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Archive for December, 2009

I’ve recently eaten at some newly-opened restaurants and already, one is to my heart what Joey McIntyre was to thousands of side-ponytail-wearing teens. Here’s the report…

ZELO

Hello Zelo!

Last Thursday I walked through Pacific Place in Admiralty and noticed the scaffolding that took up a fourth of the LG level was finally cleared. In its place was the charming, whimsically-decorated Zelo. A sign in front told me it specialized in Meditteranean fare and was newly-opened. I made a mental note to investigate further.

Some research online revealed Zelo just opened on December 10, and while I couldn’t find any reviews, I did read that chef Ryan Crawford did apprenticeships at “it” eateries Chicane and Tonic in Sydney. Apparently he also did an 18-month stint at Nobu, London. Armed with that information, I made a booking with relative peace of mind.

J and I went for lunch on Sunday. We arrived at 12:30 and seats were plentiful, but the place quickly filled up in the next half hour. On the way to our table, we hungrily ogled a beautiful salad spread and wondered exactly how we could get our hands on it. The answer was soon apparent: The set lunch included a main, tea or coffee, and a choice of appetizers including the starter buffet.

A beautiful start(er buffet)

J and I attacked that buffet like we hadn’t eaten for a week (which was ironic, because after the meal at BLT Burger, below, we thought we’d never eat again). There was an amazing orecchiette pasta salad with tomatoes, capers, olives, and what J thought was an anchovy-based dressing (which stopped me in my tracks for about two seconds before the deliciousness of the pasta salad called me back); also on offer were plates of cured meats including salami, pepperoni, and proscuitto (and cantaloupe was on hand, just waiting to be hugged by those thin shavings); walnuts, caesar salad, potato salad, tomato slices topped with mozzerella and basil, and assorted cold vegetables tossed in olive oil. That starter buffet alone was worth the price of lunch; between the top-notch ingredients and the thoughtful pairings and preparation of those ingredients, Zelo immediately rocketed to a high standing on my list of favorite restaurants.

Grilled chicken with vegetables and potatoes

After a promising starter, our mains came. J ordered penne arrabiata, which only got a “so-so” from both of us: the sauce had a lot of kick, which was nice, but it wasn’t anything to write home about. My grilled chicken with vegetables and potatoes were far more impressive. The chicken breast was wonderfully smoky, covered in a balsamic reduction that was latticed over the meat. The potatoes were like oven fries, crispy around the edges and soft on the inside.

We were too full for dessert, so instead we had our tea. The tea came out with a small assortment of biscotti and lemon cookies – the perfect ending to a wonderful meal. I will definitely return. See you soon, starter buffet!

Zelo
007, LG, Pacific Place Mall
2918 1028
Cost: ~ $240/person (For lunch. And for all my raving about the starter buffet, you should know you can just get the buffet with coffee or tea for $168/person, plus 10% service charge.)

BLT BURGER

J, C, and I visited this little brother of BLT Steak on Saturday night in honor of the boys’ birthdays. We arrived around 6:45 and were pleased the queue of this uber-popular place wasn’t 1,000 people long, as C had feared when he recalled seeing this restaurant last weekend. After a five-minute wait during which we started perusing the menu, we were seated.

BLT Burger has all the dishes a homesick American would love: burgers, milkshakes, and oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies. There are also combos: you can get a classic burger, fries, and your choice of beverage. The only complaint about the menu is its inflexibility: When we asked our waiter if we could pay extra and substitute one of the specialty burgers on the menu in the combo, he replied, “We follow the American style and have these combos, but you can only get the classic burger,” to which I replied with a pout, “That’s not how we do it in America!”

Burgers, waffle fries, and milkshakes - what more do you need?

Nevertheless, J and C both ordered the combos, with vanilla and chocolate shakes respectively. I got the Tex-Mex burger which had avocado, jack cheese, chili, and onion sour cream, among other things. We each got waffle fries, and the BBQ Nachos to split. The Nachos were decent; the meat was like the pulled pork back home, though we all agreed the plate could do with more filling in general. The burgers were monstrous! Though mine was scrumptious, I only managed to eat the better part of a half, and the boys were struggling after putting away their seven ounces of beef. However, the USDA Certified Black Angus beef was juicy and delish, so they fought through.

Mmmm brownies!

Again, we were too full for dessert (why do we always do this to ourselves?) but I couldn’t pass up the Bittersweet Chocolate Brownie a la mode. Covered in powdered sugar with a scoop of ice cream underneath caramel, fudge, and pecans, it was everything I dreamed of. And maybe the manager heard us say, “birthday,” because we mysteriously received a slice of cheesecake topped with the most luscious raspberries, on the house! A smooth finish to our birthday celebration. All in all, a bit overpriced for burgers (though I believe that’s par for the course in HK), but a nice place anytime you need an “American” fix.

BLT Burger
Shop 301, Level 3, Ocean Terminal, Harbour City
2730 2338 (they don’t take reservations – at least, not for Saturday nights)
Cost: ~ $220 HKD/person

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After a year and change of living in Hong Kong, I finally made it to M at the Fringe. Last year, my foodie friend H had this restaurant on her radar for most of our stay and since it was worthy of her attention, I knew it was worthy of mine. Then Time Out Hong Kong rated it the Best Restaurant in Hong Kong and I discovered it was closing at the end of the month; therefore, I knew the food gods were telling me to make a booking already, dang it!

I heart ewe

P and I went on a Monday evening, and were immediately impressed by the environs. The dimly-lit, slightly-bohemian dining room definitely lives up to the “romantic” billing I’d read about in numerous publications; it was kind of like eating in your really hip, artsy friend’s loft (because everyone has hip, artsy friends, of course).

We started with a tapas appetizer with gazpacho, anchovies, empanadas, olives and toasted seasoned almonds. Our favorite was the empanada; the dough was crispy yet flaky. Our mains were goose and roasted lamb with rosemary. P throughly enjoyed his goose, along with the accompanying sausages that reminded him of the kielbasa/kovbasa/kubasa his grandpa used to make.

My lamb was so tender a knife was basically unnecessary. It came with a lovely fig jam that gave the lamb the perfect amount of moisture and sweetness. The sides with my lamb were also delish – rosemary roasted vegetables and potatoes that echoed the taste of the lamb. Everything on the plate balanced or enhanced the other flavors to create a holistically pleasing taste, just like a good entree should.

Truthfully, we had no room for dessert, but me being me, I insisted upon it. We decided on ice cream in three flavors, including licorice and turkish coffee, the latter of which was grainy just like the beverage would be. Yum.

The waitress said they were closing to relocate and open again. I’ll definitely be on the lookout.

M at the Fringe
2 Lower Albert Road
2877 4000
Cost: ~ $550 HKD/person

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A few weeks ago, C/G and I snuck away from work for an extra-long lunch. Our bellies craved a buffet. Openrice provided a coupon. Before we knew it, we were at La Scala.

And also before we knew it, we were bouncing around the buffet islands like happy schoolchildren on a sugar high, completely enchanted with the create-your-own-sashimi, carved roast beef with gravy, fluffy cha siu bao, grilled zucchini and eggplant, and TWO types of chocolate fountains! (White and regular chocolate, in case you were wondering.) Rest assured this is a buffet with something for everyone; from the Indian curry to salad fixings, make-your-own-noodle-bowl (pick from an assortment of raw ingredients and they’ll cook it for you) to blueberry crumble (!), the lunchtime deal at La Scala is worth the money. Their western food is quite authentic, and their Asian dishes are simply delish. You can also get unlimited cups of Nestlé ice cream and, from what I saw on the Openrice photos, Haagen-Dazs at the (slightly more expensive) dinner buffet.

Definitely a treasure for the shopping- and work-weary in the Mongkok area. Or those who just like good food.

La Scala
2/F, Royal Plaza Hotel
193 Prince Edward Road West
2622 6154
Cost: ~ $150 HKD/person (with coupon; otherwise, it’s around $180)

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The Chocolate Afternoon Tea is back at the MO! A buffet with 40-some chocolate desserts, hot chocolate, and a chocolate sculpture (in addition to the usual finger sandwiches, scones, and choice of coffee or tea), this all-you-can-eat chocolate buffet is like you’ve died and gone to gastronomical heaven. I made the trip a couple weekends ago with L, L, and J. When we arrived and the smell of chocolate hit us, L’s face lit up like it was Christmas, Halloween, and his birthday all rolled into one.

Perfect profiteroles

The dessert spread included something for every sugar fiend: thick fudge with sea salt, chocolate profiteroles, creamy chocolate mousse, the list goes on and on. The afternoon was a blur of “Ohhhh my gosh, that’s good,” and “Have you tried this one?!?!” but our favorites were the Chocolate Macaroons (crunchy cookies that finished soft and taffy-like after a few chews, topped with a shaving of silver foil), “America” Cheesecake Coated with Chocolate Ganache (sin in a sliver), and Baked Chocolate Mud Pie, which looked like little sailboats cruising into a chocolate sunset.

After a couple of hours, we were all seriously buzzing from the chocolate and tea. And bliss. Pure bliss.

Chocolate Afternoon Tea at the Mandarin Oriental
5 Connaught Road
2825 4007 (Bookings for the Clipper Lounge)
Cost:  $378 HKD/couple or $208 HKD/person

Note: The Chocolate Afternoon Tea is only offered on Saturdays and Sundays. Call (way) in advance for bookings. I believe the MO is doing this all through December.

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