For all our mod cons and modern living, humans are really uncomplicated creatures at heart, and this is becoming more evident with food trends. These days we are exploring the benefits of a more pared down diet and going back to basics, with nutritious yet simple cooking. Maximal Concepts, with their ever-growing empire, (Brickhouse, Blue Butcher and now Mott32) are doing just that, with their restaurant Fish & Meat. Their philosophy is to provide rustic, honest cooking, sourcing the freshest farm-to-table ingredients. As the name implies, the menu is replete with fish and meat and is split into small and large plates for sharing amongst friends, farmhouse, family style.
The first time I went was in a large group to make the most of sharing as many plates as we possibly could. Whisperings amongst friends who had already paid a visit told me a fair number of their small plates were worth checking out. The Sea Urchin Bruschetta with lardo di colonnata may not be to everyone’s taste, depending on your fondness for sea urchin, but there was no denying their freshness. I love lardo di colonnata and the fatty flavours lent themselves well to the dish, countering the strong sea urchin. The fresh burrata with grilled Australian yellow plums was good and satisfied our cheese cravings, though the price was a little eye-popping at $180. I’m not quite sure what they coated the crispy whitebait in or what they put in their aioli, but this basket of tiny fish could put someone into food rehab, i.e. ridiculously moreish.
The pan-fried baby Spanish octopus with white bean puree , garlic, parsley and chilli was met with mass approval. I particularly enjoyed the contrast of the crispy exterior of the octopus against the tender meat. The white bean puree was lovely but I would have been happier if the garlic and chilli flavours were little more dominant. The Californian artichokes ‘Barigoule’ with Black Label Galloni Prosciutto and Mustard Vinaigrette was possibly the most disappointing of all the dishes we had, mostly due to the price and what we actually got. At $170, there really was not very much to look at apart from a meagre sprig of leaves and a couple of artichoke halves topped with two shreds of prosciutto. But all was not lost as the soft duck egg raviolo with ricotta cream, burnt sage butter and pecorino was a winner. Who can resist a burst of golden egg yolk from a secretive, innocent-looking pasta spaceship? None of us it seemed, as we all attacked the cheesy, gooey goodness with gusto.
Next up, two hand-ground Dutch veal and pork meatballs with melting fontina cheese and a pepperoni sauce eyeballed us. Let’s just say, cutting each meatball into quarters doesn’t exactly cut the mustard. I’m definitely having a plate of those to myself one day. At this point, it was rather difficult to fit in anymore than one main dish X 2 for our group of 8, so we settled for the Slow-cooked Spanish Tereul pork belly porchetta , Italian fennel sausage and apple marmalade. This was ridiculous. Ridiculously good I mean. Tender, bursting with flavour and the apple marmalade was genius. But, there was something even better. And this will sound strange as it is a side dish, but, the sweet-corn polenta. Strike me down with a feather, if this wasn’t the best side dish I have ever tasted. This was definitely a magical dish as we had to order this twice during our meal. I can’t really describe it, but it was comfort epitomised.
Do leave some room for dessert, or at the very least, room for the Sicilian lemon tart with clotted cream which I enjoyed the most. There was a good balance of citrus tang and sweetness with a lovely crumbly pastry base. The deconstructed, whipped mascarpone cheesecake with raspberry shortbread crumble was yummy but almost too light. I couldn’t help but think of the crumbs from Crumbs! Chocolate fans will enjoy the Chocolate Lava Cake with Salted Caramel and Vanilla ice-cream, where flavours lovingly hopped from salty to sweet in every mouthful.
Lunch is a simpler, more laid-back affair with a pared-down selection of small and large plates. By kind invitation I had a lovely lunch one afternoon and was introduced to the new lunch menu. A couple of the starters from the dinner menu are kept, including the moreish crispy whitebait, but we tried the new addition Crab and Jalapeno crostinis with frisee salad. It is a plain looking dish, but the taste has more colour owning to a fiery kick from the jalapeno. They are quite generous with their crab which is piled high atop the crostinis and is a rather refreshing seafood meaty starter to get the tastebuds going.
For mains, we opted for the hand-ground veal and pork meatball baguette with mozzarella, pesto and tomato sauce, the slow-cooked Spanish Tereul pork belly porchetta ciabatta with pork and fennel sausage stuffing and gremolata (both a clever lunch variation of their dinner counterparts) and their saffron risotto with crispy sea bream, scallops, squid and prawn.
The baguette and ciabatta were toasty perfection, and extremely satisfying for lunch. The pork belly was still deliciously tender and I loved the gremolata which made this dish pop with more flavour. The meat was almost reminiscent of Bee Cheng Hiang’s BBQ meat! The risotto was also excellent- creamy, but not too rich with fresh seafood ingredients. This was a hearty, warming and aromatic dish.
To end we had the amazing Chocolate Pot, which, even as a non-chocoholic, this was sublime. A heady medley of salty chocolate, nutty, praline, biscuit heaven.
Maximal Concepts have done it again with their magical food know-how and have, I think, successfully delivered their concept. The food is honest, simply done without skimping on technique and the service is quite smooth. Ambiance is fun and as the menu is designed for sharing, make sure you come with more than one person so you can graze happily through the menu. The price per person will vary depending on a) greed b) which items you choose as some are not that price-friendly c) how many people there are.
Chopstixfix rating: 4/5
Fish and Meat 2/F, 32 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong, Tel: 2565 6788
Many thanks to Maximal Concepts for the kind lunch invitation.