Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Casual Dining - The Chop House

After living in Hong Kong for around six months, I'm starting to get a bit of a feel for the food scene in this monolith of a foodie city.  Now, I'm not going to pretend that I've got it nailed, it's likely that will never happen, no matter how many restaurants I visit, but I am getting attuned to the vibe.  Most of the time, I find it pretty easy to track down a restaurant that feels right, a restaurant that I'd happily go back to again and again.  However, every now and then, I find a spot that doesn't really resonate, a spot that's pretty forgettable and sometimes a restaurant that is just plain terrible.

It's not as if you can pick the quality of a restaurant by an area in Hong Kong, there are gems in just about every part of the city.  Causeway Bay has some very fond memories for me, largely due to our regular haunt, Din Tai Fung (see post here), but also such gems as Penthouse By Harlan Goldstein (see post here) and Paradise Dynasty (see post here).  Wanting to expand our Causeway Bay dining experience, we made our way to Soundwill Plaza (the home of the aforementioned Penthouse) for an evening at the Wooloomooloo Group's The Chop House.

The Wooloomooloo Group is responsible for a swag of premium steakhouses in Singapore and Hong Kong, as well as being named after one of Sydney's most famous inner city suburbs (Russell Crow's old stomping grounds - yes, I know it's spelt slightly different too!).  With Wooloomooloo Prime and Steakhouse the premium brands, the group have established a slightly more relaxed, casual dining experience called the Chop House.  

Sunday, 21 June 2015

NOM - Not Only Meatballs, sure, but totally delicious

When writing a food blog, I usually like to tell a little bit of a story that leads into the meal, sometimes it's pretty easy and other times, well, it can be more challenging.  Very rarely do I have a few tales to tell, but it just so happened that with NOM, I had a couple.  So, instead of wracking my head to cut it down to one, I'll tell both!

NOM stands for Not Only Meatballs, which is ostensibly a specialist meatball restaurant that does serve considerably more than delicious little balls of meat.  I'd developed a little bit of a fetish in 2013, when I spent a month in Manhattan and went on a meatball finding odyssey (see post here).  New York is often considered one of the central spots globally (Italians would have something to say about that) when looking for meatballs and I have to say, I found some spectacular little spots, often in unusual circumstances.  

So, when the girl suggested we check out NOM, I was pretty darn excited, I wanted to see what the Hong Kong version of meatballs would be like.  Look, I know that HK is a global city and there is an amazing array of western style restaurants, but I can tell you now that there is a gulf between the good and the bad.  

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Ronin - a 'speak easy' of a restaurant

I'm sure you know what a speak easy is, right?  It's a secret location that came into prominence in the 1920's in the United States as a consequence of the prohibition on alcohol.  Almost exclusively, the speak easy is a bar, hard to find and normally a heap of fun.  

We'd heard some great things about a little Japanese restaurant called Ronin, which is the sister restaurant of Yardbird (see post here) and Sunday's Grocery (see post here).  Of course, after having an amazing experience at the aforementioned dining spots, we were pretty excited about checking out the latest restaurant.  Located in On Wo Lane in Central Hong Kong, Ronin has a reputation as a spot that's pretty hard to find, and as it turned out, we couldn't even find the entrance while we were standing right out the front.

Which brings me back to the concept of a speak easy.  It turned out that the door to Ronin was a little grey/black number that was almost impossible to see in the dark, but once we found the sliding door, we were transported to a super sleek and sexy set up bar.  We were shown to our seat, which was right in the middle of the bar and gave us an amazing view of countless bottles of Japanese whisky.  We were given a set of menus, that once we flipped through a few times, realised were whisky and drinks menu.  I leaned across to SC and whispered in her ear 'are you sure they serve food here?'

Sunday, 7 June 2015

L'aLtro - trading on former glory

I've often wondered what helps a restaurant lose a Michelin Star. The hard work and dedication that goes into an award winning restaurant is nothing short of hard toil and a fanatical level of detail. After going through the pain and effort to get a star, to lose one must be gut wrenching.  But, to lose one, there must be a reason and after visiting L'aLtro in Central Hong Kong, I have a better understanding of how this could happen.

A little bit of research had gone into finding a restaurant in Central that would allow us to grab a bite to eat on the way home from work.  We'd found a decent looking spot in one of the many 'restaurant buildings' in Hong Kong, you know the ones, where the first ten to fifteen floors are take up by restaurants.  The only problem in the research was that L'aLtro had lost it's Michelin Star in 2015, which on it's own wasn't too shocking, surely it would still be a decent place to eat?

We had an inkling of our answer when we stepped out of the lift to find that the concierge desk empty and a waiter hovering in the dining room, back to the entry just walking aimlessly.  It was a little strange and we waited to see how long this state of affairs would last, but after about ninety seconds, the maitre d' arrived with a big smile and asked us if we had a reservation.  After confirmation, and a quick exchange in Cantonese with the waiter, we found ourselves led to what was probably the worst table in a completely empty restaurant, right next to a building pylon.  We were a bit dismayed and were about to ask for another table, when the maitre d' magically appeared, apologised and offered us a much better table.


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