Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong


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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

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

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Ooh Souk you, Sir!

I was having a bit of an off-day when I went to review Le Souk. I was recovering from a horrendous cold, which, in its three day ferocity, had robbed me of the ability to speak for two-thirds of that time, (much to the amusement of friends and colleagues). So when the review loomed, my foggy brain and I went in without really knowing what cuisine it was. I assumed from the “Le”, that it was going to be French- rookie error. I realised, when I stepped inside from Staunton Street that it was in fact, a Middle-Eastern restaurant, and that I actually knew the proprietor, Dody, from my favourite hookah place, Sahara,on Elgin Street.So why the new establishment round the corner in Soho? As far as I could tell from the menu, the dishes served at Le Souk were almost identical to what they serve at Sahara. But, if you’re a frequenter at the latter, you will probably have seen or experienced just how crowded it gets at peak times, and, as tasty as some of the signature dishes are, it’s nigh on impossible to accomodate more than two dishes and your drinks on those incy wincy tables, as well as somehow fitting the hookah in between seats. It’s all a bit claustrophobic.

Le Souk, which means ‘the market-place’, has a distinct Middle-Eastern feel to it, with Moroccan hanging lamps and eggplant and Egyptian blue hues adorning the interior. The aim of Le Souk is to be a restaurant first, then a place for hookah, compared to Sahara, which is hookah first, then an eatery. Dody told me that they will eventually be offering shisha after 10.30pm, when the majority of diners have finished their meals.

The menu offers a small variety of dishes from Morocco, Egypt and Lebanon. To start, my friend and I had the Moroccan mezze platter. The platter is a good idea for the indecisive, as it has almost everything offered on the appetizer menu. It’s arranged with a flair and comes with a selection of hommos, kefta, babaganoush, zaaluk, falafel, Moroccan cigars, cheese and mixed olives, served with warm pitta bread. It was quite obvious that we found the zaaluk (roasted eggplant pureed with garlic and coriander) unbelievably delish, as the little receptacle it was held in was wiped clean. The babaganoush (smokey roasted eggplant pureed with garlic and tahini) was also excellent. Other standout tidbits were the kefta (grilled minced beef patties) and the Moroccan cigars (filo pastry filled with feta cheese and fresh mint).Be careful that you don’t demolish all the pitta bread with the dips, as you won’t have enough room for mains, which are a generous size. I love the lamb tangine over at Sahara, so we went for that, and also shared the Moroccan seafood paella.

The lamb tangine has always been prepared excellently, so I was pleased that the standard was just as high at Le Souk. The cubes of lamb were beautifully tender and succulent, and the best bit is drenching your couscous with the delectable sweet yet subtly tart gravy, created by the apricots, prunes and preserved lemons the lamb was cooked with. The seafood paella was a lot better than I thought it would be. I generally have a poor opinion of paella dishes I’ve had, outside of the ones I’ve sampled in Spain myself. Previous paellas I’ve had were let down by the soggy consistency of the rice, an overwhelming pile of crustaceans and not enough flavour. I was however, pleasantly surprised by Le Souk’s version. The rice had a nice bite to it, was not too dry and had a good consistency. Like most Morrocan dishes, that distinct lemon flavour was present but not overpowering, (the rice was a happy yellow colour to compliment the taste) and there were plenty of prawns to share with my friend.If you want dessert, you can end with baklava, though I personally always find it a bit tooth-achingly sweet for my tastes.

Dody is an excellent host and is fantastic at making sure service is smooth and all customers are satisfied. If Le Souk is anything like Sahara, I would recommend that you stick to their appetisers and lamb and seafood dishes, as they seem to excel in those areas. With more leg and elbow room, I’ll be back for more to enjoy my tangine more comfortably!

Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5

Le Souk, G/F, 4 Staunton Street, Soho. Tel: 2522 2128. Opening times: 6pm till late.

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Read the review at Sassy Hong Kong too!