If you're looking for al fresco lunch venues before the humidity spikes, check out Pomegranate Kitchen in Aberdeen. The once private kitchen is now open for lunch on week days only serving a range of dishes embracing the owner's Mediterranean roots with local flavours. While the menu boasts seabass, salmon and lamb, we stuck to veggie options, trying the fattet, a unique (to me anyway....) way of presenting the humble humus by frying a pitta bread and topping it with warm chickpeas, cool tahini yoghurt and buttery pine nuts. Alongside this we loved the Tunisian Shakshouka, dipping the Turkish bread into the runny yolks and smokey vegetable ragout. And on the side we took the herb salad in its signature dressing of sumac and pomegranate molasses. With its white table cloths and abundance of fresh flora, Pomegranate is the much needed oasis of calm in industrial Aberdeen, with easy parking at One Island South. Thank you for having us @pomegranatekitchenhk !
Let's face it, the food is average and the service dire, but why are we always drawn back to Cococabana? I think I now know... This was possibly our third family lunch at this beachside haunt (why aren't there more like this in HK?!) where as soon as I inhale my second glass of rose and glance up at the Ibizan style white interiors while listening to the restaurant's ambient playlist, I experience a magical form of escapism, believing I am on that Balearic isle once again, dancing on the beach... Then the baby starts crying, my daughter knocks over my wine and my son tells he needs to go to the loo, and I am come crashing back down to reality. But it's a pretty good one anyway I guess... Back to the restaurant, this is THE place to sip rose while enjoying the view and vibes from this Mediterranean eaterie. The a la carte is a little pricey ($490 for steak and chips) and we are never drawn to that many of the dishes on it, but the set menu is good value at $320 a head where we shared antipasti (average), Greek salad (difficult to go wrong), Piri Piri prawns on couscous, pan-fried chicken and seabass with an olive oil mash. The latter fish was the highlight. Service was slow, and we had to repeatedly request forgotten items, but they were super busy today. Despite this, we'd still return (maybe in another 12 months when our memory does its usual job of sifting out the bad stuff!) purely for that Ibiza vibe....
Parfait di cioccolato - possibly the best white chocolate semi freddo I have tasted with that perfect balance of somewhere between ice-cream and mousse, sweetened only with honey rather than sugar. And having ploughed my way through most of the dessert menu (it was a tough lunch meeting) at Gia Trattoria Italiana. I can also highly recommend the freshly churned pistachio ice-cream and tiramisu, all classic Italian desserts but in difference to other Italian restaurants in HK, all the ingredients are shipped twice weekly from Italy. Then once you have finished your meal, you can pop downstairs to do your grocery shopping at Mercato by Giando in the vain (slightly tipsy) hope that you can recreate these culinary masterpieces at home....
My cousin is in town this week, so we took him last night to Chilli Fagara for the obligatory introduction to mouth numbing Szechuan. This is definitely my favourite regional cuisine, and also restaurant of its type. We kicked off with the "crisped slices of beef" and its perfect harmony of sweet and spice. This is a must order, especially if you are a bit of wuss when it comes to the next couple of dishes I am about to describe. The "Emperor's Choice fiery hot prawns", for example, are damn good too once you have located the actual subject amongst the enormous bowl of chilli peppers. Pictured is the climactic "fish in a spice infused broth" after which I lost the power of speech for a good 5 minutes and possibly the reason my husband ordered it. Has anyone actually drunk that whole broth? I would have major respect for that. Even identifying a floating fish fillet and bringing it to my lips was pretty terrifying, but strangely addictive. As usual it was a memorable meal, that lasted longer than most as we had to take breaks now and then while the tastebuds tingled and we waited for the feeling to return. Indeed, the restaurant is fairly apt in its own website's description of the food: "orgasmic"... What are your favourites here? Did you know you can now get takeout too for this place via @deliveroo_hk ? Not sure it makes for the most romantic night in however, although mainly because whenever I eat Szechuan with my husband we normally argue/boast about who has the highest chilli threshold ...
Din Tai Fung
This is the hive of activity that contributes towards what was described by the New York Times in 1993 as one of the top ten restaurants in the WORLD (well, the original Taiwan branch anyway)! We have two in HK now, both with a Michelin star and we visited the Causeway Bay one for lunch today, recently having reopened after a refurb. We ordered the infamous xiao long bao, unsurprisingly flawless, and also enjoyed the pork and black truffle dumplings as well as pork and shrimp, and those in Szechuan oil. $1000 for 4 adults and 3 kids, it's good value with efficient table service and definitely up there with my favourite spots for dim sum in Hong Kong, although I may have somewhat preferred the TST branch...
While most people collect stamps on their coffee shop loyalty card, my husband does the same for Japanese pork cutlet. I only learnt of his obsession with this dish when my first (and only) attempt at home was met with unparalleled disdain over the dinner table one evening. He then explained that after 2 years of living in Japan and 3 in a HK office next to Saboten, the bar had been set fairly high. While I have therefore given up on the homemade version, on the kids' birthdays and other occasions we sometimes meet him for lunch here, which I highly recommend as a family meal out. First and foremost, the booth layout of the restaurant prevents small children from escaping. Secondly there are interactive parts of the meal to keep them entertained e.g. grinding the sesame seeds with the HP tasting sauce (excuse my ignorance, would love to hear from someone Japanese what this really is...). The menu is very simple. We all eat shredded cabbage with that moreish sesame dressing that the kids appear to love. Not sure how else they would tolerate a bowl of raw greens. Pickles and rice arrive - another crowd pleaser. Then choose between the pork cutlet, shrimp or a ham & cheese croquette - or be indecisive and order the mix as I did in the photo. Miso soup accompanies it. There's not much else on the menu which may explain why everything arrives flawlessly. It's a well trodden path. Little in the way of dessert but there are a few ice-cream places around to hit afterwards if the mood takes you. We tried @honeycremehk after this meal. Saboten is part of a chain in HK so just find the one near you...
This was my first go at the Korean soft serve ice-cream outlet in Causeway Bay where I chose the best selling "honey comb" flavour which included a real lump of the stuff from local bees. The ice-cream is milky rather than vanilla but quite pleasant and not overly sweet. I was also tempted by the "caramel popcorn" and intrigued by the "mixed grain" where they essentially cover a scoop in flax, black sesame, barley, oats and rye. My kids opted for the "organic cotton candy", basically a regular ice-cream in a cone covered in grey (wtf?) cotton candy. I watched their faces getting stickier and muckier while kidding myself that the lack of pink colouring and "organic" adjective made it all ok... Anyone tried the other flavours?
If you're looking for a sophisticated Vietnamese, then Quest is your place for the next couple of months, until the menu changes again (as it does quarterly), and apparently next time it will be anything but Asian... The ex-TBLS chef is of Vietnamese heritage, having trained in French cuisine and fine dining, the diversity of which is reflected in his current offering. He opens 5 days a week for dinner with an 8 course tasting menu, although those "tastes" are pretty substantial. Highlights for me included the opening consommé with the freshest of flavours to awaken the palate, the poshest banh mi I have yet to encounter, chicken soup inspired by his mother's post-Thanksgiving pho, a sharp mint 'slaw perfectly offsetting the richness of barbecued eel, short ribs that melted instantly on the tongue and a yumberry sorbet that I admittedly ate "because it was there" but was surprised to discover it was my favourite pudding. Lastly, a little dessert drama... Knowledgeable and amenable waiting staff kindly warned us not to pierce the chocolate ravioli with too much gusto. Sadly this was like a red rag to a bull... While I ventured into mine with an uncharacterful amount of trepidation, I still managed to spray our neighbouring table with its chocolatey contents. My dining companion, despite being known more for her self-control, fared little better, this time covering her dress and the floor with the sauce. We laughed. A little fun marked the end of a well executed, curated and most elegant Vietnamese meal (apart from the mess caused by our table that is...) Quest by Que, 28/F, 239 Hennessy Rd, Wan Chai.
Today we brunched at Mum in 1 Island South with each member of the family coming to a separate conclusion! The drinks are fabulous - healthy, innovative juices (cucumber latte anyone?!) such as my homemade ginger ale containing fresh ginger, lemongrass, Japanese black sugar (full of iron allegedly) and soda. The cappuccino was also delicious, not to mention perfectly "hearted", and the kids enjoyed various berry concoctions while endlessly entertained by a blackboard wall and packet of chalk. Sadly the food didn't match the quality of drinks. Banana and honey on thick white bread and a croissant with scrambled egg were two simple dishes that satisfied the kids while as adults we were underwhelmed with our selection. It's a veggie cafe and we both chose the mozzarella and mushroom ciabatta, the ratio of which seemed a little converse. Thick white bread (again) encased a couple of mushroom slithers and so little cheese that one could discern the individual gratings. Very little passion in that sandwich... Good value it certainly was however. I haven't seen a family brunch bill that low in a while. Anyone ordered anything good? I think we will only return if we're thirsty...
Cirqle, Ovolo Southside
Today we brunched with a few other families at CIRQLE, Ovolo Southside. We sat on the terrace where there was a DJ plus kids' play area, the combination of which made us feel like responsible parents while simultaneously transporting us back to more irresponsible days... Differentiating the brunch further is a Japanese onsen egg station, sangria bar and free-flow Perrier-Jouet champagne. The salad bar was more eclectic than most, including a sumac dressing, and there were also interesting homemade sauces to accompany the barbecued meats such as chermoula and chimmichurri. As the condiment queen, I was most excited by these. The desserts did not overwhelm however but sometimes that's no bad thing and besides, I didn't hear the kids complain. Definitely a positive addition to the ever improving Wong Chuk Hang.
Today we brunched at the new branch of Elephant Grounds in Wong Chuk Hang. Read full review here...
Hands down best Indian takeaway in HK has to be this, 阿拉丁咖喱屋 Aladin Mess in Causeway Bay, and my opinion does not come from a single experience but multiple Friday night takeouts over the last year or so. And I have eaten a lot over my life too - as a child I would compete with my Dad in ordering the hottest curry in the restaurant (vindaloo consumed aged 4) and I studied in Birmingham, the actual home (did you know...) of the Balti... Obviously if you have any other recommendations in HK, I would love to hear, but this (slightly tatty) Indian restaurant has never disappointed and pretty good at $560 for all these dishes to take out. Veg pakoras, chicken tikka, chicken madras, aloo gobi, bhindi masala, paneer mutter, aloo paratha & brisket masala are a few of the dishes pictured. Depth and flavour to the sauces, decent cuts of meat and no oil slicks. Curry coma now commencing... Happy weekend and congrats on surviving the first week of the school holidays! Aladin Mess, 2/f, Fu Hing House, 60 Russell St, Causeway Bay. 2808 0250
Gaucho Hong Kong: the sign of a good lunch is emerging from it after dark, and that is invariably what happens when we visit the Gaucho. I have long harboured a fondness for this restaurant group, having frequented the London branches with some gusto in my 20s, which was possibly the driving factor behind our decision to honeymoon in Argentina some years later. Read my full review here of the HK spot, which is not only in awe of the steak & red wine, but oh, those cheesy bread rolls....
MY birthday means MY choice of cuisine, and unfortunately for my children, I was in the mood for some fire, so we picked a Sichuan based on photos from the well known HK food blog Hungry Hong Kong. There's no more reassuring way to be met from the lift in a Szechuan joint than by an enormous vase of dried chilli peppers. It's possibly the best way to prepare the taste buds for the forthcoming onslaught, or orgasm as I prefer to class it. The kids fared pretty well actually thanks to a syrupy spice-free lemon chicken and egg fried rice plus my 2 year old (who also likes Burgundy, Roquefort and wasabi nuts) happened to take a shine to the fiery peanut hor d'oeuvres. We chose a few benchmark dishes of which the spicy sautéed prawns were by far the highlight whose sauce I mopped up with rice and a lot of gusto until I could no longer feel my face, the true sign of a good Sichuan. The scallion ginger beef was sweet and crunchy but a little too syrupy for us. Chilli oil wontons, 2 glasses of wine and a bottle of water brought us to $1129. What's your favourite Sichuan in HK?? P.s. If the restaurant reads this, thanks for allowing us back in as my husband has since informed me his behaviour had been less dignified on a previous visit for a stag party...
January 31st 2015
It was our 5th wedding anniversary yesterday and the prospect of celebrating with edible flowers and kombucha shooters did not meet my husband with delight. However, we left the molecular NUR with him declaring it as one of his best meals in HK. Result! NUR prides itself on its nutrition as well as taste, and besides dehydrated carrots and fermented earl grey (kombucha) to drink, we enjoyed wild mackerel flown in from Japan, smoked squid and a both tolerant and knowledgable sommelier (ex-Amber) who graciously took back and replaced 2 bottles of oxidised wine. There were too many dishes to rave about in our 10 plate tasting menu but the wild salmon roe was close to perfection not to mention the heirloom tomato juice, which while colourless like water was like drinking a vine. I found the pigeon a little rich for so late in the proceedings but he enjoyed it, especially when combined with the dashi pear and barley mash. The photo, like an apothecary shop, exhibits jars of earl grey kombucha, dried exotic mushrooms and a ginger turmeric fermentation. The restaurant's plan is to fill the walls with open bookcases of their most special ingredients. This combined with an open kitchen makes it in every way a foodie's dream destination and we look forward to another special occasion to go there.
As the protests continue, we reminisce over quieter moments enjoyed yesterday at The Stoep on Lantau island. This is a South African restaurant with a large selection of barbecued meats including boerewors and ostrich. Highlights for us included the seeded bread dipped into an almond, tomato and capsicum dish washed down with white sangria. The rest of the meal is less clear... Getting to Lantau from HK Island can be a bit of a shag in the car as you shouldn't (but can if the Lantau guards are napping.... shhhhh) however it's very pleasant arriving by junk which is how we got there yesterday.