Sunday, 22 February 2015

Penthouse by Harlan Goldstein

It was one of those nights that I wanted to go perfectly.... 

My new boss was in town, visiting from London, and we'd arranged to have dinner.  Of course, I was in a new city myself...  Hong Kong being home for just over a week, I didn't really know too much about the dining scene and of course, I wanted to impress my boss!

So, instead of going for something safe, being the foodie that I am, I tracked down on of those pop up kitchens that are popular in Hong Kong at the moment.  If you don't know what they are, well, they're an interesting concept, a chef takes over a location for a while and just opens a kitchen.  Pretty simple and pretty cool.  My only problem was....pretty unprofessional.  About 45 minutes before we were to meet in Causeway Bay for dinner I got an email cancellation!

Now, I'm not going to 'name and shame' this place, but I was pretty unimpressed.  A quick call to try to find out why was pointless - the language barrier made it impossible.

Right, I'm going to admit that there were a few moments of panic.  New boss (from London), new city, 45 minutes before we're all to meet in one of the busiest areas in one of the busiest cities on earth.  What did we do?

Well, we hopped straight into a taxi for a speedy ride to Causeway Bay and then started looking for a restaurant to eat dinner.  Oh, I forgot to mention, it was a Saturday night....

I know what you're probably thinking, 'you dope!'.  Well, I was thinking that myself, but fortune favours the brave and after only my second call, I managed to snag a table for four at 7:30pm.  All we had to do was find the place and with fifteen minutes to spare, we managed to bustle our way to Penthouse by Harlan Goldstein.

The restaurant was designed Kinney Chan and Associated with a New York-style penthouse in mind and as we stepped out onto the 30th floor, we were assaulted with the most amazing view of the harbor and the city lights that make Hong Kong one of the most beautiful night-time city-scapes in the world.  With plush leather booths and share dining tables, Penthouse looked like a cross between a swanky restaurant and speak easy bar.

Due to our late booking, we were placed at the bar, which as it turned out, was probably one of the prime spots for a meal.  We were given menu's to look over, which was the first opportunity we had to figure out exactly what Penthouse was all about.  Best described as Modern American with an Italian twist, the menu told a contemporary story of a restaurant aiming to appeal to as many people as possible.  I know it certainly appealed to our group.

While we waited for our starters to arrive, beers flowed at the bar and a loaf of warm crusty bread appeared with a pesto spread.  This was very well received as we were all a little hungry and keen to get on with the meal.  The pesto sauce was fresh and zingy and worked wonderfully with the bread.  I'd have loved the option of some butter thought, nothing is better on a cold winters night that warm crusty bread with melted butter!

First of the starters was SC's beef carpaccio roll with rocket, stracchino cheese and truffle.  In all the years I've been dining out, it was the first time I'd seen a carpaccio roll.  After trying it, I'm curious why I'd never seen it before, it was genius!  I'm sure a lot of the genius was in the perfectly balanced blend of incredibly fine meat, cheese and truffle, drizzled with a little olive oil, but it was genius non the less.

I'd kicked off my meal with one of the many signature dishes that Penthouse had noted on their menu, the Spanish farm raised Blue Fin Tuna tartare with a slow cooked egg and creamy tuna sauce.  I'm a huge fan of tartare generally and can be a harsh critic when a restaurant gets it wrong, but thankfully, Penthouse had nailed it (I guess it was a signature dish for a reason!).  The tuna was fresh and tasted of the sea and once I mixed in the perfectly slow cooked egg, there was a rich and cream flavour that sat on the palate for some time after the dish was consumed!

A bold statement is made on the Penthouse by Harlan Goldsetin menu and it simply reads 'Harlan G - the king of pasta'.  With a range of hand crafted dried and fresh pasta, SC chose to test out that bold statement and went for a hand crafted dried pasta of linguine with diamond clams, crispy garlic, white wine, parsley and chilli.  Looking quite refined on the plate (for pasta anyway), the linguini was perfectly cooked and al dente and filled with loads of clams, both with and without accompanying shells.  Like all great pastas, there was a simplicity to the dish that screamed understatement but in reality identified itself as a great pasta dish.

Loving the idea of so many signature dishes, I couldn't resist trying another of Penthouse's highlighted dishes, this time a risotto.  But not just any risotto, it came with arborio rice, Maine lobster, Sukura shrimps, lobster sauce, basil and bottaga.  The first thing I noticed was the deep orange colour of the risotto, closely followed by many large chunks of expertly cooked lobster.  The risotto was laid out in the more traditional flat approach which allowed me to marvel in its beauty.  My first mouthful was a joy, the deep flavours of the lobster sauce were wonderful and the rice perfectly cooked.  It was quite a special dish, but it was perhaps just a little bit too rich and too  tasty...  I actually couldn't finish it off (although I did eat all of the lobster chunks)

It was dessert time and after such a filling meal, not everyone was keen on a sweet way to finish the meal.  My dessert was the simply named white chocolate dessert, which looked a little busy on the plate and while nice, was a little confusing to me.  There was a white chocolate cake and a creamy sauce, both nice, but there was so much biscuit and crumble on the plate, that for me, threw the balance of the dish out.  There needed to be more sauce to balance out the very dry feel of the dessert.

The other dessert, which was ordered by my boss, was definitely the pick of the desserts.  It was a nitrogen infused berry dish which came with a warning!  Don't put the spoon on your tongue (it would stick).  The dessert had an incredibly powerful flavour and was really interesting to eat.  If you've never had a nitrogen infused dessert before, it can turn you in to a fire breather (with the steam coming out of both mouth and nose!)

At the time, I didn't know much about Harlan Goldstein and certainly didn't know that he had a well known Michelin Starred restaurant in Soho, but I was impressed with Penthouse.  It hadn't been open for very long, which is why (I'm assuming) we were able to sneak a table on a Saturday night only fifteen minutes prior.  

Not only was the meal lovely, the service excellent and the view spectacular, we were told about the new rooftop bar and as diners, were able to go straight up to enjoy an even more sensational view of the Hong Kong skyline.  We spent quite a bit of time up on that rooftop, in the freezing cold having a few drinks and enjoying the view..  It was a brilliant end to the meal.

While it wasn't the dinner I'd originally planned due to a ridiculously late cancellation, in hindsight, it couldn't have worked out any better.  The meal was superb and the setting perfect...  Sometimes, you get lucky!

Black Squid Ink Tagliolini
That incredible carpaccio - unique and tasty
The views from the restaurant were spectacular
The rooftop views were out of this world!
A better view of Hong Kong would be hard to find

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