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After a frenzied fall of applying for grad school, I was finally able to take a breath and enjoy one of my favorite things on earth – lazy weekend mornings. Well, actually, my favorite thing on earth is what you eat on lazy weekend mornings: Brunch. There’s nothing I love more than having a nice, leisurely chat with friends while stuffing my face with 2,000 calories before noon (or after noon, in some cases) and not feeling too guilty about it because hey – it’s brunch.

P and I have been casually scouring the city for brunch spots, and one of our favorites is Classified on Wing Fung Street in Wan Chai. The space itself is a bit small – only two big tables with shared seating and some stools along a counter – but the food is great AND you can get coffee in soup bowls (that’s right, soup bowls). Our must-order dish is the baked camembert, served with homemade toast.

This dish may change your life

We first ordered this because I saw a couple next to us spreading the obscenely creamy butter on their toast. After we ate it, a mom-and-daughter pair asked what we had, then promptly ordered one for themselves. It’s not hard to love. The cheese fairly oozes out when you poke the top, like a gooey, savory creme brulee. There are bits of truffle on top, just to make your day that much better.

Another of our favorite dishes is the french toast, which comes in a formidable stack. I also recommend the chorizo and beans on toast. The chorizo is so plump and salty, just the way Spanish sausage should be. Lastly, we usually get the homemade granola with fruit and yogurt. Every time we go with J, she happily digs to the bottom of the bowl and exclaims, “Oooh, watermelon!”

Granola heaven

As a bonus, this place always has bakery items on sale. We grabbed a loaf of multi-grain on the way out the door and it was promptly consumed on the same day.

I do wish this place had more seats, as I feel a little guilty lingering over my coffee/tea/Vero hot chocolate and newspaper/ipod/engaging conversation as others wait by the door. However, if you come early enough (around 10), you’ll have the place nearly to yourself.

Classified Mozzarella Bar
31 Wing Fung Street
2528 3454
Cost: ~ $120/person

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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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