ChopstixFix

Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong


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Fish & Meat- Delicious Simplicity

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.

Fish & Meat

Fish & Meat

F&M F&M

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.

 Sea Urchin Bruschetta

Sea Urchin Bruschetta

Fresh burrata

Fresh burrata

Crispy whitebait

Crispy whitebait

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.

Soft duck egg raviolo

Soft duck egg raviolo

Pan-fried baby octopus

Pan-fried baby octopus

Californian artichokes ‘Barigoule’ with  Black Label Galloni Prosciutto

Californian artichokes ‘Barigoule’ with Black Label Galloni Prosciutto

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.

Dutch veal and pork meatballs

Dutch veal and pork meatballs

 Slow-cooked Spanish Tereul pork belly porchetta

Slow-cooked Spanish Tereul pork belly porchetta

Sweetcorn polenta

Sweetcorn polenta

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.

Lemon tart

Lemon tart

Chocolate lava cake

Chocolate lava cake

Mascarpone cheesecake

Mascarpone cheesecake

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.

Crab and Jalapeno crostinis

Crab and Jalapeno crostinis

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.

Spanish Teruel pork belly ciabatta

Spanish Teruel pork belly ciabatta

Saffron risotto

Saffron risotto

Veal and pork meatball baguette

Veal and pork meatball baguette

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.

More Chocolate pot

More Chocolate pot

Chocolate pot

Chocolate pot

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. 


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Sensational Sushi Shikon

Some gastronomy experiences are so fantastic that it would be rather futile to try and put into words exactly what made them sublime. This is the case for my meal at Sushi Shin, where frankly, I don’t know enough adjectives that would fully capture and describe each morsel.

Formerly Sushi Yoshitake, Sushi Shikon has now been awarded three Michelin stars, just like the original Sushi Yoshitake in Tokyo. However, there is a sticking point to this sushi experience- the price. My eyeballs almost popped out of their sockets to see only two prices- $2,000 per person for the Lunch Menu and $3,500 for the Omakase Dinner Menu. No choices in what you order, you get what you are given, and at that price tag, you hope you get given something good. And it is more than good. A superb offering of 12 nigiri sushi pieces, followed by soup and dessert in the most intimate of settings. Sushi Shin has only 8 seats at their sushi counter and a 6 seat private room at its home in the unassuming Mercer Hotel in Sheung Wan, so the entire experience feels as though you could be in Japan, shut away from the outside world, with nothing but the rhythmic sound of fresh wasabi being grated on a sharkskin grater in front of you.

Sushi Shikon counter

Sushi Shikon counter

IMG_8326

I sat down and perused the Sushi Etiquette page I’d been given, and after two minutes of etiquette cramming, had a bit of a worry over how to take photos swiftly and look elegant whilst eating, when I read that the sushi should ideally be eaten within 30 seconds of being served and not in little bites if the portion is too large for one’s mouth, (you ask the chef if this is the case and he will cut them up for you). We were also told by Chef Yoshiharu Kakinuma that we should use our hands to eat the sushi as we would have a greater sensory experience and he could also serve the “Shari” sushi rice at a softer consistency. Some of us already knew not to mix the wasabi in with the soy sauce (I imagined us being death-stared by the staff if we did this), and I was interested to see they had mentioned that soft drinks are not served as they “overwhelm the delicate flavours of sushi and disturb the ambience”.

Lunch menu

Lunch menu

Fresh wasabi

Fresh wasabi

All that aside, once everyone had settled in at the sushi counter, Chef Kakinuma began to weave his magic. We started with the outstanding steamed abalone, which was nothing like abalone I had had before. Smooth and tender, and almost steak-like, the succulence of the abalone went so well with its accompanying velvety liver sauce that I felt I needed to chew extra slowly to prevent the inevitable end of this mouthful. I can only describe this as a complete umami taste. Chef Kakinuma then brought a smile to my face by giving us a blob of their signature red vinegar sushi rice to mop up the remaining sauce.

Preparing the steamed abalone

Preparing the steamed abalone

Abalone

Abalone liver sauce

Abalone liver sauce

Steamed abalone

Steamed abalone

The ‘tender octopus’ should have been renamed ‘exquisitely tender’. My brain grappled with something to compare the taste to, and came up with pork belly. Who knew that octopus massaged and braised in sea salt could be this incredible?

Tender octopus

Tender octopus

As each sushi piece arrived, we each of us became more excited. The Marinated Medium Tuna was wonderful, but trumped by the outstanding Fatty Tuna, which by just one glance, I knew was going to be sublimely melty. The Seasonal Sushi Roll of mackerel, ginger, shiso and  braised Japanese squash skin was delightful and I loved the burst of shiso and contrasting texture of the pickled ginger. Sea Urchin is one item I am not overly keen on usually, but this was so ridiculously fresh and chilled that it was almost like cool, fresh water with a delicate nutty flavour and no overpowering smell. By far the best I have ever had.Chef Kakinuma

Medium Tuna

Medium Tuna

Fatty Tuna

Fatty Tuna

Seasonal Sushi Roll

Seasonal Sushi Roll

Sea urchin

Sea Urchin

Sea Urchin

The salmon roe with Chef Kakinuma’s secret special sauce marinade and yuzu zest was a balance of subtle flavours and I thoroughly enjoyed the sensory experience of eating the Tiger Prawn with my fingers and being attuned to its bouncy texture. The Golden Eye snapper was beautiful and the Conger eel exuded its wonderful charcoal, smoky flavour, a testament to its stint on the bamboo leaf grill.

Conger Eel

Conger Eel

Tiger Prawn

Tiger Prawn

Salmon Roe

Salmon Roe

Golden Eye Snapper

Golden Eye Snapper

The meal ended sweetly with a sponge-cake textured Tokyo traditional Castella egg, soup and a light, fruity dessert.

Castella Egg

Castella Egg

Miso soup

Miso soup

Fruity Dessert

Fruity Dessert

This was absolutely the finest Japanese meal I have had in Hong Kong, but I’m not sure if I can bring myself to repeat the experience at such a price, even though it can be explained by daily deliveries of the freshest fish from Tokyo’s Tsukiji market. I’m sure you can think of better uses for $2,000, but maybe the lure of world-class sushi without getting on a plane to Japan is too attractive to pass up. In any case, if you decide to bite the bullet, you won’t leave Sushi Shikon feeling cheated.

Chopstixfix rating: 4.5/5

$$$$$$$$$$

Sushi Shikon, Ground Floor, The Mercer Hotel, 29 Jervois Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. http://www.sushi-shikon.com Tel: 2643 6800

This was by kind invite. The review can also be seen on Sassy Hong Kong.


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Keeping it Simple at The Pasta Place

Simple eats are invariably the most satisfying and that’s what mother and daughter-owned The Pasta Place in Sheung Wan aims to do by going back to basics and providing hearty pasta dishes and desserts in a home-style setting. Despite owner Andrea Wannop being a Brit, her love of NYC and cooking Italian-American dishes inspired her and her daughter Charlotte to open their own establishment.

The Pasta Place is cosy, small and decorated with vintage wallpaper and black and white photos. A compact selection of Appetisers, Small Plates for sharing, Sandwiches and Pasta dishes grace the menu, though of course, it is the pasta that one would be most interested in. All the pasta sauces are Andrea’s own recipes and if any of them tickle your fancy, you are in luck as they are now bottling and selling her sauces.The Pasta Place

The Pasta Place

The Pasta Place

By kind invitation, my friend and I popped over one evening to try the food over a catch-up session. I started with a thirst-quenching homemade Mixed Berry spritzer before taking a forkful of their appetiser- Eggplant Parmigiana. The layers of roasted eggplant, mozzarella and pomodoro sauce came well together and I liked the burst of basil that came through. I would have preferred it if the eggplant could have been slightly more roasted but otherwise this was a lovely dish to begin with.

Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant Parmigiana

We then chose to try their Small Plates selection (you choose three dishes to share for $70 per person) and opted for the Caprese Skewers, Italian Meatballs and Garlic Mushrooms. The Caprese Skewers were an uncomplicated combination of Buffalo Mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes and basil. The Italian Meatballs were succulent and quite aromatic and I would have loved to have had them on a plate of spaghetti, which is sadly not offered amongst the pasta dishes! We also enjoyed the Garlic mushrooms which I do not recommend getting if you are on a date or going home to a loved one straight after, but if you are garlic fans like we are, then these will be right up your street.

Garlic mushrooms

Garlic mushrooms

Caprese skewers

Caprese skewers

Italian meatballs

Italian meatballs

For mains, my friend had the NYC Style Penne alla Vodka with Chicken Breast. Here, the pasta (I nicked some haha), was nicely al dente and the sauce rich and creamy with a good balance of tomato and garlic flavours and a sharpish tang from the splash of vodka. We both agreed that this would have been a far more comforting dish if they had a been more sauce.

NYC Style Penne alla Vodka

NYC Style Penne alla Vodka

IMG_9258

Spaghetti Carbonara

As for my chosen main, I went for my ultimate pasta comfort dish Spaghetti Carbonara. This was cream and carb satisfaction to the max with a generous topping of Parmesan cheese, just the way I like it. It was cheesy and filling and completely obliterated any feeling of hunger. The major let-down of both mains was that they came out a bit on the lukewarm side, something that I later relayed to Charlotte.

To end, we had the Tiramisu and the Chocolate Fudge Brownie with Gelato. Both were solid offerings; the rich chocolate brownie sufficiently gooey/chewy and the Tiramisu flavours light and delicate.

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

Chocolate Fudge Brownie

Chocolate Fudge Brownie

The Pasta Place is by no means out there to compete with other establishments such as Doppio Zero and I like that this mother-daughter duo are doing something they both love and gain inspiration from. The Pasta Place will appeal to you if you crave an enjoyable, affordable meal in a restaurant with no airs or graces, just smiles and happy attitude to life.

Chopstixfix rating: 3/5

 

$$-$$$$$$$$$$

The Pasta Place, 8 Hillier Street, Sheung Wan, Tel: 2774 6692 http://www.thepastaplace.com.hk

This was by kind invitation- thank you to Andrea and Charlotte at The Pasta Place for having us!


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Healthy Eats at Maya Cafe

It is still early enough in the year for people to be stalwartly sticking with their usual New Year’s Resolution to be fitter, leaner and healthier. Come April, that resolve slowly dies, replaced by a longing for hot cross buns, chocolate Easter bunnies and basically anything slathered with butter. Yay for Easter hols! If you are the type to give up something for Lent- you have strong willpower my friend.

So, before your resolve begins to waver, let me tell you about Maya Cafe on Moon Street in Wan Chai, that is stocked with rather delicious looking and tasting vegetarian dishes. I was impressed by the substantial number of dishes which caters to all types of health-conscious beings. Vegetarian, gluten-free and raw dishes grace their menu and they even have organic wine.

Maya Cafe

Maya Cafe

Tina Barat and Mina Mahtani are the two creative friends who decided that in light of a lack of healthy options in HK, would open their own establishment offering what they themselves sought. Tina Barat, in quite a career change from jewellery designer to chef, has taken inspiration from her French-Moroccan background, to create a lovely Mediterranean menu. Tina has been mindful in producing dishes that are nutritious and healthy but without compromising on flavour and both cooked and raw foods are 100% organic. It’s clear when you chat to her (both her and Mina take the time to serve and speak to their customers), that Tina is extremely passionate about healthy living and she informed me that this lifestyle is ingrained in her as her mother herself only cooked such dishes when she was a child.

The cafe has Mediterranean elements in its decoration with Turkish lamps hanging peacefully from the ceiling, white walls and an outdoor terrace that I imagine will be lovely to sit on in the summer.Maya Cafe

When I visited, they were just promoting their special Chinese New Year menu and I got a chance to sample a couple of dishes from this menu as well as dishes from the a la carte. Their dishes will change seasonally, so I look forward to visiting again soon to see what’s new.

I was off to a good start with their CNY Amuse Bouche ‘Joy & Beauty’ which was a duo of Yellow and Red Bell Peppers on a crostini. The bread was nice and fresh and the bell peppers sweet. Following that, I had their Life & Peace Salad, made up of kale and avocado in a lime and hemp seed dressing. This was surprisingly yummy, despite its ‘greenness’ and the hemp seeds added texture and bulk.

Kale and Avocado Salad

Kale and Avocado Salad

Duo of Red and Yellow Pepper

Duo of Red and Yellow Pepper

I then sampled their Cream of Pumpkin and Red Pepper soup which was rich, wholesome and quite filling. During this time I noticed a group of four well-dressed young men had come in on their lunch break, and I was actually pleasantly surprised that these guys had chosen Maya instead of Pizza Express, or TED’s Lookout or even Oolaa. Just goes to show that men are increasingly becoming health conscious. I wonder when my group of male friends will start to willingly go into a vegetarian restaurant instead of having to be dragged there like petulant children!

Cream of Pumpkin and Red Pepper soup

Cream of Pumpkin and Red Pepper soup

I thoroughly enjoyed the next two dishes which can be found on the a la carte. Meatless Balls in a Rich Tomato Sauce is one of their customer favourites and I could definitely understand why. Made of mushrooms, oatmeal and Parmesan, the texture and the feeling of satisfaction is akin to eating real meatballs and I really enjoyed them on the bed of red and brown rice.

Meatless Balls in Tomato Sauce

Meatless Balls in Tomato Sauce

Up next was the Raw Vegan pasta which was fettuccine shaped courgette (Zucchini) with a creamy cashew-truffle sauce. I have to say I thought this was quite delicious and I allowed myself a moment of smugness that I had joined a well-being and goodness foodie club albeit temporarily. Obviously there is no substitute for the mouth-watering, decadent, full-fat, carb-loaded version of this pasta, but I could get used to eating courgette fettuccine as a guilt-free option.

Fettuccine shaped courgette with creamy cashew-truffle sauce

Fettuccine shaped courgette with creamy cashew-truffle sauce

For dessert, I chose the the Chia Cream with Berries. This was interesting to me as I didn’t realise that soaking chia seeds would bloat to that extent and these were soaked in coconut cream then blended with berries and raw brown sugar. A delicious little treat.

Chia Cream with Berries

Chia Cream with Berries

If, like me, you are someone who doesn’t normally frequent vegetarian outlets, Maya Cafe definitely presents a lovely option if you want to eat out but cut back on the rich and calorific foods of normal establishments. It certainly doesn’t feel like you are force feeding yourself vegetables and I thought all the dishes I tried were well thought out and satisfying. If you are a vegetarian or need gluten-free dishes, then Maya Cafe may well be your new haven.

Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5

$$$$$$$$$$

Maya Cafe, G/F, 5 Moon Street, Wan Chai. Tel: 2529 3319. Open Mon-Sun 0800-2200

This was by kind invitation- many thanks to Tina for having me!


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Bravo Panino Giusto

Out of the sandwich offerings in Hong Kong, most are a bit meh sometimes, (interpret that word as you see fit :P ) except for Pret A Manger and possibly Oliver’s. And maybe a dirty Subway. But now there is Panino Giusto in IFC Mall which specialises in Milanese ‘sandwiches’- Panini.

Panino Giusto

Panino Giusto

IMG_8289

Panino Giusto

Panino Giusto

Established in 1979 in Milan before branching internationally, Panino Giusto brings us authentic, freshly-made panini, as well as toasties, plates of sliced meats, salads and desserts. You will not catch this store pre-making their panini and cling-wrapping them to go! They say the key to their success is their  “rule of 7″: 70 grams of freshly sliced meat, 70 grams of cheese, vegetables, sauces and oils, sandwiched between 70 grams of French bread. All ingredients are hand-picked from Italy and then Panino Giusto branded.

Location-wise, I love it. On the 3rd Podium level of IFC Mall, it has the benefits of the roof a few steps away, sunlight pouring through the glass windows and a pleasant seating area for a relaxed meal or coffee and dessert. It’s great to see their fridge of hanging meats taking centre stage at the front of their store, alongside a shiny red Berkel meat slicer. There’s something exciting about seeing big chunks of amazing hams and meats being sliced in front of you for your panini. Guaranteed freshness.IMG_8280 IMG_8276

My friend and I were given a voucher to try out a couple of their panini, one salad, a starter and a dessert when the shop first opened, although since then I have been back for more and I can tell you that the quality and my enjoyment has been consistent.

One of their must-have panini is their signature Tartufo, a delicious panino of Parma ham (24-month aged), Brie, tomato, rocket and Alba truffle oil. The rich scent of the truffle oil hits you when the warm panino arrives and I just loved the whole combination. I also quite enjoyed the fact that the Brie is not melted, just warmed by the toasted bread as it gave the panino added texture instead of being a warm, gooey mess. This has become my favourite at Panino Giusto whenever I go.

Tartufo

Tartufo

Another lovely panino is the Savoy with Praga ham, Mozzarella, tomato, rocket and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. All the flavours were quite mild but nevertheless, it makes for a lighter and less salty offering than the Tartufo.

We also tried their Stuzzico Crudo E Caprino starter dish of Parma ham, goat cheese and warm bread. I admit, we ignored the bread and the cheese in favour of stuffing ourselves with the moreish slices of Parma ham. At $88 for a plate, I have to say that it is worth it seeing as going to the deli counter at Taste or CitySuper for Parma is outrageously expensive for possibly around the same number of slices.

Stuzzico Crudo E Caprino

Stuzzico Crudo E Caprino

Their Pratomagno salad of Carpaccio, herbed artichokes and fresh Parmesan was also lovely. The beef was delicate yet full of ‘beef’ flavour and went well with the artichokes.

Pratomagno salad

Pratomagno salad

To end we had their house-made Tiramisu. Those of you who enjoy a heavier coffee taste may be disappointed with this but though creamier than other versions,  I thought it was rather scrumptious and not overly laced with rum.

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

Although most of the panini may be a little steep at $78 -88 each depending on ingredients, Panino Giusto is, I think, the place to go for a panini fix. There is a fine and quite large selection to choose from and you needn’t worry about not feeling satiated afterwards; they are filling enough to keep you going for the rest of the afternoon. The salads and starters are good but definitely not the main attraction.

Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5

 

Panino Giusto, Shop No. 3077, Podium Level Three, IFC Mall, 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong. Opening times: 10:00-22:00 Tel: +852 2564 7000 http://www.paninogiusto.com.hk


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Starting 2014 with a bang Down Under

Better late than never- HAPPY NEW YEAR readers! Every year I’m astonished at how time flies and given that it is February already, I guess I really am in some sort of time warp. I have a bit of blogging catch-up to do but nothing keeps one more busy than travelling (wedding season!) coinciding with big holidays (Xmas, New Year, Chinese New Year). It must be a sign of old age when you and your friends constantly whinge about how the months are whipping by and how we “only just celebrated a New Year, how is it New Year AGAIN?” But this year the start of 2014 whilst low-key, was a little different- we were in Sydney to ring it in!

New Year in Sydney is all about the fireworks and we were fortunate to be at our friends’ place at Milson’s Point, a stone’s throw away from undoubtedly, one of the best spots to view the spectacular fireworks. I haven’t been fussed about fireworks for a few years and never really had the will to fight my way through the crowds in Hong Kong and freeze my butt off in London, but this time it had to be done. Our NYE dinner was a different experience too. Our friends had busted out the BBQ in true Aussie style and were producing all sorts of fare, including some highly addictive minced beef pies (courtesy of the oven not the BBQ pit, though that would have been REALLY impressive). Then, the time came for childlike wonderment. Cue an eighteen or so strong group of slightly inebriated friends stumbling over hill and over dale in Bradfield Park jostling with everyone to get a good spot. And I must say, I was quite enchanted by the fireworks. I’m afraid I don’t have any photos of the amazing BBQ spread, you will just have to take my word for it that our friend was quite masterful, even when drunk, but here are some photos of the fireworks captured on my humble phone. Sydney fireworks Sydney fireworks Sydney fireworks Sydney fireworks

To book dinners and lunches for a group of sixteen over several days was a bit of a nightmare, and I must say, aside from the exorbitant prices of some of our meals and some shockingly bad service, two meals stood out. One was a trip to the Sydney Fish Market and the other, to a lovely Italian restaurant in Surrey Hills.

Sydney Fish Market was just a glorious, roofed collection of retailers and restaurants housing the freshest array of seafood. To say that we gorged is a bit of an understatement. The raw seafood as well as the cooked was delicious. IMG_8670 IMG_8671 IMG_8672 IMG_8662 IMG_8663 IMG_8664 IMG_8665

Our exceptionally organised friend S, and Sydney Cordon Bleu alumni booked us lunch at a lovely Italian restaurant A Tavola, in Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, and on that day, the sun was shining, a fine breeze was blowing and we found ourselves hauling our asses up a fairly large hill to our destination. But it was worth the sweat. A Tavola was a fine example of how fresh pasta should be done; heartily, excellently and with gusto and no pretension. Simplicity at its best.

A Tavola

A Tavola

Our huge group sat at a long table and watched the chefs roll and shape fresh pasta next to us. The space is small but it was a hive of activity and the staff were smiley and friendly. We had a set menu of 3 Primi courses, 3 Secondi and 2 Salads to enjoy plus an additional dessert that we could not resist. Price point wise, the final bill was $94 AUS per person ($650HK).IMG_8552

Mesmorised by pasta

Mesmorised by pasta

Out of our Primi courses, I absolutely adored the Swiss brown mushrooms, peas, mint and ricotta salad and the fried Salami with polenta.

 Swiss brown mushrooms, peas, mint and ricotta salad

Swiss brown mushrooms, peas, mint and ricotta salad

Buffalo Mozzarella and proscuitto

Buffalo Mozzarella and proscuitto

Fried Salami Veneto

Fried Salami Veneto

The mains were beautiful but the Hand-cut pappardelle with slow braised beef in a red wine and horseradish reduction was the winner, although the pan-fried fish was also sublime.

Hand-cut pappardelle with slow braised beef

Hand-cut pappardelle with slow braised beef

Tagliatelle with cherry tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and basil

Tagliatelle with cherry tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and basil

Bonus pasta dish- can't remember what this was!

Bonus pasta dish- can’t remember what this was!

Pan fried market fish with dill mayonnaise, green olives and orange

Pan fried market fish with dill mayonnaise, green olives and orange

Chocolate ganache

Chocolate ganache

Oh, and the dessert? Even the most savoury of teeth would not be able to resist their Chocolate ganache with Amaretto biscuit concoction. My brain went into sugar overdrive when I tasted their homemade salt caramel ice-cream and torched meringue.

And so we left with blissful, satiated smiles and a leisurely walk back to the city centre with nothing but what was to be a gorgeous wedding and the Blue mountains to enjoy in the coming days.

IMG_8820

Chopstixfix rating: 4/5 

A Tavola, 348 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst, NSW 2010. Tel: +61 02 9331 7871

Email: reservationsdarlinghurst@atavola.com.au Opening times: Dinner Mon-Sat 6pm-late, Lunch Friday 12pm- 3pm

Sydney Fish Market, Pyrmont Bridge Rd, Pyrmont NSW 2009, Australia


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Opa Souvla Style

Italian, French, Spanish- we have a shedload of these cuisines on what feels like every corner of Hong Kong, but Greek food? No. When I heard a Greek restaurant had sailed, landed and maybe conquered(?) our shores, (excuse the Trojan War reference) I rejoiced. Moussaka delights, lamb dishes; Greek salads, oooh. Finally, something different to sink my teeth into. I love the blend of Mediterranean with Middle Eastern influence in Greek cuisine and their copious use of grains, olive oil and various meats and vegetables. Not to mention nuts and honey in their desserts. My first encounter with Greek and Cypriot cuisine was as a child through a classmate of mine whose family created these huge, jolly feasts. I tasted Feta and was hooked. London has a few stellar Greek restaurants, so naturally when hearing about Souvla, I was hoping this would be up to par.

You have to have a party of fun friends to enjoy Greek food, and 7 of us tried (and failed, I might add), to resist the lure of biscuits and chocolate at work, to wait patiently till 8pm to feast on empty stomachs. The anticipation was so high that we were in serious danger of emotional devastation if the food even remotely disappointed us in any way. Thankfully, we were not let down.

I arrived first, came through one of two possible entrances-the back end of the restaurant near the loo and emerged in a confused state, much to the amusement of the manager. Souvla is large and has a polished look with a red honeycomb patterned wall, an open kitchen and marble table-tops and long tables for social dining.

Souvla

Souvla

Little details to note: the Greek sea- salt, Kalas on each table and the best illustrated menu I have seen in a while, with drawings of Greek Gods and figures from mythology.

Souvla's menu

Souvla’s menu

With the whole group assembled, we waited no time in ordering as much as we could muster from the menu. First was the Taramasalata, which praise be to Zeus, did not resemble the horrifically dyed pink stuff that you find in the supermarket. Incredibly moreish, served with warm, yielding pitta bread, this subtly-flavoured version was creamy and delicious.

Taramasalata and pitta bread

Taramasalata and pitta bread

One of our favourite dishes was the outstanding Saganaki: Kefalograviera Cheese that came bubbling on a hot plate and served with fig marmalade. Divinely salty and gooey, (I loved the texture aswell, it had a slightly bouncy give), it was not enough to stop at one serving so we immediately flagged down a passing waiter for seconds. The fig marmalade is a great accompaniment to offset the savoury. After the meal a couple of us mentioned that we have since dreamt of the cheese. I think we have problems.

Saganaki

Saganaki

We were eager to get to the meat and first up was the Slow Cooked Lamb served with Lemon Greek Yogurt which was good but nowhere near as spectacular as the Grilled Lamb Ribs. These were frankly, out of this world. I could quite easily become obsessed with these lamb ribs which were beautifully seasoned by garlic and alatopiperigano, a simple Greek potpourri of salt, pepper and oregano. Each of us took one bite and said, “Oohhhhhhhh” simultaneously. Rapturous plaudits all round and a prerequisite for a second plate. Call us cavemen, but we didn’t even bother with the accompanying yoghurt and lemon slices to cut through the strong meat flavour. The Spit Roasted Pork was also quite tasty, but not as tender. I’m afraid the lamb distracted us somewhat and two small pork pieces were abandoned woefully.

Grilled lamb ribs

Grilled lamb ribs

Slow Cooked Lamb

Slow Cooked Lamb

Spit roasted pork

Spit roasted pork

The Moussaka, made of lamb, pork and veal with eggplant and a smooth bechamel and potato topping, was almost a little too refined for my tastes and the bechamel and potato layer could have been a lot thicker, creamier and cheesier. However, the Grilled octopus surprised us. It was fantastically flavoursome and so tender that we couldn’t quite believe it was octopus- where was the need to chew? The herb medley  of thyme, rosemary, parsley and lemon was spot on.

Grilled octopus

Grilled octopus

Moussaka

Moussaka

Their Glacier 51 Toothfish (sourced from a sustainable Australian fishery in the Antarctic), was perfectly cooked. It is a meaty fish and slightly buttery in flavour which, together with their fabulous seasoning treatment, held our attention just enough to pry our fingers away from the lamb ribs. For $395 though, the size isn’t quite sharing friendly for any more than three non-greedy people, and neither were the two sad, wilted pieces of lettuce next to it.

Glacier 51 Toothfish

Glacier 51 Toothfish

But gosh, their Cypriot salad. What deliciousness. Grains, pulses, nuts, honey and cumin, who knew such a combination could be so divine. The nutty texture and the burst of fruit from the pomegranate seeds made this a healthy yet hearty and unusual salad. Which means that we were more than justified in getting a second plate of that as well. Hmm.

Cypriot salad

Cypriot salad

At this point, we thought it best to try their desserts. The Golden Greek Time- a large ball of vanilla ice-cream with a chocolate ice-cream centre, covered in cornflakes, then deep-fried and served with honeycomb and salted caramel, looks harmless enough in presentation but together was a sugar party. Their Baklava cigars were surprisingly not as sweet as those I’m used to eating and was lacking in texture. It needed added nuttiness and honey. I was neutral about this.

The Golden Greek Time

The Golden Greek Time

The Golden Greek Time

The Golden Greek Time

Baklava

Baklava

All in all we were very impressed with Souvla. Best line of the night was when one of our friends said the food was so good, he wanted to, “smash their plates and yell, “Opa!”” And despite our repeat orders of certain dishes, it came in at $400 per person. There’s no Trojan subterfuge needed at Souvla to win over my stomach.

Chopstixfix rating: 4/5

$$$-$$$$$$$$$$

Souvla, 1/F, Ho Lee Commercial Building, 40 D’Aguilar Street, Central, Hong Kong, 2522 1823

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