Trendy

Where:
SAAM (fuck yeahhhh, fully functional website)
G/F, 51D Graham Street (just up from The Globe)
Central, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2645 9828

Price:
The seven course tasting menu cost HKD788 (+10% service charge) with seven half glasses of wine at HKD 348 (+10% service charge), so HKD1,250 in total.

The deal:
Chef Patrick Dang summarises his background and cooking in three sentences on his website, “I was born in Hong Kong. I was raised in Australia. The globe is my inspiration.” and if you had to categorise his restaurant, I’d say it’s ‘Modern European’.  There’s been a fair bit of press around SAAM and the new ‘Back to School’ set tasting menu which is being offered in September / October and as a few FYN homies had told me that they’d really enjoyed the menu, my linen loving self decided to forgive SAAM for proclaiming shit like “We want to take away tablecloths; while maintaining styled elegance” and rounded up some homies to go and check it out.

However, SAAM do not make it easy for you to book a table at their restaurant, outlining a long list of requirements to achieve a booking on their website.  You need a minimum of four people.  You need to pay a HKD200 deposit per person via bank transfer and then whatsapp in the proof.  You can book online but despite the bank deposit requirement, you still need to hand over credit card details.  For reservations of less than four people you go through the same hoops but it’s on a ‘first come, first served’ basis (which really seems contrary to the whole fucking point of a reservation??).  On top of all of that, SAAM will only hold your table for 15 minutes, so don’t be late homies. Either way, SAAM’s reservation shit is NOT easy.  I imagine some of this comes from the fact that SAAM is relatively small, probably seating 20 – 30 people and flakey no-show fuckers (yes HK, I mean almost all of you) would really mess their economics up.

Chef Dang’s vision for his ‘Back to School’ menu is his homage to all the HK kiddies headed back to school in September and is a play on all those mass produced school lunches but of course all fancy and cheffed up.  Each course is named simply and there’s a twist with each course, with the promise of bringing some lightheartedness to the table and no doubt, meant to evoke that innocent childhood feeling inside every diner. Cue every fucking food blogger overusing the adjective  “whimsical” and potentially throwing in some carefully researched Alice in Wonderland quotes about Chef Dang’s mad creations taking you down a fantastical and wondrous culinary rabbit hole.

SAAM kick off proceedings with an Irish oyster amuse bouche (which is in no way connected to the School Day theme).  There is only one waiter for the entire restaurant which means it takes him a few rounds to serve everyone’s food but he’s also knowledgeable, friendly and succinctly explains all of the food we’re about to eat.  The first course is  ‘Nutella & Toast’, where a small pastry (the “toast”) is stuffed with “nutella” (which is in fact a truffle panna cotta), served alongside a scallop crudo and some hazelnuts. It’s interesting and tasty enough, but definitely benefits from being presented within the context of it riffing on the appearance of Nutella toast.

This gimmicky (though tiny) opening course is followed by the simply titled ‘Cereal & Yoghurt’ which was one of my favourite fuck yeah highlights from the night. A small dish of fuck yeahhhh foie gras parfait is topped with a thin layer of pineapple jelly.  SAAM have scattered savoury crunchy granola and small peppered pieces of pineapple on top, with a few small piped blobs of almond yoghurt.  I fucking loved this dish because it was full of fuck yeah contrasts – the crunch of the granola against the soft foie gras, the acidity of the pineapple cutting through the fatty foie gras.  I could have spooned this foie gras concoction onto little toasted crackers all day and into my face, even without being loaded up with a cutesy school food story.

It is at this point that I start to panic regarding whether I’m going to be swinging by McDonald’s to get some McWings afterwards as each tiny though elaborate course disappears swiftly.  The wine pairing provides a half-glass with each course and SAAM are definitely showing some precision in their pours.  It isn’t one of those scenarios when you order a matched ‘half-glass’ wine tasting menu and end up getting generous almost full glass pours and you drunkenly roll your lush ass out of the restaurant.  I enjoyed the wine tasting but I guess I’m just a fucking lush cause I wanted more wine.

The third course of ‘Sausage & Egg‘ was the most successful in terms of the surprise factor that SAAM were gunning for.  The dish arrives with a super convincing ‘sunny side up fried egg’ which has actually been constructed from coconut and the spherification of some butternut pumpkin puree (which mimics the membrane of an egg yolk).  WHOA, SURPRISE NO-EGG EGG YO!

surprisemotherfucker2

Our helpful waiter instructs us to mix the ‘yolk’ with the ‘egg white’, to form a dipping sauce for your ‘sausage’ made from lobster. Sure it’s a bit gimmicky but even this grumpy, cynical gloomy fucker can let a little slice of corny no-egg egg sunshine into my goth as fuck heart and enjoy the fuck yeah pumpkin, lemongrass infused coconut sauce with the lobster ‘sausage’ sprinkled with madras curry flavoured bread crumbs

Next up was the ‘Fish & Chips’ course which didn’t play too hard to trick the fuck out of you with fancy shit.  Despite it not having a M Shyamalan twist, it was one of my favourite fuck yeah courses.  A decent sized slice of poached turbot is served on a bright green bed of mushy peas.  A ‘potato crisp’ is made out of thin reconstituted potato wafer, flavoured with vinegar powder, cleverly hinting at chips splashed with vinegar.  A ball of deep fried tartar sauce is as tricky as this dish gets and it was just a well balanced, fucking delicious course.  All I wanted was MOAR TURBOT. Much tender. So wow. Many fuck yeah fish related feels.

The ‘Gluten free noodle soup’ is described as a gluten free chicken instant noodle.  That’s because the noodles are actually made from pureed chicken breasts.  Our waiter explains that it takes five hours to make these noodles, explaining that it’s super fucking tedious to remove all the tendons.  Sure, it’s clever and chock full of technique but fuck, I’m not convinced the pay off was fucking worth it.  HOWEVER, the superior abalone broth which took two days which is poured over the noodles is fucking spectacular. I’d happily skip the extruded chicken mousse noodles for a gluten filled bog-standard wheat udon noodle as a pay off to get triple the amount of dat fuck yeah broth.

Rounding the corner into the final savoury course, it’s the ‘School Roast Dinner’ which doesn’t stray too far from what anyone would perceive as a roast dinner, except it’s been poshed up to the max with a singular ‘potato fry’ and ‘umami gravy’.  The Australian Wagyu short rib is cooked sous vide and then grilled so it can get some semblance of brown onto it.  Fuck, I don’t really get behind sous vide that much and I dunno why fancy ass chefs are so obsessed with letting meat sit in a warm bath all day rather than just fucking cooking it properly in the first place?? Blah blah tender blah blah gentle cooking blah blah even temperature, fuck off I know I know, I’m just not fucking into it.

sousvidebathtime

Either way, the beef was still fucking delicious and ‘umami’ sauce was just a fancy way of describing ‘concentrated mushroom’ sauce.  I gotta be real that I would have preferred a bit more char on my beef, but due to the lameness of warm bathtime sous vide beef, I get that you have to avoid overcooking it.  I also don’t know if the reconstituted potato smashed into a singular mega-fry shape added much to the overall dish, but the sides were all a side note to the fuck yeah beef.

The dessert course is the simply named ‘PB&J’ and it’s a peanut butter parfait with a grape sorbet, served with some tiny champagne grapes and lego shaped banana pudding.  It’s nice to look at and quite the hit with our table.  I categorise this one under a solid dish which is cute enough. My less curmudgeonly homies seemed to enjoy this more.  The flavours were a fuck yeah but didn’t seem to necessarily come together cohesively enough for me.  I just wanted more from this dish to move it from an interesting concept to a solid fuck yeah dessert moment.

What I liked about SAAM was that it was trying to do something interesting and have its food tell a story.  Was every dish as successful as it had set out to be?  Fuck no.  Was my palpable fear of going through one of those modern, food for ants tasting menus fulfilled?  Not quite, but on a scale of 1 to ‘I gotta get McWings on the way home’ hunger scale, I was probably a 6.5.  Which means that if SAAM hadn’t been so tightassed with their bread (fun fact, you gotta hand over HKD9 per person if you want bread. Like, R U SRS SAAM, HKD9 is really changing the economic metrics of your restaurant, when I’m already handing over HKD1200+ per person?) I would have been fine. Were some dishes fucking about with fussy techniques, just to do something different and provide a surprise moment?  Fuck yeah.  But there was still the occasional major fuck yeah moment like the ‘Cereal & Yoghurt’ foie gras parfait or the ‘Fish & Chips’ turbot with the mashed peas.  Chef Dang is putting something different out there which is unique in Hong Kong and while some of that may result in 5 hour chicken mousse noodles which don’t really outperform your run-of-the-mill standard udon noodle, I gotta admire that it takes balls to do something like SAAM.  And I’d take that any day over all the Mexican-Korean fusion horrors which have taken over this city.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah on pay day, cause this modern creative shiz don’t come cheap.  But I’ll caveat it that SAAM isn’t going to be for everyone.  I’d only recommend getting involved if you want to try something different and you can jive with the wank-off fact that you’re sometimes eating the story as well as the food. HOWEVER, DEM CEREAL AND YOGHURT, FOIE GRAS PARFAIT FEELZ DOE.

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?!

arresteddevelopmentjudgingyou

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:

surpriseeagle

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?”

jumanjiwhatyear

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.

watermeloncat

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.

tonyabbottonion3

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.

Where:
URA Japanese Delicacy
2F, The Wellington
198 Wellington St
Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2111 9381

Price:
My lunch set was HKD148 (+10% service charge).  +HKD15 for dessert.  Other lunch sets ranged in price from HKD98 to HKD368 (+10% service charge) depending on the ingredients.

The deal:
URA Japanese Delicacy has only just opened in Sheung Wan in the last month or so.  The pictures on their FB looked pretty fucking tasty so I rounded up Ms Two Serves to try URA for lunch.  URA’s done a good job with its cool as fuck decor – all shades of grey, black and gold, neon signs and black and white photo prints of near naked tattooed Japanese yakuza gangsters.  The main reason why Ms Two Serves and I were here was that we’d seen the A4 Miyazaki wagyu steak and sea urchin rice bowl (HKD438 + 10% service charge) on Facebook and both of us wanted to smash it into our fatty boombah faces.  Check this rad looking shit out, yasssssssss:

Unfortunately, the waitress returned to let us know that they sold out of uni last night.  WTF URA HOMIES – how can you be out of uni just in time for Friday / weekend prime time?! I pushed my fuck no disappointment to one side and opted for the reasonably priced HKD148 (+10% service charge) Buta Set – the Kagoshima Kurobuta pork rice set with Ms Two Serves going for the exxy HKD368 (+10% service charge) Sukiyaki Set – A4 Miyazaki wagyu beef set.

Each set comes with a chawanmushi (steamed egg), salad, rice and a cup of hot japanese tea.  The starter organic salad comes out in a small bowl and while I can appreciate the effort gone into sourcing organic greens, I don’t appreciate that there isn’t enough dressing and it’s 90% rocket.  I don’t mind a little bit of rocket but I never want to chow through a bowl of it.  The chawanmushi is excellent, fuck yeah hunks of prawn and a silky egg custard but while it’s got some cute presentation going on, the main problem is that it’s so goddamn tiny.

The main buta pork set arrives and it’s all laid out on a wooden tray with more cute containers (ie. fucking tiny) but I’m a greedy cunt and all I can think is ‘Ohhh, is that all there is?’.  There’s a thimbleful of soft tofu which is delicious, but tiny.  The set comes with two small sushi rolls filled with deep fried ebi (prawn) and two small tamagoyaki (egg cakes) which are fine but nothing remarkable.  URA Japanese Delicacy proudly states that they fly their ingredients in daily from Osaka (fuck no, dem food miles) and the grilled Kagoshima Kurobata pork is a fuck yeah, grilled to perfection (lolzzz j/k, you fuckers officially have permission to shut my Internet access down if I ever spout such fuck no platitudes).  The pork was a little on the thin side but it had some fuck yeah charcoal times going on.  Served with a dipping sauce, this was a fuck yeah except like everything so far, the six to seven pieces of air-freighted pork were definitely not enough for me to find the satiety I so desperately fucking desired.  I even hoovered down the entire bowl of rice in a desperate attempt to try and fill the void that in no way had been filled by the tiny ass portion of Kurobata pork.

Even sadder was Ms Two Serve’s Gyu set, the A4 Miyazak wagyu beef rice set at an eye watering HKD368 (+10% service charge). The extra bucks might get you some fancy-ass beef but it’s all fucking teeny tiny.  Ms Two Serves looks at me with panicked eyes as she realises that she’s spent too much money for not a lot of food, desperately scraping at her miniature tofu pot in the quest for a few more molecules of food.

lotrgollumstarve

Ms Two Serves opted to pay the extra HKD15 for the mini almond tofu dessert.  When her order was forgotten she chased it up with the waitress who after a few minutes came back to ask “Which dessert did you order?” which was a bit puzzling, given that there’s only one fucking dessert choice on the menu.  When it finally arrived, Ms Two Serves said it was fucking delicious but guess what, the trend is your friend because it was also SO FUCKING SMALL.

There is no issue with URA’s food and ingredients. Nothing we ate was a fuck no or improperly prepared.  It sucks balls that we couldn’t get the signature uni/wagyu dish (although at HKD438 for a serve that doesn’t look that fucking big, perhaps this was a blessing in disguise) but there just wasn’t anything that stood out at URA.  Most importantly, both of us needed more fucking food afterwards.  It ain’t no lie, Ms Two Serves and I stopped in at Passion by Gerard Du Bois in Central to get something to fill us up and when Passion failed to deliver, Ms Two Serves got herself some fishballs and wontons later to try and sate the beast.   Not that Ms Two Serves could really afford a second lunch after her A4 Wagyu Beef Set + dessert  combo coming in at HKD421 after service charge = fuck no, USD54!!!!!  Like srs URA, should anyone be hunting down fishballs after forking over HKD400+ for a lunch at a relatively casual restaurant??

Verdict:
Fuck nooo, cause hold me closer, tiny unremarkable lunch set.  I’d only give URA a fuck yeah if someone else was paying and they were down with you ordering two lunch sets per person.

Where:
La Paloma
1F/183 Queen’s Road West
Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2291 6161

Price:
We got out at HKD500 per person for food and sharing a jug of sangria. No service charge.

The deal:
La Paloma is the relatively new tapas bar in Sai Ying Pun, opened by the El Willy Group, with Chef Willy Trullas Morena and Chef Alex Fargas behind it.  The El Willy Group are behind the inoffensive Fofo by el Willy in LKF (I haven’t been since the renovation) and when you read the promo for La Paloma they mention phrases like ‘casual and laid-back modern Spanish cuisine’ and lots of references to ‘sexy tapas’.  Their logo specifically references that it’s a ‘sexy chiringuito tapas bar’ and even their Google listing makes it clear that it’s La Paloma – Sexy Tapas.  Y SO MUCH SEXY, EL WILLY? Y U SO SEXY IT HURTS?!

lapalomasexy

I’d heard some less than favourable reports from my homies (one of them went as far as saying it was the worst meal he’s had in 2015) but there’s also been a shit tin of favourable reviews in the press and other food blogs.  FOR WHATEVER THAT’S FUCKING WORTH IN THESE DISINGENUOUS DAYS.  I’d been lobbying for a different venue for dinner but one of my homies wanted to check it out which is why we ended up at La Paloma.  The first thing you’ll notice when you walk in is that La Paloma have gone for that quirky, fun and mismatched vibe which equates to multi-coloured everything.  Rough wooden tables are surrounded by multi-coloured lampshades, chairs and bird decals.  There’s fucking birds everywhere (yes, even in the toilets), which would be explained by the fact that ‘La Paloma’ translates to ‘Little Pigeon’ in Spanish.  I just imagine La Paloma’s interior designers, Flappy Flap Flap Aviary Productions*, pitching for the project like this:

portlandiabirds

* FYN disclaimer:  May or may not be the real name of the interior design firm used by La Paloma

We ordered a variety of things and we start with the Tiradito de pescado blanco, a Kingfish “Tiradito” (crudo/ceviche) with avocado and green chilli sauce.  Served on some pureed avocado, this is fresh and bright enough, a good mix of chilli and citrus fuck yeah flavours.  I’d already come to this restaurant with my greedy heart in my cavernous mouth because Spanish food in HK usually ends in me going home SO HUNGRY and this food for ants starter didn’t dissuade me from this belief with three of us sharing this HKD78 dish to get a scant, though tasty, half a bite each.

Patatas bravas (HKD45) is never a revolutionary dish but always a good yardstick to judge a Spanish restaurant by, cause what hope is there if you fuck up deep fried potatoes?  I guess the potatoes were warmed through and came with a good amount of tasty paprika aioli style sauce.  But I expect patatas bravas to be crispier on the outside which leaves La Paloma’s deep fried potatoes patatas bravas decidedly underwhelming.

The Callos (braised tripe, HKD55 +10% service charge) is served in a stew containing, chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage) and chickpeas and it’s fucking delicious.  We asked for more sourdough bread so we could scrape out every last bit of the fuck yeah stew.  However, it’s also really fucking tiny – you only get three small-ass pieces of chorizo and morcilla, and I’m not being facetious in the slightest when I tell you that you can count the number of chickpeas in your stew with no major effort or numeracy skills. HK Spanish Food, Y U always so food for ant$??

We also ordered the salted cod and egg tortilla (HKD60) which was boring as all hell.  It didn’t really taste like anything at all and we left a quarter of it unfinished.  Our waitress picked this up and did ask if everything was ok and we let her know that it just wasn’t that interesting.  She then conducted some sort of an autopsy at the table, using a knife to gingerly peek into the eggy tortilla mess to see if some sign of life was hiding out in there which we had failed to detect.  Unable to find any indications of life, she took it to the open kitchen and we watched the bow-tied Executive Chef Vito Chiavacci ask the waitress what was wrong while he continued the tortilla autopsy. Nothing more was said to us regarding this sad ass dish. La Paloma Tortilla Autopsy Results:  INCONCLUSIVE BUT DEFINITELY BORING AS FUCK.

The Churrasco De Buey beef short rib with roasted potatoes and shallots was fine but not fucking amazing.  Some people might even find it a bit gristly in texture, cause the top part of the rib served is quite chewy.  We certainly ate all of it but I wouldn’t tell anyone going that they had to definitely order it, which is the true hallmark of a fuck yeah dish and it ain’t cheap at HKD398.

Our Paella de bogavante (lobster and saffron dry paella) arrives and it looks like it’s gonna be fucking incredible – a large metal paella pan arrives at the table with the lobster claws / shells arranged in the middle.  Our waiter serves us the lobster pieces and then stirs through the aioli, revealing what looks to be a well cooked paella with a fuck yeah looking soccarat crust of caramelised, saffron infused rice.  After scavenging through the largely empty lobster claw shells (La Paloma, where my lobster meat at?!) we turn our attention to the rice itself and that’s when shit moves immediately into fuck no territory.  There’s no distinguishable pieces of lobster in the paella, with only a few tiny pieces of overcooked squid kicking about.  However more heinously, this was unequivocally the fucking saltiest paella I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.  It may even be the saltiest dish I’ve ever fucking eaten, because I certainly can’t remember being so physically aggrieved by the salt levels in any other dish I’ve consumed.  I don’t know what happened, maybe someone salted the rice itself and forgot how salty the lobster shell stock they used to make it was but all I know is that I imagined the chefs at La Paloma preparing my paella and salting the absolute living fuck out of it like this:

alwayssunnygetouttaheresnail

Due to the Dead Sea like salt levels in our expensive as fuck HKD498g paella, we abandoned this pricey salty fucker half-eaten, but no La Paloma staff asked if everything was ok or if we’d enjoyed the dish.  Instead, we were offered dessert menus.  In the end we didn’t order dessert because the waitress took fucking forever to come back to see if we wanted anything after giving us the menus and by that stage, my kidneys were in hyperdrive and the pursuit for hydration seemed far more important than dessert.  Overall, La Paloma’s service was attentive when they remembered and they’d do that good shit like fill your glass up or ask how things were, but over the whole night it was only just average most of the time, the staff seemingly caught in a slightly confused fugue.

When I got home from La Paloma I took to my phone to fervently send out distressed messages to four different homies, an anguished repeated cry of “SO SALTY”.  I only paused mashing my phone screen with shaky fingers to chug a litre of water, desperate to ensure that my cellular walls didn’t collapse upon themselves from the severe electrolyte imbalance that my body was enduring.  In between typing out “SO SALTY” over and over for 15 minutes, I received the following text back from my fellow dining homie:

lapalomabody

I paused for just a second to compose my two word reply – “SO SALTY”.

Verdict:
FUCK NOOOOO. La Paloma is trying so fucking hard to be that sexy, modern tapas bar but I guess an inconsistent, modern tapas bar with patchy, mediocre service doesn’t have quite the same goddamn ring to it.  La Paloma’s dishes range from being tasty but food for ant$, to being boring as fuck and then how will I ever forget, the searing fuck no of the saltiest abomination of a paella I’ve eaten in my entire existence.  SO SALTY. LIKE MY FEELINGS TOWARDS SPANISH RESTAURANTS THAT CAN’T FUCKING EXECUTE A PAELLA.

%d bloggers like this: