Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Fast and the Furious – Hong Kong

If The Fast and the Furious wasnt a terrible film in which a beefed up Vin Diesel (admittedly, he was the object of my affections when I was 15) revs his way into the bad boy books of America, it would have been the perfect moniker for Hong Kong. Sexy street stalls full of spicy, flavoursome dishes, Michelin-starred gastronomic heavyweights with breathtaking views, we were literally spoilt for choice when it came to picking treats to indulge in during our two day trip (I know, two days, it’s a crime).

Food was everywhere, in the shopping malls, lining the sides of the streets, wafting out aromatic fragrances that put your stomach onto red alert. So finally we succumbed – wandering down the Night Market on Temple street, our eyes alighted on this sign and we both knew this was where we belonged.

In an ideal world, we’d have walked over to this restaurant, sat down and eaten the most wonderful meal we’d ever tasted in our life. Our tongues would have sang the praises of this heavenly mead. We’d have raved about it to all our friends around the world, telling them they simply had to go to this little market restaurant we found in Hong Kong, but to hurry up before The Times ruins it with a review.
Unfortunately this was not the case. We ordered razor clams and vegetables in black bean sauce and chilli crab. I’ve no complaints about the razor clams – they were perfectly adequate, in a slightly salty but bland sauce.

But the chilli crab, even I couldnt muster that much enthusiasm for it, for the simple fact that there was hardly any there. I’m all for the cracking and scooping and picking that comes hand in hand with getting to crabmeat, but anyone’s going to be a little put out to go through the whole rigmarole to find it’s all been a case of all talk and no action. I mean nada.

Doesn’t it look appetizing? Mounds of garlic and chilli promising potently flavoured crab that will rip your mouth out and get it dancing the salsa? All lies. Which is a shame, because when Paul and I did get our spoonful each of crab, it tasted good.

If we’d have been there for longer, I’d have made it my mission to leave you with a street restaurant you could believe it, but we didn’t have time. So it was on to Spoon by Alain Ducaisse at the InterContinental. Nothing disappointing there. Coming from Dubai, a place in which there are more celebrity chefs and their wannabes milling around than in Michel Roux’s kitchens over the years, I’m somewhat unfazed by this celebrity chef thing but had yet to encounter Alain’s particular brand of cooking, which is well, impressive. A brilliantly-executed and adventurous menu expertly paired with matching wines, a stunning setting on the banks of Victoria Harbour – all big brownie points in my book.

It’s always a sign of a good restaurant when everyone on the table loves their own food but also has food envy of the person next to them. It was like a Jackie Collins book – I was eyeing up Paul’s starter, he was quietly coveting Carole’s main and when it came to desserts, we gave up the fight and dipped our spoons into each other’s dishes with glorious abandon. Something like that anyway.

The highlight for me was the wagyu beef cheek, which was a melt in your mouth affair to remember. An affair I do remember, with a slightly growling stomach and a wistful look in my eyes. No matter, I’m in Vietnam now and there’s some hot stuff that’s about to hit these pages. Watch this space. And when it comes to the rest of South East Asia, Oz and South America – as old Blue Eyes said, the best is yet to come...