Rhoda

Rhoda

Where:
Rhoda (FB page)
Shop 1A, Upton, 345 Des Voeux Road West
Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong

FYN hot tip:  I think HKU MTR station is closest, take Exit B1.

Phone:
+852 2177 5050 / ask@rhoda.hk (fuck yeahhhhhhhhhh, making bookings without having to talk to people)

Price:
We got out at around HKD650 per person, including booze and before tip (service charge not included).  I went with my A-team of Olympian Level Good Eaters though, so take that into account when you’re trying to estimate $$$.

The deal:
Nathan Green, the former head chef of 22 Ships, has set up new digs in Sai Ying Pun in collaboration with Yenn Wong / the JIA Group.  It’s touchingly named after Chef Nathan’s grandma, Rhoda, who per the interviews I’ve read Nathan says was a bomb-ass home cook.  But fuck, I can’t believe I’m writing about yet another new Yenn Wong restaurant (see also: Mak Mak, Kaum at Potato Head).  It’s as if Yenn sat down at the end of 2015 and wrote her 2016 New Year’s resolution to be ‘Open a new restaurant in HK every month, before rolling forward onto inevitable global domination‘. I enjoyed the actual food at 22 Ships when Nathan was there but I just didn’t get that into it as a concept because I’m entirely too jaded to be dealing with no booking teeny tiny restaurants which serve food for ants with a big side serve of bankruptcy.

The first thing that hits you is just how striking Rhoda is from an aesthetic perspective.  It’s got a kick ass layout – a casual bar at the front, the restaurant tables in the middle and the chef’s counter / open kitchen at the back if you want to check out what the team is doing with your food.  Rhoda have enlisted Joyce Wang to get her fuck yeahhhh interior styles on and not just bash out yet another new HK restaurant with more stripped back bare concrete, minimalist stainless steel industrial vibes.  Joyce Wang is known for doing a number of fuck yeah interiors around town, including Vasco (RIP) and Mott 32 (where the interiors are most definitely more memorable than the super blah food). Rhoda is all references to red brown shiny copper and the light green patina that forms when copper oxidises, mixed with earthy and burnt wood materials – which no doubt tie into the fact that Chef Nathan is all about keeping things straightforward, eschewing fussy cooking equipment for cooking over wood charcoal and fire to make “modern comfort food”. It’s fucking beautiful with its mix of different materials, the repurposed washing machine drums made into light fittings, the grey concrete cladding, elegantly draped rope, the metallic copper fittings and just-so distressed wood furniture, all bathed in a warm, amber glow.

We’re a party of four and we’re seated at the end of the large communal tables which could hold up to ten people.  The table itself is a thing of gorgeous beauty, made in Iceland with melted copper poured into the cracks of the wooden table top.  Unfortunately, it’s just a touch too wide which means that it’s not the greatest for actually being able to converse with people across the table unless you give it the full lean and shout a bit.  We move past this issue pretty quickly when we’re distracted by Rhoda’s bread – a beer bread made from Suntory dark ale which arrives hot hot hot from the wood fire oven on a bed of twigs with a side of nori seaweed butter. We’re starving and we tear our bread roll apart, quickly realising that Rhoda smashes the FYN bread test out of the goddamn park (ie. the test that if a restaurant serves good bread, it’s a key leading indicator that they probably give a fuck about the finer details about everything else they do).  The crust is crisp as fuck, slightly smoky from the oven and when you rip it apart and slather that just dense enough inside with the slightly mellow though briney nori butter, it’s truly an insight into what my purest carb based night time fantasies are made of.  I understand that you get one complimentary serve of bread per two people and then it’s HKD29 a serve, but fuck who cares because where else could someone find such unadulterated happiness and beauty for HKD29??  We ended up totalling four serves of bread between four people and I’ll level with you, if we hadn’t been prewarned to make sure we had capacity for dessert, we probably could have smashed a few more.

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Rhoda’s menu is split into a few different parts and changes daily, depending on what shit’s good.  The categories include Snacks, Cold, Grill, Something a Little Bigger, Sides, Desserts and Cheese.  From the Snacks section, we kick off with the crispy lotus root chips with chicken liver cream (HKD38).  The chicken liver cream is a fuck yeahhh but the lotus root chips could really be any sort of fried vegetable carrier.  We also go with the much blogged and written about, slow cooked octopus (HKD138) from the Grill.  It’s absolutely fine and executed really well, topped with thin slices of cucumber, fresh mint and pickled shallot but it just wasn’t that interesting or different to me.  However, the sweet corn with clams (HKD128) is where shit starts to get real, where grilled kernels of sweet corn are served with shelled clams, katsuboshi (dried, fermented, and smoked flakes of skipjack tuna) and a slow cooked egg.  When you break the egg and mix its yolky glory through the dish, it’s a fucking sensational mix of contrasts of textures and flavours – the creamy yolk, briney clams, slightly smoky sweet corn and the subtle umami hint of fish from the katsuboshi.  I just fucking love it when someone combines ingredients that you’re familiar with and serves it in a way that makes it bigger than its individual parts.

Our waiter homie highly recommends the Mangalica pork chop (400g) (HKD548).  The Mangalica pig is a wooly haired pig which lives a pampered life in the grassy fields of Hungary, snacking down on pumpkin, beets and acorns before they’re slaughtered for their fuck yeahhhh high quality fatty though delicate tasting meat.  Our Hungarian porcine friend has been marinated in soy and garlic, before being grilled over charcoal which results in some epic fuck yeah caramelised fat.  Ms Two Serves was so into this that she used the accompanying green spring onions to wrap the pork fat to make some sort of glorious and fucking delicious burrito style carrier that went straight into her mouth.  Although, we watched in horror as the skinny though miserable looking heathens next to us cut all of the caramelised fuck yeah fat off their pork chop and pushed it to one side of their plate before they laughed blandly at what must surely have been tedious conversation.  Y U DO THAT MY SAD SKINNY FRIENDS? Y U NO DO MANGALICA PORK JUSTICE?

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I’m always partial to chicken, even if getting good quality chook in HK means paying a fucking bomb.  Rhoda is offering Brink’s farm free range chicken with spring onion and ginger dressing (HKD498) and it’s so fucking good.  The only issue is that I can’t get excited about breast meat which meant that by the time we’d decimated the far more delicious thighs, drumsticks and wings we were left with so many slices of breast meat.  I know there’s no bones and white people are super into it, but even with the killer ginger dressing, all I could do was dream of darker meat times.  Yes, I know it’s not Rhoda’s fault that chicken have breasts.

We were also loving the side of sugar snap peas with pancetta and quail eggs (HKD68), even if there was MORE spring onions.  Spring onions at Rhoda seem to be like rocket/arugula at other restaurants, every fucking dish we ordered seemed to have them.  Regardless of the spring onion overload, the snap peas are sweet and fresh as fuck and it makes me think of the numerous times I’ve paid HKD78+ for some sad ass side of green beans because some health conscious bastard wants vegetables.

We also ordered a side of the Maitake mushroom risotto with new season Australian truffle (HKD158).  It’s interesting, made from six different grains – pearl barley, buckwheat, spelt, rye, quinoa and millet.  It’s also rich as fuck though and while fucking delicious, I’ll level with you – I’d rather have spent my carb quotient on MOAR BREAD.

In a stunning stroke of good luck, the FYN Gods smiled upon us and where you normally need to order the 12 hour slow cooked Hawke’s Bay lamb shoulder with vegetables, 48 hours in advance, Rhoda had a half-shoulder kicking around.  This NZ lamb is slow cooked and served with carrots and onions, with a massive bouquet of herbs (including thyme, Italian parsley and fresh mint). This is when our table collectively loses their shit.  The lamb is everything a slow cooked lamb should be, fork tender and it has taken on the flavour of the herbs, the sweet carrot, tomatoes and onions, while still showing off its superior fuck yeah provenance.  All that clean air and lush Kiwi grass has most def been kind to the flavour of the lamb.  It’s served with a mint gremolata, a more sophisticated take on mint sauce, and it’s all fuck yeah fresh green zingy tones from the mint, lemon zest, olive oil, salt and garlic.

But fuuuuuck, it’s the gravy that sits in the bottom of the dish which causes all sorts of emotions to burst through to the surface for us.  Ms Siuwaaan, who’s a total slut for gravy, got far more graphic in her wanton desires for MOAR GRAVY.  In between her losing her senses and babbling about how she wants to do all sorts of unspeakable things with said gravy (including executing a body slide with gravy), she decides that gravy fantasies are cheap and instead hits our waiter homie up for more gravy.  We laugh at her doubting whether this is possible, but eventually the clouds of doubt clear, the jus related heavens part and she’s given not one but TWO jugs of gravy.  Without hesitating, she downs one jug like she’s chugging a beer before she stops to take a breath, roll her eyes, place both hands on the table and exclaim “Praise be to Grodin – God of Gravy!“.  It’s at this point, we realise that we’ve gotten our lamb eats totally wrong at Rhoda and form a new plan to do the remainder of our lamb shoulder the sweet justice it deserves.

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So, this is where I will present to you The Definitive FYN Guide on How to Eat Yo Lamb at Rhoda:

  1. As mentioned above, you have to pre-order the lamb 48 hours before you go.  DON’T FORGET THIS.  At present, I think Rhoda is only officially offering the full shoulder which is probably appropriate for eight people but check to see if the half-shoulder is available if you’re a smaller group.
  2. Order more bread.  That shit’s gonna come straight from the oven with a side of nori butter.
  3. Butter up your bread.  Don’t be restrained.
  4. Take your bread and start to form an epic lamb sandwich – start with some lamb, tear some fresh herbs into that shit, maybe get a couple of pieces of the braised onion into there if that’s your jam.
  5. Mint gremolata yasssssssssssssssssss.
  6. Pour gravy all over what’s possibly one the most epic things you’ve ever held in your mortal hands to date.
  7. OPTIONAL:  Put some more crusty as fuck bread on top.  Or just eat it open faced.
  8. Shove this glorious lamb sandwich creation which you made with your own two hands into your wanting face, remembering to breathe while your eyes are wet with tears of joy.
  9. If the gravy escapes your sandwich and runs down your wrists, there’s no shame in licking your wrists to tidy that resplendent fuck yeah gravy up.

PLEASE TO LISTEN UP HOMIES, THIS IS THE PATH TO GREATER LAMB ENLIGHTENMENT.  Girl, you know it’s true:

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After crushing our lamb, our super smiley waiter homie realised that we were truly having a moment and actually seemed to be so excited that we were so into our food.  We had firm plans on dessert because I’d been given a heads up from one of my FYN homies that the vanilla cheesecake (HKD108) was a major fuck yeah and our waiter homie let us know that Chef Nathan’s favourite is the Summer berries (HKD98).  The vanilla cheesecake is fairly simple, with a texture that’s almost like a pudding with a base which is reminiscent of a buttery shortcake biscuit, with some stewed rhubarb and yamamomos (Chinese bayberries / waxberries) on the side.  It’s delicate and rich, and if you’re into cheesecake I recommend you get involved.  I gotta admit, I thought the Summer berries might be a little lame, the sort of dessert you get when you’re trying not to be a massive fat fuck.  But I was completely wrong, it was far more interesting than its description and it was a refreshing fuck yeah mix of a just tart enough cherry granita, creme fraiche with just a whisper of lemon over a super punchy combo of A1 quality fuck yeah berries, including cherries, blueberries, yamamomos  and strawberries.

At the end of the meal, we’re going through our play by play highlights of the meal and marvel at the fact that perhaps it is possible to go to a new restaurant in HK and not be decimated by the crushing disappointment of trendy bullshit and half-assed executed food which has been designed to pander to the masses.  The meal we had at Rhoda, is the sort of meal that comes from food which actually means something personal to the chef and then it touches some sort of nerve inside of you and leaves an impression.  So much so that even after we all go our separate ways, we hit the group chat up before we fall asleep to continue to talk about how much we fucking enjoyed it and in the morning, as the sun ushers in yet another new day in HK, the fuck yeah bread and lamb related chat continues.

So yes, this is what it feels like, when someone executes their dream down to the nth detail and in that process, pours their heart and being completely into what they do, while making sure that the entire team gives as much as a fuck as he does.  And what a fucking privilege that as a customer you get to be a part of that.

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Verdict:
FUCK YEAHHHHHHH!!  Rhoda is only one week old and I think I’d go as far as saying it’s one of the most interesting openings in HK this year.  I cannot fucking wait to see where it goes from here.  GET INTO IT MY FYN HOMIES, but make sure you don’t forget to eat your lamb the FYN way (aka the best way).

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