Posts tagged “tasty

Liberty Private Works – Hurry before he becomes the next big thing

Update:

I had an email from LPW to confirm that the kitchen will continue to operate after the Exchange Square restaurant/bar opens.  Thank the lord.

Review:

A complete stranger felt compelled to tell me about the fabulous meal he’d had at a new chef’s table back in September 09. I was at a gallery preview of some rather self-indulgent black and white, semi-porno photograhs and this chap was the most interesting thing about the whole affair.

Unfortunately I was about to go deep field for a few months and so have only just had the opportunity to go to Liberty Private Works.  And thank the lord I did!  Renovation work is already underway in a space in Exchange Square and chef Makoto Ono is not sure whether he’s going to be able to keep Liberty operating as well as the new mega-resto.

On to the experience:

Food:  Set menu, which suits me perfectly.  I’m a busy, harassed bee and have to make far to many decisions every day already, so the mental overload that occurs when I have to then tackle the choosing of what I want to shove down my gullet sometimes diminishes the whole experience of enjoying my food.  I’d much prefer to leave it in the capable hands of a trained master, and believe me, Makoto Ono is that.

Unpretentious, well-executed, super-tasty, pleasingly surprising, playful food. He looks proper pleased when you like his food, when you appreciate his taste and texture combos. The guy and his team are genuinely and seriously good.

What did we have? Home-cured gravlax, plumptious scallops, beautiful beef, local sea bass, asparagus, fruit compote, tomato jelly, all sorts, and all beautifully balanced.

Drink:  Doesn’t get better than this. They do have a wine-list and bar, but you can bring your own wine and don’t have to pay corkage!  Bloomin’ marvelous.

As it was gorgeous boy’s birthday, I snaffled a bottle of Ruinart Rose champagne (HK$498 and maybe the best widely available punk out there folks) and a wonderfully good value Torbreck Woodcutters 2006 Shiraz (HK$288) into the restaurant earlier in the day – some of his favourite vinos and perfect choices for an eclectic 6 course meal.

My wonderful Coutt’s concierge had these put by at Rare&Fine Wines on the edge of Queen’s Road West, so I just swooped in, was strong-armed (!@*&?) into a swift tasting of some lovely New Zealand wines and then barreled off down the road to deposit them at LPW pre-meal, with boyf none the wiser. Brilliant party trick that. Many brownie points garnered and lovely to get one over on “He-Who-Usually-Stores-Surprises-Up-His-Sleeve”.

BTW – I do highly recommend Rare&Fine Wines – check em out.

Ambience & Service: Usually I would review these two aspects separately, but because the only people you interact with are the team of Makato Ono and his sidekicks Albert and Claire, I have to consider them together. Liberty Private Works is super small and intimate. The space is maybe 400 sq-ft in total. That’s it: 14 bar stools, bar area/kitchen, team of 3 chefs and a blackboard.

The chefs are respectful, sweet, attentive, easy-going, bloody talented, happy to chat and tell you exactly what you’re getting. Makoto even started doing the washing up whilst waiting for the actual washer-uppers to arrive – and I don’t think he was indicating that it was time for us to leave, I think he just has pride in his kitchen and isn’t worried about getting stuck in.

Just a really chilled, welcoming, happy atmosphere of people making good food and other people enjoying that food. We were a real mixed bunched that evening. Me and the boy, another HK couple, a gweilo/HK business foursome, and an HK/mainland business six-some. Nice.

Hope I’m not boring you with the gushing praise…Anyhow, more good news to come.

Cost: $620 per person. Jeez, you could go to most outlets in So-Lo and spend that on three courses. I would have paid double. Couple that with the $0 corkage and it’s worth the 3 storey climb.

Location: 3F, 12 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong. (Opp California Fitness). Tel +852 5186 3282. email: info@libertypw.com

Liberty’s future is uncertain my dear readers.  The night we went Ono-sama told us that they’d swung the first sledgehammer of the renovation of Aria.  Yes, this chef who left Beijing because our Northern Friends still aren’t quite able to let go of historical umbrage and shunned his Japanese restaurant (woop woop HK’s gain), has the backing to take over a large, prime piece of banker/lawyer territory in Exchange Square.  And, whilst I agree that this town could do with a restaurant that crafts its French onion soup over an 8 hour period, and that knows how to produce a decent Caesar salad (both stated aims), I can’t help crying into my bubbly and raising my hands and eyes to the sky in exhortation that this surely isn’t the only ambition of the man? In Hong Kong. At the moment. Ono is one seriously hot property.

Readers: Dine with him before he hits the big time and you potentially lose him to soup and salad.

Makato Ono: Do not sit back and drown in a vat of HK mediocrity: let the 5* hotels concentrate on comfort food. You sir, need to keep pushing the envelope.

The Grand Stage – Dim Sum in Sheung Wan

Review:

I’ve had lunch at The Grand Stage on the 2nd floor of Western Market twice in the past couple of weeks, and I’m pretty impressed, and only have one quibble.

Photo snatched from their wedding club website

Food: Fairly comprehensive offering of trad Dim Sum. Beef balls, siu mei, wanton, turnip pasties, radish cakes, cha siu bao, sticky rice in lotus leaves – you get the picture.  The execution is also exceedingly good, and I think that it’s some of the tastiest Dim Sum in Hong Kong. It had a certain freshness and crispiness which was very pleasing.

However, and this is just stupidity – it arrived at the table barely warm which really took the edge off for me, and was frustrating – otherwise I’d have been jumping up and down on sofas and declaring a love of Katie Holmes.

The first time I went and experienced this lukewarm fare I put it down to being part of a large group and never being the first to dip into the baskets, but the second time I went we were just a party of four, so the sad fact is their service process must be all screwed up. It just goes to show how good it is though that the taste and freshness shone through the lack of warmth.

Ambience: The Grand Stage must be one of the biggest spaces in Hong Kong. It is fantastic to be under such a soaring ceiling.  It’s all a bit Mainland nightclub what with the red walls and the neon lighting, but it’s a lot of fun and I love the chandeliers. The great thing about the high ceilings is that even when you’re surrounded by 400 other people, the sound gets whipped away into the rafters so you don’t feel that it’s super noisy.

Service: Pretty typical Hong Kong. I’m a gweilo with non-existent Canto skills so I’m used to being misunderstood in Dim Sum restaurants. It was always easy to catch someone’s attention even if it was difficult to convey my meaning, so the fact you got swift service was good enough in my book.

Price: Not much more than $100 per person for a really decent amount of food, so good value.

Location: In Western Market right at the end of Des Voeux Road in Sheung Wan.  Best to book ahead as it seems to always be busy. Tel: (852) 2815 2311.

As I’m often in Sheung Wan I shall return to The Grand Stage again I’m sure. If I had holidaying visitors coming to Hong Kong I would probably take them here over Luk Yu Teahouse and the Dynasty in Wanchai’s Renaissance Harbour View just because it’s a bit more fun in the case of Dynasty and better food and service in the case of Luk Yu. For business lunch though, I would definitely opt for Dynasty.

I was vacillating over the category of The Grand Stage – Mama/Huhu or Candy, but even though the temperature wasn’t spot on, the food was very good and the overall experience has tipped it into the candy category for me – maybe it’s the New Year spirit that is making me feel generous!

Lot 10 – Tiny and Tasty in NoHo

I don’t know about you, but sometimes the inspiration to commit paws to typewriter is difficult to catch – but having looted the wine corner, I’m now armed with a large glass of a rather wonderful Argiano Brunello, and if that doesn’t inspire me – then shoot me now (well when I’ve finished drinking it…)

Right – on to Lot 10.

Review:

Thanks to a couple of comments posted to Caustic Candy, and a scour of Chowhound I decided to give this much ignored (by me, deliberately) little bolt hole a try.

I don’t know why it’s never made me want to give it a go – I’ve seen it for years, and walked by it hundreds of times, but I suppose I’ve been rather tired of “French” restaurants in HK. I know it’s not fashionable, but I just don’t (or didn’t in the case of Plats) think places like La Bouteille, Plats or Le Blanc were really any good (too much dodgy foie gras and low quali steaks), so when I saw Lot 10 open during that gold rush of private kitchen styley establishments I just wasn’t interested (Lot 10 has apparently changed hands since those early 2005 days but who’d have known?)

*Of course the shining example of private kitchen’s for me used to be Frank Ching’s Tribute when it was on Cochrane Street, but that may have been something to do with the wonderful evenings I spent there with some friends of his, where we used to ransack his kitchen after-hours and he’d let us taste all his latest creations. The sooner he’s up and running again the better – Go Frank!

And so to supper:

Food:  French inspired, locally sourced fish where possible, local produce used where possible – yes, yes, yes.  This is what we want Hong Kong.

Companion had French onion soup to start – very good, tasty stock base.

For mains, I had the crispy pork shoulder on a bed of lentils.  For those of you who like bbq pork neck at Thai restaurants, this pork shoulder had a similar texture – incredibly tender with slightly crispy edges. And Oh My Lord the Lentils!  If you think lentils are for hippies, too Robert Carrier 70′s or only fit for dal, then you are very wrong – Lot 10′s lentils were a revelation. They were so subtly seasoned and spiced, they were wonderful (how geeky is that?!).

My wonderful (and in no way erstwhile) dining companion had a steak with a macaroni gratin  - steak was good quality: a well cooked slab of flesh. Macaroni gratin added a very light accompaniment, but was a bit too oot of the ordinary and not a winning combo for either of us – but hey, worth a try.

We did though have lettuce with peas and bacon (grrr, yum, yum) and duck fat roasted potatoes (almost…almost…as good as my own), so overall the food was very well received.

Drinks: Reasonable and well thought out wine list.  We had a very decent Torbreck for around $400.

Ambience: A bolt hole. There are only 3-4 tables downstairs (and it’s a push past the kitchen to sidle into the washrooms). A couple of tables outside on Shing Hing Terrace, and another larger room good for private parties hidden upstairs. Clean lines, white linen, white walls (slightly small tables and chairs, but then it’s a slightly small restaurant).

Service: Quiet and competent service.

Price: We paid around $1200 for a meal for 2.  Mains were around $250 on average. Food was quality, and wine a good price, so I think good value for the experience. Will return.

Location: On corner of Gough St and Shin Hing Terrace, so nice and quiet.  34 Gough Street (NoHo), Central, Hong Kong. Tel 2155 9210.

UPDATE:

Went for lunch last week and had a lovely meal.

Just $98 for two courses + tea or coffee – fantastic value.

I had home cured gravlax and a local caught snapper, grilled which were both very good, and my companion had a good sized, tasty Caesar salad and a very decent steak.  We sat outside on the street terrace and were thoroughly entertained by the guys playing shuttlecock (Jianzi in Mando, not sure what the Canto is), one of whom must have been about 80 and was the very definition of spry.

A perfect break from the office in the middle of the day, and such good value for money (we even succumbed to sharing a chocolate pot for desert for $30 extra – delish). Will become a regular haunt.

Thai Farmers’ Restaurant – Wanchai

Reivew:

There were four of us for supper last night in Wanchai, and we fancied showing our new friends the delights of Thai Hut.

As previously explained, there are only a tiny number of seats there since the Po-leece stopped them from setting up tables outside, so you do take your chances.  Unfortunately, last night  we were unlucky, as there was an old gweilo dude slumped on a stool taking up 3 precious seats, chin on chest, snoring drunkenly away (it was only 11pm), so we had to find an alternative.

That’s how we ended up at Thai Farmers’ restaurant across the way on Lockhart Road, sandwiched between The Bell Inn (which seems to have become the pub of the moment for all the International School kids) and some low dive strip-joint.

Food: All the usual Thai staples. Large menu, pretty much as home-style as Thai Hut. Everything we had was very tasty, although not quite as punch-your-lights-out hot as Thai’s usually like for themselves.  Portions were very generous, and the dips they provided with the pork neck and spring rolls were really good, as were those items themselves.

Drinks:  Standard drinks list for Wanchai – beer, canned softs, a few juices. Cheap and cheerful.

Ambience:  Very simple. Love the bold tablecloths. It’s a little shoebox of a place with seating for not more than 30, clean and simple, if a little rough around the edges.  The only others in the restaurant were a Thai couple, one of whom was a decidedly pre-op lady-boy, in desperate need of a stylist.

Service:  The food came quick, and the staff were friendly and attentive.

Price: We spent just over $400 for four of us, and we were only drinking soft drinks.  We had 6 dishes plus rice. So, really rather good value!

Location: G/F King Tao Building 98 Lockhart Road Wanchai Hong Kong. Tel 2520 6607. Almost opposite Agave.

I hadn’t been to this restaurant for years, and was really wondering why after this meal. Chili Club, which is actually almost upstairs from this place, and  seems to be so popular still after all these years, despite having zero ambience and mass produced tasting fare is a poor second to Thai Farmers’. This little restaurant has more authentic food, a more intimate atmosphere and is great value for money.

Korea Garden – Fast and furious in Sheung Wan.

Review:

I’ve been dining at Korea Garden for the decade or so I’ve been in Hong Kong, and although this is lazy, I’ve really never bothered to find an alternative, as I really like going there.

The Korean lady who runs it has been doing so for a least two decades, setting up in what used to be the Korea Building on Des Voeux Road, which is now the Bahunia Serviced Apartments.

Food: Total comfort food.  BBQ, bibimbap (stone pot), Sam-gye-tang (ginseng chicken soup), etc. Tasty and plentiful, your bbq comes with a table full of kimchi and other banchan, as well as rice and daikon soup, and if you run out, just ask for more and they will keep it coming (within reason).  I’ve enjoyed every single meal I’ve ever had here, although I do spend the next day oozing garlic out of every pore.

Drinks: usual stuff, tea and beers (they also sell Hite and OB), careful when you order spirits, as they are likely to just bring you a full bottle and plonk it on the table (got to admire the Korean appetite for getting completely battered, they really are the Scandi’s of Asia).

Service: Sometimes too swift. When they get very busy you just have to shout out the numbers of what you want. If you’re not quick enough they may run off without taking the whole order. As I say the lady who runs it oversees the restaurant as though she’s feeding her own children – if you are looking for a bit of face time, then chat to her rather than the waiters who will give you short shrift.

Ambience: Plastic flowers, dark wood panelling, low ceilings, tables packed in – it’s not going to win any prizes for style, but it’s busy, jolly and steaming. There are always a bunch of Koreans in the place, either expats or out-of-towners which is a good sign. They also have a couple of good sized private rooms where they will put larger parties.

Price: You can really spend as little or as much as you like here.  A stone pot meal in itself is under $100, whereas some of the top end beef rib bbq’s will set you back $200+ a plate. Usually we spend around $200 a head.  They do an array of good value set menus which are, if I remember correctly, around $180 (+10%) per head.

Location: 1F, Blissful Building, 247 Des Voeux Road, Sheung Wan, very close to MTR exit B. Tel: 2542 2339.

Open: Mon-Sat, lunch and dinner.  This place is rammed at lunchtime, so best to book ahead. I’ve never had a problem yet getting a table in the evening for dinner.

Just thinking about this restaurant now makes me crave bulgogi – I must rally the troops to go.

Double Happiness – One of the good restaurants in SoHo…

Review:

Double Happiness is tiny.  Many an evening has ended in frustration when it’s full, I’m starving, and I’m left wracking my brains about where else I can get tasty East Asian food in SoHo that’s not going to set me back a packet and where I don’t have to traipse up and down the hill in my Botega Venettas (I sometimes live in in Sai Ying Pun, so Soho is on the way home from work otherwise I would rarely go for dinner – I have a love/hate relationship with Soho, I think it’s filled with braying, short-term-expat-swill for the most part, and the bulk of restaurants are over-priced, but there are a few really decent bars and restaurants – for example my other favourite pub 1911 is on on Staunton Street. But enough! that’s a whole other post).

This cafe serves super tasty home-style, mainland rather than Canto Chinese, and does so at reasonable prices.

Food: Mainland Chinese with a few Italian/French additions, which I must admit I haven’t been drawn to myself. They make a mean Sichuan prawns, delicious green jade bamboo shoots, awesome chicken with black beans, and rocking soups made with stocks that have been lovingly tended for days by the taste.

Drinks: Inneresting list of teas and other hot and cold juices, basic range of beers.

Ambience: Red, red, more red. Stuffed with all sorts of nicknacks with the Double Happiness character on them, I’m always tempted to grab the old-school oversize matchbox and run away – it would look perfick on my kitchen shelving.  It’s cute, it’s tiny. It’s got small, hard wooden chairs and narrow tables, so it’s always a bit of balancing act not least for my arse, but also to keep all the dishes on the table as we tend to order a lot.

Service: Family feel, very swift and pleasant.  Unfortunately for buffoons like myself who speak almost no Canto I’ve got no insight into the background of the restaurant/the eclectic mix on the menu as the guys don’t speak a massive amount of English either.

Cost: Reasonable. It’s not cheapest of cheap, but definitely good value for money in Soho. Dinner for 2 comes in at between $170 to $250 per head, my advice is to get a crew together and go gangbusters as the portions are big and there are so many items on the menu you will want to try.

Location: 48 Staunton Street, Central, on the part of the street that’s further on from where Elgin Street veers steeply off to the left. 2549 1862

Open: Monday to Saturday lunch through dinner. Sunday dinner only. Jesus Hongkees work hard.

Cafe de Laos, Bangkok – Bring me my sossidge.

Review:

If you haven’t been to Laos, then you really should.  It is a beautiful, simple, spiritual place with awesomely hot food, and one particular dish that I will kill for – Laos sausage (the very good ones in Thai Hut in Wanchai, still pale in comparison to the real thing).

Laos

If you need some more convincing then the next time you’re in Bangkok go try the food.  There are a few Laotian/Isaan restaurants in BKK, the most well known one being Vientiane Kitchen.  We were put off this one by the concierge and the fact that they have a band and dancing, which isn’t really my bag, so instead we went for Cafe de Laos.

Cafe de Laos

Food: Very tasty food.  Laos sausage-tastic.  These are rustic, garlicky slightly fermented sausages served with fresh coriander leaves, slices of chili and peanuts.  Bloody love them.  The beer marinated pork neck and  jungle curry were also really good. Quite a lot of interesting dishes with more of a bent towards river fish and shellfish rather than seafood as Laos is landlocked, so flavours are quite delicate.  DO tell them that you eat food hot like they do, otherwise they will tone down on the chillis for sure, thinking that you are a useless nancy farang.

Drinks: They serve Beer Lao which is always a bonus.  They even have a wine list, although I’m not really up for pairing Laos food with wine yet.  Beer is perfect for me!

Ambience: Restaurant is in an old colonial house, and it’s pleasant enough, but the main ground floor room where we ate was rather bright and lacked any vibe at all, which is a shame because the food is very good.  There is also a lot of wood and tiles, so very little material that damps down noise.  You do feel a bit like you are in a National Trust tea-room in the UK.

Service: Service was a little slow, and fortunately for us they actually forgot one dish which was fine as we were stuffed.

Price: Very reasonable, can’t remember exactly, but it was very good value for the quality of food.

Location: In Silom, 16 Silom Road Soi 19. Tel +662 6352 3389

There are a few more Laos and Isaan restaurants in Bangkok which I would try over going back to this restaurant, simply because I believe there must be somewhere with better ambience.  Can’t fault the food though.