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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Chopstixfix: Featured guest blogger on HK Spotlight, World’s 50 Best Restaurants!

I’m delighted (and very excited) to announce that Chopstixfix is a featured guest blogger on World’s 50 Best Restaurants: HK Spotlight, recommending Yu Chuan Club.

If you are here by way of World’s 50 Best Restaurants, HELLO! and a very warm welcome. I hope you enjoy reading my culinary adventures 🙂 Please do drop me a line if you have any comments or would like some foodie recommendations if you’re visiting Hong Kong for the first time!

Ahh now I’m going to enjoy my Haagen Dazs Macadamia Nut Brittle Ice-cream…


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Spice up your Life

If Yu Chuan were a song, it would be “Spice up your life” by the Spice Girls, and its mascot would be the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

Off the beaten (tram) track and hidden away down a side street in Wan Chai, this unpretentious, cheerful private kitchen is dedicated to serving up delicious classic Sichuan dishes. It’s fun, it’s cool and it’s a haven for those chilli junkies out there. Rumour has it the friendly proprietor is the sister of the lady who runs SiJie, the other famous private Sichuan kitchen in Wan Chai. If true, then competition was never this “heated” (get it?). This family style kitchen is run smoothly and service is polite and efficient. The decor is also a bit more “up-market” compared to SiJie.

The doorway is marked by a bunch of Sichuan chilli peppers and when you step into the establishment the spicy aroma hits you immediately. It’s small but cosy inside and great for groups of friends who really appreciate this cuisine and enjoy sweating and “spicing up their lives” together! Booking is a must as there are only 6 tables.

The quality of the food is excellent (essential ingredients are imported from Sichuan), and there are some outstanding dishes.

Making a quick buck is clearly not on the agenda and this is reflected in the price. At $168 per person (excluding service charge), you really do get your money’s worth and it’s evident the owner and chef pride themselves on providing their customers with a traditional Sichuan dining experience. The menu is well organised (identical to Sijie) and there is a clever system: 2-3 people can choose 2 cold dishes and 3 hot dishes, 4-5 people: 3 cold, 4-5 hot, 5-6 people: 4 cold and 5-6 hot etc.

What is fantastic about Yu Chuan is the balance of spice and chilli. As much fun as it is to burn your tongue off, you want to be able to taste the flavours and the chef achieves this brilliantly while still giving your tastebuds a good kick!

There are lots of fantastic dishes to try including the “fish slices in fiery broth” and the chilli prawns but out of those we ordered, the standout cold dishes were:

Sichuan cold noodles: a wonderful, delicate play of flavours from the garlic, chilli oil, vinegar and peppercorns tossed together with wheat noodles.

Spicy and sour eggplants: firm yet soft, perfectly prepared slices of eggplants coated in a mildly spicy sauce.

Best hot dishes of the night:

Ma Po Tofu: beautifully spicy and addictive, one could happily eat the entire dish. Could have done with a bit more pork but than that- excellent!

Chongxing deep fried hot chicken: love the presentation, small nuggets hidden in a gigantic heap of dried Sichuan chillies and peppercorns.

Poached beef in hot chilli oil: tender slices of beef bobbing gently in a huge vat of chilli oil broth. Amazing to look at, even better to eat!

Other good dishes were the Cucumber in garlic sauce, the Chongxing steamed chicken meat in hot pepper sauce and the Fish in broth with preserved vegetables. The most interesting dish was the Duck and purple yam in beer, which took several bites for me to decide if I liked it or not.. turns out I liked it, but it is a bit of a strange taste.

Chopstixfix rating: 4.5/5

1/F, B, Hundred City Centre, 7-17 Amoy Street, Wan Chai. Tel: 2838 5233 Opening times: 11am-11pm

$$$$$$$$$$ ($168 per person excluding drinks)


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Sichuan sizzle? Fo shizzle!

J, G and I like Sichuan food A LOT. It’s not because we can take mass amounts of chilli. Nope, it’s because we enjoy suffering and sweating through our meal and torturing ourselves with the next bite. Slightly masochistic? Yes. Funny? Yup! Especially when we can point and laugh at each other when one gets a sudden attack of chilli heat and numbness and has to down a whole pint of beer or any available liquid on the table. It’s also great at giving you the bee stung look on your lips haha.

We decided to sneak in a Sichuan meal while the weather is still relatively cool. I think Sichuan food is sooo satisfying when it’s slightly chilly outside, it definitely warms you up! It’s not nearly as fun when the weather’s boiling and you’re deliberately eating stupidly spicy food.

I organised dinner for 8 at San Xi Lou in Mid-Levels, which I think is one of the best Sichuan restaurants in HK. My friends A aka “Vendino Boy” and R aka “R-rated”, can’t take spicy food very well so out of fairness, we asked the chilli rating on some of the dishes to be reduced to mildly spicy. Our waitress looked at us like we were so LAME for asking for less chilli but in all honesty, it actually meant that I could really taste the food! Usually I’m so distracted by the heat that I fail to register the flavours and the textures so it made a pleasant change to be able to stuff my face without crying 😛 .

San Xi Lou is very understated in its decoration with simple carved wooden panels, wooden booths and tables. The ambience is fun with diverse groups of friends and families collectively plunging their chopsticks into huge bowls of chilli oil. One thing that always makes me laugh is the presence of an emergency bottle of water on each of the tables in San Xi Lou. They also have an excellent selection of beverages to counteract the heat, one of my favourites is cold soyabean milk. We discovered something else even better: the cold lychee and aloe vera juice which came in a tall glass with lots of ice and made me feel like I should be drinking it on a beach in Hawaii.

San Xi Lou offers hot pot as well as your normal a la carte menu with a variety of traditional Sichuan dishes. I have a few favourite dishes at San Xi Lou and I thoroughly recommend that you try them!

First up for starters we ordered the sublime marinated cold chicken with peanut spicy sauce and the diced jelly fish with garlic sauce. The jellyfish is sliced thick and coated with generous amounts of garlic, enough to ward off a group of Vampires!

Non spicy dishes included the sichuan style smoked duck, the sauteed prawns with salted egg yolk and the turnip and pig’s bone soup. The smoked duck was absolutely amazing. It was succulent, fat and salty and tasted like a cross between ham and duck, which we affectionately called “hack”! The prawns with egg yolk were moreish, big chunks of salted egg yolk dripping from the prawns and nicely crunchy prawn shells. The turnip and pig’s bone soup was ginormous and after the soup was ladled out, we were left gawking at this ridiculously large plate of pig’s bone and turnips in the middle of our table.

My favourite dishes of the night were:

– Ma Po Tofu, a sometimes stupidly fiery dish of tofu set in a spicy chilli sauce in a beautiful bright red oily chilli suspension. Most of us couldn’t get enough of the Ma Po tofu, gobbling it up with our bowls of rice.

– Garlic, salt and pepper deep fried squid- omg, so delectable and addictive, we had 2 plates! The squid pieces were huge and wonderfully chewy.

– Soft shell crab with pepper and chilli- the pièce de résistance! This dish never fails to produce a reaction, mostly due to the fact that the deep fried pieces of soft shell crab are buried in a giant mount of frightening looking dried chillies and Sichuan peppers that renders your mouth numb if you accidentally bite into one. The explosion of flavours is intense and very aromatic. YUM!

All in all a brilliant night and an awesome restaurant. Go spice up your life people!!

Chopstick rating: 4.5/5

San Xi Lou, 7/F, Coda Plaza, 51 Garden Road, Mid-Levels. Tel: 2838 8811

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