Sunday, 20 March 2016

The Crafty Cow - do I use the term hipsters too much?

There's a little pocket of shops around Sheung Wan (a.k.a PoHo) that could quite comfortably be called hipster central in Hong Kong.  Cute little shops with arcane and weird offerings, more than one spot selling micro brewery ales and more beards per capita than I've seen anywhere else.  Who could forget the #HKWalls exhibition where you could walk down the many laneways and alleys and watch hip young things strut their stuff on the many brick walls canvases.

That little strip around Upper Station Street even held a little food festival last year, where masses of dressed-just-so-right locals and expats congregated to enjoy the many food options available.  I'm not gonna lie, I love that little strip and am guilty of tripping out to many of the aforementioned activities.....  I may even have a beard.

We'd been eying off the Crafty Cow ever since we first spotted it, the tiny little space looking like an awesome spot to enjoy a Sunday afternoon sippin' on a beer (if that's your thing) or enjoying a good little feed (which is my thing).  I'd had plenty of opportunities to get along before we did, we'd even grabbed a Lemmy from the Craft Cow one sunny and super crowded afternoon.  A Lemmy for those of you that have never heard of such a thing is a Kiwi lemonade, and they're pretty awesome.  It was a Lemmy that also won me a free feed at the Craft Cow based on an #Instagram competition - sadly, a feed I never collected.

So, it was finally time to check out the Cow, one Sunday evening for a quick bite of dinner. Making our way down the hill from our Mid Levels apartment, we reflected that we'd miss wandering around Sheung Wan once our move to Wan Chai finally eventuated.  We'd made a booking, which probably wasn't necessary as we were guided to one of the many available seats in the tiny corner restaurant slash bar (or bar slash restaurant, you choose).

Labeled a Gastro-Pub, the Crafty Cow is the creation of Executive Chef Basil Yu, who'd taken his years of experience working in fine dining establishments such as Amber and Epure, to bring his so-called 'Third Dining Experience' to the streets of Sheung Wan.  If you're wondering what the third dining experience is, it seems to be Yu's attempt at bridging the generation gap of traditional foods and flavours, but brought to the latest generation - I can only assume that the third generation are almost exclusively hipsters!

While it wasn't super busy in the Crafty Cow, our one and only waiter was being run off his feet taking orders and bringing out booze, which mainly consisted of craft beers, to the few tables taken.  There were a mix of locals and expats in attendance, all on the younger side and all looking the part.  The open kitchen was seeing a bit of action, the two chefs behind the counter were busy doing their thing and the place seemed to humm quite nicely.  It took a little longer that was comfortable for us, but eventually we were served and things got under way.

I'd initially been eying off one of the shakes available on the menu, and was mildly irritated when I was told that there was no ice cream for shake, so instead changed my order to a very girly sounding berry lemonade.  The girl, who to be honest was always going to fit better into a gastro pub's zeitgeist ordered a Japanese pale ale called yoho Wednesday pussycat (actually crafted after a Belgian white).  Again, this wasn't the girl's first choice, with her original request coming back with a similar response to my shake - sorry, we're out.

We did have better luck with the dining menu though, all of the options that we'd oped for were available, which was a relief.  Unsurprisingly, a Gastro-Pub called the Crafty Cow had a lot of beef on the menu, but not exclusively, and we'd ordered some of the more interesting looking items to start off our meal.

Kicking off was the Khmer Hamachi Salad, consisting of charred sashimi grade yellowtail, served with crispy veggies and a khmer lime-chili dressing and finished off with shrimp crackers.  It was a 'cracker' of a dish, the beautifully prepared yellowtail was simply delicious, the freshness of the fish dancing wonderfully on the palate with the sweet chili and lime dressing.  There was just enough heat to make it interesting but not set the mouth on fire.  I really loved that the dressing also permeated throughout the salad, ensuring that I finished of the dish in its entirety.  Well, not quite, interestingly for such a 'cracking' dish, I didn't like the prawn crackers, which were way too prawny for my liking.

The girl's choice for a starter was equally delicious.  The 'surf n turf bao' consisted of a pork belly with sweet n sour cabbage bao and a soft-shell crab with kimchi slaw and samba mayo bao. Now, if you're like me, you've just read that menu and gone 'yep, hipster bao', then you'd be not far off the mark, but boy did they taste great, especially the soft-shell crab, which was light, sweet and oh-so-tasty.

Given we were in a gastro-pub that specialised in meat, I was a little surprised with the girl's main selection of the 'non-beef' yellow spring chicken 'caesar', an interesting looking salad that consisted of a big fuck-off piece of charred romaine lettuce covered in black garlic caesar dressing, parmesan, bacon and of course chunks of chicken.  Given the only serving utensils on the table were chopsticks, we had to make a request for a knife and fork so the girl could actually eat the beast of a salad.  It wasn't the most refined looking salad you're gonna see, but it was pretty tasty, the black garlic sauce having an interesting sweet twang that worked nicely with the chicken.  It was very messy to eat though and I was glad I'd gone for something a little easier to eat with chopsticks.

I'd gone with what was clearly the house special, the CC Beef Tasting platter, which consisted of three cuts of beef and a piece of grilled foie gras (which was an extra I'd selected).  The three cuts were an A4 Kagoshima Wagyu ribeye, an M4 Tajima Australian Wagyu ribeye and an Aussie Wagyu hangar steak.  The strips of beef were cooked perfectly and presented already sliced on a bread board that had a lettuce salad (that had a simply kick ass dressing) and the grilled foie gras on top.  Right off  the bat I went for the foie gras, which was severely under cooked and inedible and I thought, hold on, have I made the right choice.  

Setting the foie gras aside, I took a slice of the rare hangar steak and was immediately transported to my happy space, it was superb.  As I made my way along the beef strips, each was expertly cooked and really delicious - after sampling a couple of pieces, the girl had that wistful look on her face that indicated severe food envy.  My only minor quibble about the beef was that the A3 had a piece of gristle at one end, which meant that I couldn't really finish off the lot (without a huge amount of chewing on my behalf).

Served with the beef were a handful of sauces that I didn't really try, but the girl thought were pretty darn nice, as well as a couple of different types of salt, which I did try and loved.  One features of the Crafty Cow menu was their huge salt and sauce list, with too many to mention, you're definitely not going to lack seasoning!

We didn't stick around for dessert, mainly 'cause there wasn't any options on the menu for sweets, nor were any offered to us.

For a Sunday dinner, we were pretty happy with the offerings at the Crafty Cow, there were enough choices for even the most discerning of hipsters - including a kick ass bone marrow dish that we didn't order, but saw a neighbouring table get - definitely something I'd try the next time.

It was pretty quiet though, my memories of the last few times that we'd either wandered by or purchased a Lemmy, the place had been pumping.  I'd read an article in on of the Australian papers a couple of weeks ago, notifying the world that the end of hipsters was nigh.  It's probably true too, I think we've reached "peak hipster" on that front and the decline is inevitable.

My only question is this - what will happen to the hipster establishments like the Crafty Cow?  Will they evolve to the next generation of cool dudes?  Or will they fade into obscurity?  I'm not too sure, but I will say this, I'm not quite ready to shave my beard off yet.

Super tasty food at the Crafty Cow

But it was super quiet for a Sunday evening too!

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