Cocktail Bar

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:
The Optimist
G/F, 239 Hennessy Road
Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Phone number:
+852 2433 3324 (welcome to the future yo, online bookings)

Price:
HKD800ish per person before tip (no service charge included).  This included cocktails, wine and a mega-expensive steak.  You could definitely get out for less if you didn’t order the ball breakingly expensive rib-eye steak.  Maybe HKD500ish per person?

The deal:
239 Hennessy Road in Wan Chai is the new place for restaurants, now housing Zahrabel, Pirata and El Mercado.  I feel like I’m there every fortnight at the moment and to add to the mix, The Optimist has only officially opened this week after some sort of soft opening period.  Before I decided to try it, I loaded up their website and amongst the thoughtful graphics and cool typography came across one of my FUCK NO bullshit pet peeves – menus with no goddamn prices.  WTF restaurants who do this, is it because you like to trick people into your restaurant before fucking them in the ass with a dollar sign?? Yo HK restaurants, here’s a FYN fun fact – if people see a menu with no prices, people are just gonna assume that you’re really fucking sneaky and expensive as fuck:

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Regardless of the no price scenario, I was expecting good things from The Optimist given that it is run by the same crew as Pirata with Christian Talpo and Manuel Palacio setting up a three floor venue flogging Northern Spanish food.  The ground floor is The Optimist’s bar and the impressive Rocio Martinez Amoedo design is all green foliage, wooden tables and benches, geometric tiles and warm lighting.  That’s all dandy to conjure up the feeling that you’re drinking inside a greenhouse but what is more impressive are the cocktails.  I always maintain that the hallmark of a fuck yeah cocktail is when you can tell it’s strong but it doesn’t taste like it’s strong, meaning you want to launch yourself into six beautifully balanced delicious as fuck drinks and throw consequence to the goddamn wind.  I had the Gin and Ginger (HKD100) which is pretty much the cocktail of my wet dreams – gin, mint, lime, ginger beer and a large hunk of ice and I was definitely having my Sound of Music “these are a few of my favourite things, dog bites, bee stings blah blah” moment.   I also scammed some of my homie’s Old Fashioned which is one of my all time faves and oh my yasssss, it was fucking spectacular. It was truly with a fucking heavy heart that I grudgingly decided to stop drinking cocktails to actually have proper food.

The main dining room is on the first floor and it’s cute as hell with its peacock blue walls, framed drawings of birds and light oak furniture.  Passing through the artfully filled staircase, we get seated.  While we check the menu, we are presented with a board of bread, served with a tomato based sauce and some aioli.  The Optimist’s bread game is tight but it’s dwarfed monumentally by the fuck yeah aioli which is served with it.  I was seriously having a major fuck yeah moment and our helpful waiter filled our bread and aioli up once he saw we were empty.  After we smashed it again, he promptly came back and asked if we wanted some more.  I pondered how to stop the rampant thoughts in my head that were plotting how I could find a way to smear the aioli all over my body so I could luxuriate fully in its fuck yeah awesomeness.  Our waiter came back again, offering a third refill and this is what snapped me out of this eggy lust filled reverie because even though I was all “My body’s saying let’s gooooo”, but in anticipation of actually eating proper food I knew the right answer was all:

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Our attentive waiter came back to take our order and this is when I ask him what his favourite items are on the menu or what does he recommend.  In fuck no news, our waiter homie confesses that as he’s just started, he hasn’t actually tried the food yet and he’ll have to get his manager to give us some guidance.  It just bums me out when I hear my waiter homies haven’t had the opportunity to eat the food at where they’re working.  Like they’re expected to watch people having good times and eating fuck yeah noms, while they keep smiling and asking if everything’s ok but never getting to snack down themselves.  Sharing is caring (especially when it comes to food) and I thought of this sad fuck no insight throughout my whole meal, almost wanting to push aside a little bit of each dish for him so my undeservedly hungry waiter homie could get involved as well.

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At this point a waitress shows up with some croquettes which we didn’t order.  We politely tell her that they’re not ours and she walks away quite confused.  This is where The Optimist’s slick restaurant manager glides in to smooth things over, explaining that these were on the house as he wanted us to try their Iberian ham croquettes.  Fuck yeahhhhh, free food.  But regardless of it being my favourite price, my cheese and ham croquette drug dealing homie has absolutely gamed me with my first free taste because I’ll be handing over cash for these deep fried fuck yeah croquettes next time for sure.  Especially as I smeared whatever precious aioli I had left all over these golden fuck yeah treaties.

For a starter we order a serve of the Tudela artichokes with baby squid (HKD150).  I was all heart in mouth, expecting the usual HK Spanish style of tiny-ass starters, anticipating that we were probably going to receive a singular artichoke leaf containing the tiniest curl of a baby squid tentacle for too many HK bucks.  But whoa, surprise on the upside, this starter could be shared between a few people just to have a taste and the artichokes, just charred baby squid, Iberico ham and confit onions was definitely a fuck yeah combination.

The Optimist has its own hashtag / tagline of #wegrillthings and I understand that their premise is that you’re meant to go and check out the market-like display of fish and meat before seeing what appeals and sending your protein of choice off to the charcoal grill.  I never actually saw this display but based on the menu we decided to go all in and order the Txuleta rib eye steak which range from 900g to 1.2kg in size.  As there were only three of us and as it’s HKD____ per 100g (lolzzzzz, I ain’t gonna treat you like idiots, it’s HKD110 per 100g), we were hoping to get one closer to the 900g.  Predictably, The Optimist only had large fuckers at the 1.2kg end of things which meant that we were all in for a ball tearing HKD1,320.  HELP ME, I’M NOW POOR.  The Txuleta is an on the bone Galician 45 days dry aged rib eye which is served with a side of roasted peppers and baked potatoes.  When it is presented, it’s as large and in charge as its price tag and you are immediately hit in the face by the smell of iron filled, dry aged beef.  We order ours rare and it’s most definitely hitting this bloody mark and just one juicy as fuck bite in, it’s all blue cheese and nutty dry steak fuck yeah feelings.  I’m less excited by the sides, partly because peppers / capsicum are one of the few food items that I can’t get behind ever and in sadder news, the potatoes just weren’t that exciting in texture or flavour.  Maybe I’m just a predictable fuck who only wants any sort of roasted or baked potato in my life to be a crunchy starchy motherfucker.

Upon reflection, while the Txuleta rib-eye was fucking incredible there’s a niggling feeling of “OH MY FUCKING FUCK, DID WE JUST SPEND HKD 1,320 ON A STEAK?! LIKE USD170 REAL BUCKS??”.  And while I very much enjoyed the fuck out of it, I’ve also enjoyed the fuck out of other much more reasonably priced beef based treats at other HK restaurants, including the magnificent 1kg T-Bone Bistecca Alla Fiorentina upstairs at The Optimist’s sister restaurant, Pirata, which is almost half the price at HKD750.  I fucking get it, I’m paying for the 45 days of dry aging but I’m not convinced I enjoyed those funky old beefy bastard dry aged references so much that I’d pile in again for that $$$ price tag.

We also ordered a serve of paella, billed as “Charcoal grilled rice with Iberian meats – Secreto iberico, jamon, boletus, vegetables” (HKD290).  Paella in HK often ends in so much sadness (refer:  La Paloma) but The Optimist smashed my HK battle-weary paella expectations hard.  There’s an awesome depth of flavour to its rice, the complexity built from the rich as fuck stock it was cooked in, shit tonnes of butter (yassssss), all the fuck yeah Iberian cured meats and a slightly smoky undertone from the charcoal grill.  The small pieces of boletus mushroom also provide a good textural contrast to the al dente rice.  The fact that the rice has a good al dente bite to it might seem like a small point but I’ve had any number of pathetically undercooked or mushy-ass paellas in HK Spanish restaurants.  The only thing that could have made me happier was to get a bit more socarrat crusty rice at the bottom to give me some fuck yeah crunchy feelings but this was most definitely a fucking awesome paella.

My fellow dining homie also ordered a side of roasted peppers (HKD90) as she desperately hoped it to be similar to some green pepper dish she had in Spain.  Yes, there’s always some #wandercunt chasing that authentic traveldouche moment they had in one of their global adventures.  As I’m not into peppers, I’m gonna sit out on the judgment here but really, just how excited can you get about roasted vegetables though?

The dessert menu looked pretty tidy but I was more interested in going back to the bar downstairs to launch myself into at least two to three post-dinner cocktails.  Unfortunately for me, my dining partners had mistakenly put on their Soft Cock Pants versus the requested Hard Cunt Pants so they were all pitiful complaints of “I’m sorry, I’m just too full…I gotta go home” and while my lust for well balanced fuck yeah cocktails is strong I decided it wasn’t gonna be quite the same making my face numb on my own.  Note to self, I gotta make sure I’m clearer on the dress code next time I ask people out to dinner.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah!  While the service was at times a bit all over the shop, it was well intentioned and definitely not catastrophic considering how long The Optimist has been open.  I probably wouldn’t repeat the bank breaking Txuleta $teak but it’s a cool as fuck space with decent sized fuck yeah Spanish eats and an affordable wine list which should guarantee some fun times.  If anything, I’m absolutely getting my lush self back to crush their cocktail list.

FYN Update 06 January 2016:
GUISE – I’m an asshole at the best of times but I like to give credit where fuck yeahhhh credit is due. I recently revisited The Optimist Hong Kong and shit has improved since I went in November 2015. Things to note:

  1. Their website now has prices. I definitely gave them a pizzling for that on FYN. Yo Optimist homies, thanks for listening to the feedback
  2. Service is on point now and the waiter we had definitely knew the menu and had tasted the food. Fuck yeahhhhh feeding your staff.
  3. Cause ordering ball breakingly expensive Txuleta steaks at HKD110/100g wasn’t enough for me, I went even higher and ordered the Chateaubriand at HKD150/100g (HOLY FUCK). Chateaubriand was an expensive though delicious FUCK YEAHHHH though.
  4. Aioli still remains fucking amazing and I continue to want to rub it ALL OVER MY BODY.
  5. I ordered the Arroz caldoso seafood rice which is good but the seafood charcoal crispy rice is superior. Spend the extra HKD20.

Where:
MyHouse (HOLY FUCK, it’s a perfectly functional HK restaurant website)
202 Queen’s Road East
26/F QRE Plaza
Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2323 1715

Price:
A very reasonable HKD380 per person for food only (before tip, no service charge is included).  Cocktails come in around the HKD100 – HKD120 mark and there’s a fuck yeahhhh reasonably priced wine list too.

The deal:
When I read about MyHouse, I wasn’t sure if it was gonna be something new and innovative or would it just be one of those venues that tries too fucking hard.  My spider senses were tingling once I read all the prose about it being a creative space where people should feel that they’re at home.  The idea of the venue moving from a coffee / casual lunch spot which then morphs to an after work drinks spot, then dinner and then into a club / music venue.  The emphasis on it being a music place where each table has its own turntable, allowing customers to pick up some old school vinyl before playing their own individual soundtrack at their dinner table. That’s if you’re not enjoying the VINYL ONLY house DJ.  Then there’s the whole shebang about it being about natural wines and sustainable seafood.  I’m just so fucking jaded with wank-off pretentious concepts which don’t deliver that I imagined that it might be a bit like going to dinner theatre.  As in, there’s a whole shit tonne of things going on but in the end, the substandard food is distracting you from the amateur dancing, as you suck back some awful house wine in a futile attempt to put some enjoyment into the clusterfuck of an experience by getting wasted.  Just as the cheap wine headache squeezes your brain into oblivion, you tumble out of some grimey venue, dazed and confused as fuck with an overall feeling of “FUCK ME, WHAT JUST HAPPENED THERE?” as an overwhelming tsunami of mediocrity washes over you.

However, one of my random FYN homies has been non-stop singing MyHouse’s praises which is why I decided to put my healthy scepticism to one side and get myself down to QRE Plaza in Wan Chai.  I feel like I’m spending all my time in Wan Chai at the moment.  WAIT, that came out fucking wrong.  I feel like I’m spending all my time going to restaurants in Wan Chai at either 239 Hennessy Road or QRE Plaza at the moment given all the new digs that have opened there (The Optimist, Zahrabel, Momojein, El Mercado (UGH but just don’t go) and Pirata).  As soon as you exit the lifts, MyHouse is killing it with its fuck yeah Mohamad Ghamlouch designed interiors. It’s got that spacious converted loft apartment feel of your fuck yeah non-HK dreams cause let’s face facts, you’re really stuck paying HKD27,000 a month for 350 square feet of Sheung Wan apartment feelings.   MyHouse is all natural wood and massive industrial globular light bulbs, bathing everything in fucking beautiful warm light. They’ve tucked plants just under the ceiling and large windows open up onto the salubrious view of….Hopewell Centre. The space is split between a massive cocktail bar, individual dinner tables, a private dining area, a DJ podium and a bar area.  It’s clear that it’s all carefully thought out with purposefully mismatched block coloured plates, curated art work, vinyl record sleeves stacked in bookshelves and wrought iron fixtures.

I had anticipated that MyHouse would be more like bar snacks to go with trendy cocktails but MyHouse’s Executive Chef Peter Birks has got some serious cooking game going on.  He’s managed to escape the grips of Dining Concepts and prior to cheffing it up at MyHouse he was the Chef de Cuisine for Carbone HK.  After some judicious Internet stalking it appears that he’s an Aussie Caboolture boy done good.  Go well my Strayan sonny!  However, upon reading the MyHouse menu I guess it’s best described as European with some strong Italian influences given the pasta and pizzetta section.  More importantly, I realise there are many things I want in my life.  This is where I flag down our waiter and he’s 100% across the menu and gives meaningful and well thought out suggestions.  Fuck yeahhhh, floor staff who know their shit.  Our waiter homie recommends that we order five to six dishes as well as being super helpful on helping us pick out some fuck yeah natural wine. I gotta mention that throughout the whole night the MyHouse service is super tight from start to finish and even though they’ve only been open for a few weeks there’s no relying on any soft opening bullshit. Fuck yeahhhhhh MyHouse, show those new HK restaurants that just cause your shit is new it doesn’t mean that your service has to be a red hot mess.

While we make decisions on the menu our bread arrives and it’s this large, open crumbed thing of fuck yeah glory.  Our table smears each piece with French salted butter and smashes through it relentlessly.  I’m having a bit of a bread related moment, because it’s just so fucking good.  Our waiter asks if we want more bread and my greedy-ass mouth has no other option but to declare “YASSSSSSSSS”.  We later pressed the MyHouse homies for the details behind their bread and they say that as their kitchen is too small they are getting the goods from Bread Elements.  Even writing this paragraph about the Bread Elements foccacia loaf is hitting me right in the feels because FML, why am I not eating this crumby bastard right the fuck now??

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In a nod to pretending to be into healthfulness we start with the “Truffle buttered asparagus with Iberico jamon, poached egg and parmigiano reggiano” (HKD148).  It’s exactly as promised and every element is fucking great.  However, I just don’t think I’d order it again because let’s be real, just how fucking exciting can asparagus with egg and cheese really be??  Fuck off vegetables, I don’t need to pretend to be healthy cause let’s face facts, I’m a fat fuck at heart and I’d rather spend my bucks on meat and fuck yeah carbs.

This is where the “Ox-tail, orange and sage ragu over crusty bread” (HKD118) arrives and OH MY FUCKING GOD.  While it’s simple in concept, it’s fucking unbelievable.  The ox-tail has been slow cooked until it’s falling apart with gentle orange peel overtones and sage for herbaceous fuck yeah feelings.  It’s served on a piece of that fuck yeah Bread Elements foccacia loaf which has been toasted in butter to make it even more fucking delicious, providing dem crunchy feels against the ox-tail ragu.  You better believe that we demanded even more bread so we could scrape every last bit of that ragu into my life from the cast iron pan.  Why would you order HKD148 asparagus when HKD118 fuck yeah ox-tail ragu is on offer?? Don’t fall into the healthful vegetable trap homies, you’re not impressing anyone!

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Our waiter had recommended a pizzetta which is fancy Italian nomenclature for ‘tiny pizzas’.  We ordered the “spicy salami, nduja, provolone pizzetta” for a very fair HKD98.  It’s about as wide as two fists and it’s deep crust style, its bottom crispy fried in olive oil and topped with fuck yeah salami and nduja.  Like seriously, what’s not to love about nduja – ie. a spreadable pork sausage mixed with roasted peppers and spices?  Predictably, there’s some arugula scattered about as well which I guess is an acceptable salad accompaniment when it’s on top of a salami pizza.

My generally insatiable lust for carbs almost met its match by the time I got to the pasta course. The “veal cannelloni with porcini béchamel” (HKD228) was small in size but rich as fuck.  The flavours were a fuck yeah symphony of balance.  Sure, the veal cannelloni was a good fucking thing but the true magic was the porcini béchamel sauce.  The dish is grilled to give the béchamel a browned maillard crust and just when I thought I couldn’t handle any more of these overwhelming feelings for béchamel sauce the subtle nutmeg spicing kicks in on the back end.  The only thing that can contain my unbridled emotions is to tearily wave the waiter homie over, begging him to bring me MOAR BREAD so I can get every last bit of béchamel into my being.

However, despite the fuck yeah pasta times this is all warm up for the star of the masterpiece, the “Porcini rubbed short-rib with aged balsamic” (HKD458).  This slow cooked Canadian beef short rib presents itself sliced into pieces, with a now-clean bone presented right down the middle.Unfortunately, there’s  more fucking arugula on it, and given the amount of arugula on the other dishes I was definitely at peak arugula levels by this stage. Yo MyHouse, diversify your garnishing portfolio and get some cress or something.  However, the most important thing to remember is the fuck yeah glory of MyHouse’s short rib which is sprinkled with large chunks of French sea salt which catch your tastebuds periodically to ricochet more fuck yeah feelings through your body.  The beef is pink and soft like butter, but charred on the outside.  This juicy fucker tastes so distinctly of beef and happiness that I’m not even sure if the salt I’m tasting is from the French sea salt flakes or whether it’s because I’m weeping tears of joy into my food.  My fellow dining homie that was with me at this point takes a moment to stop shovelling beef into her face, just to exclaim “Fuck, I think I’m at the Vatican because I just saw GOD”.

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At five dishes we were truly full as fuck and as a massive fat cunt, perhaps our waiter’s recommendation of six dishes was a bit punchy.  Or perhaps most normal patrons don’t take it upon themselves to eat a loaf of foccacia each on top of their ordered dishes.  Just to round off our MyHouse experience we took a bottle of red wine to the couched bar area and split a dessert, the salted caramel panna cotta (HKD88).  Layered in a stemless wine glass, I was most definitely into this.  Each layer had a different texture and flavour, going from chocolate to the salted caramel panna cotta to a foamy cream, all topped with some salted caramel popcorn to give it some crunch and dem salty burnt sugar feelings while we enjoyed some cool house tunes from MyHouse’s DJ.

So I’m totally willing to take this one on the chin and be proven wrong that restauranteurs actually can fully formulate a concept which has every potential to be a massive pretentious wank-off but instead throw down a massive fuck you to half-assed execution and pulls together something which is unique and killing it in an unprecedented SEVEN WAY FUCK YEAH slam of interiors, concept, food, music, drinks, service and price point.  Yassss MyHouse, you better believe my short ribbed filled body is READY.

Verdict:
FUCK YEAHHHHHHHH!  In a fairly flat year of only just ok new restaurants in HK, MyHouse has gotta be a strong FYN contender for one of the best new restaurants of 2015.  GET INTO IT ASAP FYN HOMIES, CAUSE THIS MYHOUSE SHIT IS JUST SO FUCKING RIGHT.

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