Trendy

Where:
Le Garçon Saigon (the website is total bullshit, I wish I could get the two seconds back that I spent looking at this sorry excuse for a website)
GF/12 – 18 Wing Fung Street
Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2455 2499

Price:
We got out at a very reasonable HKD380 a person for food and drinks.

The deal:
Le Garçon Saigon has only recently opened in November 2015 and despite it being open for about five seconds, every time I’ve walked past it (even on random weeknights), it’s been totally rammed.  It’s a concept which I can totally see the masses getting behind – a French-Saigonese style bistro serving Southern Vietnamese food in the “trendy” Star Street precinct, run by the popular Black Sheep Restaurant Group (Carbone HK, Chom Chom, Burger Circus, Ho Lee Fook, Stazione Novella, Boqueria, etc. etc.) who continue their march towards HK restaurant domination.  I always feel that the Star Street precinct is deceptively trendy, as in, it feels like there should be cool, hip shops and lots of trendy restaurants but when you’re actually there you realise it’s a massive commercial yawnfest of a Pizza Express, a Classified, an Oolaa, a stack of mediocre restaurants hiding behind cool facades and a couple of interior shops which have made solid typography choices and a carefully curated inventory of only five items for sale.

Le Garçon Saigon is perfect interior bait to lure the unsuspecting trendy restaurant punter in, nailing that new-old Saigon French brasserie feeling with shiny mirrors, teal walls, geometric mosaic tiling and purposefully weathered concrete murals painted with cute as fuck French motifs.  Nothing more perfectly captures the time when the French lorded over Vietnam than a mural with French cartoon people doing colonial shit like drinking wine and a dog reading a newspaper. Fuck yeahhhh, colonialism! Another wall faithfully replicates a deliberately shabby stencilled list of Vietnamese dishes with prices listed in Vietnamese Dong, which is ironic given that I’ve got no doubt that I’m about to get stung some serious HKD for the meal we’re about to order.

Despite everything looking slick as fuck, my main fuck no issue with Le Garçon Saigon is that the softest thing in the whole place is one banquette that runs down one side and every other surface in LCG is harder than the abs of an ardent crossfitter who has eschewed carbs and non-crossfit related conversation for years #strongisthenewdouchebaggery.  This results in Le Garçon Saigon’s dining room being rendered into a cacophonous as fuck echo den with every possible noise bouncing off the bare ceilings, the concrete walls, the tiled floor, the drapeless windows, the naked marble tables or the mirrored walls. I know that tablecloths are unequivocally the devil’s work these days in most restaurants but fuck, I’m not convinced the occasional potted palm was doing their bit for acoustic baffling. I’m an old fuck so I could barely hear the waiter nor the person sitting next to me and you can completely throw all hope to the goddamn wind that I’d ever hear anything being said by the people at the other end of the table.

One thing that is more striking than Le Garçon Saigon’s interiors though is the batallion of attractive as fuck and thoroughly charming French waiters that Le Garçon Saigon have recruited.  Our table discusses whether the Black Sheep homies parked themselves at HK International Airport, staking out every Air France flight that touched down to recruit every other SO HANDSOME French homie that wasn’t destined to crush some quantitative shit at a bank to be part of their Le Garçon Saigon SO HANDSOME waiter crew. I don’t think I can emphasise this enough, the Le Garçon Saigon waiters are really SO HANDSOME.

mattdamonhandsome
While gazing upon his SO HANDSOME face, our SO HANDSOME waiter talks us knowledgeably through the menu, which predictably have cutesy French sections like “Les Woks” for the stir fries and “Les Grillades” for the skewers and an ambiguously named “Larger” sub-section.  Based on our waiter’s SO HANDSOME recommendations, we order a number of different things – a few starters, some salads, a couple of skewers, “Larger” dishes and some of the stir fries.

We were given the wrong salad to start but didn’t realise this until we’d started eating it.  The green papaya salad (HKD68 + 10% service charge) was mixed with beef jerky, small dried crispy shrimp, cashew nuts and a spicy tamarind vinaigrette. We also had a serve of the Morning Glory salad (HKD68 + 10% service charge) but due to one of my homies serving shit super unequally, all I got was a couple of chrysanthemum leaves and some jellyfish pieces, in a pickled ginger and chilli vinaigrette.  My other homies who got first dibs claim there wasn’t any morning glory in there but I can’t fairly pass judgment here.  Regardless of whatever titillating named vegetables may or may not have been present, both salads had enough texturally going on and some good fresh flavours but both vinaigrettes were really fucking sweet, even as the tart tamarind and vinegars unsuccessfully tried to cut through it all.

The canh ga fried chicken wings (HKD78 + 10% service charge for five wings) are covered in a salty spicy mix combining Chinese five spice and chilli and predictably served with a side of sriracha mayonnaise.  While the actual wings are cooked well with crispy fuck yeah skin, my more enduring memory is how even though I’m into salty, fried food these chicken wings were pushing the sodium chloride friendship to a new level because it was definitely too fucking salty.

From the “Les Woks” section we definitely order up on some Les Disappointing dishes.  The glutinous rice promises clams, lemongrass, peanuts, salted cucumbers, rice paddy herbs and pork floss (HKD108 + 10% service charge) and it’s unremarkable in the sense that I can barely remember anything about it at all except the rice being sticky.  The Banh Xeo is a Vietnamese style crispy rice based pancake which is folded over a filling of chorizo, prawns, fresh bean sprouts and large red chillis.  You’re meant to break up the banh xeo and fold it into lettuce leaves with fresh herbs, dipping it lightly in some num nuoc sauce (lime, sugar, chilli and fish sauce).  It looks fucking incredible but in execution, the filling is entirely underwhelming, a mess of largely beansprouts dotted with the occasional prawn or chunk of chorizo. Whoaaaaaaaaaa check out the chorizo repping for the modern East meets West influences bullshit massive. But in reality, the chorizo just feels like it’s out of place and trying too hard to be proving some sort of culinary culture crossing point.  This fusion chorizo concept continues to bomb out even harder when it’s eaten in combination with the num nuoc sauce, which just leaves me thinking once again “Why is everything here so fucking salty??”

projectrunwayconcept

The press on Le Garçon Saigon has been banging on about its grill and we try almost all of the skewers on the menu.  Per order you get three skewers and you can get selections such as the Wagyu beef Tri-tip / Bo Liu (Vietnamese beef teriyaki) (HKD138 + 10% service charge), the Pork Meatballs / Nem Nuong (HKD128 + 10% service charge), the Kurobuta pork / Thit Nuong (HKD128 + 10% service charge) and the proteinless / funless Zucchini & Leeks (HK68 + 10% service charge).  Each skewer is presented with a tray of fresh Vietnamese herbs, lettuce leaves, pickled carrots, cucumber, peanuts, rice paper, rice vermicelli pancakes and dipping sauces, so you can make your own wraps with the meat.  The grilled meats are a fuck yeah, with a good charcoal taste but the problem is that all the sauces that everything is served with are either too sweet, too salty or an awful fuck no combination of being too fucking sweet AND too fucking salty.  There’s a balance in trying to combine the Vietnamese flavours of sour, sweet, salty and spicy but Le Garçon Saigon manage to bludgeon my enthusiasm for their skewers into a bloody lifeless pulp by showing not a shred of nuance and instead hitting me with SWEET SALTY SWEET SWEET SALTY A BIT TANGY OK BACK TO FUCKING SALTY the whole fucking time.

From the “Larger’ grill section we ordered the Whole Red Snapper (HKD208 +10% service charge) which looks beautiful as fuck, grilled in a bamboo leaf package.  Be careful my white homies because this fishy homie is served in one whole piece, bones and all and requires some skillful dissection.  I’m quite into it, enjoying the fuck yeah sweet snapper fish which is very fresh and the fragrant bamboo leaf flavour imparted from the grill until I hit a patch of scales and end up trying to detach the large snapper scales that have attached themselves unceremoniously to the roof of my mouth. Fuck no to that bullshit, I’m already socially awkward enough without being further sabotaged by my choices in seafood.

The grilled half yellow chicken (HKD168 + 10% service charge) looks fucking sensational, all crispy skin and some fuck yeah looking juicy meat.  I rue the fact that I’ve chosen to come with so many homies because I want to eat at least half of it on my own.  Like all of the proteins that have come before it, it’s had a sweet ass time in the grill and the meat is juicy as all hell and fucking great.  The crispy skin is covered in lemon, a chilli-salt spice mix and a thin chiffonade of kaffir lime leaves, which initially gives you a good sour, delicately fragrant and salty mix but just like everything else, crashes down in a crescendo of salt.  At this point, I would cry from all of the salt if I wasn’t trying to preserve whatever precious fluids were still within my body as it teetered precariously on the edge of dehydration thanks to the half a kilo of salt that’s been in my food.

We finish all of our dishes and in a telling sign, my hands are so sticky from making all of those rice rolls with the skewer meats  With no moist towelette or finger bowl on offer I take this sticky moment to reflect upon my feelings towards every single thing at Le Garçon Saigon either being so salty, so sweet or so salty and sweet OR seasoned appropriately but then littered with fish scales.

Chrissy-Teigen-Golden-Globes-Cry-Face-GIF-Pictures

Piling into the “Les Desserts” section we try every single one on offer (all HKD68 each + 10% service charge) and this is a FUCK YEAH highlight of the meal, as Le Garçon Saigon present their modern take on Vietnamese dessert flavours.  The flan is a riff on the Vietnamese coffee, using condensed milk in the flan and topped with a drip coffee syrup, served with a salty chocolate sable biscuit to cut through the rich, sweet flan.  It’s fucking delicious and goes some way to calming my rattled so sweet, so salty bad juju from dinner.  The pandan waffle is delicate as fuck but still crunchy on the outside and it’s served with strawberries, mascarpone ice-cream and almond crunch.  I was really into Le Garçon Saigon’s version of the traditional Vietnamese “Che” dessert – a combination of smashed meringue, roasted pineapple, taro and sago, served in a palm sugar and coconut milk sauce.  There’s a scoop of “smoked” coconut ice-cream (which isn’t that smoky) and some smoked, caramelised peanuts (which I think were too smoky), but this is a small gripe in an otherwise fucking delicious dessert.

With all of that done, it’s a fun evening in a cool, new spot and I can guarantee that it’s only a matter of time before someone bails me up and goes “OMG, have you tried Le Garcon Saigon yet? It’s just soooo cool!”.  But the fact that it’s totally packed out after a matter of weeks means there’s definitely a place for Le Garcon Saigon in HK and it’s for that person we all have met a million times in HK, the type of person who doesn’t really eat or care that much about food and just wants to feel like they’re on point with what’s trendy.  Bonsoir motherfuckers, I’m afraid that I’m all about the food and even LCG’s SO HANDSOME waiters can’t replace appropriately seasoned food for me.

Verdict:
Fuck no.  But if you’re someone who just wants somewhere cool to hang out, drink fuck yeah booze and you don’t really care all that much about the food, this is totally gonna be your new fuck yeah hang spot.  Go on, wear your Sunday best and take your yappy little dog and sit on one of those outside tables and suck down some drinks while waiting for someone to throw down some air kisses at. MWAH MWAH DARLING, HOW FUCKING CUTE IS THIS PLACE??

Where:
Moonshine & the Po’Boys
G/F, No. 4 Sun Street
Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2776 2668

Price:
We got out at HKD850 a person with cocktails and the most fucking expensive oysters ever. Don’t make the same ordering mistakes and you can probably comfortable get out at HKD600ish for food and booze, if you’re getting the seafood boil.  Everything else was super affordable so maybe HKD400-500ish for food and booze if you skipped the seafood boil.

The deal:
We roll into Moonshine & the Po’Boys after hearing some promising things around the traps about its Creole and Cajun Southern style food. It’s going for that mismatched New Orleans feeling with its stylish chalkboards, clustered mason jar light fittings, metal buckets of herbs and kitschy boards. It’s not a huge space, probably sitting no more than 30 people, although there’s a second floor which they might get around to opening.  When we ask for our table, we’re pointed towards a table which is already half occupied by other people.  Not that anyone mentioned this little truth nugget when we made our booking. Fuck, I barely like some of my friends at the best of times so I feel that there should be some sort of warning before you’re forced to share a table with total fucking strangers.

We sit and look over the menu which are the most ratchet ass menus I’ve seen in a long time.  Printed on paper and shoved into all mismatched plastic sleeves, the menus are still strangely worn out even though they’ve been tackily tacked into their plastic covers by some raggedy scotch tape.  I’ve heard that the peeps who set up Moonshine & the Po’Boys are ex-bankers and as I try to decipher what to order, I ponder whether they swiped a bunch of used document folders on their way out of their last place of employment. Unfortunately the decision process was not helped by the fact that whoever designed the menus decided to use the tiniest fucking font in the whole goddamn world.  Yeah let’s squint this shit out together cause you know, 0.6pt font – I’M REALLY FUCKING INTO IT:

monkeynewspaper

It’s abundantly clear that service is all over the fucking place at Moonshine & the Po’Boys.  I’m throwing down plenty of thirsty face action in a desperate attempt to try and get someone to take my drinks order.  Waiters keep appearing and offering us the food ordered by the non-related party who we’re being forced to share a table with.  Fuck yeahhh, nothing beats seeing a waiter enthusiastically declare that you’re gonna absolutely love the Tomahawk Steak before you deflate his big steaky flourish by pointing him towards the strangers next to you who actually fucking ordered it.  It’s also really fucking rad when the waiters keep putting down someone else’s cocktails in front of you when you can’t even get the waiter to bring you the drinks menu. We observed a waitress whose sole function appeared to be to spin around in a confused manner around the floor. Finally we get our order in and after about half an hour of waiting, everything appears almost simultaneously.

Ms Two Serves and I mustered all our courage to try the Bayou Bucket, after the horrific fuck no bankruptcy inducing boil we had at the beyond awful and $oul crushing Holy Crab.  The Bayou Bucket is billed as a serving for four and it’s a Louisiana boil which combines a shit tonne of clams, mussels, tiger prawns, blue crab, Spanish scarlet prawns and king crab legs.  There’s also chunks of sweet corn, andouille sausage and new potatoes.  At HKD600 (+ 10% service charge) it’s not cheap but yassssssss there’s premium flesh laden crab and big-ass prawns for days.  There was no need to be polite and just nibble on one crab leg as you share shit around equally pretending that you’ve had enough crab because everyone got to eat their fuck yeah crustaceous fill.  While the menu offered a number of sauce choices, we weren’t actually asked what we wanted and ended up getting served with a fucking delicious Cajun garlic butter sauce and the boil sauce itself was fucking A1 great too.  The only thing that let this boil down were the molluscs – the mussels and the clams weren’t super fresh and consequently a bit bland.  But really, who gives a fuck about bullshit filter feeders when there’s fuck tonnes of crab?

crablikeigiveafuck

Next up was the half fried chicken for the very reasonably priced HKD100 (+10% service charge).  It’s served with a coleslaw which we ruthlessly pushed to one side because it was all about dat FUCK YEAH fried chicken.  It’s one of the best that I’ve had in recent memory, crispy as fuck without being greasy, well seasoned batter and this fried up motherfucker is bringing some serious juicy meat game.  It’s served with a cranberry sauce and this tart bitch helps to provide an acidic counterpoint to all of the fried chicken happiness. It’s at this point that we’re in a blissful fried chicken fugue, which allows us to forgive the abysmal service and the indignity of the mismatched, shabby plastic folder menus.

We had ordered a serve of the gator nuggets (HKD90 + 10% service charge) as a pre-dinner snack but due to the continued ineptitude of the staff, these were served well within the dinner zone.  Served with two sauces – Ranch and a Jack Daniel’s BBQ + Peach Chili puree, these would be great, I dunno, AS A PRE-DINNER SNACK.  Our other side, the Dirty Rice Jambalaya (HKD50 +10% service charge) is a carby fuck yeah, deep in flavour from the stock, sausage and the holy Jambalaya trinity of celery, peppers, and onions.  It was so fucking good that we scraped the bowl clean while one of my homies asked repeatedly if we’d tried the Jambalaya yet because she was super into it.

It’s fundamental to judge any place peddling Southern food on their grits and we ordered the Barbecue Shrimp and Grits (HKD100 + 10% service charge).  I honestly can’t believe this is only HKD100 because you get six huge prawns and normally if you even rub a prawn head on a plate in HK you’re looking at a HKD280 price tag. I was definitely prepared for grit disappointment cause well, Hong Kong, but these grits were fucking rad – creamy and with just the right amount of melted parmesan cheese.  Fuck yeahhh, the Moonshine homies most definitely pass the Grits Test.

We’d pretty much finished all of our food when our oysters finally arrive.  Ms Two Serves shoots an incredulous look at the waiter and says “I thought you’d forgotten about our oysters because we have received every other dish we’ve ordered” while I more plainly take our waiter to task asking bluntly “Shouldn’t our oysters have come at the beginning of the meal??”.  Our waiter sheepishly says he will check with the kitchen and reports back that because the first oyster they opened was bad that’s why the oysters had to came last.  O RLY Moonshine homie, is that what really happened?  Did the responsible kitchen homie open one oyster, discover it was bad and then proceed to take a break to chuff back six cigarettes before cooking five dishes for us and some food for all the other tables before he could find the courage to hold a shucking knife again to shuck six good oysters??

beepbeepbullcrapmeter

With the bullshit explanation out of the way, our waiter apologised and finally agrees the oysters should have come first.  He then pauses to take my sustained angry glare in as my raised eyebrows threaten to come completely off the top of my head, smiles tightly and awkwardly leaves us. Rather than comping us oysters which, FACT, have taken more than an hour and a half to arrive at our table just as we’re starting to think about dessert.

Trying to move past the fact we’re closing our meal out on oysters, I asked where the oysters were from and was informed that they’re  from New Zealand.  They were good oysters, plump and creamy, served with lemons and some sort of a vinegar reduction (I’m not into sauce on oysters, so I can’t pass judgment).  I could have done without the finely chopped spring onions on my oysters because I just want my oysters straight up.  But it’s all a bit of a moot point because after all the strong flavours of the preceding food, I just can’t get into it.  I’ve never finished a meal on oysters and I’ll be quite happy to never ever fucking do so ever again.

However, Oystergeddon doesn’t end here – as the oyster prices weren’t listed on the menu, I’d assumed that they’d be less than the three oyster shooters for HKD300 given that the latter had fancy ass booze in them.  However, this assumption was entirely incorrect because when we check the bill it appears that each New Zealand oyster costs HKD100 (+10% service charge). It’s at this point that our entire table dissolves into seething mess of fucking outrage because as my Choice Bro FYN Kiwi Homies would understand, that is TWENTY TWO KIWI BUCKS (USD14+) PER SINGULAR OYSTER WHICH COULDN’T EVEN BE FUCKING SHUCKED IN TIME TO SERVE BEFORE ALL OF OUR FOOD?? R U for real Moonshine homies?? Kill me in the face with your punitive oy$ter prices and tardy shucking, Moonshine and the NO FUCKING WAY BOYS.

allblacksthroat

For dessert, we split the Order the ebony & ivory (HKD80 + 10% service charge) which bills itself as a “chocolate brownie & cherries with bacon bits and peanut butter sauce”.  It’s served in a miniature cast-iron skillet and sure it’s delicious but despite all the description of cherries, bacon and peanut butter sauce, all I really get is chocolate brownie and vanilla ice-cream. Which is predictably tasty but my Moonshine homies, Y U promise me so many things and don’t deliver any salty bacon or peanut butter feelings?

Solemnly, I decide that I need to get a cocktail to try and blot away the memories of the Grand Finale mis-timed Oysters and order the Aged Manhattan (HKD120 + 10% service charge).  A waiter appears with my drink and sets in down in front of me and fuck me, call the NYPD because I appear to have been confronted with a major crime against one of the most majestic cocktails of all time:

CSImiamimanhattan

Like W T F Moonshine Homies, did you mistake my Manhattan with preparing a post-mix Coca-Cola that you’d get at fucking McDonald’s?  As soon as I see this slushie nightmare slandering the good name of the Manhattan, I ask my waiter what is this fuck no monstrosity in front of me and whyyyy would anyone want ice to rapidly melt into their cocktail to dilute it to all hell? I’m not really given any sort of proper explanation and receive yet another sheepish look, an apology and then another awkward disappearing act.  Rather than actually trying to simply fix shit by getting the bar to remake my cocktail so it’s not a total icey fuck no trainwreck.  I glumly sip on my ever diluting “Manhattan”, wondering whether it’s a watery mess due to the crushed ice or due to the tears of 1,000 NYC bartender angels who are bitterly sobbing from the booze soaked heavens above into my glass of interminable fuck no sadness.

CSImiamimanhattan copy

To be fair as a HK girl in the middle of junk season (ie. really fucking fair), a slick suited homie (who I suspect is an owner or investor) at the very end of our meal came over to ask how everything was and fresh with the horror of my crushed ice Manhattan slushie, I pointed to the watery “Manhattan” dregs in front of me and gave him more feedback.  He did sincerely apologise, offer us another round of drinks and promised that he’d make sure we were looked after the next time. A nice touch but again, why wasn’t my initial feedback taken onboard instead of the awkward to and fro between the bar, the acknowledgment that shit’s not right but doing absolutely jack all to make things better?

So aside from getting stung on the oy$ters, Moonshine & the Po’Boys is pushing out some kick ass food at super reasonable places.  It’d be a shame if they can’t tighten up their customer service to match their fuck yeah food.  Moonshine homies, I’m imploring you to get yo service shit together cause your fuck yeah food truly does deserve the best.

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhhhh cause the food was fucking tasty.  But Moonshine & the Po’Boys are still clearly working their shit out on the service front, so make sure you follow these FYN pro tips so you’re all fried chicken happiness and no bullshit oy$$$$$ter times:

  • Book a table for six so you’re not awkwardly sharing with random strangers.  Maybe if you’re less of an uptight fuck you can skip this one.
  • Be prepared for service to be well intentioned but clumsy.  If they fuck shit up, you better be ready to take the apology and just deal with it cause I didn’t see any efforts to fix things as they happened.
  • In case you missed the three paragraphs above, DON’T ORDER THE FUCKING OYSTERS. If you’re a loaded motherfucker, be very specific that your oysters have to come first.
  • When ordering cocktails, be specific on your ice requirements. Sorry Po’Boys, this ain’t a McDonald’s drive through and I can’t excuse that crushed ice bullshit, EVER.

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:

FYN-optimist-no-prices

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:

christinaaguileramyheartissayingno

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.

catbabysharingfoodsmall

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:
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.

%d bloggers like this: