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.  

Which leads me to my second little tale...  Unbeknownst to me, I'd read an article about a Hong Kong chef who'd copped some grief about wearing a t-shirt in his kitchen (mind you, it does get pretty darn hot here).  As a response, that chef posted a photo online (and found its way into my Facebook feed), the photo was a great piss-take, where he was wearing full suit and tie.  That chef?  Fabrizio Napolitano of NOM.

Quite serendipitous that we would be in NOM that very same week!

Our secret to getting seats at hard to get into restaurants is to book really early, at least by HK standards, so we arrived for our NOM sitting at 7pm and entered a mostly empty restaurant.    Unusually, we weren't the first seated in the restaurant, which I took as a good sign.  We were quickly given some menus to look over, which had a pile of great looking options, as well as the NOM Philosophy statement.....
"Here at NOM, each guest is treated like a family member.  That's why we cook the way we would for loved ones"
The menu went on to explain Chef Fabrizio's approach to cooking, where he consciously and carefully picks every ingredient, looking for only the healthiest of produce.  He only chooses meats from Australia and New Zealand for their well known adherence to ethical and moral approachs to livestock farming.  Going one step further, Chef Fabrizo only chooses fish from wild and sustainable locations in New Zealand, Finland, Italy and Australia.  We were sold before we even ordered, so there was a lot to live up to from the promise in the menu!

Orders taken, a little fabric container filled with crusty bread was then placed on our table, along with a little plate of just-the-right-softness butter.  I was pretty hungry, so I munched away on the bread and butter and before too long, I'd polished off the lot and committed the cardinal sin...  I'd filled up on bread!

I hoped that it wouldn't impact towards the end of the meal, but suspected it might once the first round of meatballs were delivered.  The first of which was a wonderful looking plate of beef meatballs, covered in a Neapolitan ragout and sitting on ricotta parcels wrapped in Paccheri pasta.  It was quite the vision and compared favourably with any meatball dish we'd sampled while in NYC.  There were three large moist looking meatballs, with a little melted cheese sitting atop and after grabbing one each and trying, were declared amazing!  The ragout was perfect but the ricotta wrapped in pasta added an extra dimension that elevate the dish to classic status. There was no argument over who would get the last piece, I left it for the girl as our next set of meatballs had arrived.

Regular readers of my blog know that I love chorizo and octopus, so you can imagine how happy I was when I saw that NOM had a chorizo and octopus meatball, which came with a carrot puree, hazelnuts and bottarga (dried fish roe).  Looking an absolute vision in the iron skillet in which it was delivered, albeit a rustic vision, there were four meatballs piled high sitting on a bed of thick carrot puree.  I wasn't sure how the combination would go, but as it turned out, it was superb.  There was the right level of heat with the chorizo meat, and an interesting contrasting texture from the nicely cooked octopus.  Normally SC would steer clear of such a dish, but after prompting, tried one of the meatballs and loved it too.  It was a spectacular meatball dish!

This was where my earlier folly of filling up on bread impacted, especially after consuming some delicious meatballs.  We'd been optimistic by ordering a pizza each from the Not Only Meatballs menu!  In hindsight, a pizza to share would have probably been more appropriate.  Anyway, live and learn.

SC had spied and ordered the Diavola pizza, which was a thick tomato sauce accompanied by plenty of mozzarella and some spicy salami.  The pizza looked great on the plate, with a pizza base that was perhaps a little thicker than we would have liked.  It was good pizza, the salami was hot as hoped and the pizza base was nice and crispy, it was just too much food.

My pizza was the Margherita DOP, which stands for Denominazione di origine controllata, a protected designation of origin law which guards the names of regional foods, and for pizza normally means a genuine Neapolitan pizza.  My pizza certainly looked the goods, and half of it was as good as any pizza gets, tasty and just a little bit sweet from the tomato sauce.  But, the other half was just a little thick and doughy, so I ended up leaving that half.  I would have had to leave it anyway, I was stuffed, it just meant that I didn't have to make myself sick by trying!

We were way too stuffed to even think about dessert and we had to decline the offer to take the pizza home and also reaffirm that there was nothing wrong, we'd just suffered from eyes-bigger-than-belly syndrome.  While the wait staff took our half eaten plates away, there was a quite discussion about the need to come back to NOM soon, to try out more of the menu and the next time leave room for dessert.

Service on the night had been great, with plenty of wait staff around to top up water glasses and keep the meal flowing.  We did feel a little guilty about leaving the food and refusing the teams hospitable offer to pack up the food for us to take, but after a number of reassurances, felt that they finally understood that we'd just eaten too much food.

The partnership of ex international ruby player Ricky Cheuk and Fabrizio Napolitano, who'd worked in a number of Michelin starred restaurants has churned out a great little restaurant.  It's located in one of the most competitive restaurant strips in HK (probably the world) and seems to be doing a roaring trade, but with food that good, and a head chef that clearly doesn't take himself too seriously, its no wonder that NOM is now on our list of must re-vist restaurants.

The beef meatballs were something special
But you can't go past chorizo and octopus!  NOMs indeed!
One pizza each?  A bit optimistic!
NOM is quite a large space and getting in early is definitely the ticket!
Some comfy booths on offer, these filled up quite quickly!
And there is a bar area too, it was still too early for the bar to be pumping

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