Private Kitchen

Where:
Little Kitchen HK (FUCK YEAHHHH, a properly designed and informative website!!!)
1/F, Cheung Lok Building
No. 112-114 Saiwanho Street
Sai Wan Ho, Hong Kong

Shit’s a little hard to find, so make sure you follow the instructions on their website – to which I would add that when you exit the Sai Wan Ho MTR, turn right then cross Shau Kei Wan Road at the intersection with Tai On Street/Shing On Street. Follow Shing On Street and take a left when you come to Sai Wan Ho Street. Little Kitchen is located about halfway down, opposite the Park n Shop.  You’ll see a tiny doorbell on the wall to the right with their logo on it.

Phone:
+852 5616 4114

Price:
HKD500 (no service charge).  No corkage.

The deal:
When I first moved to HK, I thought that private kitchens were so interesting and a Grade A1 way to be a boastful, know it all fuck.  Yeah, I fucking know a place – it’s a private kitchen.  But then the accreting creep of HK disappointment took the steam out of that for me as well, realising that private kitchens were often a pain in the ass to book, food which is often inconsistent in quality and even when they claimed ‘no corkage’, you ended up getting stung for it when they didn’t actually have a liquor licence. In my quest to Journey to the East (because fuck, the Journey to the West is so played out), I rounded up some of my East side homies to check out Little Kitchen HK in Sai Wan Ho.  HOLY FUCK, that’s like nine stations after Central.  I’ve been riding the East so fucking hard at the moment, so much so that I’m even obnoxiously giving the suburbs unbearable hipster names like “Nopo” for North Point and “Sai Ho” for Sai Wan Ho.

Little Kitchen is a small, straight forward dining room, sitting 24 guests with no bullshit first / second sitting palava.  The open kitchen sits in one corner, so you can see Chef David Forestell and his crew doing their thing.  He’s observant as all hell too and at one point when I’m just looking around to see what’s going on, he asks if we need anything or had any questions.

Little Kitchen has a strict BYOB policy and truly doesn’t charge corkage.  If you’re an alcohol bitch like me and have similarly lush homies, this is gonna be an exciting economic prospect.

parksandrecsaubreythankyoualcohol

The deal is simple at Little Kitchen, Chef David runs a weekly menu consisting of a recommended four course set.  On the phone he let me know that if you wanted to change particular dishes or if there were any specific dietary requirements, he could make changes (although a surcharge would apply).  The weekly menu is posted on their website and their FB page and provides for Firsts, Nexts, Mains and Finish with a focus on seasonal ingredients.  Little Kitchen HK’s website claims “no specific dish will ever be repeated”, which means, how much point is there really for me to step you through what we had there?

While we wait for our food, we smash through some fuck yeah multi-grain bread made by Bread Elements.  Everyone already knows that I have a rock hard boner for Bread Elements bread, so I take this as a promising omen of good shit to come.  I didn’t even know it was Bread Elements bread at the time, but when I got home I messaged them to ask if they were on the bread supply to Little Kitchen HK because I almost automatically assume that any time I get decent bread in HK that it’s done by those fuckers.

The Little Kitchen HK menus are described in quite an idiosyncratic manner. For example, the pork rillettes are described as “Rillettes, Meaty Softness, Vegetable Confetti, Tiny Sparks of Colours, Toasted Croutons, Like We would Forget?” where Vegetable Confetti refers to a fine dice of carrots and celery. However, my favourite dish of the night was the Main course, the “Scottish Salmon, Cold-water Farmed, Long Leeks, the Real Deal from France, Lemon Beurre Blanc, Touches of Herbs and Wine”.  The salmon was tender as fuck and each element carefully thought through, I wanted to rub my face into this dish so I could capture every last bit of the Lemon Beurre Blanc because it was so carefully nuanced, balancing the lemon, butter and white wine into major fuck yeah times.

parksandrecsbutter

Our Finish (aka dessert) was the “Panna Cotta Milk meets Cream, Rhubarb Explorations, Stalks of Wonder, Warm Madeleines, a feat of Single Minded Foolishness (but tasty nonetheless)” and it’s fucking delicious.  Little Kitchen HK also gives everyone a small take away bag of chocolate sable cookies with a touch of sea salt to take home which is a real nice fucking touch and gives me something to remember our meal the next day.  As we’re finishing up, they also gave us a complimentary cup of mint tea. So thoughtful! So earnest!!

I think ultimately what I really fucking enjoyed about Little Kitchen HK is that this is clearly the singular vision of Chef David and he’s producing a weekly menu which he’s passionate about and driven by what’s seasonally working.  Service was quiet and efficient, I wouldn’t have minded a bit more explanation on what we were eating but that’s just because I’m a pretentious as fuck asshole who loves to know the wanky details of where my food grew up and who were its best friends.  But for someone that’s looking for a heart felt experience, perhaps a small dinner with four friends or an intimate casual date where you can BYOB, I’d most definitely put Little Kitchen HK on your list.  Depending if you can get your insular, parochial west-side homies to leave the common as fuck embrace of Sai Yung Pun / Sheung Wan and get their gentrified asses to Sai Wan Ho.

westsidestorytheresaplaceforus

Verdict:
Fuck yeah!! I BELIEVE IN YOU WEST SIDE HOMIES, you can most definitely travel to the East.

Where:
Up 9
Unit H, 9/F, Winner Building
27 – 37 D’Aguilar Street
Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong

Phone:
???? – it’s on the bottom of the menu, but I didn’t take it down. Sorry homies, but I doubt you can book this place.

Price:
Dishes range from HKD30-60, we got out at HKD80 a person.

The deal:
Up 9 is also known as the ‘secret’ Nepalese restaurant in LKF.  Allegedly, it’s where the formidable as fuck Nepalese bar and hospitality staff get their late night, post shift eats on.  It’s also where every hipster foodie asshole who actually knows where this place is gets all fucking weird and defensive about actually disclosing its location.  Lucky for my lazy ass one of my homies did the hard yards on finding its exact location by haranguing his regular Nepalese bar homie.  Like WTF foodie hipster assholes, just cool your fucking jets on how special you think your discovery is because guess what, I found Up 9 referenced on Mario Batali’s blog, so it’s not like you’re blazing the shit out of the HK’s ‘secret’ underground food scene.

I was given a thorough briefing before I went, being warned that Up 9’s interior is pretty ghetto, with the bulk of their business done via take out / deliveries.  I asked whether it was more or less ghetto than your average Chungking Mansions restaurant, and my homie likened it to eating in a room from Saw.  As in Saw the horror movie where people get dismembered and fatally fucked up in grimey rooms with flickering fluorescent lights. OHHHH SHIT SON, with a pre-amble like that, I made a careful selection in who to go with, rounding up Ms Little Yak (if you don’t read her fuck yeah travel photography blog, you really fucking should) and one of my Antipodean homies who was visiting the Kong who actually gets a bit hot and heavy for authentic, ghetto cheap eats.

cartmanintheghetto

So you’re gonna need very specific details on how to get to Up 9 as it’s totally unmarked.  Up 9 is on the ninth floor of the Winner Building (near Al’s Diner) and it’s the first door on the left when you exit the lift. There’s fuck all signage, just a “9H” on the doorframe, a door bell towards the top left corner of the door and a few bags of styrofoam containers outside.  We stood a bit dazed and confused outside what we thought was the restaurant when a kind Nepalese homie passing by assured us we were in the right place.  When we were let inside, it felt like we’d crashed someone’s apartment for dinner.  At this stage, my hot-for-ghetto-eats Antipodean homie was noticeably giddy as we sat our asses down at one of the foldable tables covered with printed plastic sheets, amongst the styrofoam takeaway containers piled up to the ceiling.  Despite being warned about the Saw inspired interior design, shit wasn’t quite that grim in there – there’s even air-con but fair warning, don’t take your prissy as fuck besties here cause it ain’t going to go well for you. Or them.

We are given a one page laminated menu and a super sweet Nepalese waitress takes our order.  I’ll be fresh with you, my knowledge of Nepalese cuisine is coming from a very low base, essentially limited to “It’s kinda like Indian food but not exactly” and momos (a type of steamed or fried Nepalese dumpling).  Yeah, I’m making space on my mantle right the fuck now for that James Beard Foundation award that I’m totally gonna win this year with such a solid expertise in global cuisine.  Regardless, we hit our waitress homie up for some recommendations and the following hilarious conversation ensues:

Team Ghetto Eats (TGE):  We’ll have the chilli momos.  What else do you recommend?

Super Sweet Nepalese Waitress (SSNW):  Chilli momos.

TGE: What else do you like to eat?

SSNW:  Steamed momos.

TGE:  Ok, we’ll get the steamed vegetable momos.  Anything else you like to eat?  What do you eat from here?

SSNW:  *awkward pause* I don’t really eat here.

OHHHH, that’s not the best sign.  However, this turns out to be a bald faced lie cause we saw our SSNW eating her dinner there later. Regardless of the miscommunication issues we may have had, our lassis arrived.  Which were actually lassis from a carton which proudly declared to have “Natural, Natural Identical and Artificial Flavouring Substances”.  I toasted to #cleaneating and #eatrealfood2015 and unfortunately, I gotta fuck no this artificial mess but LBR, WTF do you expect from lassi in a carton??

No biggie cause the real stars starts to arrive.  The chilli momos are fried thick skinned dumplings covered in a thick, red piquant fuck yeah sauce.  I think the sauce is a combination of hot and sweet chilli sauce with tomato ketchup, but for all my knowledge deficiencies re: Nepalese chilli momo sauce, I can definitely tell you that they made me really fucking happy.  The steamed vegetable momos were slightly less exciting except for when you added the achar sauce.  ERMAGERD that bottle of achar sauce left on every table was a fuck yeah of epic proportions, a mysterious mix of ginger, tomato, coriander and chilli which I wanted to guzzle straight from the bottle.  This achar sauce sent straight from the gods of oh-so-oh-so-oh-so-fucking deliciousness was also a motherfucking treat with Up 9’s fuck yeah vegetable pakodas (Nepalese for pakora).  Crispy and light, these delicious as fuck vegetable fritters were fried to fucking perfection, ensuring that any vague nutritional benefits from being a vegetable were battered away to oblivion.

However, the fuck yeah highlight of the night (if not my whole goddamn month) was the panipuri (heads up yo, these aren’t actually listed on the menu).  Panipuri comes from two words – pani meaning water and puri meaning bread.  This dish consists of crispy fried hollowed out spheres made from wheat, which are filled with a lightly spiced mix of potatoes and onion and a sizeable chunk of fresh red chilli (with seeds).  Our SSNW had warned us that it was very spicy and she wasn’t wrong.  A bowl of tamarind infused water is served, which should be poured into each hollowed out sphere.  Due to my Nepalese Noobness, I used a spoon to get that sour, salty soup into my puri but I noticed some Nepalese homies just using their puris to scoop directly from the soup bowl. More importantly, these delicate fried puffs were a monumental fuck yeah of contrasts.  Sour versus spicy, the crispy shell versus the soft potato and then the tamarind soup brought it all together.  Given the fact I had homies with me, we shared a plate but fuck me, I’d totally be down to smash a plate of these fuck yeah panipuris all on my lonesome.  These were so fucking good that I even provided unsolicited advice to a table of lost looking Asian dudes that they should add a serve of panipuris to their order of “chilli mamas”.

So Up 9’s shit is not fancy but if I ever need quick, cheap late night eats in LKF with homies who don’t give a fuck about aesthetically pleasing dining rooms, I’m definitely gonna get my panipuri, chilli momo fuck yeah eats on again.  But next time, chatpate (Nepalese chaat – a mix of spices, crunchy shiz , puffed rice and tomatoes), imma coming for you.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah to Nepalese cheap eats!  Just steer clear of the boxed lassi and start the fuck yeah panipuri and achar sauce dreaming.

Where:
Zahrabel Dining Club (A++++ functional website!!!!)
25/F, 235-239 Hennessy Rd
Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 5503 9181

Price:
HKD450 (+10%) for the ‘Thamaniah Menu’ per person – 4 cold + 4 hot mezze plates.  Cocktails very reasonable at <HKD100.

The deal:
I floated the idea of trying Zahrabel with my solid nomming friend, Ms This is Bullshit, of 27 Kebab House fame about three months ago and she was all “Fuck yeahhhh” because she’d just tried substandard Lebanese in Sai Yin Pun AND they sold the fuck out of baklava.  What’s the fucking point of going out for Lebanese food if you’re not punishing your pancreas with a baklava at the end?  After three months of dicking around, we finally got our asses down to Zahrabel.  Zahrabel has this whole palava about being MEMBERS ONLY which means you have to register via their website before you can book  WHY, I’m not so sure – because you pretty much get accepted almost instantly.  I don’t even know but moving past that, because doesn’t matter – had mezze.

On Friday and Saturday nights, you have to order either the 8 course or 10 course menu.  We went for the 8 course which means you have to choose four cold + four hot mezze plates.  For the cold plates, it’s pretty much dips and shiz which could sound pretty boring except we then moved onto a huge ass basket of fluffy as fuck, warm pita bread which were mere vehicles to shove hummus, babaganouj, jos maurouse (spicy, nutty dip) and tabouleh into our heads.  Fuck yeahhhh, the dips here were fantastic as fuck.  I fucking love tabouleh so much – shame that buying parsley in HK at whatever rip off expat focussed supermarket is generally enough to induce disappointment and bankruptcy.  We then barrelled into the mezze courses with our choices being the fattayer (pastry puffs with spinach + pine nuts), the minty and lemony as fuck chicken, lamb trablous and the samke harra (Fish baked in tpicy tahini sauce with pine nuts).  All dem zesty, fresh as fuck Lebanese flavours gets a fuck yeah from me.  The pita bread keeps on coming and you can continue to use the dips from the cold course to spice up your life (every boy and every girl…spice up your life!).  Fucking love that they’re not stingy assholes with the bread either, even offering to refill our basket with fresh, warm pita without nary a requirement to pull hungry face at the waiters.

However this was all just a prelude to the highlight of the night that Ms This is Bullshit and I had been emailing each other about all week…MOTHER FUCKIN’ BAKLAVA.  Imma gonna level with you, I FUCKING LOVE BAKLAVA.  Back in my Oz days, I used to tumble down to Cabramatta (largest Viet population in NSW) to find authentic as fuck Vietnamese Pho (by eyeballing noodle shops to see who had the most Vietnamese people in there) and then going to some old Turkish man to buy MOTHER FUCKIN’ BAKLAVA.  I’d ask for four pieces and then he’d tell me that four pieces cost the same as half a kilo and before I could say anything, would be packing a box full of baklava, lady’s fingers and various other buttery, sugary, diabeetus inducing treats.  I haven’t had any decent baklava in Hong Kong and I refuse to try Souvla on the sole basis that they serve chocolate baklava.  W T F – who the fuck wants fucking bullshit chocolate baklava?  Anyway, Ms This is Bullshit and I ponied up to have a Lebanese coffee rolling the Welcome to Insomnia dice because if you’re going to eat baklava you need to pair that bad boy with a strong, black as fuck coffee which is so thick, you need to chew it down.  Fuck me, Zahrabel’s baklava was a serious FUCK YEAH.  I contemplated trying to scab another one, but seeing as I’d consumed so much fucking food beforehand, I didn’t try and push my luck.

I think one of the owners swung by at the end to ask if everything was ok and if the amount of food was enough, which I give a fuck yeah, nice personal service touch, Zahrabel.  I also have to note that Zahrabel only have one sitting a night which means that there’s no bullshit, pushing you out of the restaurant or only letting you book if you promise to be gone in 90 minutes.

Amongst the corpulent, pretentious as fuck HK food blogosphere there aren’t many reviews for Zahrabel online but FYN has to note that the Time Out one is total fucking bullshit (I swear to god there used to be a comment from someone (not me) about how their assessment of the babaghanouj dip for being too smoky was a fucking disgrace.  I tried to look for it tonight but I think they took the comments down).  Seriously Time Out, what the fuck is next, complaining that the hummus had too many chickpeas in it??

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhhhhhhhh, don’t buy into that bullshit Time Out review.  Y I NO HAVE BAKLAVA NOW?

Where:
Chef Studio by Eddy
5B, Kwai Bo Industrial Building
Wong Chuk Hang, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 3104 4664

Price:
Set meal is HKD880 + 10% service charge.  No corkage.  We got out for HKD1,000 each.

The deal:
Chef Studio by Eddy is a private kitchen, so you’re going to be in the middle of nowhere (ie. Wong Chuk Hang), guessing at whether you’re stopping the taxi in the right spot and going through industrial lifts.  The deal is a set 5 course meal, French/European and it’s BYOB (FUCK YEAH to no corkage).

I’ve deliberated over this verdict for weeks because while I enjoyed our night at Chef Studio by Eddy when it came down to laying down an answer to ‘Would you go back?’ as a Fuck Yeah or a Fuck No, I’ll be real – I’ve been on struggle street. So in FYN Pro / Con style:

FUCK YEAH PROS:

  • Chef Eddy:  Clearly invested in his customers having a top night.  Genuine, friendly and he’ll introduce himself to everyone on the night and have a chat. Top bloke, 10/10, would buy again A+++.
  • Foccacia:  Our friends were running late, so we smashed 2 plates of foccacia while we waited.  Serious FUCK YEAH.  Then my greedy friend showed up and smashed another 2 on her own.  Ms Two Serves doesn’t get her name by accident.
  • Food:  5 courses were well balanced but with a set menu, not every dish is going to set every diner’s world on fire.  The bouillabaisse starter tasted like the ocean had suckerpunched you in the mouth – which I’m down with, but my other FYN homies weren’t feeling as much.  Asparagus was being passed between diners because some of them are FUCK NO ASPARAGUS.  Pumpkin risotto was a fuck yeahhhhh.  Chef Eddy had told us that he’d harvested the black truffle himself in France and then he put it into a piece of melted brie.  Don’t get me wrong, I FUCKING LOVE CHEEEESE but I’m not buying that it’s the best way to showcase your French foraged truffle by smushing it into a piece of melted average brie.
  • BYOB:  One of my biggest bugbears are private kitchens which charge you corkage – hey private kitchen homes, you don’t have a fucking alcohol licence so why are you charging me for bringing my own booze?  Chef Eddy’s real about it though and if you’re a boozehound like me, massive points for being real about no corkage.

FUCK NO CONS:

  • Location:  While there’s probably some food wank points because you get to tell your friends you’re going to a PRIVATE KITCHEN in an INDUSTRIAL AREA however, LBR it’s pretty inconvenient to get to. I know taxis are cheap in HK but it still means you’re going to be on the deserted streets of Wong Chuk Hang trying to get a taxi back home at 11pm.
  • Price:  Most of the reviews I read online said that there’s no service charge, but Chef Eddy’s Facebook is upfront about it.  One diner commented that perhaps it’s disingenuous to say ‘No Corkage’ if it’s built into the price.  When I’m putting down HKD1000 a head, post service charge, it’s getting pretty fucking real in terms of bank.  So when I weigh up the price vs the food/experience, I don’t think I can say that it stacks up.

Verdict:
I’m so sorry Eddy (what have you done for me lately), on the FYN ‘Would I go again?’ test, it’s a fuck no.  If it was 20% cheaper, this would have slid into Fuck Yeah territory.  I think for HKD1000 a head (excluding booze), you can do better in HK.

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