Saturday, 15 August 2015

Fofo by el Willy: Not just a funny name

For a restaurant with a funny name, FoFo by el Willy takes itself pretty seriously.  Taking on the moniker of it's namesake in Shanghai, Fofo Hong Kong is the latest in a burgeoning chain of restaurants from chef Willy Trullas Moreno.  Originally from Barcelona Spain, Willy started with the original Fofo in Shanghai but has taken his concept of authentic Spanish cuisine and made as accessible to as many people as possible.

I first visited Fofo by el Willy a few months ago, thinking that the name sounded cool, but mostly because of a rad looking tasting menu that was available for a short time.  I'm not going to say much about that initial experience, except to say that the service was poor and left me unimpressed.  What did impress me was the way the team at Fofo reacted to my issues and had me back for a second visit.

The head chef of Fofo by el Willy in Hong Kong is talented chef Alex Martinez Fargas, also from Barcelona, a man that takes his food very seriously indeed.  With a slew of awards, which includes a recommendation from the Michelin Guide and a Best Restaurant 2105 award from the HK Tatler, Alex had done a top job of bringing the fun concept of Fofo and turning it into a serious contemporary Spanish diner.

Assembly - gastropub in TST

As big as Hong Kong is, it's still amazing how small it can feel at times!  I talk of coincidences mainly, as in how likely is it that you will find yourself in a situation that has a sense of deja vu or serendipity.  I'm slowly getting to know my new city by the only way you can, getting out and exploring and just wandering the streets.  A little while ago, wandering around with the girl, we randomly walked around the streets of Kowloon and came across a little street, actually, more of a laneway called Knutsford Terrace.  Now, Knutsford Terrace is like a little party strip with restaurants and bars for as far as the eye can see and looked a little like a mini Lan Kwai Fong.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and I found myself at the very same Knutsford Terrace for a little blogger get together.  We were there to check out the latest menu and offering from Assembly, part of the Prive Group's stable of restaurants, that included Michelin Starred NUR (a restaurant on my must visit list).

I was the first of our little group to arrive (surprise, surprise), but it wasn't too long before I was joined by our host for the evening JC and fellow Hong Kong food bloggers SupertasterMel and Silverthoughts.  It was the first time I'd met either blogger, so I was a little nervous to begin with, but it wasn't long before we were chatting like old friends!  Ahh, the beauty of food is that it's so inclusive and a great way to share passions.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Mrs Pound - Secret entrance was the highlight

What happens when you come across a place that promises so much, but delivers so little? Somewhere that should be memorable but is almost instantly forgettable?  Well, I for one get pretty disappointed and tell a few of my friends.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. There has been a movement in many cities around the world to the speakeasy style of restaurant and bar.  I've written about a few before and usually they are pretty cool and mysterious.  The concept of the speakeasy was spawned in the early 1920's as a reaction to the completely ridiculous prohibition on alcohol, which to be honest also created the modern concept of organised crime - bootleggers anyone?  Anyway, before I get too political, the speakeasy also went when prohibition ended, but they are back, and in a big way.

A speakeasy is essentially a secret bar, now often a secret restaurant but the irony is that they are often the most popular of places and hardly secret!

One speakeasy that's been garnering a lot of attention, both here and overseas is a little spot called Mrs Pound.  Located in Sheung Wan, Mrs Pound has an interesting back story (found here in full), which includes a sordid but illustrious career of a burlesque dancer who was rumoured to have many lovers but eventually ran away with a conservative and reserved Hong Kong gentleman called Mr Ming.  So enamoured with Mrs Pound was Mr Ming that he gave her his favourite stamp shop, which she promptly turned in to her personal playground, resplendent with secret entrance!

Catalunya - a slice of El Bulli in HK?

There are restaurants that are so famous that they transcend the industry and fundamentally change it.  Current paradigm changer is Copenhagen's Noma but Heston Blumenthal's the Fat Duck is probably better known for changing things up.  The grandaddy of them all though has to be El Bulli, Ferron Adria's Spanish game changer, a restaurant that has closed but its legend lives on.  I was never lucky enough to visit El Bulli, but then, very few were.

It was with great excitement that I realised that some of the team behind El Bulli had established a restaurant right here in Hong Kong, and that I'd be able to experience some of the brilliance of the famed restaurant, albeit a tenuous link.  Catalunya is located in a quiet side street in Morrison Hill (the back of WanChai), hardly the setting for one of Hong Kong's hottest restaurants, but in a way it's oddly poetic that a such a Spanish beauty can be hidden so well.  My excitement remained at insane levels for a few days while I maintained a fantasy that I'd be dining at a spot helmed by Alain Devahive Tolosa and Pol Perello, the El Bulli trained chefs that ran the kitchen......  at one time!

My bubble was burst by a well known and connected chef out of Singapore, who sent me a quiet FB message to inform me that the dynamic duo had moved on from Catalunya.  C'est la vie I guess, but it did help settle my expectations for our meal, with were rapidly reaching unrealistic proportions!

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Serge et le Phoque - relaxed French fine dining

Do you need a five star location to serve five star food?  It's a question worth asking.  I'd recently dined at perennial fine diner Amber (see post here), located in the oh-so-swanky Landmark Oriental and blessed with two Michelin Stars as well as a rating in the top 50 restaurants in the world.  It was lovely, if not a little sterile.  I mean it's nice walking through Central's million dollar shops to get to a meal, but it doesn't feel like old school Hong Kong.

I'd heard about a fancy little French fine diner that felt like it didn't need the fancy location to produce amazing food, so I set about checking it out.  Serge et le phoque is located in the back streets of Wan Chai and to get there you need to get out your map (well, SatNav) and then traverse the back streets, past the open fish markets and fruit vendors before finding the unassuming little restaurant.  The sights and smells of a more traditional Hong Kong assaulted my senses as we traipsed through the streets and when we finally walked through the black velvet curtain at the front door of Serge et le phoque, I was ready for just about anything.

What I found was an interesting little set up that was part post industrialist warehouse and part fancy dining room.  The area was split between a private dining room, sectioned of by more black velvet along with a series of circular tables surrounded by comfy booth style seating and along the front of the dining area (where we were sitting), tiny little two person tables facing the restaurant.  While I found the tables tiny, they were at least serviceable, but I think I'd have preferred to have the seats facing the huge plate glass window at the front of Serge, which provided a TV style view of the comings and going in busy Wan Chai.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Craftsteak - Open fire cooking

One of the most famous names in steak restaurants is Tom Colicchio, who is better known in his role as head jude go Top Chef (one of my favourite cooking shows).  I was pretty excited when I was wandering around Soho in Hong Kong one day and saw that there was a Craftsteak in Hong Kong. Upon further investigation though, I was disappointed to find out that it was in no way associated with it's more famous namesake.

I wasn't surprised though to find out that Craftsteak HK was actually part of Dining Concepts, arguably the most prolific restaurant group in this part of the world.  While I was mildly disappointed that I wouldn't get the quality and styings of a global celebrity chef, I knew that at least Craftsteak HK would be the real deal (or at least I hoped).

We'd not made a reservation but managed to easily score a table for a mid week on-the-way-home-from-work dinner.  Securing a table down near the open plan kitchen, I was able to get a view of the open fire custom made charcoal fired grill.  We were given a couple of menus to look over and it became clear quite quickly that Craftsteak was the king of meats, with a good selection of cuts of beef and lamb from the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

Sky Bar - seafood-oyster-dessert, two out of three ain't bad?

So far in Hong Kong, I've not had the best of runs when it comes to seafood.  More often than not, I've ended up a little sick after chomping down on a seafood meal.  I wanted to put an end to that trend, so we decided to check out the Sky Bar, a little spot in Causeway Bay that is known for it's seafood.  Part of the Mr Steak Concept group that runs a heap of steak restaurants around Hong Kong (and one that I would later visit), The Sky Bar takes a bit of a different track and is a bar restaurant that dabbles in a little bit of every style but is mostly about the seafood. 

Getting to The Sky Bar meant traversing the city to get to Causeway Bay, which is probably one of the busiest and most densely populated parts of Hong Kong.  It's always a bit of a challenge, especially since the usual pace of people walking about is slow and very slow!  Not only is Causeway Bay one of the more densely populated spots on the planet, it's also the most expensive commercial real estate on the planet and I wondered if the Sky Bar location would factor into the pricing of the meal.

After surviving the crush, we arrived at the Sky Bar at was apparently staff change over time.  We were shown to our seats and given menus, then promptly ignored for about 15 minutes while the staff settled in for a team meeting and pep up session.  It was kind of amusing to see but also a little frustrating as we wanted to eat!

Bistecca - Another Dining Concepts Gem

Those crazy cats at Dining Concepts just keep rolling with an impressive array of restaurants and our exploration of their portfolio continued when we checked out one of their many steak restaurants.  Bistecca, Italian Steak Restaurant is located in Hong Kong hotspot Lan Kwai Fong and also has the distinction of being in the SCMP Good Eating Guide's top 100 tables of HK.

Bistecca is an easy walk from my work in Central, so it's pretty convenient for those after work dinners when you don't want to travel too far but get a quality meal.  Like so many restaurants in HK, you need to find the right building then head for the elevator to find the place.  I really love this about HK, it's like being transported to a new reality every time the lift door opens, each floor has a seemingly never ending stream of restaurants.  This time we walked into an exposed red brick interior that had shades of rustic Tuscany and by the time we were seated, I almost felt like we were in provincial Italy for our dinner.

Except for the window view, which was all Hong Kong!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...