It’s an utter meat-fest in Hong Kong right now. With Harlan’s Striphouse, Edo & Bibo and now Blue Butcher, joining the plethora of steakhouses, such as Bistecca, Morton’s , Ruth’s Chris, to name a few, it’s a quagmire for the average diner to choose where to go to sink their chops into a hunk of flesh. I’m not a steak addict. I’m a total carnivore however, but my meats of choice are pork and lamb. For me, as long as my steak is medium, has enough burnt bits round the edges, has some fat and is still juicy, I’m a happy girl. I’ll be the first to confess that I’m not the most ‘discerning’ when it comes to steak!
Blue Butcher interested me a great deal because it presents itself as a ‘meat specialist’, not a steakhouse, which is an attractive concept. Portions are generous and sharing, family-style is encouraged.This New York style restaurant is the only one with a walk-in dry-aging room, which is carefully positioned at the front of the dining area like a piece of modern art-work for diners to gawk at. All produce and herbs are from local organic farms and the meat is meticulously chosen from a variety of sources from around the world.I managed to squeeze in a hearty meal at Blue Butcher before its official opening. Upon rocking up, I noticed that it doesn’t have a sign yet, so if it wasn’t for my friend, I would have blithely walked past its shady entrance. Another ‘downside’ for the lazy Hong Konger is its location. It’s on Hollywood Road, between The Press Room and Classified, so you’ll have to pound the pavements to earn your meal, unless you want to incur the wrath of taxi drivers by asking to be taken from the bottom of the escalators. The ground-floor is a tiny space for a tiny bar; then a slightly dangerous staircase leads you to the main floor, opening up to display an open kitchen and hefty, farmhouse-style wooden tables.Head Chef Danny Chaney and his team, (who all sport cool hairstyles and look like they’ve leapt from the pages of a Rock ‘n’ Roll magazine), are a flurry of activity in the kitchen and it’s clear they all get on like a house on fire and are passionate about the dishes. Chef Danny is vibrant and personable, (I will be eternally grateful to him giving me one out of the last eight mini-sliders at the opening party!), and judging from his creative menu, is a man who likes to make an impression.
As a ‘meat-specialist’, I was extremely impressed by the appetisers or ‘small plates to share’. All too often, the major steakhouses wow with their meats but don’t quite maintain their standard with their starters. I adored the pigs head terrine, which I saw, with interest, was served with pickled onions and a smudge of mustard. The mustard really made all the difference to the chunky meaty flavour and I forwent the toast, and ate the terrine with only the mustard! The Spanish ham and egg with asparagus and mushrooms, was equally outstanding. My friends and I couldn’t get enough of the ham and sous-vide egg combination and used up all the bread, scooping out the leftovers. The bone marrow served with coarse salt flakes was delightfully rich, but sadly, the marrow itself was on the small side, and in seconds, it was all gone.We were a big group, so ordering almost everything seemed to be the thing to do. Unfortunately for me, we didn’t order the lamb (I’ll have to go back for that), but one of the dishes was the US Kurobota Pig Belly & Cheek, Lentils and Granny Smith Apple Slaw. This, together with the Dutch Veal Cheek & Sweetbreads with Truffled Orzo and Herb Salad, were the most dazzling dishes of the night.
The pig belly and all its fatty goodness was astonishingly tender and melted in the mouth. The tartness of the apple slaw and the lentil stew were a good, contrasting accompaniment to the richness of the pork.My palate couldn’t decide which it enjoyed more: the firmness of the sweetbreads giving way to a wonderful silky taste, coupled with the tender veal cheeks or the fantastic truffled orzo, which was sublimely creamy but surprisingly not that heavy. (I went back to Blue Butcher a second time and I asked for, and was granted, a plate of the orzo on its own- nom nom nom).The Slow-cooked maple leaf duck breast was well prepared, and although tasty, in comparison to the rest, it wasn’t a standout dish. We also tried the Line Caught Sea Bass with clams, shrimp and broth which was excellent and showed off Chef Danny’s competence with seafood as well as meat.The Australian Mann River Farm Wagyu bone in Rib Eye was a lovely hunk of juicy, fatty beef, cooked to a perfect medium. As I said before, if it’s cooked the way I like it, I have no complaints, and the meat was succulent.On my second visit, we ordered the free-range charred French chicken, which arrived in a hot pan with its juices soaked up by the carrots and onions. The simplicity of the preparation makes this a marvellous dish, with no attempts to make it fancier. The chicken was meaty and moist, and would definitely go well with a hunk of bread to soak up the remaining juices and make a mini sandwich!Out of the five desserts on offer, we had three: the Granny Smith apple crumble with port and walnut ice-cream, the Eton Mess with basil sorbet and the maple tart with lemon whipped cream. The port and walnut ice-cream was an applaudable combination and whilst I enjoyed the crumble, I prefer my apple crumbles with chunks rather than slices of apple (but perhaps that’s the Brit in me). The Eton Mess a little messy in terms of flavours. The basil sorbet completely overwhelmed the delicate meringue and cream and both would be better served individually. The maple tart got my seal of approval and it was mostly down to the lemon whipped cream which paired wonderfully with the sticky sweetness of the tart.For a newly opened establishment, Blue Butcher has made an admirable first impression on people’s palates. It’s hip and fun, and there are dishes which will ensure that it has a regular and loyal following. It’s on the pricier side, but for whacking big portions, perhaps you’ll think the food is worth its weight in pure protein. At the moment, I’m unsure what will be their ‘signature’ dishes, but if they keep the standard up, it could well end up being more than half the menu! Make sure you try their cocktails, I hear they’re a blast.
Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5
Blue Butcher, 108 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong. Tel: 2613 9286
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Interior shot of Blue Butcher courtesy of internet