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.

I like the look of the menu, there were a number of items that really stood out, in particular the sausage board, which was designed for two and came packed with chorizo, toulouse, merguez, calabresse and veal.  Try as I might, I just couldn't convince the girl to share the board with me, so I sadly passed and made a mental note that I'd have to return.

We were given a cast iron bread plate that had little bread rolls, fresh out of the oven, that reminded of the sweet bread rolls you used to get from Kentucky Fried Chicken when you were a kid (well, you still might!)

As we'd been pigging out on steak of late, it was mains and sides only and SC decided that she would deviate from the original plan and chose the New Zealand baby lamb chops.  The two huge chops came simply presented on a cast iron skillet with a small pile of sea salt on the side. Described as baby lamb chops, I'd have handed to come across that 'baby' lamb, it must have been a monster!  Lamb is a very sweet meat and when cooked well is the king of meats.  The Craftsteak lamb was cooked pretty well, but there was a slight issue with the rendering of the fat, which wasn't quite right. Sure, the flesh tasted great, but it would have been way better if the fat had been rendered and devoured along side.

My choice was the 8oz filet mignon from the US, cooked medium rare, it was also simply presented on a cast iron skillet with the same little pile of sea salt on the side.  The steak was a bit larger than I expected an 8oz piece of beef, but I wasn't complaining with it's size!  I'd asked for medium rare and that's exactly how it came and it had a strong charcoal flavour from the grill, which was wonderful at first, but became overpowering by the time I finished.  It was a shame, it was a quality piece of beef that had good natural flavour that was lost by the end.  Even the hollandaise sauce on the side couldn't flatten out the strong charcoal taste. 

As we'd only gone with mains, there were a couple of sides that we'd ordered that sounded quite good on the menu.  We had some garlic mash, which had a subtle flavour of garlic infused with the mash and was very tasty and we had some 'Grandma's carrots' which were not so good. Covered in a honey glaze, the very sweet carrots became overbearingly sweet after only a few pieces.  It felt like the balance of sweetness was wrong, which just killed the natural flavour of the carrot.

It was the first time we'd been to a Dining Concepts restaurant and not walked away completely satisfied with the meal.  The great service that we'd come to expect from the restaurant group was still there, in fact, Craftsteak probably had some of the best service we'd had in Hong Kong. I guess when you have so many restaurants, you need to make a differentiation between them and in doing so, maybe it impacted the quality of the cooking.

I quite liked the fit out of Craftsteak, it was smaller that I thought it would be, but the entire restaurant had  great view of the open kitchen and had a decent enough vibe.  We didn't stick around for dessert on this occasion, mainly because we were in a bit of a rush, but also because of the heavy meat courses that we'd eaten.  I would like to go back, for a second hit at a steak and to try out that sausage board (mainly for the chorizo), and hopefully the charcoal flavour won't be as overpowering.

When you borrow a name for a restaurant, you invariably invite comparisons with the original. Craftsteak is one of the biggest names in beef in the US, mainly on the back of Tom Colicchio. We have been to one of Tom's restaurants in New York (see post here) and it was pretty good. Unfortunately, on this occasion, the HK Craftsteak didn't live up to my hopes or expectations.

A glass of red goes pretty well with lamb!
My steak looked the goods, but it had an overpowering flavour of charcoal
Open plan kitchen, you could watch the action unfold
It was very quiet on the night of our visit

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