Sunday, 15 November 2015

Porterhouse by Laris - a brilliant lunch set menu

In my short time in Hong Kong, I've had some of the most amazing, and most expensive meals of my life.  I mean, seriously expensive meals where I've walked out of a restaurant in shock and with 'buyers remorse'.  This is a symptom of a lot of great restaurants, but largely the fact that practically all food has to be imported to Hong Kong.

It's why I am completely amazed by the fact that you can go to some of those same amazing restaurants for lunch and get a similar feed for a fraction of the price.  I'm not really sure why, but there is a thriving lunchtime food scene in Hong Kong and it's really, really cheap.  I was again reminded of this phenomenon recently when we went out for a team lunch and hit up new spot Porterhouse by Laris.

Located in the newly renovated, and might I say now impressive looking California Tower in Lan Kwai Fong, and established by Aussie Chef David Laris, Porterhouse is a contemporary and upscale steak house more akin to the Australian version of a steak restaurant than the currently stylish 'Steak Frites' places dotted around Hong Kong.  No stranger to working overseas, Chef Laris had spent time refining his trade in London's Mezzo before moving to Shanghai and establishing his own award winning restaurants.

As we stepped out of the lift and entered the restaurant, I was quite surprised by the contemporary setup that screamed 'look at me'. It wasn't pretentious though, it was both stylish and relaxing at the same time, with funky tunes playing through the hidden speakers.  We were shown to our table, and walked past an 'ice bar' that held lots of seafood and crustaceans, as well as display cabinets showing off the impressive wine collection.

We were given a set menu, which had a number of items from the normal a la carte menu, but at a ridiculously low price.  The option was $228 for two courses or $248 for three courses, and the options looked good too, no 'junk' items that the restaurant was trying to move during the day. There was never a doubt that we'd run with three courses and soon had our orders taken.

Straight up we were presented with a warm and crusty half baguette with a little round of salted butter, with interesting twist of having 'black salt' sprinkled on top.  There's not much better than a piece of warm crusty bread with lashing of melted butter dripping through the bread.  It was certainly enjoyed by all.

I'd chosen the crab meat cocktail with romesco sauce and toasted almonds as my starter and was impressed with the quantity of crab meat in my bowl.  Presentation wise, it was quite appealing, if not a little rustic.  The generous amount of crab meat was mixed with a light mayonnaise to help hold it together, but not enough to overpower its delicate sweetness.  I loved the addition of the romesco sauce, which brought a contrasting sweetness to the crab, along with just a touch of acidity.  Toasted almonds gave a little texture, but little in the way of flavour.  It was a good dish and I cleaned my plate in quick time.

There was a decent selection of mains available, especially considering the bargain basement price of the meal, and I was divided on what I felt like.  Eventually settling for a char-grilled beef striploin with french fries, beer vinegar and sea salt.  I'd been asked how I wanted the steak cooked, and replied with my customary 'how the chef likes to cook it', which was medium rare (as I expected).  Luckily, I don't mind my steaks rare and bloody as well, because that was exactly how it came.  It was a reasonable cut of meat and seasoned well, so I didn't really mind that it was not as promised, but it could have been upsetting for some.  I loved the simple presentation of the fries in a little copper pot with the steak on the plate and actually finished off all of my fries before starting on the steak.

There were only two options for dessert, one involving my least favourite vegetable on the planet, pumpkin (for a pumpkin pie), so it was an easy choice for me.  The dark chocolate mousse with macerated berries looked quite simple in it's presentation, a quenelle of chocolate on a bed of berries, but it lost nothing in it's simplicity.  I was a bit hesitant when I read that it was dark chocolate, but in reality, it was much more like milk chocolate.  Heavier than a mousse, the chocolate was OK, as were the berries, it didn't really excite as a dessert but was completely serviceable.  

There were a few variations on lunch from my team mates, so I got to see and have a little taste of some of the other dishes, which included a smoked salmon as a starter, as well as a cream of potato and leak soup.  There was a bit of discussion about the relative flavour of the soup but resounding applause for the salmon.

We were all pretty happy with our chosen meals and as we sat and reflected on the highlights and minor quibbles, I couldn't help focus on the fact that I'd just had a three course meal for under two hundred and fifty Hong Kong dollars.  It was a tenth of what I'd spent on a meal that previous weekend and far more satisfying.  While I was very happy with the meal for the price, it's hard to know how I would have felt about it, should I have paid the typical dinner prices.  I guess that's not really the point.

Service had been great, lunch had flowed nicely and we didn't have to wait long between courses, so I could tell that the kitchen was well on top of its game.  Important I guess when people only have a limited time for lunch.

Lunch at Porterhouse by Laris was well worth the effort and reminded me of another Aussie's attempt at a value laden lunch menu, Madame Sixty Ate (see post here).  Both reminding me that I'm probably eating my big meals at the wrong time of the day!

The potato and leak soup lacked a little flavour, even the bacon bits failed to lift
The smoked salmon carpaccio was very good
The cioppino seafood stew was quite delightful, with lots of succulent seafood
With a North American at out table, is there any surprise a side of mac n cheese found its way to our table?
Light and casual for a quick and delicious lunch
The steak display was impressive
As was the wine on display
I love these meat slicers, the Ferrari of the kitchen - red and sleek
A well stocked bar is a must!
And unusual for LKF, some room for alfresco dining!

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