18/F, The One, 100 Nathan Road
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

+852 2253 7111

HKD850 (+10% service charge) for the Chef’s tasting menu.  We got out at HKD1500+ per person including wine and fancy water. No, you can’t have tap water.

The deal:
Zurriola has relaunched itself under the executive hand of Chef Daniel Birkner about two months ago. I never ate at Zurriola before but if I make some entirely judgmental assessments (that’s right motherfuckers, why stop now?), the pics online look like that unnecessarily fussy cuisine which declares itself to be ‘modern contemporary’ under the guise of some foamy sauces with a ridiculous porcine Stonehenge fashioned out of tiny fucking cubes of pork belly and a crispy pork rind arch. Executive Chef Birkner was previously the Head Chef at The Butchers Club and I’ve had his fuck yeah food before at The Butchers Club T-Bone Tuesday and Wellington Wednesday so I was pumped to see what his fine dining game involved.

After getting my Mid-Levels and Sheung Wan homies to aggressively workshop their fears of leaving The Island for, sigh, The Dark Side (srs guise, is this really still a thing??), we managed to get our rarefied Island asses to Zurriola which is in The One shopping mall.  The Zurriola dining room itself hasn’t completed its formal divorce proceedings from its sister restaurant, Tapagria, the Spanish joint next door. A portrait of a matador’s butt keeps a careful perky watch over a wrought steel chandelier as a blaring flamenco soundtrack stamps across the room. Ole motherfuckers, but this led to some confusion as my Island homies who hadn’t been given the full pre-dinner brief assumed we were having Modern Spanish for dinner vs the broader remit of Modern European. Misplaced Mediterranean interior overtures aside the most impressive sight is predictably the Hong Kong harbour. Fuck me, however many years I’ve been living in the Kong and shit hot damn, that skyline still gives me the fuck yeah feels.

I wanted to see Chef Birkner’s highlight reel which is why I bullied the table into going for the  eight-course Chef’s tasting menu. Just so you know FYN homies, most of the dishes we had as part of the tasting menu were on the a la carte menu which I took as a good sign.  I’ve outlined this before, but I hate writing up a tasting menu dish by dish cause where’s the goddamn fun if you homies actually decide to go?  However, I will say that Zurriola’s food was everything that I fucking love in a Chef’s menu and I was so pumped that we’d put our trust in the chef.  ALL of the food we were served at Zurriola was so fucking precise, beautiful as fuck and there was no fucking lowlight dishes which struck out, which can curse some tasting menus.  I fucking loved that Zurriola were using non-standard ingredient combinations but not in that fuck no failbags way when a chef tries to be edgy and you just end up crying into a super fucking awkward dish of an avocado slice sprinkled with matcha powder and cayenne pepper on a dark grey slate, with a stupid ass petal on the side.  Over the courses, there was a real ebb and flow to the sequencing of each dish and I really fucking loved how much detail and thought went into the finer points of the meal.  Overall, I just thought the whole tasting menu affair showed the centre of what a chef loves and is inspired by and fuck yeah, there was clear thought behind every ingredient on the plate without relying on stupid-ass gimmicks or trying to elevate shit by simply shredding a truffle over everything.

Which was a big relief because do you know what really fucking grinds my gears at the moment? It’s lazy-ass luxury fine dining. That’s where chefs take it upon themselves to unnecessarily update or complicate shit, just to show off technique, presentation or ingredients which ends up in a off the charts wank-off factor and mega buck$ flying out of the customer’s pocket with sweet fuck all being done to improve a dish’s flavour or composition.  Fuck no to chefs just relying on the equation of fine dining = expensive ingredients, with the meal becoming an exercise in luxury by numbers. Like srs, sometimes dining just feels like add +HKD99 for black truffles to cover up the fact that you’re being served mindlessly uninventive food. Add +HKD200 for A5 wagyu because fuckkk, surely pampered grain fed Japanese cows should taste better. Add +HKD99 for foie gras cause nothing says delicious, gourmet nom noms than adding fatty geese liver as the table cries “OMG guys, I just totally adore foie gras!! How truly decadent!”. Add +HKD250 for caviar cause fuck yeahhh, surely fish eggs can drag a classic dish kicking and screaming into 2015.  Now add in some pea tendrils, splooge some bisque foam on the side, scatter a few viola petals about and some sort of molecular gastronomy caviar pearl (olive oil? balsamic vinegar?) and you’ve got the rights to bleat on about how fucking inventive and modern your shit is.


Thank fuck Zurriola aren’t playing that game because I’m done with that bull$hit.  Expensive and fatty as fuck doesn’t always result in a your shit being an automatic modern, innovative, high end or most importantly, a fucking ferocious culinary slam dunk.

So as I’m not doing a blow-by-blow account, here are some of my fuck yeahhh highlights.  To start, I had strong feelings that shit was gonna be rad after the bread course.  I always judge a restaurant on its bread because while it’s free and automatically expected by the customer, fuck yeah bread shows that the chef can still deeply care about the free shit, it’s a fuck yeah leading indicator of good shit to come.  Zurriola passed the bread test, as its bread is a serious fuck yeah, flecked with fennel, paprika, cayenne and black pepper which was only enhanced by my greedy ass covering it with French Beurre d’Echire butter which melted to give me dem nutty, buttermilk fuck yeah feels.  Other examples of the off the hook precision in Zurriola’s food was the first course, plainly billed as a ‘garden salad’.  However, this was one of the most fucking beautiful and thoughtful garden salads I’ve ever eaten, with its precision cut batons of carrots, baby corn and other vegetable items forming this artistic as fuck vegetable garden style formation.  Contrast these crisp vegetables with the texture and temperature of the chewy octopus, cold avocado ice-cream and small crispy crouton-like cubes of veal and shit’s getting beyond real.  How many feels is a salad meant to give me?!

There’s also unconventional ingredient pairings which still make sense, as demonstrated by the third course of the scallops which were topped with black pudding, against a crisp green apple sliver and a celeriac mash. Or the prawn which has been battered with crushed pork rinds which fuck yeahhh, is the sort of next level cardiac arrest batter I can full heartedly get behind.  This fuck yeah crunchy-ass prawn is served with a vibrant green garlic risotto where every grain is firm yet tender. I’m veering into food wank territory here but fuck yeah, presentation!

I also fucking loved the small details in both the presentation and ingredient choices.  The final savoury main is a line caught sea bass with its skin fried in such a manner that it looks like a series of scales, all stuck up, served with the finest wisp of Italian wild fennel with a liquorice side.  It’s the tiny details like the sprig of fennel which were so fucking impressive to me, because it was barely fucking there but it just added so much.  Every dish in the tasting menu demonstrated a fuck tonne of technique but more importantly, each dish was a major fuck yeah and showed you something new and fresh. Which is rare but impressive as fuck cause it clearly demonstrates a chef’s vision to show you ingredients that you know in a new light.

After seven savoury courses (excluding bread, an amuse bouche and a palette cleanser) I had to pony up hard to get through the cheese course.  Zurriola’s cheese course was not fucking about, with Chef Birkner serving us a selection of French raw milk cheeses (Chaource, Langres, Reblochon de Savoie, Saint Nectaire au cendre and Crottin de Chavignol) on thinly sliced homemade toasted apricot fruit bread.  I’m normally not down with apricot at all but I can make an exception for Zurriola’s fuck yeah fruit toast. Fuck me, I’d be pretty pleased with myself if I just came for champagne and the cheese course so I’d have more capacity to follow my usual FYN cheese game plan – that is, eating cheese until my entire being is a combination of coagulated milk protein caseins, deep physical pain from my distended stomach and self-loathing.

The final dessert course was a riff on 杨枝甘露 (yueng zi gam lou), a traditional Cantonese cold dessert soup made predominantly from mango, pomelo, coconut and evaporated milk.  I always maintain that Chinese desserts are never the strongest point in Chinese cooking, cause I’ve never been convinced that some ground up nuts, sugar and almond essence in a hot grainy soup is ever going to rival its Western dessert homies.  However, 杨枝甘露 is one of my fuck yeah favourites even if Chef Birkner’s take on this dessert isn’t too literal or overwrought – serving a small cube of mango cake with a coconut puff with pomelo, passion fruit and coconut in a few forms and textures. It wasn’t big but at this stage, an appropriately sized, light and tangy dessert was the perfect fuck yeah ending I needed after smashing my way through a very large in charge tasting menu.

The only thing that doesn’t make Zurriola a perfect dining experience was the restaurant itself, which doesn’t feel like it’s quite figured out what it wants to be.  It’s serving Modern European food in a restaurant decked out in old school Spanish decor.  I’ve well documented my love for having proper linen tablecloths and Zurriola has gone with no tablecloths and tacky plastic woven placemats which just didn’t sit with the food we were served.  I know that every restaurant thinks they can keep their restaurant modern by eschewing tablecloths (yo SAAM, imma looking at you with your pebble filled dishes and declarations of no tablecloths), but Zurriola’s decor just isn’t modern enough to attempt this modern dining without the stiff service bullshit.  Yo Zurriola, let’s be real – if you’re going to refuse to serve me tap water (fuck no!), have an expensive as fuck wine list (starting prices at around HKD700 a bottle and skyrocketing upwards exponentially) and punch out fuck yeah fine dining food and service, why won’t you just embrace that your shit isn’t casual and get rid of that tacky as fuck plastic placemat and give me a proper white tablecloth?

I always know when I’ve had a serious fuck yeah meal when I’m dreaming of that motherfucker the next day.  Or week.  Mission accomplished Zurriola, cause I’ve got dem fuck yeah feels for your precise, modern though no wanky bullshit eats.  Imma gonna come back for you, just as soon as my fat fucker pants fit again.

I know that most of you Sheung Wan / Sai Yin Pun assholes aren’t ever gonna cross the harbour for this shit but fuck yeahhhhhh on pay day, cause shit wasn’t cheap but this was one of the most thoughtful, innovative and impressively consistent tasting menus I’ve had this year. Get your Zurriola jam on for special occasions or when you’ve got out of towners when you need a restaurant with dat HK harbour view.  Imma gonna make a big FYN call, I expect to see this one in my 2015 fuck yeah HK highlights.

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