Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong


Leave a comment

Stone Nullah Tavern- a stone’s throw from reinvention

There have been a few places that have popped up in recent months (think Restoration, Catalunya, Mayta), but I haven’t really been following the new restaurant scene avidly, as frankly, my wallet needs a rest and the turnover is making my head hurt a little! I mention my wallet as it seems to be somewhat of a trend for these newest establishments to be a tad pricey (something that friends and I have been discussing of late) and the food isn’t necessarily completely worth the moolah though I can commend their efforts and in most cases innovation.

One such place is Stone Nullah Tavern, a liquor bar and eatery which specialises in ‘New American’ cuisine which essentially means taking classic American dishes and adding a modern pizzazz to them. Positives first- the desserts are the winners on the menu (more on that later) and the location is great. So named after Stone Nullah Lane in Wan Chai, it was opened by IHM, the same group that brought as Linguini Fini and Posto Pubblico. It is in an area of Wanch that is fast-becoming an alternative hip hangout: opposite the Zenith and near the Hopewell Centre and round the corner from a little eatery that sells excellent dumplings. Eclectic collection of places, but somehow it works. The open glass-fronted entrance greets patrons and the liquor bar entices the weary. The casual dining area lies behind the bar and with the timber panelling, framed old maps and low lighting, I felt as if I was at sea on a ship, minus the watery surroundings, (and the swaying).2013-05-08 20.18.52

When friends and I visited Stone Nullah it happened to be an amber rainstorm which did add to the ‘ship at sea’ ambience and it was loud inside. Wooden panelling is not conducive to good conversation, so we found ourselves taking twice as long to complete dialogue. The menu has a layout of 7 sections of íncreasingly biological terminology: ‘vegetation, fungi and tubers’, ‘legumes, grains & pulses’, ‘crustaceans, cephalopods and bivalves’, ‘swine’, ‘bovine & fowl’, ‘pickled’ and ‘confectionary’. Whilst this is quite quaint to those who understand the terms cephalopods, bivalves (octopus, squid and shellfish respectively) and tubers (potatoes), this may be quite puzzling for others or just a tad pretentious?

Complicated names aside, the dishes we sampled that night were all quite rich and salty, which was a shame, as the menu does offer some interesting combinations.

First up, the Quinoa Thanksgiving Stuffing with sage, sausage and foie gras gravy, sounded irresistible and the initial few bites were enjoyable and savoury, with a hint of the foie gras coming through. One too many bites though and you will fill yourself up!

Quinoa Thanksgiving Stuffing

Quinoa Thanksgiving Stuffing

The Mac & Cheese with egg yolk and sharp cheddar, as yummy as it seems was underwhelming. The egg yolk did nothing to combat the runniness of the dish and the sharp taste of the cheese gave it an almost sour taste with none of the melted, creamy deliciousness.

Mac & Cheese

Mac & Cheese

The meat dishes fared better, with the scrumptious, finger-licking Chicken Wings with chili, honey, garlic and ranch disappearing as quickly as they arrived. Stone Nullah’s version of the Filipino Pork Sisig- the Pig’s Foot and Ear Sizzling Sisig, was crunchy , the calamansi lending it flavour with its delicate, sour edge.

Chicken Wings

Chicken Wings

Pig’s Foot and Ear Sizzling Sisig

Pig’s Foot and Ear Sizzling Sisig

The Crispy Pig’s Head with lobster salad and chili citronette was rather lovely with a textural contrast between the battered, succulent pig’s head and the salad. Too much citronette was added but our group approved of the dish overall. The ‘Chicken-Fried’ Tenderloin which is in fact tender rare beef within the batter, was comforting and evoked noises of approval.

Crispy Pig’s Head

Crispy Pig’s Head

‘Chicken-Fried’ Tenderloin

‘Chicken-Fried’ Tenderloin

To end we had the desserts which were the highlights of the night. Their famed Fat Kid Cake confused us at first as it is served with a lit candle, and we thought they had mistakenly brought a birthday slice. Unfortunately, the candle kept blowing out (amber rainstorm + candle do not mix!) despite the valiant efforts of the waitress to relight it. Four cakes in one is rather dangerous and I certainly felt my stomach heave in protest against the sinful combination of red velvet, cheesecake, creme brulee and chocolate mousse.

Fat Kid Cake

Fat Kid Cake

However, the Ovaltine Ice Cream with bruleed banana, chocolate cremoso, peanut butter fudge and cereal crunch was a piece of artwork and textures played an important part in keeping our palates amused. The ice-cream was divine, the bruleed banana perfectly done and the fudge added a sweeter note to the dessert.

Ovaltine Ice cream

Ovaltine Ice cream

Service and puddings are the two aspects that Stone Nullah should be proud of, but overall, at nearly $400 per person for 6 dishes (of not overly huge proportions), between four people, it seems a little steep. The menu, dominated by fried, rich dishes, will induce thirst, so make sure you have a glass of water handy.

Chopstixfix rating: 3/5 

$$$$$$$$$$

Stone Nullah Tavern, G/F, 69 Stone Nullah Ln, Wan Chai; 3182 0128

Advertisements


1 Comment

Hotcakes & Pea Soup- what a combo set

Facebook is pretty useful. It helps you to track and “poke” unsuspecting friends, post your musings of the day, upload photos of your drunken nights so you can piece together the shenanigans of the evening and more importantly, helps you track down your next meal!

My friend Krispy K (an eager BB photographer who uploads her photos onto FB faster than you can say “cheese!”) very helpfully uploaded photos of her midnight feasting at an extremely quaint and cool looking cha chaa teng in Causeway Bay called Cafe Matchbox. Continuing the “retro” theme, Cafe Matchbox has decked out its interiors in a Hong Kong ’60s style, with funky green and white tiling on the walls, tacky plastic lights, green blinds and the strains of Canto music of years gone by, playing in the background. I LOVE it.
Nothing makes me happier than going somewhere cheap and cheerful and Matchbox hits the spot. The menu is jam packed with local comfort food, from your baked rice dishes to your soup noodles/ macaroni combo with good ol’ spam or ham with a fried egg. They also churn out some cracking traditional desserts such as egg tarts, mango pudding and cream cakes.
But..when I went, my eye was on the prize. There was one particular set meal I was desperate to get my chops on and that was the chicken pie in green pea soup followed by banana hotcakes. Sounds awesome doesn’t it? Tastes even AWESOMER (not a real word, made it up, but I like it). The other set offers scrambled egg and ham with a thick piece of buttered toast to start, followed by BBQ pork and peas in a noodle soup. Not as exciting but definitely just as comforting. So….we got both sets! And, we also added a bowl of pork liver and instant noodle soup plus a beef consumme for SJ and 2 hot ovaltines for R and myself. Faint with hunger, us 3 girls waited in anticipation, practically drooling over the menu and gazing with food envy at our neighbouring tables’ food. 
SJ was like a girl possessed when her pork liver instant noodle soup arrived. Chopsticks dove into the big bowl and she eagerly dumped the noodles into her own little receptacle, and soon she was in raptures over the liver and the gingery soup. When R and I eventually got to the bowl of noodles, SJ was in a dream-like state and in a happy place (ok, I exaggerate, SJ is a very lovely, elegant girl but she was pretty darn hungry, never seen her attack food like that before- you go girl!) If you are a fan of offal like us, you will love the liver which was cooked to perfection. Some places over cook the liver until it reaches that rather tough and rubbery stage but Matchbox delivered very tender slices and the soup base was YUM.
 Then it was my turn to get all excited. The green pea soup is an arresting sight- VERY green. It’s steaming hot and extremely tasty. The chicken pie pastry is exactly like the pastry used to make the egg tarts- sweet, light and just the right kind of flaky and the sweetness makes an interesting but moreish contrast against the savoriness of the soup.Words can’t express how happy us girls were when we bulldozed our way through this dish.
The scrambled egg and ham? All I can say is, I wish I could make scrambled eggs taste like that. How do cha chaan tengs do it?! And the thick cut toast slathered in butter was deeply satisfying.
The BBQ pork soup noodles were decent, nothing amazing compared to the chicken pie but the BBQ pork was well prepared; the soup was just lacking a bit of flavour.The best part of the meal was definitely the banana hotcakes. 2 gorgeous soft and fluffy hotcakes drenched in syrup and a drizzle of cream, topped with slices of banana and walnuts. What more could you ask for to end a truly scrumptious, cheap as chips dining experience? Drool-worthy.And, before I forget, the ovaltine was amazing too- just like your Grandma would’ve made for you.
 
Chopstixfix rating: for fab food and fantastic value for money 4/5
Cafe Matchbox, 8 Cleveland Street, Causeway Bay. Tel: 2868 0363
$$$$$$$$$$ ($60 each for a feast!)