Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong

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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.


Read the review at Sassy Hong Kong too!


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Fe Fi Fo..Fo!

Sometimes, it’s all in the name, and Fofo is a brilliant moniker, especially as it means ‘fat’ in Spanish.

Situated on the top floor of the M88 building in Central, with amazing views of Hong Kong , diners are greeted by a massive expanse of white and quirky casts of roly-poly pigs and penguins. Whether Guillermo ‘Willy’ Trullas Moreno, the man behind Fofo, intends the name to be a reference to how we feel after we’ve eaten there or for those who want to reach new heights of satiety after a ‘pig out’ (haha), is anyone’s guess, but if you’re a fan of Spanish tapas, then make your way over. Specialising in tapas with a contemporary edge, the original Fofo resides in Shanghai and is run by ‘Willy’, whereas the Hong Kong branch (which opened a year ago) is overseen by Chef Alex Fargas, hailing from Barcelona, who successfully recreates and delights Hong Kong crowds with Willy’s most popular dishes.

My friends and I had specific dishes in mind to try, following the recommendations of others and those that made the list were the scallop cervicho, lobster paella, pan fried chorizo, the tortilla and the roast suckling pig. We also asked for a big jug of sangria, a mistake as we glugged it like Ribena!

We started ‘healthily’, asking for the king crab salad, which was delicious, refreshing, and piled high with lots of crab meat. The scallop cervicho, served with crispy shallots, looked a lot blander than I expected, but the taste was delicate and clean. The fine texture of the scallops was nicely offset by the crunchy shallots. The lobster paella was beautiful. The presentation was impressive- the whole lobster lying formidably on the paella made me think I had to break into a fortress to get to my food! The rice was perfectly al dente, not too hard, and not mushy, and the garlic mayonnaise it was served with completely transformed the taste. The flavours were heaven to my palate. The chorizos were so addictive. Salty and wonderfully crisp on the edges, chewy on the inside- scrumptious! My favourite Spanish tapas dish of all time is tortilla de patatas, an egg omelette with fried potatoes and onions. I could honestly eat plates of the stuff and never get enough, so it was important to me that Fofo’s tortilla passed the test! When it arrived, I was excited. A wonderfully prepared round and thick omelette gazed at me and when our forks cut through it, lovely layers of potatoes were revealed. A delicious yet simple dish. The most anticipated dish of the evening was Fofo’s signature roast suckling pig. The crispy skin was exquisite, the meat tender, but the portion was a bit on the small side. So if there are more than 4 of you, you should order 2 plates. To end on a sweet note, we had the excellent churros served with hot dipping chocolate. This Spanish doughnut is such a moreish snack, even more so when fresh out of the oven.There were many other dishes on the menu, such as the black truffle risotto, Iberian ham and organic eggs served with foie gras and truffle that I wanted to sink my teeth into, but that will have to be on my next visit!

Overall, a fantastic dinner with great service, and to top it all off, Chef Fargas stepped out of the kitchen at the end of the night and stopped at every table to make sure we enjoyed the food. A lovely added personal touch from a polite, smiley and obviously talented man. You made my taste buds happy and I definitely felt fofo!

Chopstixfix rating: 4/5

Fofo by el willy, 20/F  M88 Wellington Street Central, Hong Kong (852) 2900 2009


See the review on Sassy Hong Kong