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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.

Where:
NEO (their website is about 5% useful – only because it lists the address)
10 Shin Hing Street (it’s opposite Cocotte)
Sheung Wan Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2812 2280

Price:
Cocktails range from HKD90-130.  Bar snacks from HKD60-85.

The deal:
I’ve read some of the preliminary press on NEO, the new bar opened by the Cocotte homies, and I can already see into the future and know that everyone’s gonna be making references to how the gentle glow of the neon lights are a homage to both the retro 80s past and HK’s history with neon signage, Noho (ermagerd HK, stahhhhpp trying to make Noho/Poho a thing) and how it’s Cocotte’s cheeky or sexy little sister. Whatevs, I dragged my sweaty ass down to NEO on Friday night after schlepping my way up from Sheung Wan MTR station, pushing my way past the heavy as fuck curtains into the industrial, stripped out NEO den. The Candace Campos design is cool as fuck, stripped back concrete walls, purposefully mismatched chairs and tiny Persian rugs. NEO have totally nailed that bare concrete shiz without making it look like they’ve just cheaped out on the decor. There’s some real cute touches too – the retro foosball table, the Neo Geo arcade machine and the Playboy pinball machine. People are gonna be all over that shit when they are writing their tedious as fuck blogs and media puff pieces about NEO.

We grab a low table and as I’m a grumpy old fucker with failing eyesight I can barely fucking read the cocktail menu in the dimly lit cool vibes of NEO. However despite the lack of lighting, my value sensor can at least detect that shit’s reasonably priced. Fuck yeahhhh HKD90 – HKD130 cocktails can get SOME because fuck that bullshit of the new HK norm of HKD180+ a cocktail. Attentive bar staff homies instantly swoop and ask what I want – through my shitty eyesight I decide on the Old Cuban Float (HKD120) which lists homemade sorbet with rum, lime, mint and prosecco as its ingredients. When my barstaff homie comes back with a spoon, I soon realize that perhaps this wasn’t a tangential reference to sorbet but a full on goddamn alcoholic float. Fuck yeahhhh, shit was delicious as fuck though – even if it was too much of a dessert like cocktail to kick my night off. Texturally, the sorbet was a bit icy which at least backs up the claim that shit is homemade but hey NEO homies, you gotta speed your freezing process up or add some cream factor to avoid dem coarse fuck no crystals.

With the alcoholic powers combined of Mr and Mrs Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and Sir Crunchalot, we smashed through almost the entirety of the fuck yeah NEO cocktail list. Some FYN cocktail highlights:

  • As a total slut for Campari, the Boulevardier Compliments (HKD90) was giving me some fuck yeah feels. The salty skewered olive was totally jiving against the sweet vermouth and the bitter, herbaceous Campari. I might be seriously biased though because fuck, I love dem bitter Campari feels.
  • The Cognac Retrold (HKD130) is one of the most expensive cocktails on the menu at HKD130 (which LBR, is still pretty fucking decent for HK) but 72 hour corn infused cognac can’t come fucking cheap. A touch of pear with the acidic cider vinegar bitters cuts through shit to make sure that it ain’t a sugary mess.
  • A fucking standout has to be the Rumboy & Cardamon Mule (HKD120). I fucking love a Moscow Mule and then you take this concept and fancy shit up with spicy apple honey syrup and, while not specified, I can only assume posh as fuck ginger beer. Dem Cardamon spice feels were strong and this is the sort of innocuously dangerous cocktail that doesn’t feel alcoholic at all and then you’ve somehow smashed back four of these quite comfortably and then when you stand up to go to the bathroom, BANG, you realise that not only are you refreshed as fuck, you can’t feel your face anymore.
  • The Express Polaroid (HKD110) references another one of my fuck yeah favourite cocktails, the Espresso Martini (when they’re not being tipped all over me). Except NEO’s is some next level shit with its fancy ass ingredients like ghee buttered dark rum and tonic reduction syrup.  There’s also a high level gimmick of it coming with a polaroid photo. FYN is always down to slam a gimmick but this one was just too fucking cute for words – our Express Polaroid arriving with precious memories of our gang pegged to the side of a gimlet glass. What a fuck yeah – this is the sort of drink that when you told someone to go to NEO you’d definitely tell them to order this successfully gimmicky bad boy without spoiling the polaroid punch line.  Except I already ruined that shit for you.  OH SORRY ABOUT THAT HOMIES.
  • The Smoked Yoghurt Sour (HKD100) was probably one of the most interesting cocktails on the list and gets a fuck yeah mention for being unlike any other cocktail I’ve had before. The smoked yoghurt gives it a new depth of flavor that I haven’t had in a cocktail before and while having too many dairy based cocktails seems like how you write the first chapter in your book of ‘The Execution of Bad Ideas’, I’d be down to have this cocktail towards the end of a night when all the bad ideas have been executed already, so why not double it the fuck down?

The only low lights might be down to my own personal preference of not getting super down with sweet drinks. This meant that the NEO Hive (HKD120) with all its neon, glow stick and illuminated ice-cubes still caused my diabeetus to flare up and The Oribtal Gimlet (HKD100) with its gummy bear was enjoyed by everyone else but it was just too fucking sweet for my tastes.  I also had a violent fuck no reaction to the Mezcal’s Crack (HKD90) but I blame that one more on my deep-seated and historical emotional issues with tequila than the actual cocktail itself.

I just wish that NEO’s cocktail menu had been ordered / categorised more logically – perhaps it was a by-product of my geriatric level eyesight and impatience to get on the sauce ASAP, but if I went to NEO again, I’d definitely order my cocktails in a different fucking order and definitely not lead with a cocktail that had a scoop of sorbet chilling the fuck out in it.  Maybe I’m just a fussy fucker who has a very precise order in which I like to drink my fucking cocktails. But it’s shit like if I had my time again at NEO, I’d want to follow my normal cocktail progression of bitter aperitifs to start (yassss Campari 4 Lyfe), get my refreshing drinks on by having approximately twelve Rumboy & Cardamon Mules, then I’d take shit darker with a Corgnac Retrold before closing off shit with a Smoked Yoghurt Sour and an Express Polaroid.  Then cut to this FYN artist impression of me wobbling my drunk ass home down the Shin Hing Street slope:

beyoncebrokebitch

NEO’s also peddling bar food which is broken into three sections – Tartines, Brochettes and Dessert. Tartines is fancy French nomenclature for open sandwiches and its just bits of bread with some sort of spread and meat /cheese on it. NEO’s tartines ranged from being fine (ie. the Parma Ham and Ricotta – but LBR it’s gotta be hard to fuck up shoving a combination of fuck yeah ingredients like parma ham, fig, ricotta and bread together) to being a bit half-assed (ie. the Caprese – bread with mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, basil and a soggy ass bottom, due to the olive oil and balsamic vinegar). There’s a few presentation issues, for example the Mr Croque (ham, cheese and bechamel sauce sandwich) is served with a side of salad but given there’s no cutlery and it’s meant to be finger food I wasn’t sure what we were meant to fucking do with it. Was NEO’s intention for me to use my fingers to pick up salad to eat in a cocktail bar??

The brochettes (that’s skewers for everyday folk) are not cheap and at HKD70-80 for two fairly small sticks are verging on food for ants territory. The Beef Provencal had some tiny ass beef cubes, skewered with some onions and capsicum. I don’t get down with capsicum at the best of times but the beef just felt so insubstantial all I remember is the onions. The Chicken Satay was the favourite amongst our table but I can’t get excited about HKD70 for two small, dried out chicken breast skewers. The Atlantic Salmon skewers were fine but served with a dipping sauce which was completely inaccessible due to the design of the sauce bowl. HAI NEO, Y U NO TRY TO USE YOUR SAUCE CONTAINERS BEFORE YOU SERVE THEM?! LIKE SRS – WTF WAS I MEANT TO DO WITH THIS?

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We rounded off our night with the desserts which presented us with the options of a pineapple skewer, a creme brulee and yes, more fucking bread with stuff on it – the Chocobana Tartine.  As the pineapple skewers sounded lame as fuck we opted for the crème brulee (HKD45) and the Chocobana Tartine (HKD55). The Chocobana Tartine was a fuck yeah but in reality it’s just chopped fresh bananas and chocolate sauce on some bread.  It just felt like the sort of thing I’d make with the scant provisions in my fridge on a Sunday morning when I was being held hostage in my own house by a killer hangover.  The crème brulee had a thin caramel crust which had the appropriate crack when hit with a spoon, but unfortunately the actual crème was a sloppy fuck no mess.  I guess the life lesson here is you should really drink your dessert at NEO in the form of some fuck yeah cocktail rather than dicking about with actual dessert.

I gotta mention the fuck yeah NEO barstaff – perceptive and attentive as fuck, we never had the opportunity to do thirsty face (that’s where I look fucking parched at a waiter in the desperate hope that someone will bring me some goddamn booze) and they diligently filled up our fresh popcorn bowls approximately 1,256 times per hour as we fisted that shit into our greedy, gaping mouths. What a revelation to be able to go to a bar in HK and be able to consistently spend my money all night instead of having some barstaff asshole ignore me.

We slipped out of NEO at midnight when the increasing crowds, hard surfaces and fuck yeah tunes meant that we couldn’t hear what the fuck any of us were saying through a wall of noise. Best to leave that shit to the youths that still have their hearing intact. FYN’s prediction is that this NEO shebang is definitely gonna take off, so you should probably go now because before too long, you’re gonna be unable to get a fucking seat while you elbow your way past at least half of HK’s French community with their curly locks, cigarettes, no socks and short bright pants.  SACRÉ BLEU, MOTHERFUCKERS.

Verdict:
FUCK YEAH to the NEO cocktails – thoughtful, high quality ingredients/alcohol and fucktonnes of craftsmanship at a super reasonable price point.  In respect of the food, I don’t give a fuck if you call your tiny ass skewers French names like ‘Brochette’, I’d only get involved for survival reasons (ie. you need something to soak up the alcohol).  Just drink your fucking calories ok??

Where:
Mume (lolz, Taiwan’s websites are as bullshit as HK.  Try their FB page out instead)
四維路28號 (No. 28, Siwei Road)
大安區 (Da’an District)
Taipei, Taiwan

Phone:
+886-22700-0901

Price:
NTD5200 (USD165 / HKD1300) for food and cocktails two people.

Where:
Sussing out where to eat when I visit Taipei is never straight forward because as someone who can’t read Chinese, you’re left to rely on Tripadvisor, Yelp, shitty adjective heavy food blogs and sycophantic press pieces which never give you a clear steer on whether shit’s actually good or not. Yeah, I’ve got trust issues because I’ve had so many substandard recommendations from people that I don’t believe most people can work through the distraction of a cool interior (see also: Mott 32) or what they think everyone should like, rather than being able to accurately judge whether the actual food was any fucking good.  For example, I tried asking my hotel concierge for a recommendation for local Taiwanese food and all they could fucking provide me with was a map which listed Carnegies and a red hot tip to go to the shopping mall next door to have some French or Italian.  UM EXCUSE ME CONCIERGE HOMIE, AREN’T YOU MEANT TO BE PROVIDING ME WITH HELPFUL LOCAL KNOWLEDGE?
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Separate to misguided concierge conversations, we made a booking for a relatively new restaurant called Mume.  Mume is run and owned by three young chefs – Richie Lin (from HK), Long Xiong (from the US) and Kai Ward (from Australia).  Emphasis on young cause I read somewhere that Kai Ward is only 24.  TWENTY FOUR.  I could barely find my ass with both hands when I was 24, let alone establish my own restaurant in another country.  The Mume boys boast some big name experience, with their resumes listing Noma, Per Se and Quay (not that I think Quay is as good as everyone says it is, fuck that snow egg bullshit) and now they’re pushing their own Modern European restaurant in Taipei.  I read a blog that described Mume as having “Scandi-inspired fare” which caused me to have a mini-melt down. Srs guise, Scandi?! Some people just want to watch the world burn.

Mume is named after a Taiwanese flower and is gunning for that casual modern restaurant vibe.  Yeah, you know what that means – thick ropes are draped from the ceiling with large filamented industrial light globes which barely light the room, cool Taiwanese waiters swish around sporting shaved head and man bun tonsorial combinations, there’s an emphasis on local seasonal ingredients and predictably, no tablecloths, because you know, nothing says modern and casual than eschewing tablecloths.  A cool as fuck playlist pulses in the background of this modern restaurant interior and because I’m a Grade A stalker, I tracked down Chef Kai’s Spotify Mume Playlist that was playing at Mume so you too can enjoy modern fuck yeah covers and remixes of Sexual Healing, Don’t You Want Me and Feel it in the Air Tonight which would be perfect to drink overpriced cocktails to. Not that this happened at Mume cause our fuck yeah cocktails clocked in at a very respectable NTD300 (HKD75 / USD10).  Love dat Taipei value, always.

Given Mume is gunning for that modern, innovative theme there’s no way these kitchen bad asses can use conventional menu terms like “Entrees”,  “Mains” and “Desserts” and they’ve used contemporary terms like “Smaller”, “Bigger” and “Sweeter” instead.  If there had been a tasting menu option, I definitely would have been down for that but instead, the two of us piled in for four “Smaller” and two “Bigger” dishes and a side of bread.

I always judge a restaurant by its bread because good fuck yeah bread is a reliable indicator of a restaurant that gives a fuck.  Bread isn’t a freebie at Mume and the Country Rye Sourdough costs NTD180 (HKD45 / USD6).  However, Mume’s bread was such a fuck yeah that I wasn’t even bent out of shape that I had to pay for it.  A decent sized round of rye sourdough comes out fresh from the oven, cut into four steaming hot wedges and the only appropriate way to pay respect to this fuck yeah bread is to instantly smear it with butter.  I was less impressed by Mume’s fancy butter options of beer butter and smoked beef fat butter because when bread’s that fucking good, I’d rather have my fucking glorious bread straight up with a high quality, plain salted butter.

Despite the ridiculousness of having to order “Smaller” dishes vs “Entrees”/”Starters”, I quickly got over that initial irritation given that as soon as our first entrees “Smaller” dishes arrived shit looked beautiful as fuck.  Mume is doing that modern food which looks fucking amazing through a combination of sauce smears, colour combinations, clever crockery selection and small vegetable shoots which were inevitably tweezered into place. The Wagyu Tartare (NTD 380 / HKD95 / USD12) is simply described as beef, clam mayo, confit egg yolk and grilled toast and it was fucking delicious, the slightly briny clam mayo cutting through the rich beef and egg yolk combination.  My only complaint was that I was only provided with two tiny pieces of grilled toast which was definitely more aesthetically pleasing but meant that I didn’t have enough bread for my tartare.  The simply titled Squid (NTD380 / HKD80 / USD10) sees raw pieces of squid, smoked pieces of engawa (a thin muscle of the dorsal fin of a Halibut) and taro served in a hot prawn broth, reminiscent of a Singaporean prawn mee soup.  Fuck yeah, the slightly chewy engawa and the squid pieces was really fucking interesting from a texture perspective and probably my favourite “Smaller” dish of the night.  The Concentrated Carrot (NTD280 / HKD70 / USD9) was a solid vegetable dish, a whole baby carrot was dehydrated slightly (I’m guessing, no one told me what made it concentrated) and served with red rice koji (rice grains which have been covered by red mold), ginger cream and lovage oil.  The textures and the flavours were different and the slightly celery-like flavour of the lovage was a different touch to the ginger cream.  However, end of the day my capacity to get that fucking excited about a carrot is still relatively limited and Mume’s carrot can’t compare to the most majestic carrot dish of my life that I had at Sixpenny in Sydney.  The Crispy Amadai (NTD420 / HKD105 / USD14) was also another fuck yeah, visually stunning as the skin of the amadai/tilefish has been fried to make its scales individually stand up and crispy.  Accompanying it was a roasted red pepper puree, toasted almonds and tomato raisins which worked with the sweet, white flesh of the fish.

For mains “Bigger” dishes, we ordered the “Chicken” (NTD780 / HKD195 / USD25) and the “Beef Shortrib” (NTD920 / HKD230 / USD30).  The beef short rib was that typical modern beef plating that you can expect – two cubes of pink beef, a smear of burnt onion sauce, two thin slices of mushroom, a singular baby carrot and a couple of vegetable shoots perched on the side.  Mume’s beef game was a fuck yeah and the burnt onion sauce pulled everything together.  It might have been sous vided but I got zero background from the waitstaff so I don’t really fucking know.  However, the fuck yeah of the mains “Bigger” dishes was definitely the chicken – the menu simply provides the description of “cauliflower, lily bulb stem and Pedro Ximénez jus”. The dish presents a piece of chicken breast and a roulade made from the darker meat.  Predictably, the roulade is my fuck yeah favourite because fuck dat breast meat bullshit.  But fairplay, Mume’s chicken in both forms wasn’t dried out or lame at all.  I just fucking loved how it all worked together, the chicken with the sweet wine jus against the cruciferous, slightly bitter vegetable notes from the cauliflower puree and the grilled green lily bulbs. Complex flavour times, yo.

For desserts “Sweeters” (really Mume?!), we ordered the Orange (NTD 300 / HKD75 / USD10) and the “Strawberry Cheesecake” (NTD280 / HKD70 / USD9).   The “Orange” uses ponkan, a Chinese Honey Orange and is served with Murcott Yoghurt and Lemon Verbena Mousse.  The “Strawberry Cheesecake” is a burnt cream cheesecake, almond crumble and a strawberry sorbet.  For both dishes, everything has been snap frozen and then smashed into a thoughtful pile on some really fucking beautiful stone-like plate.  Your Instagram is going to love that shit.  The “Orange” was just ok, unfortunately, the ponkan didn’t have enough of that intense citrus flavour to make this dish really pop against the slightly acidic frozen yoghurt hunks.  However, the “Strawberry Cheesecake” was a major fuck yeah – far more successful than the “Orange” because all the individual components provided more of a contrast against each other.  The sorbet punched you in the face with its strawberry flavour and the frozen shattered cheesecake had more of the sour dairy flavour going for it than the yoghurt in the “Orange”.  Combine that with the pieces of nutty almond crumble and this was fucking incredible.  Perhaps the “Orange” would have been more impressive if I’d never known the “Strawberry Cheesecake” but fuck that, just take it as a hot tip to stick with the superior, more attractive “Strawberry Cheesecake” option.

While Mume’s service was prompt and friendly, I’ve got two tiny criticisms around Mume’s service.  The first is that we were given barely any explanation about our dishes – for a restaurant which prides itself on its local produce and seasonal ingredients, every dish was explained as simply as the menu descriptions.  I couldn’t tell you a single thing about where a single ingredient was from or how shit was prepared.  The other thing I’d have liked more of was just to have the meal spaced out a bit more timewise.  The kitchen was pushing out dishes at the speed of light and I’m hoping it was due to enthusiasm rather than something more fucking sinister like trying to push us out in time for a second seating.  We sat down at 6pm and we had all four of our entrees “Smaller” dishes by 6:20pm and even with asking for a 10 minute break before dessert, we were paid up and out of the restaurant in just over an hour after we sat down.  Not gonna lie, I’m sure the rapid speed at which I shoved food into my face may have contributed to this aggressive turn around as well.

But that’s two small things because Mume is definitely executing on its promise of modern European food in new ways in a cool as fuck modern setting. I think shit might be expensive by Taipei standards but given the good distortion my perception has undergone by Hong Kong prices, it seemed like exceptional fuck yeah value times for the quality of food we received.  Now excuse me cause I’m off to listen to Chef Kai’s playlist again and to pretend I’m back in Taipei and eating dat fuck yeah strawberry cheesecake.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah – once you’re tapped out on fried chicken and dumplings at the night markets, you should definitely get yo ass down to Mume.

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