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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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.

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Read the review at Sassy Hong Kong too!