Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong


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More to be found at Elephant Grounds

When Elephant Grounds popped onto the scene on Gough Street in Central at the Woaw Store, the name was synonymous with one thing only- ice-cream sandwiches. Forget the coffee that they were brewing, no no, people of Hong Kong were solely interested in this seemingly holy grail of desserts, the iPhone equivalent of ice-cream. A new flavour every weekend and a limited supply; their Instagram announcement of the fresh creation generating a wave of palpable excitement, such that friends were clamouring to get there early enough to get their hands on one. It took a while for this feverishness to die down and when it finally seemed a bit calmer, I casually swanned in one Sunday afternoon when in the area and got their Forbidden Crumble ice-cream sandwich which was a) beautiful to look at b) exciting, as apple crumble is one of my favourite desserts so I was already loving it without even tasting it c) bloody difficult to eat gracefully. Call it a sugar high, but I suddenly understood the craze. Cinnamon ice cream with green apple and a crumble cookie finished with caramelized apples and almonds tasted as delicious as it sounds and as I stood in the street between cars, gingerly biting into it, apple bits and almonds perilously sliding off rapidly melting ice-cream, I remember thinking it’d be grand to have another branch a little closer towards North Point. There is zero room inside the Woaw Store for a coffee and a natter and their other branch at Wong Chuk Hang is too out of the way.

And then, LO AND BEHOLD, the coffee gods heard our cries and Elephant Grounds materialised at Fashion Walk in Causeway Bay. (The other day I noticed that my beloved Xi Yan Sweets on Star Street has closed and has been taken over by another Elephant Grounds branch…WHAT ON EARTH?! Am not sure how I feel about this. Whilst I applaud EG’s ability to suddenly sprout another branch, I admit I am rather gutted by the disappearance of XYS to be honest, but luckily there’s still a branch in Tai Koo Shing.) 

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Elephant Grounds, Fashion Walk, Causeway Bay (image courtesy of Fashionwalk.com.hk)

But, back to EG and the branch in Causeway Bay is quite lovely and is the older, mature, more sophisticated and obviously much larger version of the Gough Street counterpart, with its minimalistic wooden tables and chairs and a cool counter top to perch at. The menu is more than just ice-cream sandwiches and coffee too. There’s a rather tasty selection of dishes including hamburger, salmon donburi, ramen and kale quinoa salad.

I’d already frequented this branch for the odd coffee or two with friends and love sitting outside watching the world go by.  I hadn’t really paid attention to their coffee philosophy of, “The finest beans. Appropriate roast. Correct brewing method. Great presentation”, but suffice it to say I have no complaints about their coffee, aside from the price, which is tad steep at $45, once you compare it to the cost of some of their dishes, but nonetheless their French Vanilla coffee is done nicely and you can’t go wrong with their latte.

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French Vanilla Latte

On yet another horrendously rainy day, I was kindly invited to try out a couple of dishes from their brunch menu and sampled the Torched Salmon Donburi ($88) with an onsen egg, pickled cucumbers, mixed greens, roasted corn and sesame dressing and their EG burger ($106) which is 8oz of USDA prime beef patty wedged within a brioche bun served with a fried egg, cheddar cheese and fries.

The salmon donburi is a hearty size and prettily presented. I enjoyed the variety of ingredients going on in my bowl and of course, an onsen egg on top of anything will always make things that little bit tastier. The burger is also quite substantial- the beef patty meaty and juicy and topped with a good amount of melty cheese and another egg. Protein overload! The fries were good and I ended up munching on more than I intended despite needing to leave room for ice-cream!

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Torched Salmon Donburi

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EG Burger (this was bloody awkward to photograph!)

Ah yes, the ice-cream. Japanese Taro ice-cream, one of my favourite flavours. There’s a fairly extensive list of atypical flavours such as Thai iced tea and Rose water rhubarb, but the minute I heard Taro, I needed to try it. This was definitely the best part of the meal, and I love how the ice-cream includes candied taro chunks which really livens up the ice-cream to give it that extra texture. Absolutely delicious!

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Japanese Taro Ice-cream with a Taro chip

Now that Fashion Walk has undergone yet another face-lift with EG and Burger Room amongst others moving in, the ‘hood is looking quite a lot more interesting. Although EG is meant to be all about the coffee, somehow the ice-cream became the headliner, whether deliberately or not, I don’t know. In any case, I admire how they are striving to expand their repertoire, so let’s see if the coffee and the food become as memorable as their sweet offerings.

Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5

Shop C, G/F, 42-28 Paterson Street Fashion Walk, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong / Mon – Fri: 11:00 am – Late/ Sat – Sun: 10:00 am – Late/ 852 2562 8688/ http://elephantgrounds.com/

This meal was by invitation- many thanks to the EG team for the kind hospitality.

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Going Loco for Koko

So, first of all, happy new year! Ok, I’m a bit late…but it’s still the first quarter of the 2016 so I think I can just about get away with it! Secondly, whilst the blog has been a little quiet, alright, yes yes, very quiet, I’d like to let you know that I have definitely been taking one for the team and leaving several lifetimes on the hips for you all. I have definitely overdone it with the eating since Christmas. I love you HK, but you really need to slow down with the constant restaurant openings, so much to try, so little time, only one digestive tract!

There seems to be no end to the growing number of Japanese restaurants popping up. One of the latest is KOKO, a contemporary izakaya which is the result of a partnership between KEE club and the Hidetoshi Nakata, world-renowned footballer and fashion icon turned sake ambassador. I confess, he was perhaps the only other reason, (aside from Beckham) for my being vaguely interested enough to watch the World Cup back in the day.  So I was quite surprised to learn that Nakata has his own sake company- Japan Craft Sake Company. In efforts to promote sake internationally, this collaboration sees KOKO’s sake list showcase a variety of rare and vintage sakes shipped directly from Japan, most of which you’d be hard pressed to find in HK.

The CrazyHashtagfoodies crew and I were invited to try out KOKO early last month and as I stumbled into the restaurant flustered from what was frankly, a completely horrendous day compounded by the downpour, I was greeted by the rest of the gang all nestled on cool patio sofas on the spacious terrace surrounded by palm tree fronds.koko

We started off with some truly excellent appetisers, (we were all impressed by the starters and I would have been quite happy to nosh on several refills for the rest of the evening), and my favourite by far was the Tuna Tartare ($88)- a gorgeous little heap of tuna topped with half a quail’s egg and its quivering runny yolk on top of some sort of delightful crunchy wonton? skin. Another treat was the Chicken tsukune with soft egg and nori ($98). I’ve no idea what else was in that dipping sauce but something made it especially addictive and hit my umami hot-spot.

Tuna Tartare

Chicken Tsukune

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Red Mullet Escabeche

We relocated inside and found ourselves ensconced in a comfy corner of KOKO. The next round of food included Rock Shrimp tempura ($128) which I could easily munch on like popcorn, Hokkaido scallops ($168) which were expertly sliced into thin slivers and Clams steamed in sake ($168) which the crew enjoyed immensely. I personally enjoyed the Spicy Seafood Soup ($128) which contained generous chunks of seafood and had a good kick of spice. This and the following two rounds of dishes were washed down with three different sakes. I’m no sake expert so I won’t even attempt to comment except to say that out of the three sampled, I liked the Azuma Ichi the best but the rest of the group had their own preferences so there is something on the list for everyone!

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Clams in Sake

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Spicy Seafood soup

Other highlights were the Baby Back Pork Ribs ($188), a must for meat-lovers, (other meat dishes include the Australian Black Angus beef ($230) and Lamb chops ($228)) and the beautiful King Crab and Uni Hot Pot ($268) which generated a fair number of oohhs and “yummy” comments.

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Baby back pork ribs

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King Crab and Uni Hot Pot

For the sweet-toothed amongst you, I attacked the Almond and Yogurt Cake ($88) with much gusto, which had some pretty interesting flavours going on and is a good, light finish for the meal. I also quite enjoyed the Green Tea and Banana baked cream ($78) which sounds like an odd combination and looks like a piece of cotton wool has a green rash (my attempts to photograph it in a flattering light failed sadly), but was fluffy and quite scrumptious. Chocolate affectionados will find comfort in the Dark Chocolate Green Tea fondant ($98) and vanilla ice-cream.

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Almond and Yogurt Cake

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Dark Chocolate Green Tea fondant

We had a cracking time at KOKO, and I must say that there is quite a lot going for it- good location, an awesome selection of dishes, a variety of interesting sakes for those interested and palm trees on the terrace (I jest, but actually it’s nice to see a plant in this concrete jungle). Am already planning my next visit.

Chopstixfix rating: 4/5

KOKO, 5/F, 77 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2109 1777, www.kokohk.com, open Mondays to Saturdays from 5pm till late, closed Sundays


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If You Go Down To The Woods Today

And I’m back! After my Nood experience (let’s NOT relive that again), I had a few pig-out sessions and a night out on the town drinking cocktails to make up for losing several days’ worth of calories. Then I upped and left for London for a couple weeks, hence, you have been subjected to my juice cleanse post for a while- sorry!

I don’t think I have ever done a full-scale post on drinking, mostly because I have the dreaded Asian flush which strikes after 1 drink and therefore have a pathetic tolerance towards alcohol, but I make an exception for this post on The Woods. This relatively new bar in Central can be found off Hollywood Road, down a dainty, invitingly lit flight of steps. One sleek sliding door later, and into The Woods you step- all decked out in wood and marble. The whole interior is quite striking and one certainly gets the impression of nature and foliage. I have been back a few times now, and whenever I visit, I always feel like I’m holed up in a sophisticated, yet comforting wooden barn.

A peep through the woods

A peep through the woods

The bar display

The bar display

The Woods opened back in July and is the brainchild of the three Chow sisters, but the youngest, Victoria, is the lovely lady responsible for the food and drink. The cocktail bar is split into two distinct areas- the lounge and the Prix-Fixe Bar, which seats eight and needs prior booking. The interesting concept behind The Woods, is that the cocktails are themselves the culinary art, so if you’re in search of a pint of beer, don’t go here!

The photos that I have for this post were from back in August(!), so some of the seasonal cocktails may no longer be there, and the Prix-Fixe menu I would think is changing very very soon, but I’m sure that you will find a drink that tickles your fancy. The words market-fresh, seasonal and artisanal sum up the core principles of The Woods.

From the a la carte, I tried The Caprese ($120), which was basically a salad in a glass. As someone who can’t take the taste of strong booze, this was rather perfect- light on the Tito’s Vodka, and heavier on the fresh tomato water. I love sour and salty things, and the combination of aged balsamic vinegar with the vodka, tomato water, Himalayan pink salt and black lava salt rim was highly enjoyable to the point where I was half drunk by the end of it. In addition, the cocktail itself was pretty to look at, bursting with colour from the cherry tomatoes.

The Caprese

The Caprese

The Caprese The Caprese

I took a sip of someone’s Watermelon Cilantro, (that’s coriander for the Brits among us), and was pleasantly surprised my palate wasn’t assailed by the cilantro flavour, which I’m not normally a fan of.

Watermelon Cilantro

Watermelon Cilantro

The biggest surprise for me was their Oak Whiskey Sour, which was finely balanced and had a lovely hint of a smokey flavour. This was a surprising drink because I usually really dislike whiskey, (I can trace this dislike back to uni days of cheap whiskey shots and feeling very unwell afterwards), and not only did I think it was tasty, but I think I might have been converted! But only at The Woods will I drink this, I will proceed with caution at all other, as yet untested establishments.

Oak Whiskey Sour

Oak Whiskey Sour

So what about the Prix-Fixe menu? For hardcore drinkers who like arty drinks and enjoy 4 courses of alcohol with very small nibbles. People with Asian flush, will start to feel very drunk 1 course in- yep, yours truly was pretty merry at the end and needed to go to Tsui Wah for noodles; no judgement please.

The Prix-Fixe menu is creative, interesting and definitely unique in Hong Kong. For $688 per person for 4 courses, (essentially 4 drinks), this may be a little pricey, and I for one, prefer the a la carte, but that’s because I normally can’t take 4 drinks in a row anyway!

The menu we had started with the Basil Smash (Sipsmith Gin and Thai and Sweet Basils), which was fun as we got to smash a hollowed ice sphere with a little hammer to release the cocktail. This was served with watermelon and feta cheese on the side. Next, we had the Bacon Bourbon Luge for mains. This was STRONG. I’m not a bourbon drinker, and I admit, I was way more interested in the accompanying roasted bone marrow (delicious by the way). However, this bacon infused bourbon was smooth and I like the savoury taste. I completely failed to use the bone marrow as a luge to pour the cocktail in my mouth as I was starting to feel tipsy at this point!

Basil Smash

Basil Smash

Bacon Bourbon Luge

Bacon Bourbon Luge

For dessert there was the Absinthe Floss. This was messy. Instead of the traditional absinthe served poured over a sugar cube, The Woods replaced the cube with candy floss. This was far too strong for me. To end, our Digestif was a Tanqueray Gin and Jasmine tea infusion with lemongrass, galangal and lemon peel. Like a hot toddy, this was warming but not aromatic enough for me and the gin was overpowering. Not sure if this combination really works in its favour.

Absinthe Floss

Absinthe Floss

Tea Infusion

Tea Infusion

Tea Infusion

Before I forget, we also tried their fries from the a la carte nibbles section. One word- addictive.

The Woods' Fries

The Woods’ Fries

I’m happy to see a concept cocktail bar like The Woods spring up in Hong Kong, and it’s refreshing to have a place to go for consistently well-made drinks. I didn’t mention mocktails, but one of my favourites is the Virgin Galangal Mojito which is delicious. And now that I’m a whiskey sour convert and a few friends have also given it their nod of approval, I think The Woods will be a regular haunt (alongside The Envoy, which is another go-to), for my friends and I, who aren’t hardcore liquor-lovers but who definitely appreciate the delicate touch with cocktails.

Virgin Galangal Mojito

Virgin Galangal Mojito

Chopstixfix rating: 4/5 for decor, ambience, good mocktails, their fries and that whiskey sour

The Woods, L/G, 17 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong Tel: +852 2522 0281 http://www.thewoods.hk

The Prixe-Fixe tasting was by invitiation. Many thanks to The Woods for a fun evening!


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A Comforting Lunch at Comfort

Most of my friends work in Central, so if ever I want to meet up for lunch, we either have to wing it (meetings/deadlines/projects/a*sehole bosses depending) or engage in complicated Whatsapping messaging to work out if they can risk  committing to a time and booking something in advance to avoid rush hour crush and disappointment. My friends are just as food obsessed as I am and are always asking, ” Is there anywhere new you want to try?” I like to think they are being nice as they say they are ‘helping me out’ as a food blogger. Hmmm. (Joking, love you guys :P)

One lunchtime excursion, my friend R and I decided to go to Comfort by Harlan Goldstein. This had been on my list of places to try for a while but the Food Gods have been sending me elsewhere for the last few months. So when R said the magic words, “You HAVE to try the Mac’n’cheese”,  Food Gods’ itinerary be damned, I had to hotfoot it down there toute suite.

Comfort

Comfort

Harlan Goldstein’s other establishment Gold and now newly opened Sushi To, will appeal to those looking for a classier, finer dining experience, but Comfort offers meals for us mere mortals- more affordable and simpler, like the Armani Exchange to Armani.

Cool lights

Cool lights

At first glance at the menu, I liked what I saw. Dishes are split into various categories such as Something Small, Something Green, Something Raw, Pizza and Pita and Comfort Dishes. Being only two of us, and with an hour window, we didn’t want to be too greedy nor did we want to send R into a food coma at her desk.Comfort

Obviously we only had one goal. Mac & Cheese. I naturally assumed, being a staple, comfort dish, that it would be on the normal a la carte. But, it seems that I assumed wrong. The waitress had to whip out the Daily Specials menu where “Kick Ass Mac & Cheese Is Back” was emblazoned in the middle. Well, this is just silly, I thought. Why on earth have something so KICK ASS as a Daily Special. Just put it on the main menu so we can gorge on it everyday!

Kick Ass Mac and Cheese

Kick Ass Mac and Cheese

And it was damn good. Gooey, cheesy, rich, with a beautiful breadcrumb crusting on top and a smack of black truffle aroma in the face. This dish is death for the lactose-intolerant. Thank goodness I got over my dairy allergy years ago. Whoop. I loved the surprise nuggets of Argentina pork sausage buried in the cheese, which gave it even more savoury deliciousness. This was definitely one of the best Mac and Cheese dishes I have had in Hong Kong.

Gooey deliciousness

Gooey deliciousness

Aside from the Mac & Cheese, we decided to order the Field Greens with Mango, Pear and Tomatoes which was light and refreshing and the Black Truffle, Taleggio and Sausage Pizza for more truffle, more cheese and more sausage. This was the dinkiest, cutest, little pizza I had ever seen and the ingredients so prettily scattered atop the dough. The pizza itself was quite excellent. The sausage was flavourful and the dough soft and pillowy to bite into.

Black truffle, Taleggio and Sausage Pizza

Black truffle, Taleggio and Sausage Pizza

Field Greens with Mango, Pear and Tomato

Field Greens with Mango, Pear and Tomato

To end a rather carb-heavy meal, we thought, why not send ourselves over the edge and order the Old School Apple Crumble with Vanilla ice-cream. This really hit the spot and we both appreciated how they had achieved a good pie to crumble ratio. The apple wasn’t too tart and the crumble did not go soggy as it does all too quickly in some versions. I smothered each mouthful with vanilla sauce and ice-cream and was left truly satisfied.

Old School Apple Crumble

Old School Apple Crumble

The service is smooth and friendly, the atmosphere fun and I feel that Harlan has done a great job introducing a cheaper option without compromising on the quality of the food. Comfort 100% comforted my stomach that day.

Chopstixfix rating: 4/5

 

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Harlan Goldstein’s Comfort,  5/F Grand Progress Building, 15-16 Lan Kwai Fong, Central, Hong Kong Tel: 852 2521-8638 Email: dine@comfort-dining.hk


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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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Coffee at Mayfair

Nope, this isn’t a post about drinking chic coffee in Mayfair in London sadly, fooled you! But, I write this as I stare out of the window at the disgustingness that is a red rainstorm and can’t help but think of England and how the weather is most probably crap as well. Joys on both sides of the Earth. So it’s quite apt that there is now a coffee place in HK called Mayfair where you could TRY and sit back and think of the green and pleasant land that is home for us Brits.

Mayfair Coffee

Mayfair Coffee

Given how awful the HK weather has been recently, nothing quite beats the dreariness like a cup of tea, (obviously) or a lovely coffee brew. I don’t pretend to be a coffee snob; in a previous life, I used to drink the worst kind of canteen and instant machine coffee there is- sometimes up to 4 cups of this thick, black sludge a day to combat droopy eyelids, much to my taste-buds’ dismay. Now, Starbucks is also a usual go-to- I am a Starbucks lemming ordering my hazelnut lattes.

But, there are some great cafes in Hong Kong- Cafe Corridor in Causeway Bay, (though sometimes their coffee arrives a little on the tepid side), 18 Grams, Rabbithole. And now, I’ve decided I quite like newcomer and independent coffee outlet Mayfair Coffee, at the Center in Central.

Mayfair, opened by Ken Pong, takes its name from that well-known posh area in London. The outlet is small, practically an area chiseled out from the wall, seating no more than 6 and serving more as a quick pit-stop or ‘drive-through’ for coffee. There is no denying its charm however, with the English influence seen in small details at the counter. Its name is meant to be a reflection of the high quality coffee that Mr. Pong wishes to serve to customers, alongside pretty cakes and Mövenpick icecream and I feel that the ambience of being in a stylish cafe is definitely achieved. Their logo is rather cute too; two deer heads emerging from one body facing opposite directions. Looks a little odd, but the point is more philosophical, born from an idea of looking forward whilst also looking back. IMG_9442 IMG_9444IMG_9447IMG_9446

Something that amused me greatly was finding out that three of the baristas, including head barista Rita, were all previously Starbucks employees. Rita was at the coffee giant for six years, before deciding that she wanted the chance to be a bit more creative and step out from behind the automatic coffee machine to a semi-automatic one at Mayfair. Aside from the usual array of classic coffees and a good selection of espressos, they also serve Kenyan and Guatemala single-origin specialty coffees brewed using hand-drip or syphon methods.IMG_9445

IMG_9441I had a latte with one of their Green tea and mandarin orange jelly cakes and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The baristas were fun and friendly and we had a good laugh chatting away at the counter. I must say my latte was excellent and smooth. I normally find the Starbucks’ version leaves a slightly bitter after-taste if I don’t add some sugar to it but at Mayfair, it was full-bodied, milky and sweet enough without additional sugar. My cake was pretty to look at and delicious to taste. A delicate green tea flavour came through and the orange jelly gave a noticeable citrusy punch to liven the cake up.

Green Tea and Mandarin Orange Jelly Cake

Green Tea and Mandarin Orange Jelly Cake

Cafe latte

Cafe latte

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Mayfair might not be a place to hangout at per se, given its size, but it’s good to have a different coffee outlet to go to in Central that isn’t a Starbucks, a Fuel Expresso or a Holly Brown. More excitingly, they have introduced coffee workshops, so if there is interest to do a class, you can email them at info@mayfaircoffee.com. What’s my overall opinion? In short, I like it. I think I’ll be taking a short detour to the Center a bit more in the future.

Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5

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Shop 5B, Entrance Hall Floor, The Center, 99 Queen’s Road, Central, HK. Tel: 9854 5836 http://www.mayfaircoffee.com

This was by kind invitation- many thanks Ken!


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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