Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong


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Frango Piri Piri Foraging

Say piri-piri or peri-peri, and most brains would instantly go NANDO’S! If you’re Brit, the love for Nando’s chicken, ‘slaw, spicy rice and chips is intense and not to be underestimated. Let’s not forget the phrase “Cheeky Nando’s” which caused confusion of epic proportions for Americans and snowballed into many of us having to painfully explain the meaning/ talk extensively about our Nando’s obsession.

But why Hong Kong, why no Nando’s?! My friends’ and my cries have not been heard- how rude, but before you hop onto a plane to Singapore or Malaysia for your piri-piri fix, thankfully there is somewhere in HK that serves that most delicious spicy- sweet marinated chicken. Flaming Frango on Staunton Street, Soho, is probably the closest thing to Nando’s we’re going to get and aside from their classic piri-piri chicken and sides, they have now expanded their menu to include new appetisers, burgers and wraps. frango-main-ftcei_landscape

Flaming Frango is fairly compact inside, and the walls are a flaming red to match the name. There is an upstairs seating area, so don’t be alarmed if you walk in and wonder about space. Once settled, you can start with one of their cocktails like their refreshing Lychee and Lemongrass Colada, or you can get stuck right into the food. Their ‘Frango’ – ‘chicken’ in Portuguese, is marinated in their house-made piri-piri sauce for 24 hours and is obviously the main ingredient in most of their dishes.

I’d personally go straight for their house specials which involves their piri­-piri chicken in various portion sizes, with a selection of sides you can add on. For 1/4 chicken with two sides it is $138, 1/2 chicken plus two sides is $198 and whole chicken with four sides is $360.  They also have three home-made sauces- mint and coriander (really like this one), spicy and very hot. Whatever floats your boat! It would be perfect if they had a garlic sauce much like the one Nando’s serves.

For small bites, we tried the chicken and mushroom croquettes, which were little morsels of minced chicken and mushrooms served with pirioli, Portobello mushroom strips, piri-piri prawns and Halloumi cheese sticks. Of the four, the Portobello mushroom strips were the favourite- addictive, crisp mushroom slices which tasted even better in their pirioli sauce. The grilled prawns were juicy and cooked well but lacked in presentation, looking like two lonely, lost crustaceans on the plate. However, the real surprise was the Halloumi cheese stick…and not in the best way. They were alarmingly tiny; with each pan-grilled thumb-sized rectangle of halloumi topped with half a cherry tomato, my friend and I hardly thought the dish was worth a whopping $78!

Piri Piri Prawns

Piri Piri Prawns

Halloumi cheese sticks

Halloumi cheese sticks

Portobello Mushroom Strips

Portobello Mushroom Strips

Moving onto mains, we tried their new Sweet and Spicy chicken burger ($158) topped with pineapple and cheese and served with fries and coleslaw. I’m not a fan of non-classic burgers to be honest, and I found the chicken, whilst succulent, didn’t really do it for me in a burger form, especially with a pineapple slice inside. My friend however, rather enjoyed it (according to him pineapple slices in burgers are the best- sorry, I have to disagree), so I suppose one man’s pineapple, is another man’s poison. The fries were fantastic; those I demolished fairly swiftly and would happily have eaten another plate.

Sweet and Spicy Chicken

Sweet and Spicy Chicken

To end, we were served their house special of half a piri-piri chicken with their sauce selection and this was on point- meaty, succulent and tender meat.

Piri Piri Chicken

Piri Piri Chicken

Flaming Frango does well with their piri-piri chicken, and it definitely helps to fill the void left by Nando’s. Price-wise, I’d say their house specials are worth it, but I do question the price of some of the other dishes. Service is haphazard and the air-con or lack thereof the night we went, made it difficult to fully enjoy our dinner, especially in the heat we’ve been experiencing lately. Work those kinks out, and I think Flaming Frango is a good place for a cheeky Nando’s substitute.

Chopstixfix rating: 3/5

Flaming Frango, G/F, 36B Staunton Street, Soho, Central, Hong Kong/Tel: +852 2899 2244/  www.facebook.com/flamingfrango

This tasting was by kind invitation. 

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Robata-san

Riding the Robatayaki craze that has gripped Hong Kong, is Sakesan, which is quietly nestled off Shelley Street by the Mid-levels escalators. Its unassuming entrance meant that I almost missed my stop and had to do a quick side-step Gene Kelly style off the stairs.As I strolled in, I was immediately struck by its open plan layout and high ceilings which gave the illusion of a much bigger interior; a nice contrast to the cramped and built up Soho area. The bar is the first section that greets you and the funky large mural lights in red, purple, blue hues create a chilled out ambiance. As with any Robatayaki, the centrepiece is the robata grill which is set at the back and draws you in.I’m not sure if it’s just me, but these past six months have literally rocketed by and I couldn’t believe that Sakesan, opened as far back as December, let alone the fact that it has taken me half a year to get round to checking it out. Having said that, I firmly believe all new restaurants need a few months to settle into their ‘groove’ and iron out any kinks, regardless of whether everything is seemingly smooth from the beginning.

The menu is quite extensive and reflects the experience of their executive Chef Andre L’Herminier. As per usual, I was starving, but as I was lunching with the two media ladies A and C, I didn’t want to ‘unleash the foodie monster’ on them. Luckily they appeared to sense that I’m an unnaturally greedy person and ordered eight dishes for me to try, (not ALL on my own of course!).

To start was the Seared tuna salad, served with a citrus wafu dressing. I loved the presentation- tiny tuna parcels of goodness, the dressing was refreshing and light, with the citrus cutting through the fish to give a delicate texture. One of the highlights of the meal.The Wagyu beef tataki, (seared wagyu beef with pickles and truffle dressing) was excellent and similarly small and neatly packaged. The pickles gave a good crunchy contrast to the tender beef.There were three seafood dishes up next- the tiger prawn tempura, the lobster dumplings and the scallops with wasabi, apple and sweet soya sauce dressing. The tempura was extremely crispy, the batter thin and most importantly not drenched in oil. The tiger prawn meat, succulent and sweet. The dumplings were generously packed and the scallops fat and beautifully presented. The scallops’ dressing was moreish and I enjoyed the wasabi kick that tickled my tastebuds.A and C insisted on me trying the baby back ribs, which are apparently marinated for 30 hours in a Korean spicy paste. While the meat was tender and aromatic, I couldn’t really taste the spice or feel any heat from the ribs, though it might just mean that my internal chilli sensor is busted from all the Sichuan food I’ve eaten since moving to Hong Kong.I was probably most excited about the pork belly skewers, which were simply prepared with salt and pepper but so scrumptious and FAT. I love fatty pork belly, and when I confessed this to the girls, I thought I noticed a flicker of disgust across their faces. I’m not one to shy away from tasty blubber so I cracked on and scoffed the lot.The last savoury delight before dessert was the Black cod wrapped in a hoba leaf and marinated in Saykio miso sauce. This was a solid dish, great flavours and perfectly cooked cod that flaked off and melted in the mouth.Surprisingly I still had plenty of room for dessert which came in the form of Sake compressed Nashi- a white peach sake sorbet with matcha tea crumble and puffed rice, and the Frozen lemongrass mousse.

The Sake compressed nashi was lovely. The sorbet itself was incredibly subtle in flavour and completely cleansed my palate of all the heavier flavours from the mains. The lemongrass mousse had less of an impact on me than the nashi but was nonetheless an interesting Japanese dessert offering.After lunch, I was given a tour of Sakesan’s private room which sits up to fourteen people and even has a comfy sofa and karaoke. They also offer a weekend Wagashi, (Japanese confectionery/ afternoon tea set), comprised of eleven pastries created by their pastry chef Tracy Wei which is available every Saturday and Sunday between 2.30-6pm. If A la carte doesn’t take your fancy at lunchtime, you can have their set lunch.

Sakesan is a fun addition to the Soho scene and if you haven’t as yet caught the robata fever, this is a good place to have a Japanese influenced shochu cocktail over dinner before continuing the rest of your night in LKF.

Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5

Sakesan, G/F 18 Shelley Street, Soho, Central. Tel: 2525 1660

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You can read the review on Sassy HK too!


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A little slice of Paris

Being a Londoner, I was comforted to find a Soho in Hong Kong too and I was delighted to discover an eclectic mix of restaurants, bars and boutiques. A few months ago J and I tried Café de Paris, a small restaurant on Elgin Street. I remember sniggering slightly when I saw the name as it shares its name with a club in London that my friends and I used to visit on many a drunken night at university. However, a club it is not. Instead you will find a quiet bistro, simply and cleverly decorated with a few select pieces of luggage reminiscent of an interior of a 1940s train at the Gare du Nord Paris station.

Last week I had a sudden craving for French onion soup so we went back for dinner to see if the food was as good as I remembered.  Shortly after sitting down, they brought some piping hot French bread with anchovy butter to start. They were doing a foie gras special menu so J ordered a curious starter of foie gras on a tarte tartin while I went for my soup. The foie gras came as a fat piece and J commented that it tasted a bit weird at first as it was like eating dessert, only instead of custard, he had goose liver instead. Overall he liked it but said the foie gras would’ve been better if sliced into 2 smaller pieces rather than 1 big chunk. My soup was delicious- gooey cheese and lots of onions in a wonderful clear broth.

For mains J had the 10 oz steak frites (US Angus rib eye) which came with a side salad, and I had the sole Meunière with steamed potatoes. His steak was well prepared with a generous helping of garlic butter. My sole was perfectly pan fried and very fresh but I was struggling to finish due the huge bowl of soup I had! I loved the French music in the background and the impeccable service made the evening extremely enjoyable. The ambience in the restaurant is lovely and there is a quaint window table where you can sit and just watch the world go by.

Next time I will try to make it to dessert, but that night my stomach just couldn’t accomodate anymore so I was left drooling at the menu and staring longingly at the words “Crême Brûlée”…. sigh.

Chopstick rating: 4/5 for good food and good value

Café de Paris, 23 Elgin Street, Soho, Central. Tel: 2810 0771

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