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Posts Tagged ‘Western’

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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Steakout

Last Monday, J and I, in the euphoria of having been recently paid, decided to try BLT Steak in TST. It’s a restaurant I’ve noticed many times, just outside of Ocean Terminal, opposite the Star Ferry pier, with a sizable patio facing the water. Due to our schedules, we had to have an early dinner and when we arrived at 5:30, the place was fairly empty (though when we left around 7, it was slightly crowded). On weekdays, it seems happy hour goes until 6 and there’s a buy-one-get-one deal on wine and beer (however, you can’t buy one and have your friend get one; each person gets two drinks for the price of one).

Dinner and an education

Dinner and an education

J and I pored over the menu, an extensive collection of salads, small plates, hearty sides, and an absolute parade of steaks. I picked my dinner companion for a reason – he’d been to no less than three steakhouses the final month he was in the States, perfect for a steak newbie like me! My bovine education was also enhanced by the comprehensive diagram of a cow, surrounded by callouts of cuts and cooking methods, on the back of the menu (this was quite amusing to me). In the end, we decided on a 12 oz. Australian ribeye, paired with jalapeño mashed potatoes and tomato pomodoro gnocchi, all preceded by a pear salad.

Pop it like it's hot

Pop it like it's hot

Before anything came out, the waiter brought us a salmon carpaccio-esque dish, compliments of the chef. J, knowing full well my aversion to sea creatures, took one look at me and said, “You’re eating this.” My reply was, “Oh, I know.” The salmon was tender, seasoned with a bit of fresh basil, and topped with sunflower seeds for a nice contrast in texture. I was pleased. Then, another free goodie appeared on our table – popovers. When reading the Openrice reviews for this place, I made out, in my piecemeal Chinese, that popovers were cited as the “favorite dish” of many. I had no idea what they were, but when they came out – two doughy puffs reminiscent of giant mushrooms – I didn’t care. They looked delicious. A little recipe that came with the popovers revealed they’re made of milk, eggs, flour, salt and gruyere cheese, which apparently yields pure pastry heaven. Perfect when paired with butter and sea salt.

Our actual order was pleasing as well. The pear salad was a great mix of sweet and savory, the cloyingness of the pear (and raspberry vinagerette?) offset by crisp bacon and grated parmesan. The steak was juicy, medium rare as we ordered, and the filet mignon was bursting with flavor. The gnocchi was topped with a small avalanche of grated parmesan cheese, which only made it better, and the jalapeño mashed potatoes was an inspired twist on an old favorite (not too spicy, either). J and I had our eye on a chocolate peanut butter parfait for dessert, but we were schooled by the meal. Next time!

BLT Steak
Shop G62, Ground Floor, Ocean Terminal, TST
2730 3508
Cost: ~ $350 HKD/person (including drinks)

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What's a restaurant without a bubblegum pink greeter?

What's a restaurant without a bubblegum-pink greeter?

***UPDATE (May 31, 2011): SML has definitely deteriorated since I wrote this post in 2009. Please check out my latest take on this restaurant. In short, I would advise you to stay away.***

Another restaurant Mr. B and I tried was the newly-opened SML. Located on the 11th floor of Times Square in Causeway Bay, SML centers on the belief that size matters: for nearly every dish, you can pick the small, medium, or large portion (hence the name). It’s a concept reflected on the front page of the simply-designed menu, which proclaims “Democracy now comes in 3 sizes”. The theme of customization continues in the following paragraphs declaring “big eaters, medium sizers, small spenders, dainty sippers, mean drinkers, gourmet feeders, and dine-and-dashers” all deserve to have their needs satisfied, without fear of judgement or retribution. Lofty ideals, no?

While tailored food options are fantastic, personally, I just think SML is genius because it soothes my indecisive side. A place with small, tapas-esque options? Great: I can try a little of everything. Perfect for this commitment-phobe.

The lovechild of simplicity and elegance

The lovechild of simplicity and elegance

Anyways, from the moment I stepped into the restaurant, I felt like a good meal was in store. The place is dimly lit, with funky light fixtures – bare incandescent bulbs stuck to the ends of short brass loops, like something out of a Tim Burton movie. An open kitchen lines the back of the restaurant; the floors and tables are wood; the chairs and booths are quite ergonomic and comfy. The diningware is also remarkable: small ceramic plates boast cute sayings, like lime green winks at the diner: “still hungry?” and “scrumptious” were on the plates I had. Additionally, the short, rounded drinking glasses are a joy to hold; their weight and shape in my hand rendered me enchanted. The spartan-yet-sophisticated atmosphere made me think, “If MUJI and the restaurant biz had a baby, this would it.”

But the food – that’s the key! The menu was beautiful; I immediately wanted to order six or seven dishes. There are a large selection of soups, appetizers, pastas, mains, and desserts, under the cheeky heading of “happy endings”. As promised, nearly everything on the menu had a small, medium, or large counterpart. Mr. B and I decided to get small orders of the crostini with tomato, basil and olive, meatballs with spicy tomato sauce, grilled chicken with mojo sauce and mango salsa, and prawns with chili and garlic. We also got a medium-sized carrot salad with chili, citrus, and peanuts. For dessert we picked two small plates: a chocolate pot with mousse and fudge, and a citrus panna cotta with slices of orange and grapefruit.

The chicken that lived up to its serving plate: "scrumptious".

The chicken that lived up to its serving plate: "scrumptious".

My personal favorites were:

  • the meatballs, for the uniquely seasoned meat (perhaps a hint of cumin and/or coriander? slightly reminiscent of kofta). The sauce had some heat too. Delish.
  • the grilled chicken with mango salsa, for the perfect pairing. The chicken had a hint of smokiness, which was tempered by the sweetness of the mango salsa. The salsa itself was fantastic; I thought the sprinkling of cilantro just made it.
  • the two desserts, for a truly “happy ending”. The chocolate pot (which, let’s face it, sounds amazing based on the name alone) had a mousse thick enough without being overwhelmingly rich, and the panna cotta was creamy yet refreshing, probably due to its citrus flavor.

All in all, this is definitely among my favorite restaurants in HK. If I believed in commitment, I’d even select it as a future date locale…or maybe I’ll just suggest it to my lovey-dovey paired-up friends.

SML
11/F, Times Square, Causeway Bay
2577 3444
Cost: ~ $130 HKD/person (not including drinks)

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