You better believe it.  FUCK YEAH.

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhh, I can get behind straight forward, rustic Italian eats for an appropriate price point with the option of fuck yeah negronis before hand.

Where:
El Mercado
21F, 239 Hennessy Road
Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2388 8009

Price:
We got out at around HKD350 a person (before tip, no service charge) for a moderate amount of food but more than adequate levels of disappointment.  El Mercado doesn’t have their liquor licence yet so fuck yeahhhh, BYO, no corkage and booze for days.

The deal:
I’d heard some promising things about El Mercado which has recently opened to peddle Nikkei cuisine to Hong Kong.  Nikkei is a mix of Peruvian and Japanese ingredients and flavours, the result of Japanese immigration to Peru in the late 19th century which saw migrant Japanese labourers eventually open up restaurants which catered to the local Peruvian palate while taking references from their own Japanese heritage.  Sounds really fucking fancy hey? Probably the most famous example of this is the world famous Chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa (responsible for the ever multiplying Nobu restaurant chain), who starting pumping out this blend of Japanese and Peruvian food in the late eighties to much excitement.  I mentioned to Mr Judgmental that I was interested in checking El Mercado  out and he instantly lived up to his namesake by throwing down bags of derisive judgment, declaring “It’s Peruvian Japanese? It’s 2015 and Nobu already did it in 1987.  Surely we can move on no?”

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Regardless, El Mercado’s menu at least looked interesting, its website promising to provide “Peruvian cuisine with Japanese influences” which pushed “creative boundaries offering diners signature treats, which combine citrus flavours with fresh fish, soy, coriander, raw onion, chillies and sweet potato”.  I just wanted to try something new and seeing as I’m boycotting all bullshit Korean fusion options in HK, it ruled out all 15 million (citation needed) of the new Korean fusion restaurants that have opened this year.

El Mercado has only just opened but it was already packed with a stack of people and you can get ready for every HK newspaper / media source to use various reiterations of ‘buzzing atmosphere’ when they describe it.  If you were dating someone who didn’t give a fuck about food and only cared about concepts and appearances, they’d be super impressed if you took them here (although, this means you have made fucking terrible choices in the dating game).  El Mercado’s interiors are cute as fuck, striking a nice balance between modern and casual through a thoughtful combination of light wood panelling, industrial light bulbs, strategic touches of green foliage and sea foam accents.  Due to being in soft open, we got to drink our fuck yeahhhh BYO no corkage booze while checking out El Mercado’s snappily short menu which is split into five sections – ‘Bocados / Light Bites’, ‘Sushi Bar’, ‘Ceviches & Tiraditos’, ‘Primer Pasos / First Courses’, ‘Entre Amigos / Sharing’ and ‘Postres  Dessert‘.  Lots of the dishes sounded rad as fuck, but I ruled out any from the ‘Bocados / Light Bites’ because they sounded fucking teeny tiny and I wasn’t given much hope of not veering into food for ant$ territory when the waiter confirmed that the Ostra Acevichada at HKD58 consists of ONE Japanese oyster which has been jazzed up with lime and squid ink foam.

In a telling omen, after chatting to our friendly waitress and placing our order, I asked her whether we had failed to order any must have dishes and all she could contribute was that we’d already ordered the suckling pig, before promising to check with the kitchen to see if we’d missed anything crucial.  She never returned with more suggestions, only leading me to conclude that she must have asked the kitchen what their star dishes were and they replied ‘Fucked if I know!’  before shrugging their shoulders nonchalantly and returning to chopping a mountain of onions.

The ‘Sushi Bar’ offers various ingredients stacked on top of rice and to put the POW into fusion, the toppings aren’t your standard Japanese raw fish / seafood fare.  We ordered the AVEGANADO, which appears looking just like a tuna nigiri but ho ho, isn’t this some clever shit, El Mercado have used a slightly dehydrated watermelon slice with a balsamic reduction (HKD38 for two pieces) to replicate the appearance of tuna and soy sauce. In a testament to never trust any dish that tucks VEGAN into its name, the Aveganado was as exciting as you could ever expect watermelon on rice to be.  That is, wake me up when you’re fucking done because it’s not fucking exciting at all.

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To really make it feel like we were getting into the Peruvian Japanese vibes, we decided to turn up the fusion feels by mixing shit up with some ceviche – that is, raw fish cured with some citrus.  We went all in, ordering the Ceviche de Atun (Tuna Fish, Leche De Tigre, Sweet Potato at HKD158) and the Ika Ceviche (Ohnibe Fish, Leche De Tigre, Sweet Potato Crispy Calamari Rings at HKD178).  Each dish was indistinguishable from each other, except that the Ika Ceviche had a small portion of fried squid on the side.  This meant that we got two uninspiring dishes of a shit tonne of onions, mixed with some coriander, chilli, lime, a small amount of raw fish and a couple of slices of yellow sweet potato on the bottom. It just felt like all the other low cost ingredients (ie. onions) were being used to pad out the high cost ingredients (ie. fish).  But fuck, how much do sweet potatoes cost?  Surely El Mercado could have ponied up with something more substantial than the scant amounts of fish and sweet potato we were presented with.  Fuck no to eating a dish which is almost entirely citrus covered raw onions.  Tony Abbott, Australia’s raw onion eating Prime Minister, would most definitely approve of El Mercado’s ceviche before stopping the boats or gay marriage or whatever he’s into aside from raw onions.

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Sauce

The mains / sharing dishes looked suspiciously expensive with all five dishes priced over HKD308  We ordered the Aeropuerto (Fried Rice, Octopus, Shrimp & Pork Squid Ink Omelette at HKD308) and the Cochinillo Con Tacu Tacu (Suckling Pig, Edamame Tacu Tacu and Nikkei Chalaca Sarza (special hot sauce made with peppers, lime juice, onions and tomatoes) at HKD308).  The most interesting thing about the Aeropuerto was its description on the menu because in reality, it was just fucking expensive fried rice with a grey, salty omelette plopped on top. I chewed my way through this greasy, over garlicky fried rice while wondering whether squeezing a bit of squid ink into an egg is enough to claim you’re pushing creative culinary boundaries.  Every now and again you’d come across a small piece of octopus, its small rubbery existence surely there to remind you of OMG JAPANESE INFLUENCE but there isn’t enough rubbery pieces of octopus in the world which could eve justify the HKD308 price tag for FUCK NO fried rice.

The Cochinillo Con Tacu Tacu was two small pieces of crispy suckling pig with a lump of edamame tacu tacu in the middle and two fried quail eggs.  Predictably, the suckling pig was fine (crispy skin blah blah juicy meat blah blah blah) because as always, you need to really work at fucking up roast suckling pig to make it into a fuck no.  The accompanying edamame tacu tacu was underwhelming as all hell – tacu tacu being some fancy Peruvian way of saying “fried rice and some mealy edamame beans mashed together to give a dish some heft, given how fucking small the pork was”.  HKD308 for this dish and between four people it would have only been at best, two bites of pork and a few spoonfuls of some ricey, beany concoction. A waiter swung by at this point to ask how everything was and point blank with hungry eyes, I said ‘So tiny‘ and he ignored my comment, right before we asked for the menu so we could order more food.

We ordered one more main, the Lomo Saltado and the menu describes it as “Stir Fried Beef, Market Vegetables, Soy Sauce Served With Rice” at HKD308.  I am still not sure what makes this Peruvian (or even Japanese really) but all I am really sure of is that yes, we did just hand over HKD THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHT DOLLARS to eat super salty stir fried beef with small pieces of broccoli on rice.  I start to pen a letter in my head that goes something like:

DEAR HONG KONG RESTAURANTS,

WHILE THE CONSTANT ABUSE OF EVER RISING PRICES IN THIS CITY HAVE WARPED MY ABILITY TO CONFIDENTLY KNOW WHAT A FAIR PRICE IS ANYMORE, I DEFINITELY DRAW THE LINE AT HKD308 SALTY AS FUCK BEEF STIR FRIES WITH BROCCOLI AND RICE.

BEST,
SGT NOMS
XO FUCKING XO

We look at the menu again to decide whether we want to get dessert but a table decision was made that we were all beyond unenthused about what El Mercado could do for dessert.  Why bother laying down more cash for some Peruvian Japanese delights like mango on some sticky rice, shaped like…wait for it…A MANGO NIGIRI SUSHI!! Fuck that shit to hell, so instead we settled our bill, tipped the wait staff (because they were on form most of the night, even if the waiter homie did ignore my blunt, snippy size queen related feedback) and went upstairs to Pirata to get involved in their fuck yeah vermouth selection instead.  Fuck yeahhh to drinking your dessert.

Verdict:
Fuck nooooo.  But get ready for people to tell you that El Mercado’s good because sometimes all you need is a trendy interior, cozy lighting and an edgy menu to fool people into thinking that you’re doing something new and interesting.

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