Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong


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No Motley Crew at Mott 32

I’m not certain what is gaining more interest at restaurants these days, the interior design or the food. With places like Duddell’s, (art gallery or dining establishment?), St Betty’s (Hanging Gardens of IFC) and AMMO (Tate Modern meets metallic staircase) distracting diners with their decoration, the food could be in danger of being a side dish rather than the main attraction. However, with newest Maximal Concepts’ venture on the block, (does this group ever stop?!), Mott 32, the food AND the decor are certainly neck to neck in the attention stakes.Mott 32

Mott 32 is not your local Chinese eatery. The food is top-notch quality with prices to match, so don’t say I didn’t warn you if you look at the bill with bulging eyes. I will say this- I will most definitely be taking all my future visitors there. Mott 32 is the epitome of Chinese fine dining, and Maximal Concepts have gone all out for their first Chinese restaurant. Named after New York’s first Chinese convenience store which opened in 1851 on 32 Mott Street and an homage to those who left HK for NYC’s Chinatown, Mott 32 showcases Cantonese cuisine with regional specialties from Sichuan and Beijing using the Maximal Concepts’ farm-to-table cooking principles. Even finding it is an eye-opener; situated in the enormous basement of the Standard Chartered Bank building in Central, beyond one set of escalators and a seemingly never-ending and heel-unfriendly spiral staircase.Mott 32

Enter and you will find a splendorous space beautifully furnished with an array of Chinese artifacts, sumptuous sofas and Oriental wooden screens that divide the restaurant into zones, each with their own gorgeous design. Their semi-open kitchen with an industrial duck oven and special air-drying duck fridge is an interesting focal point and one can get quite diverted by the duck carcasses hanging as if in suspended animation. My meandering took me to my favourite room- an intimate area decorated with hundreds of Chinese calligraphy paintbrushes and round the corner I admired a wall cloaked in a breath-taking silkscreen of silver birds and flowers. In yet another corner, a giant abacus floats serenely from the ceiling, whilst the walls play host to a hotch-potch of Chinese antique vases and ornaments. Street art and graffiti complete the East meets West/ ancient meets modern look and you are left with what is a truly magnificent interior, courtesy of award-winning interior designer Joyce Wang. There are also five private rooms, all equally stunning, that ensure you can have an uninterrupted, elegant meal with a party of friends. The bathroom is also worth a mention, not least because it feels like you’re at Hogwarts. Polyjuice potion scene springs to mind.Mott 32 Mott 32 Mott 32 Mott 32 Mott 32

And onto the food, which is as impressive as the decor. The kitchen is headed by Chef Fung, previously of Dynasty Restaurant, Renaissance Harbour View Hotel , which explains why Mott 32’s prime char siu made with Iberico pork  is a smorgasbord of excellent flavours and succulence and touted as one of the finest in town, and Dynasty’s char siu has gone downhill in the last few months. When the char siu arrived, consistency was a slight issue though, as our table had two plates of this popular dish, and one was distinctly lacking the same love and care the other had. The winning plate was sensational; the char siu unbelievably tender and juicy, fragrant with the perfect amount of sweetness to the taste and edged with drool-worthy caramelisation. Its sister plate however, was a lighter colour, a little on the soggy side unfortunately and not quite as charred on the edges.

Iberico Pork Char Siu

Iberico Pork Char Siu

We sampled a few of their dim sum delicacies starting with the Dry Fried Squid with sweet chili and lime zest. Whilst the squid itself was nice and chewy, this wasn’t overly memorable and the batter tasted a little on the chalky side.

Dry Fried Squid

Dry Fried Squid

I loved the Crispy Sugar Coated BBQ Spanish Teruel Pork Buns which were delicate, light, soft and fluffy. The sugar coating was beautiful to bite into and the pork filling sweet and lean. Another hit were the Kurobata pork, quail egg and black truffle siu mai. These posh siu mai were plump and delectable, and who can resist a surprise quail egg in the middle plus fragrant black truffle on top?

Crispy Sugar Coated BBQ Spanish Teruel Pork Buns

Crispy Sugar Coated BBQ Spanish Teruel Pork Buns

Kurobata pork, quail egg and black truffle siu mai

Kurobata pork, quail egg and black truffle siu mai

The Australian Wagyu beef with Shitake Mushrooms was a solid dish and we enjoyed the Aged Black Vinegar Sweet & Sour Pork which was a more sophisticated version of the classic dish. The sweet and sour sauce was great and a perfect balance of flavours. Rach from Through the Looking Glass and I were a bit confused by the addition of dragonfruit, (of the normal red variety I believe, as they had absolutely no flavour at all). The dish wants the pineapple back please.

Australian Wagyu beef with Shitake Mushrooms

Australian Wagyu beef with Shitake Mushrooms

Aged Black Vinegar Sweet & Sour Pork

Aged Black Vinegar Sweet & Sour Pork

As if we hadn’t had enough food, there was the Apple Wood-Roasted Peking Duck, (you need to pre-order this), which was stupendous. I couldn’t get enough. A bamboo steamer holding wonderfully thin pancakes was emptied at lightning speed as we feasted on crispy, glistening duck skins and succulent slices of meat.Apple Wood-Roasted Peking Duck

Apple Wood-Roasted Peking Duck

Apple Wood-Roasted Peking Duck

At this point my stomach was starting to protest but we powered our way through a 12 hour Slow Cooked Sticky Pork Belly which was another outstanding dish. The invitingly glossy exterior of the pork belly fat was even better to taste as each mouthful melted.

12 hour Slow Cooked Sticky Pork Belly

12 hour Slow Cooked Sticky Pork Belly

I was disappointed I did not have more room to fully indulge in the next dish which was Black Cod, Potato, Chilli, Garlic, Spring Onion, or as we affectionately called it ‘Chinese Fish and Chips’. The whole dish was well-seasoned and aromatic; the battered cod was light yet meaty and the potatoes fat and moreish.

'Chinese Fish and Chips'

‘Chinese Fish and Chips’

We were all on the precipice of a food coma when the final savoury dish emerged- Fried Rice with Pork Belly, Preserved Vegetable and Egg. Don’t ask me how- pure greed coupled with a carb craving and a love for preserved vegetables in anything, meant that I finished both mine and Rach’s bowl of rice. It was delicious though, so no regrets!

Fried Rice with Pork Belly, Preserved Vegetable and Egg

Fried Rice with Pork Belly, Preserved Vegetable and Egg

To end, (yes, we had dessert too), we had the Green Tea coated Chocolate Mousse, 3 of which made up part of my dinner grazing at their opening party, and the Osmanthus Flower Jelly. The green tea flavour was a good counterbalance against the rich and smooth chocolate mousse and the jelly was a lovely, refreshing end to a hugely satisfying and delectable meal.

Green Tea coated Chocolate Mousse

Green Tea coated Chocolate Mousse

Osmanthus Flower Jelly

Osmanthus Flower Jelly

Mott 32 is simply stunning to dine at, just sitting there to take in the ambiance and admire the interior is enough, let alone sampling the stellar food. The high-quality ingredients, first rate preparations and clever twists on traditional dishes without losing the essence of the original creations, make a dining experience at Mott 32 a must despite the price. With main dishes between $200-400 each, (the Iberico pork is $295), you are looking at a fairly hefty bill, especially if you are a) a glutton and b) ordering some of their delicious cocktails. However, I do think Maximal Concepts have really done a fabulous job with their latest venture, and while I won’t be a frequent visitor, I will definitely be saving up for my char siu fix on special occasions and when I have visitors to impress.

Chopstixfix rating: 4/5

 

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Mott 32, Standard Chartered Building, 4-4a Des Voeux Road, Central, Hong Kong Tel: +852 2885 8688 Reservations@mott32.com

 This meal was by kind invitation by Maximal Concepts. Many thanks!

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The Monogamous Chinese

Went to The Monogamous Chinese a couple of months ago, here’s the review that was up on Sassy a while back!

One of Soho’s newest offerings is the unusually named, The Monogamous Chinese, a Sichuan and Peking restaurant which literally hides under the Mid-Levels escalator between Elgin Street and Caine Road. Don’t be lazy like me and take the escalator all the way up to Caine Road, as you’ll just have to walk down the steps again!

The interior is stylishly quaint, with a distinct retro-1950s feel. There’s a contemporary aspect to the traditional decor conjured by the modern artwork that adorn the walls- from a striking portrait of Chairman Mao at the back of the restaurant completely made from business cards of patrons, to the mixed-media image of a Chinese opera singer. I found the decoration rather arresting, especially coupled with the low-lit Chinese red lanterns and the intimacy of the space.

So why the moniker, ‘Monogamous’? Interestingly, this appellation is an homage to the first perpetually monogamous Chinese Emperor Hongzhi and also to Chefs Shizh and Chiu in the kitchen, who are faithful in using only the freshest ingredients in keeping with the traditions of the dishes. All the sauces, spices, dumplings and noodles are made in-house. In essence, the idea is that all ingredients marry together in harmony, just like a monogamous marriage!

We had a wonderful evening grazing our way through a few of their signature dishes and to start we had the deep fried shrimp spring rolls, (nice and crispy and accompanied by a cracking sweet and sour sauce), the okra with wasabi and garlic sauce, (good crunch and a punchy sauce), followed by the brilliant deep fried tofu with spicy garlic and salt, which were utterly moreish. I loved the delectable salty shell which gave way to the piping hot, silken tofu inside.

Another notable dish was the deep fried black-boned chicken with diced Sichuan chilli and peppers. Once you find the chicken ‘treasure’ in the pile of dangerous chillies, you’ll find yourself getting poutier with each nibble as the spices assail you.

The other signature we sampled were the sautéed tiger prawns in spicy kung po sauce, poached sliced beef in a vat of steaming hot chilli oil, deep fried mutton spare ribs with spices and the sautéed fish in black pepper sauce. The sliced beef was tender and flavoursome from soaking up the chilli broth and as I’m a fan of this dish normally, I barely noticed the tongue-numbing process. The mutton spare ribs were also well done and I enjoyed the tiger prawns, although, by this stage, we were eating so many spicy dishes that all the flavours ended up running into one another on my palate. 

If you want some vegetables to jazz up what can end up being a meat-heavy meal, I recommend the sautéed Sichuan style Jade vegetables which I found to be excellently prepared, with a great bite. The spice was quite subtle and thankfully did not overwhelm what is a rather delicate tasting vegetable.

A dish that would make me go back to The Monogamous Chinese for more and more has to be the incredible deep fried ice-cream soufflé balls that we had for dessert. Dusted generously with sugar, the soufflé was ever so light and airy and the vanilla ice-cream rich and cooling, which, after a fiery meal like we had, was a deliciously sweet end to a fun evening.

The Monogamous Chinese is an intriguing addition to the culinary scene and it’s lovely to see a bit of individuality not just on the menu, but also in the decor. It’s certainly a place to go for something a little different, and with an offering of $88 lunch sets, who’s to say that we can’t be monogamous in our mealtimes?

Chopstixfix Rating: 3/5

The Monogamous Chinese, 59 Caine Road, Central, Hong Kong. +852 2523 2872

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You can also read this review on Sassy HK


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Da Dong at Man Wah

The famous Bejing Da Dong Roast Duck Restaurant is back at Man Wah at the Mandarin Oriental for a special promotion period from 14th to 22nd April 2012 and at the end of last month, the Mandarin Oriental organised a fun dinner for a few of us foodies to sample a few of their signature dishes ahead of their menu’s launch. I’d been trying to sink my teeth into their duck since February last year but the Food Gods decided I had to wait until now. And it was worth the wait!

Executive Chef Shi Xiu-song (石秀松) and Master of Roast Duck Zhang Hua-bing (張華兵), prepared an amazing 9 course dinner which included their award-winning “Super Lean” roast duck which apparently has only half of the fat content of a conventional roast duck.

We were treated to three cold appetizers to start: Sliced Canadian Geo Duck Clam with Sichuan Pepper, Lotus Root with Osmanthus and Foie Gras and Bean Curd with Chinese Toon. The Geo Duck was slightly spicy from the Sichuan pepper, but not overwhelmingly so and it had a crisp texture. I loved the presentation- it arrived chilled in an ice bowl that melted as you ate.

The lotus root with foie gras was amazing. The foie gras was incredibly smooth and creamy and it went so well with the sweet lotus root. My favourite starter of the night by far.

The beancurd with Chinese toon had a startlingly fresh vegetable taste with a hint of a fermented chou doufu. Again, the presentation was gorgeous and for some reason evoked images of freshly mown grass!

Foamed squid egg soup doesn’t sound great but when it came, I found it to be lovingly prepared and surprisingly rich. It arrived in a little cup and looked like a peppery cappuccino! The squid was soft and was fun to slurp. We all agreed that a full sized serving of this soup would be too much, so I’m glad it was only a small taster.

The Special Main Course was Chef Dong’s braised Sea cucumber. I can’t say that I’m a connoisseur of sea cucumber but this course was very good and I could see why it’s a sort-after dish.

I found the Jelly fish with broad bean divine. The jelly fish had a fantastic crunch and a piquant, spicy flavor and I loved the strawberry’s refreshing taste that accompanied it.

The moment we had all been waiting for arrived in the shape of one very inviting, delicious looking super lean roast duck. The duck can be served in several ways, by either dipping it in fine sugar on its own, having it wrapped in a pancake with sweet sauce with sliced leek, cucumber and radish, eating it with garlic paste or having it in a toasted sesame bun with a bit of everything and a Chinese olive paste.

The top layer of the duck was unbelievable- the meat was beautifully tender and the skin, paper thin with just enough fatty goodness, melted adoringly in my mouth. The pancakes were lovely, light and moist and I enjoyed the toasted sesame buns, which were a nice alternative. One thing I did find was that the lower layers of the duck were a little drier than I would have expected. That’s not to say that it wasn’t ‘tender’, but it wasn’t as succulent as I thought it would be.

Finally the last main course was the braised abalone and Chinese Yam with rice in truffle sauce. At this point of the meal, I was so stuffed that myself and a few of the others thought that it might be sensible not to finish this dish. This thought, lasted all of 10 seconds, because once we started digging in.. well, we just couldn’t stop. The rice was addictive, the truffle aromatic and the sauce was our kryptonite.

Dessert came round, and really, I thought I couldn’t  be surprised by a new dish at this point, but I was wrong, because out came this fascinating lotus leaf congee. It was an arresting, fresh green colour and at first, the idea of having a sweet congee was odd, but I loved it and cleaned the bowl. So much for giving my stomach breathing space.

What followed were the little traditional Beijing snack morsels followed: Zha Juanguo Green Bean cake, deep fried Beijing dumplings, fresh milk rolls and baked Beijing dumplings. Out of the four, I liked the milk roll most.

To end this truly epic meal, we had a chance to have a Da Dong family photo with the chefs and the foodie gang and it was smiles and happy bloatedness all round.

For the promotional period, there will be set menus starting from $528 pp for six courses, going up to $2,188 pp for the exclusive 12-course gala dinner on 20th April when Mr Da Dong himself will be personally hosting and guests of this dinner will receive a copy of Mr Da Dong’s cookbook “Da Dong’s Artistic Conception of Chinese Cuisine”.

Chopstixfix Rating: 4/5

 

Man Wah, 25th Floor, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 5 Connaught Road, Central, Hong Kong. Tel: + 852 2825 4003

Da Dong Roast Duck Restaurant, 1-2/F, Nanxincang International Plaza, 22A Dongsishitiao, Dongcheng District 东城区东四十条甲22号南新仓国际大厦1~2楼(立交桥西南角), Daily 11am-10pm, 5169 0329