Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong


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Man Oh Mano

As much as I like seeing new things, the ground floor of the L Place doesn’t seem to be overly blessed by long-standing tenants, so I hope that newest occupant Mano can, over time, prove itself to be a popular establishment that deserves that space. European café and restaurant Mano offers all day dining from brioche, bread and pastries with your morning coffee and brunch spreads for your midday hunger pangs to swanky dishes at dinner, so really, you can pretty much spend your whole day there if you’re lazy!MANO IMG_7376 IMG_7372 IMG_7373

I like simple décor, and Mano’s black and white interiors with a lovely marble workspace open kitchen and plush Italian leather seats does give it an air of urban elegance. When my friend V and I went one evening, we found the service quietly efficient and friendly, though our waiter faffed with our seating a bit, deciding between five sets of identical tables. The menu is attractive- dishes such as Parmesan custard with basil and zucchini emulsion and Mezze maniche Mancini sound rather grand and there is a good variety of meats and seafood to satisfy anyone’s palate.

Prices are less friendly with mains coming in at $200-350 each, so if you think ouch, then I would stick with their morning and brunch. We started by sharing the Pan-seared Hokkaido scallops with home smoked Iberico pork belly. Presentation-wise, our three plump and perfectly cooked scallops looked a little lonely separated out from each other on this huge plate, but aside from that the whole dish more or less came together and the accompanying pork belly was a crispy, salty delight. The porcini ratatouille had a slightly bitter aftertaste unfortunately, which affected the overall taste.

Pan-seared Hokkaido scallops

Pan-seared Hokkaido scallops

For mains, the 120 days grass fed Sirloin of New Zealand Ocean beef ($318) was excellent. The beef was well-seasoned and succulent, but I thought that it didn’t need all of the shaved, aged Parmesan that it came with as it made it a little too rich. V had the Seared tuna loin with parsley mash, roasted beetroot, squid cappuccino and truffle caviar ($308). The tuna loin was perfect in the middle but the outside was over-seared but we loved the parsley mash and the caviar gave it a good umami kick. But there was a downside to our experience. Both dishes were served a tad under lukewarm. Now, I have no idea whether it was because the staff were waiting for both dishes to be cooked before serving, or whether they simply were slow to bring them out after they were prepared, but having my hot mains served hot is quite important. Luckily it didn’t affect the taste of my beef and good conversation between friends was enough for us to overlook this.

120 days grass fed Sirloin of New Zealand Ocean beef

120 days grass fed Sirloin of New Zealand Ocean beef

Seared tuna loin

Seared tuna loin

To end, there was Orange lemon crème brulee with lemon ice-cream. I have high hopes for Mano, I do. The citrusy taste of the brulee was fantastic and this dessert would have been wonderful if it had set properly. But our brulee was runny like a fresh yolk. The manager was great and offered to get us another, but at this point we had slurped it up, literally.

Orange lemon crème brulee

Orange lemon crème brulee

Next time I will try their breakfast and lunch. For now, I think I will see if a few months can sort out a few of their existing crinkles.

Chopstixfix rating: 3/5

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Mano Hong Kong, G/F, L Place, 139 Queen’s Road, Central, +852 2384 7339, www.manohk.com

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Part 2: Relishing the Robatayaki

The best part of my interview with Chef Patrick was, of course, the eating! Here’s what we had:

To start, we had the sashimi served on ice.

“The freshness comes out and is much cleaner when served on ice. You get the wow factor and it’s visually more attractive.”

I’m pretty sure I’ve been eating sashimi and sushi incorrectly…. I just dump all my wasabi into the soya-sauce and dunk the sashimi in!

You should put the amount of wasabi you want, on top of the sashimi or sushi and then put it in the soya-sauce. You mix the flavours in your mouth rather than in the soya-sauce”.

Hmmmm…whoops. What’s this?

“This is the butterfish. It is very difficult for us to attain, but it’s beautiful. Here, the butterfish has a citrus dressing- yuzu (Japanese lemon) with ginger and garlic, served with white asparagus on top of a pesto type dressing (shiso leaf paste mixed with rapeseed oil). The acidic taste brings out the delicate texture of the fish.”

Do you have a favourite fish?

“ I don’t have a favourite fish. And even if I do, I will convince mnyself that I don’t have one. I like to be fair and open-minded and to keep things neutral. If you believe one fish is better than the other, then you will never want to try the other fish, even if it is prepared in a different way!”

After that divine first ‘course’, next up were the Foie gras in plum wine and King Crab Tempura. Both were exquisite!

“The foie gras is marinated in plum wine and poached in its own liquor. Then it is served with seaweed and a squid ink bread. The Red king crab is harder to find than normal crab but has a sweeter texture. Here we serve the tempura with tensu sauce and green tea salt which is the traditional way of serving tempura.”At this point, Chef Patrick orders the house sake and explained how they are working on developing the Shoju they make in-house and how they want to create a bigger and more fun variety of shoju for the customers. At the moment, he says, shoju is not as popular as sake, but he is working on that!

Third course; and he’s ordered the Roka signature Black cod and prawn dumplings and the grilled Hokkaido scallops. There are 3 types of dumplings on the menu, pork and scallop, beef and kimchi and black cod and prawn. The black cod and prawn is more popular in Hong Kong and is therefore not available at their London branches.Last up, before dessert, we had the spicy lamb chops marinated in coriander pepper and served with a cucumber and red onion cleanser. The lamb is from Australia and therefore “milder” to cater for those who aren’t big fans of lamb. Amazingly tender meat, and just the right amount of ‘zing’ for the palate.The classic miso eggplant was delicious but what was utterly incredible was the Black cod in sweet miso sauce. Chef Patrick told me it takes 3 days to prepare this dish, which involves soaking the cod in salt water for 12 hours, drying it out then marinating it for 24 hours. All that work clearly pays off!To end, a sumptuous dessert platter on shaved ice was produced in which was nestled sesame and green tea sorbets and two desserts- the valrhona chocolate cake and the jasmine sundae with yuzu-granite. The jasmine sundae was my favourite, gorgeously refreshing. The whipped jelly cream with layers of orange jelly, strawberry and orange coulis topped with yuzu shaved ice and jasmine icecream (made from jasmine flowers) was a perfect balance of fruitiness, acidic bite and crunchiness.

As you can imagine, I was completely and utterly stuffed after that sumptuous feast, and so very grateful for the opportunity to dine and learn, not just about Roka itself but also about Japanese cuisine, from such a passionate and innovative chef.

Chopstixfix rating: 4/5

Roka, Pacific Place, Level LG1, Shop 002, 88 Queensway, Hong Kong. Tel: 3960 5988, info@rokarestaurant.com.hk

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